Location: Mount Desert Island
Distance: 2-2.5 miles depending on route. 2.2 miles as outlined below.
Ages: 5 and up (simply because of length, not difficulty. If you plan on carrying your child part way, younger kids can absolutely do this trail)
I didn’t intend to write a hiking post today, simply because I didn’t intend to go hiking this weekend given that all the trails are still pretty snowy and icy. But it was so warm on Saturday and, after the cold, dreary week we’d just been through, we felt a little stir-crazy. The Blagden Preserve is pretty close to our house, so I thought we’d just zip over, walk down to the plowed road to the shore for a bit, and then zip home. But once we got there, the kids insisted on the full hiking experience. Who am I to say no to an adventure? Especially in one of my favorite spots of Mount Desert Island.
The Blagden Preserve is not part of Acadia National Park. Instead, it is owned by the Nature Conservancy and located in a rural part of Bar Harbor. To get there, take Route 3 across the bridge onto Mount Desert Island and then take a right toward Routes 102/198 to Southwest Harbor. After 1.7 miles, turn right onto Indian Point Road. After about 1.5 miles, the road will fork, stay right. The Blagden Preserve sign is immediately after the fork on the right and don’t feel badly if you drive right past and have to turn around. I do it all the time. Turn onto the Higgins Farm Road and the preserve parking lot is on the left. Please note that Higgins Farm Road is a private road and they ask you not to drive down it. (Unless you drive a Jeep, you won’t want to anyway. The road is in terrible shape.)
You can simply walk one mile down the road to the shore, or you can do what we did and go to the left around the white outbuilding. There you will see a sign for the Big Woods Trail, a more indirect 1.2 mile meander through, well, woods. We were the first to take the trail since the last snow and I was a little worried about losing the path in the thick spruce. It turned out to be fine, as the yellow blazes are frequent and clear. In fact, my kids enjoyed the challenge of picking out the trail through the maze of look-alike trees.
The trail has very little elevation change and the footing was solid, even with about three inches of slush on top. There are sporadic boardwalks that didn’t matter much at this time of year, but that cover little streams and marshy areas after thaw. I have hiked this route many times in the summer and I warn you that once it warms up, you will absolutely want bug spray. In March, this wasn’t a problem which I guess is the main advantage of winter hiking.
Keep your eyes and ears open for woodpeckers. We didn’t see or hear any this time, but I certainly have in the past. There was also lots of deer track (and a quick deer sighting) and hare track as well as porcupine sign. At the end of the trail, you come into an old orchard and meadow that’s just lovely in the summer.
The trail ends back at the Higgins Farm Road and from there you can turn left and head right down to the shore. While the trails are nice, the shore is the real treasure of Blagden Preserve. The beach is rocky and flat. If you time it for low tide, like we did, you will find a critter-seeking paradise. There’s lots of seaweed and tidepools to poke through, periwinkles and mussels galore, and plenty of seagulls whirling overhead. I have heard that seals like to sunbathe on the ledges visible just offshore, but I have never seen any myself. There are plenty of accessible ledges to clamber on and on warmer days they make excellent picnic spots. Finally, there are a few benches scattered along the trail on the shore so you can rest and take in the excellent view.
After whiling away some time at the ocean, you can either take the Big Woods Trail back or do what we did and head back up Higgins Farm Road. Turns out that hiking through snow is a killer leg workout and we needed a break.
Kid rating: Two enthusiastic thumbs up.
Kid review: “I liked this hike because it was very adventurous to walk through the snowy woods. I liked looking for crabs under the seaweed even though we didn’t find any.”
“I think this was a lot of fun and I want to come back in the summer. It’s a great hike for playing by the seashore.”
One final note: because this preserve is Nature Conservancy land, you must follow their rules and that means no dogs allowed. Please also respect the private property that surrounds the preserve; signs clearly mark the boundaries.
If you liked this post, visit the Great Hikes for Kids page. I’m planning a lot more updates from all around the state this hiking season, so keep checking back.