The late afternoon view over Flanders Bay from the Beach Trail at Taft Point Preserve in Gouldsboro is one to remember. Carey Kish photo

The Schoodic Peninsula is home to a remarkable landscape of dense spruce forests, jack pine woodlands, shrubby heaths, cobble beaches, granite headlands, deep harbors and rugged islands. Bounded by Frenchman Bay to the west, Gouldsboro Bay to the east and the Gulf of Maine along its southern margin, the peninsula is a true natural gem of Maine’s bold Downeast coastline.

Two towns make up the Schoodic Peninsula. Winter Harbor encompasses the southern reaches, which feature the extraordinary Schoodic District of Acadia National Park, the only mainland chunk of the park, while Gouldsboro takes in the lands on both sides of U.S. Route 1, stretching from the center of the peninsula north toward Tunk Lake.

The “quiet side” of Acadia National Park may be considered by most to be the west side of Mount Desert Island, but that label might be better applied to Schoodic. Despite having attracted increased attention when it expanded to 3,450 acres in late 2015 thanks to a large private donation of land and recreational infrastructure, Schoodic still sees just a fraction of the annual visitors that overwhelm the park proper – from Sand Beach to Jordan Pond to Bass Harbor Light – on MDI.

A hiker ambles along Flanders Bay on the Beach Trail at Taft Point Preserve in Gouldsboro. Carey Kish photo.

Once you’ve enjoyed the network of meandering trails and bike paths, ambled in awe over the wave-splashed pink granite at Schoodic Point, checked out the cool log and stone visitor information center and perhaps camped at the park’s Schoodic Woods Campground, you might be wondering what else is there to see and do over this way on your next visit.

Quite a lot as it turns out, and that’s where Gouldsboro comes into play.

Thanks to the Frenchman Bay Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are footpaths aplenty in the town of Gouldsboro, 7 miles in all across five different properties, more than enough to keep a hiker busy for most of a day, especially when sightseeing and a stop at the Pickled Wrinkle for food and drink are factored in.

Begin your Gouldsboro hiking adventure at FBC’s Frances B. Wood Preserve, 438 acres just inland from West Bay. A 1.6-mile loop wends along the edge of a beaver pond, then gently rises through the hush of the thick hillside woods beyond.

Back at the trailhead, keep your pack on and continue immediately south on the Salt Marsh Trail, which tracks through a portion of the 623-acre Gouldsboro Bay Division of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The 1.6-mile out-and-back hike leads to several lookout points with views over the tidal flats to West Bay.

Next up, make your way to Corea Heath Preserve, a 600-acre parcel of wetlands and bog that serves as a key conservation link between the Grand Marsh and more of the heathlands owned by MCINWR. FBC aptly describes this special place as “a quiet haven for wildlife and the people who walk there,” and the 1.2-mile lollipop loop hike is one to be savored indeed.

The Salt Marsh Trail in Gouldsboro leads to several lookouts with views to West Bay. Carey Kish photo.

Just south on Route 195, the short but sweet 0.4-mile round-trip walk on the accessible Corea Heath Trail is worth the while, leading as it does out into the scenic heart of the vast coastal plateau bog, more simply known as a heath.

By this point in the day, you’re bound to be starving and thirsty. Good. Head for the Pickled Wrinkle in Birch Harbor, a friendly and fun watering hole open all year at the crossroads of Route 186 and the Schoodic Loop Road. I’m partial to the wings, pickle chips and haddock burger, but you’ll no doubt find something tasty on the menu to fill the hungry hiker’s hole. By the way, what’s a “pickled wrinkle,” you ask? An old Downeast Maine delicacy is all I’m going to tell you; you’ll have to visit to find out more.

Sated but hopefully with time and energy to spare, make a final stop at Taft Point Preserve on Route 186. The 68 acres owned by FBC showcase a half-mile of frontage on Flanders Bay and a spectacular vista ranging from the mountain peaks of Acadia National Park on MDI to Schoodic Mountain in the Donnell Pond Public Lands unit. Three trails – Flanders Bay, Beach and Jones Cove – combine for 2 miles of delightful walking.

With any luck, you’ll catch a nice sunset on the slow road toward home.

Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island is the author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast and editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow Carey’s adventures on Facebook @CareyKish

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