Difficulty: Easy. The 2 miles of trails in the preserve travel over fairly gentle terrain with a few gradual slopes. Expect a few sections of narrow bog bridges and exposed tree roots that can make footing tricky.
How to get there: The main parking area for the preserve is behind Mount Desert Island High School at 1081 Eagle Lake Road in Bar Harbor. To get there, cross the causeway onto Mount Desert Island and veer right at the light onto Route 102-Route 198. Drive 4.3 miles, then turn left onto Route 3-Route 198. Drive 1.4 miles, then turn left onto Eagle Lake Road. Drive 0.6 mile, then turn left into the drive leading to Mount Desert Island High School. Veer to the right and drive around the school buildings to park near the tennis courts in the back. From the parking area, follow signs (with blue arrows) to the west, then strike north, walking past two wastewater ponds (where you’ll often spot waterfowl) to a gravel road. Continue on the gravel road northeast — following the occasional sign — to the corner of a playing field, where you’ll find the trailhead for the preserve beside a small building.
That trailhead leads to every trail in the preserve except for the short Cascade Overlook Trail, which is accessible from the end of the nearby Bluff Road, east of the high school off Norway Drive. This road is not open in the winter.
Information: The 523-acre Kittredge Brook Forest, named for the body of water that runs through its center, is owned and managed by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, and it’s a part of an undeveloped block of land that totals nearly 2,000 acres — one of the largest tracts of open space on Mount Desert Island outside of Acadia National Park.
The preserve features a network of hiking trails that total about 2 miles and lead through a quiet forest to the edge of wetlands, traveling over low lichen-covered ridges along the way. Marked with blue blazes, the trails are easy to navigate. Trail maps are posted at major intersections and at the trailhead, which is located at the edge of a playing field behind Mount Desert Island High School.
The trail network is currently made up of four major trails. Starting from the main trailhead, you walk into the forest on the Vernal Pool Loop, which leads to the Pine Ridge Loop and Kittredge Brook Trail, which connects over to Pine Heath Road. The fourth trail, Cascade Overlook Trail, is separate from the other three and is access from the nearby Bluff Road.
The Maine Coast Heritage Trust is currently developing more trails on the property, as there is plenty of room to expand. However, with the abundance of wetlands on the preserve, developing trails will likely include building plenty of bog bridges or even boardwalks.
Kittredge Brook runs west through the center of the property, flowing from a beaver pond through open wetlands and forests on its way to Babson Creek. The preserve is also home to several vernal pools, which are full of water only part of the year, making them important, fish-free habitats for certain amphibians, such as salamanders. Another common inhabitant of Maine’s vernal pools are a species of fairy shrimp, which life a short life cycle and produce hardy eggs that survive the dry season (typically late summer through winter) and hatch when the rains come in the spring to fill the pool once more.
Also in Kittredge Brook Forest, more than 60 species of birds have been observed, as well as white-tailed deer, coyote, bobcat, otter and snowshoe hare, according to the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.
The preserve is open to the public for free during daylight hours. Dogs are permitted if kept under control at all times. Fires and camping are not permitted, and visitors are asked to carry out all trash, including pet waste. It’s also important to keep in mind that the trails cross private property and land owned by Acadia National Park, so it’s especially important to stay on trail and respect the privacy of preserve neighbors.
Maine Coast Heritage Trust owns and manages more than 50 preserves. In addition, the land trust holds more than 150 conservation easements, monitoring the properties to help maintain their natural resources. For more information, visit mcht.org or call 207-729-7366. For information specific to Kittredge Brook Forest, it may be best to call MCHT’s Mount Desert Island office at 207-244-5100.
Personal note: It was a stupid mistake, forgetting to put on insect repellent, and boy did I pay for it. As my friend Lacey and I balanced over bog bridges, slowly approaching the wetlands surrounding Kittredge Brook, the mosquitoes grew thick. Fortunately, I’d packed a baseball cap, which kept them off my head, but my bare arms and legs were defenseless. And Lacey, who had remembered to spray herself generously with DEET before leaving her apartment, said that the repellent did little good. She was being bitten, too. The bugs were relentless.
Nevertheless, we did find some joy in the woods on June 25. As we walked swiftly along the trails, the sun struggled through the clouds, and a gloomy day quickly transformed into blue skies. In wastewater ponds near the trailhead of the forest, we spent some time watching two families of ducks, one mother mallard parading around 10 ducklings, while the other took charge of seven.
Perched on rocks at the center of one of the ponds was a pair of wood ducks, the male tracing our every movement with his startlingly red eyes. Or maybe he was keeping an eye of Lacey’s dog, Vail, who behaved admirably, considering she’s a German shorthaired pointer, a breed often trained for hunting waterbirds. Vail seemed more interested in sprinting back and forth on the lawn.
In the forest, we did find times of respite, when the mosquitoes didn’t seem quite so bad. In those moments, we paused to enjoy things like the tiny pink blossoms of sheep laurel and lung lichen curling off a cluster of maple trees. And after the short hike, as we fought against the urge to scratch at our bug bites, we drove downtown and ordered caprese sandwiches and strawberry rhubarb margaritas on the deck of Side Street Cafe, where Vail was not only welcome, she was given a bowl of fresh water and a scratch on the head.