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September 2001

Backpacking On Maine’s Wild Cutler Coast

Thanks to the Cutler Coast Public Reserve, Maine's rocky, wild coastline is now open to backpackers who like solitude as much as scenery.

Let’s start with a disclaimer. If you’re a hiker who likes to pack big miles into a short weekend, Cutler Coast Public Reserve may not be for you. But if you’ll forgo a long hike in exchange for a spectacular, uncrowded setting, this wild slice of Maine shoreline is made to order.

The 10-mile loop through Cutler Coast samples so much diverse terrain, you’ll have to slow down to take it all in. The path rolls through blueberry barrens, peat lands, swampy woods, and a rare seaside spruce and fir forest, then leads past windswept headlands and rocky coves. At the farthest point of the loop are a handful of backcountry campsites where you can pitch a tent and savor one of the largest parcels of undeveloped coastline in the Northeast.

While the scenery rivals that found in Maine’s Acadia National Park, you won’t find comparable crowds in this relatively new park (opened to the public in 1996). My wife and I visited on a cloudless summer day and saw only three other hikers.

From the trailhead, we followed an approach trail southeast under the dark spruce and fir trees. We then emerged onto a bare, craggy headland towering 100 feet above the crashing waves of the North Atlantic.

From the overlook, we followed the trail southwest, climbing up and down rocky headlands and passing hidden coves. We scanned the shore for seals, porpoises, and whales (humpback, fin, and minke), which regularly cruise Cutler’s ragged coastline from May to September.

At Fairy Head, we reached the reserve’s three designated campsites. The sun rises at an ungodly hour in this extreme northeastern location, but it’s worth leaving your sleeping bag to see the reddish orb peeking over Canada’s Grand Manan Island.

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