When doing research for Acadia National Park, I was disappointed that no backcountry camping was allowed in the park. Overnight backpacking is my preferred method for lodging and exploring a park. I can see why since Mt. Dessert Island is small, and Acadia receives hordes of visitors each year. If they allowed backpacking, it would destroy the fragile ecosystem. Fortunately, I received a tip about Maine’s Bold Coast.
One night free in Maine before heading to Bar Harbor
I had one night to explore anywhere in Maine after the end of my Allagash River canoe trip. I drove over twenty hours to get to Maine and it had been non-stop adventure since I arrived. Upon arrival, three nights were spent in Baxter State Park and six nights canoeing the Allagash.
Related – Baxter State Park is more than Katahdin
I need to recuperate, so I spent two nights relaxing in Bangor. In two days I had reservations for two nights in Bar Harbor, so I had one night unscheduled. I could backpack the Appalachian Trail for one night and delve into the One Hundred Mile Wilderness, I could explore by car, or I could hang out another night in Bangor.
Another option came to my attention thanks to Chip and Lani from Allagash Canoe Trips. They recommended hiking Maine’s Bold Coast near Cutler, Maine. They informed me I could hike the coast and there were several campsites overlooking the ocean. This turned out to be an invaluable tip.
Off to a late start
It took a couple of hours to drive from Bangor to Cutler, Maine. I stopped along the way to take many pictures in the scenic small towns along the way. Once I got to Cutler, there were no stores at all. I had to backtrack about 25 miles to find a store in order to get water. If you come to the Bold Coast, be prepared with everything you need to start your hike. There are no facilities of any kind nearby. At least none that I could find.
Hiking the Bold Coast
Just north of Cutler is the parking lot and trailhead for the hiking trail. There are no fees to hike or camp in this beautiful little rectangular parcel of land noted as Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land. There is a book to sign in and out, and that is it as far as the red tape to enter the Bold Coast. I packed my backpack in the parking lot and got started at about 3 p.m. What can I say, I am a mover and a shaker.
There is a short trail that leads to a trail along the coast. It is about 3/4 of a mile to the coastal trail. It is actually a loop with a trail that is parallel to the coastal trail, but this trail was currently closed due to beaver damage. I guess their dams must have flooded the trail. I did not investigate.
Hiking the Coastal Trail
The Coastal Trail was incredibly beautiful. One hundred foot cliffs dropped straight down to the ocean with rocky beaches below. At a few points, the trail descended to these beaches. It was difficult to make time with so many opportunities to take pictures. The campsites are clustered at the southern end of the reserve. They are about four to five miles away.
I did not see a soul on the trail until I got to the first campsite. It was occupied. The sun had already set, and darkness was coming. Fortunately, the next campsite was vacant, so I set up camp quickly before it got too dark.
My campsite was located on a high point right above a cove. There were steps down to the rocky beach. Once the tent was up, I walked down to the water’s edge. I was facing due east, so I did not get a view of the sunset, but the pink reflected down on the water below. A group of heads swimming in the water greeted me. I was thinking they must be otters or perhaps those pesky beavers who were guilty of closing the other trail. I am used to camping in the inland Midwest, so that was my frame of mind when I saw these animals.
Suddenly, it dawned on me that that I was camped along the ocean. These were not mink, otters, or beaver. I was welcomed by a group of playing harbor seals. I have never seen a seal before, so I was ecstatic.
There are no campfires allowed, so that was a disappointment, but I can understand. With such a small area of protected land, you do not want too much foraging. I did not mind because I set my chair facing the ocean and watched what little moon there was dance along the water. A fishing boat slowly cruised across the the cove, so there was plenty to observe while taking a few pulls of whiskey.
Bold Coast features incredible sunrise, but . . . .
I woke the next morning about an hour after sunrise. I should have set my alarm and witness the sun, but sunrises are not my forte. Sunsets fit better into my schedule. At the top of the hill looking out over the ocean was the privy. I may have missed the sunset, but I did enjoy the most incredible view from a toilet ever.
Hiking back to the trailhead
Since the beavers destroyed the return hiking trail, I had to hike back the same coastal trail I came in on. Since it was late when I hiked out, the bright late morning sun provided a completely different light, so it almost felt like a different trail with different views. I arrived back at my car around noon, which put me in a perfect place to arrive in Bar Harbor later in the afternoon.
For more information on hiking and backpacking Maine’s Bold Coast, consult this page.
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