SCARBOROUGH — When my dad was about to turn 80 I wanted to show him one of southern Maine’s most spectacular coastlines and an important cultural spot. But the trail in front of American landscape artist Winslow Homer’s home, now a museum, is rocky and the footing uneven.

So I suggested we walk only far enough along the rough, dirt trail to view Homer’s house and the crashing ocean below. The caveat, I explained to him, was I needed to park the car a mile and a half away at Ferry Beach after dropping him at the Cliff Walk. Then I’d run back from the parking lot and meet him.

What the many reports about this impressive mile-long coastal trail don’t tell you is there is no parking here. The Scarborough Police patrol the area frequently on weekends to make sure people obey the “No Parking” signs. So to stay legal, you need to do park a mile away at the town beach, which costs $10.

And why make that hike to get to the hike? Because it’s totally worth it.

As my father ventured out along the narrow, uneven trail that drops down to the ocean in places, his demeanor changed. He became quiet and looked relaxed, amazed, even surprised. That’s the rocky Maine coast doing its thing.

Last Sunday I saw a similar reaction when I dropped off staff photographer Jill Brady near the trail head. Brady had another assignment to get to and I wanted to give her as much time along the cliff walk as possible, so I parked her car for her, then ran back to meet her on the trail.


What I encountered next was similar to what I experienced with dad. The crashing waves and unexpected wild ocean views along the southern Maine coast had a mesmerizing effect, and Brady was amazed this place existed so close to Portland.

“This adventure was a bonus on top of my 90 minutes of hot yoga this morning,” she said.

It is a bit yoga-like, yes. So here are five more hikes along the southern Maine coast that have a meditative effect for you.

Cliff Trail, Harpswell

Of note: The Cliff Trail is a solid hourlong hike and the most popular of Harpswell’s dozens of trails. It’s a mixture of woods and tidal views with looks to Henry Creek, Strawberry Creek and Long Reach. It finishes at a 150-foot cliff overlooking Long Reach with a wild forest that surrounds the bay, a perfect spot for a picnic.

Trails: 2.3 miles


Parking: Off Mountain Road at the Harpswell town office

Fee: None

Long Reach Loop Trail, Harpswell

Of note: On the other side of the narrow bay, looking across at those towering rises on the Cliff Trail, is one of the longer hikes along the coast. At 1.5 miles this loop passes through a variety of ecosystems, from forests to a peat bog, wetlands and an area lined with coastal bedrock. The 95-acre preserve is part of 500 acres of conserved land, so the whole area is wild, quiet and teeming with wildlife. There also is shore access.

Trails: 1.5 miles

Parking: At the ballfields at the intersection of Pinkham Point Road and Route 24


Fee: None

Ovens Mouth Preserve, Boothbay

Of note: The farther up the coast you go, the better your chance of a solitary ocean experience. This 146-acre preserve on the Boothbay peninsula is a good example. Managed by the Boothbay Region Land Trust, it has shoreline access to the Back and Cross rivers and unending water views. The land here is covered with forests, but also has salt marshes that are rich with bird life. The two loops that form a 3-mile trek offer the best of coastal Maine: woods and waters.

Trails: 3 miles

Parking: Dover Cross Road, Boothbay

Fee: None


Crescent Beach, Kettle Cove state parks, Cape Elizabeth

Of note: These twin coastal parks have a short network of trails, but they run parallel to the ocean starting in the woods near the entrance off Route 77. From there they wind down along mowed fields to the beach. Another trail flanks the crescent-shaped beach, and it’s great for cross-country skiing. After this trail ends it’s a short walk on the beach and up on the road to the small network of wild trails on the other side of Kettle Cove. It takes a bit of a hopscotch approach, but it’s worth it for the views along the rocks.

Trails: Less than a mile

Parking: Off Route 77 at Crescent Beach State Park

Fee: $6 and $2 for seniors.

Wolfe’s Neck Woods Park (the backside), Freeport


Of note: The fact is, an hour from Portland in either direction there is little in the way of wild coastal trails like those that exist Down East. Such is the nature of developed areas. And even the trails at this state park along the Freeport coast are well worn and busy. But not so much on the back side. Follow the trails away from the pavilion and continue where they cross the paved road to the other side of the park. Views open up to the Harraseeket River. This is the road less traveled.

Trails: 1 mile

Parking: Off Wolfe’s Neck Road

Fee: $4 and $2 for seniors

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

Twitter: FlemingPph

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