Acadia HIKING MAINE NATIONAL PARKS

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK | Hiking Duck Harbor

August 19, 2014

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Our campground was right around that boat 

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We mistakenly thought we had reached the top so we took a ton of pix at this spot. Too bad we still had a bit of a ways to go.

duck harbor, maine

for once these stone towers served a purpose other than hippie nature art. 

duck harbor, maineduck harbor, maineduck harbor, maine

Nope, still not the top.

duck harbor, maineduck harbor, maineduck harbor, maine

This would be the top

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Guessing this is why it’s called Duck Harbor

duck harbor, maineduck harbor, maine

Our first order of business once arriving at Duck Harbor was to get on the trail and take full advantage of the day. The park ranger suggested that we hike to the top of Duck Harbor Mountain then connect to the Western Head Trail via The Goat and Cliff Trails. It sounded like an easy enough hike. I felt pretty confident we could knock it out in a couple hours and be back at camp stuffing our face with salami and cheese in no time at all.

We filled our bottles with hand-pumped well water and then headed off on Duck Harbor Mountain Trail. After a walking through the forest for some time we reached the base of the mountain and started our climb. Small rocky steps soon gave way to large rock walls — some steeper than others — that we scrambled up in our stiff hiking boots. Unlike Beehive Trail, there were no notched rocks or metal rungs to assist us.

Higher and higher we climbed until we reached the top. “That wasn’t bad at all,” I said. “Yeah that was pretty easy,” Sly replied. We slapped each other on the back thinking we were hiking badasses and took tons of photos to commemorate our momentous speed record-breaking hike.

Except we had yet to reach the top.

We were too busy taking in the beautiful view to realize that the mountain continued rising high behind us. Damn. We continued through the woods around the side of the mountain, then back up and up and up until we saw the geological markers and knew we had finally reached the top — this time for real. We took a long break at the summit and enjoyed the cool breeze on an otherwise hot day. There were no mosquitoes at this elevation and we contemplated possibly coming back sometime in the night to stargaze. It would have been an amazing place to set up camp.

With our climb to the top of Duck Harbor Mountain behind us we figured that everything else would be easy-going. Just follow the coast a couple miles and we would be back at camp at no time, right?

Wrong.

After we made our way down the mountain we hiked toward the coast line. At first the terrain was flat and easy, but by the time we hit the Cliff Trail we were hiking up, down, and around cliffs and over and across numerous rocky beaches. The trail was very slow going and seemed like it would never end. I’m convinced now that the mileage on the trail map *had to be* incorrect because it took what seemed like forever to get back to the trail head.

The major upside: the views from the trail were stunning and we never saw — or even heard — anyone else except for one couple and their dog at the very start of the Duck Harbor Mountain Trail. Alone with our thoughts and aided by such ever-present wild beauty we fell into a natural rhythm. This was why we came to this remote part of Acadia. Far away from crowds and traffic and gift shops we felt embraced by nature once more. Finally we had found our solitude.

DETAILS

Duck Harbor Mountain Trail ==> Goat Trail –> Cliff Trail –> Western Head Trail // approximately 6-7 miles, though felt way longer / Access to Isle Au Haut and Duck Harbor is via a mailboat that leaves from Stonington. // From Duck Harbor Camp (where the mail boat drops off), follow the trail signs until you reach the environmental toilets. Continue straight for the water pump or right to start the Duck Harbor Mountain Trail. From here you’ll climb up and over rocks for about a mile, then back down the mountain until you reach a clearing where you can see Merchant Cove. This is where the Goat Trail begins. Once you have passed the Western Head Road (which takes you back to the trail head) on the right there’s really only one trail, just with different names. Follow the trail around the island, detouring to walk to Western Ear during low tide, until you have returned to the start of the trail. While you can expect a lot of climbing, rocky terrain/beaches, and a bit of muddy, boggy swampland, I wouldn’t say this is necessarily a difficult hike. It took us just under 4hrs including tons of stops for taking photos and sunbathing on rocks . If you’re day hiking, returning by boat the same day you might want to pick either the Duck Harbor Mountain Trail (if you like mountain top views) or The Western Head Trail (if you like rocky sea cliffs). There are quite a few other trails on the island but the park ranger told us these were some of the most scenic. This hike felt more like back country hiking due to the remoteness, lack of people, and rugged beauty. TIP: bring your own water. While water is available on the island, we found the pump to be unreliable at best and the water tastes strongly of iron.

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