Do you enjoy the wind whispering through a forest or love standing on high, rocky headlands above the open Atlantic? This small island off the coast of Maine has some incredible hiking where you can view cliffs that tower 160 feet above the ocean! Nine miles of rugged hiking trails traverse lands that meander across meadows, onto natural bogs, through tall spruce and fir woods, and out to dramatic headlands on the island’s east side. Since no cars are allowed on the island, the scenery provides an opportunity to truly connect with nature.
Hiking Trails on Monhegan Island
Monhegan Associates preserves and protects the wildlands and performs trail maintenance on Monhegan Island. Because most of the woodlands are thick and uncut, visitors need the map to follow designated trails. You can purchase a trail map for a small cost at the boat ticket booths and various shops around the island.
The trail map lists eighteen trails, showing distance starting at the village and the level of difficulty for each. Most of the island’s trails are marked by small numbers on trees and sometimes on rocks at the beginnings and intersections of trails. Trails passing over ledges and cliffs are often marked only with cairns – piles of stones. Depending on the amount of time you have available, you can follow one trail or combine several trails to make a full-day trip.
Here is a snapshot of a few trails available on the island. You can also check out trail highlights at Monhegan Associates.
Please note: Swim Beach beside the wharf is the only safe place to swim, but the water temperature is only about 60 degrees in summer. Tides run hard, and there is a strong undertow, so visitors are cautioned not to attempt to swim or wade at Lobster Cove or anywhere on the backside of the island.
Also, the only public toilet facilities on the island are pay toilets located behind Monhegan House. So use the facilities on the ferry boats and, as there are no public garbage cans, plan on packing out your refuse.
Burnt Head Trail
If you don’t have much time on Monaghan Island for hiking, the Burnt Head Trail is a short 45-minute hike one-way. Beginning with a short, steep climb, the trail becomes an easy walk, mostly across open meadows to high ledges on the southeast side of Monhegan 140 feet above the ocean crashing far below.
Birds and wildflowers abound, and so do the bugs, so bring bug spray.
Another short hike favorite (about 30 min one-way) includes the moderately difficult Whitehead Trail. You can cross the island to the high cliffs on the backside and catch a panoramic view of the headlands.
If you want to spend more time, the Maple Trail meanders through the woodlands in the north-central part of the island. This moderate trail also provides a connecting point between the Black Head and Cathedral Woods trails.
Plan Your Visit
The only way to get to Monhegan Island is by boat, but getting to it is easy. Three ferry lines operate daily in high season, roughly June through August, with one line running longer.
Monhegan Boat Line runs a 60-minute trip from Port Clyde to Monhegan from May 1 – Nov 30. The seasonal Balmy Days II from pier 8 in Boothbay Harbor takes 90 minutes, giving you over three hours on the island before the return trip. Hardy Boat Cruises at New Harbor gets passengers there in one hour and offers two trips daily.
A day visit to Monhegan allows ferry passengers about four hours between arrival and departure. This is plenty of time to take a hike and visit a gallery, shop, or the Monhegan Museum of Art & History located beside the old lighthouse, constructed in 1824. Other short hiking possibilities include walks to the museum, shops, restaurants at the village center. Or, check out Lobster Cove, where lies the wreck of the tugboat D.T. Sheridan.
Parking is provided on the mainland, and you need to reserve passage ahead. Lodging opportunities on the island include rooms, suites, apartments, cottages, a couple of B&BS, and many provide breakfast.
Or, pack a lunch or purchase at Barnacle Café at the Island Inn near the wharf. Here you can grab a coffee, tea, baked goods, sandwiches, or salads. Or, the Novelty, located behind the Monhegan House, serves pizza, wraps, brews, and ice cream. Other dining opportunities include outdoor picnic tables at Shermie’s Fish House on Fish Beach. Or, find sit-down fare at The Island Inn.
Have you been hiking on Monhegan Island? Please share your insights with us in the comments below.
This article was originally published on July 1, 2014, and most recently updated by Susan Wowk on August 25, 2021.
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