Difficulty: Moderate. The loop hike is 2.8 miles long and includes a few steep, rock areas but no hand-over-foot climbing, ladders or rungs. There are long stretches of constant, gradual climbing.
How to get there: From Route 1 in Sullivan, turn onto Route 183 (Tunk Lake Road) and drive about 4.5 miles. Take a left onto the gravel Schoodic Beach Road, which is marked by a Donnell Pond Public Lands sign. Follow Schoodic Beach Road for 2.3 miles to the end, where there is a large gravel parking area. The trailhead for Schoodic Mountain Trail is near the outhouse, and the trailhead for Schoodic Beach Trail is at the far end of the parking lot by the kiosk.
Information: Rising 1,069 feet above sea level in eastern Maine, Schoodic Mountain is a popular hiking destination. A 2.8-mile loop trail on the mountain travels through a mossy forest filled with boulders and up rocky slopes to the mountain’s bald summit, which offers a 360-degree view of the region. The hike also visits the beautiful, sandy shore of Donnell Pond, a location known as Schoodic Beach.
Schoodic Mountain is located in the state-owned Donnell Pond Public Reserved Land, which is comprised of more than 15,000 acres of remote forestland in Hancock County between the towns of Franklin and Cherryfield. The land unit features several mountains, as well as crystal clear lakes, ponds and brooks. In addition to hiking trail on Schoodic Mountain, the land features trails on Caribou, Black and Tunk mountains, and trails into scenic waterfront day use areas and campsites.
Starting at the parking area at the end of Schoodic Beach Road, the loop hike of Schoodic Mountain can be traveled clockwise or counterclockwise. A trail map on the kiosk at the far end of the parking area will help you map out your hike.
If you decide to hike it clockwise, you’ll start on the Schoodic Mountain Trail, which starts off by traveling gradually uphill through a mossy, mixed forest filled with exposed tree roots and rocks. Early on, the trail travels between two large boulders. If you look around, you’ll notice this area of the forest is filled with these glacial erratics, some of them covered with ferns.
Marked with blue blazes and the occasional rock pile, the trail becomes increasingly steep and rocky then levels off for a stretch before traveling gradually up through a stand of beech trees to come to a trail intersection 0.9 mile from the trailhead. At the intersection continue straight up the mountain to reach the summit in about 0.4 mile.
The wide, open summit of the mountain features a fenced-off communications tower and countless places to sit and enjoy the views. In addition to the natural features of the region, the views include an interesting perspective the Down East Sunrise Trail, a wide, gravel multi-use trail, as well as a line of wind turbines in the distance. Schoodic Bog, area lakes and ponds, and the mountainous profile of Mount Desert Island can also be easily seen from the summit.
From the summit, backtrack to the trail intersection and turn left to descend the mountain on a 0.6-mile trail that leads to Schoodic Beach. This trail is fairly steep in places, so watch your step. Near the shore of Donnell Pond, the trail levels off and widens before crossing a footbridge over a brook and ending at a campsite by the beach.
At the beach is a kiosk displaying a trail map that you can use to get your bearings. Not far from the kiosk is the Schoodic Beach Trail, which leads gradually uphill to the parking lot in 0.5 mile. Most of this trail, which travels through a mossy, mixed forest, is wide and smooth. (Be sure not to turn east onto Black Mountain Cliffs Trail, which spurs off the Schoodic Beach Trail near the beach to travel up Black Mountain.)
Donnell Pond Public Reserved Land is open year round, though the access roads may not be plowed in the winter. Admission is free. Dogs are permitted if under control at all times, and dogs must be on leash while at the beaches and campsites.
For a trail map, visit www.maine.gov/doc/parks/maps/donnellpond.pdf. For information, call the Eastern Public Lands Office at 207-941-4412.
Personal note: Black flies started bouncing off my white Subaru as soon as I parked at the Schoodic Mountain trailhead on Monday, May 7, with my dog Oreo sitting in the passenger-side seat. The parking lot was empty, which isn’t too surprising, it being a bit too early for tourists and a weekday morning. But on summer weekends, I’ve seen the parking lot full.
After coating myself and Oreo with natural insect repellent, we hit the trail, starting on the Schoodic Mountain Trail so we could visit the beach after climbing the mountain.
Chattering squirrels seemed to taunt Oreo as we worked our way up the mountain. He strained against the leash, eager to chase them. But as we gained elevation, the habitat changed and the noisy critters disappeared, replaced by twittering songbirds. Bright green leaves of low-lying forest plants had popped up from the forest floor, and leaves were unfurling on some of the trees. Everywhere I looked were signs of spring.
To escape the black flies, I moved quickly, working up a sweat on the way to the summit. Every time we paused for a photograph or to drink of water, they swarmed, flying into my eyes and nostrils. It was more annoying than anything. In fact, I don’t think any of them actually bit me.
It was only at the summit that we escaped the flies, which were driven away by a steady breeze. Sitting on the warm granite bedrock, I enjoyed the view while Oreo rolled around in a bed of grass. I think we were both happy about the sunny weather and the fresh air. We stayed up there on the mountaintop a while, wandering to different viewpoints, careful not to trample the delicate alpine plants. We were in no rush to leave such a beautiful place.
A word of warning: I did notice some bits of broken glass in some areas of the summit, likely where people were partying. And I noticed some tiny bits of glass in the parking lot. Oreo didn’t get any cuts on his feet, but he very well could have.
During the second half of our hike, Oreo enjoyed the cool, clear water of Donnell Pond and a nearby brook. His ears perked up a few times at the call of a squirrel, but he was far less interested, having spent much of his energy on the mountain.
Back at the parking lot, I found that someone had arrived while we’d been on the trail and was likely hiking it behind us. The person could have also been on the lesser-traveled Black Mountain Cliffs loop, another great hike.