Great Hikes for Kids: Bog Trail at Quoddy Head State Park

Location: Washington County
Distance: 1.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Ages: 4+

Sometimes I undertake a hike with my family out of a sense of duty. I feel like we should get out there just because it’s a thing we do, not because I’m necessarily excited about what a particular trail might hold.That was the mindset I had when we set off for Quoddy Head State Park. The day was chilly and overcast, with potential for rain. We definitely were hiking just to say we went hiking. But the thing about the outdoors is that it’s unpredictable. Sure, sometimes that means you get unexpectedly rained on, but sometimes it means you end up getting exactly what you didn’t know you needed.

The Bog Trail is part of 5 1/2 miles of hiking trails at Quoddy Head State Park. To get to the park, take Route 189 towards Lubec. Shortly before entering the town proper, turn right onto South Lubec Road and follow that four miles to the park entrance. As you come into the park, the parking lot for the lighthouse (we’ll get to that later) is on the fork to the left, while the hiking trails are on the fork to the right. We went to the lighthouse first and then walked over to the trailhead; it’s not far. I recommend picking up one of the brochures with a trail map; while the trail system is small, there are a lot of crossing trails that could get confusing.

To get to the Bog Trail, you need to start on the Inland Trail. Luckily, the park is prepared for easily confused people like me and clearly marked the trailhead with an arrow and “Inland and Bog Trails” on the sign. It became immediately clear that this was not your typical hike. This entire first stretch was filled with emerald green moss, wildflowers and other magic in the form of small stone animals and fairy houses. Yes. It is definitely a fairy-rich environment and some folks have been inspired to leave fairy houses all along the trail. We had a great time picking our favorites and it really set the mood for the rest of the hike.

The trail shortly opens up to a different kind of enchantment: steep cliffs dropping into the ocean. The Inland Trail goes slightly uphill here and then into a forest of dead spruce. This sounds grim, but the trees are covered with old man’s beard lichen blowing in the breeze, which is as close as you’ll get to the feel of Spanish moss in Maine. Take a right at another sign and back into green to get on the Bog Trail itself, then another, unmarked right. The trees overhead form a tunnel through what my daughter named Magical Land and then the Bog Trail boardwalk appears up ahead.

A few steps on the boardwalk and the entire landscape changes. At first I thought it was desolate, but then I realized it was simply full of miniature, understated life.

bog boardwalk

This landscape is the result of 8,000 years of slow and steady evolution. Stay on the boardwalk.

The boardwalk makes a small loop and our group split in half and met on the far side where the kids excitedly updated each other on what the other was about to see. Signs around the circle explain the formation of the bog as well as its delicate nature and point you toward the more interesting plant life. Keep your eyes open for pitcher plants and sundews–which replaced Venus flytraps as my favorite carnivorous plant. Baked apple berries were ripe while we were there so we sampled a few–and they do taste pretty remarkably like the unrelated dessert. We spent quite a lot of time in this rich landscape, which was so different from anything we’d seen before.

bog ground

Not desolate at all. Look at all those layers of life.

After completing the loop, we headed back through Magical Land and started to retrace our steps. Instead of going back on the Inland Trail, we decided to take a short connector and take the parallel Coastal Trail back towards the parking area. This is a worthy detour, but be aware that steep steps and tricky wooden ramps make this section more difficult. The trail also cuts very close to those impressive cliffs and railings are inconsistent; keep your younger or less cautious adventurers close by. At one break in the trees, our daughter spotted a fin out in the bay so we stopped to watch what we assumed would be a porpoise. It turned out to be what was probably a minke whale feeding out in the channel; we watched it surface several times before heading on.

The Coastal Trail connected back to our starting trail. The choice between staying on the coast and going back through the fairyland was no contest: the fairies won. We were so inspired by the fairy houses we may have built one or two of our own, so keep an eye out for some less professional attempts.Those are probably ours.

To recap, here’s what we saw on this hike we weren’t too excited about doing in the first place: fairy houses, jaw-dropping cliffs, mystical lichen forests, Magical Land, an 8,000 year old bog, carnivorous plants, edible berries we’d never tried, and a whale. To paraphrase the old football saying, that is why we take the hike.

Kid rating: Ten thumbs up! You may remember that this coveted rating was last given to Blue Hill Mountain, so I asked if they thought this was as good as that hike. “Even better!” they yelled. Sorry, Blue Hill. Maybe get yourself an 8,000 year old bog or whales or something to compete. This is our new #1 kid hike.

Kid review: “I really liked Magical Land and the fairy houses!” “I liked watching the whale and eating the berries.”

About the lighthouse: Going to Quoddy Head State Park and not taking a walk around the famous lighthouse would be terrifically foolish. We took the opportunity to put another stamp in our state parks passport.

quoddy head lighthouse

Stamping in progress.

A good thing to know: through the months of July and August, they are opening up the lighthouse to the public from 1:30-3:30 every Saturday afternoon. That’s right: you can go up to the top, take in the view, and see the light. We were lucky enough to stumble on this, but it’s definitely worth planning a trip around if you are lighthouse folk.

Cherie Galyean

About Cherie Galyean

In a perfect world, Cherie Galyean would spend hours every day chasing her kids up hiking trails, pretending to garden, and baking things. Instead, she works full-time in the non-profit sector and fits those other things in-between loads of laundry in her free time. A Maine native with multiple hometowns, she currently lives on Mount Desert Island with her husband, seven-year-old daughter, five-year-old son, and the best shelter mutt in the world.