Mount Desert Island is always a great place to spend some outdoor time, and no time, as far as I’m concerned, is better than before the vacationing hordes turn the roads headed that way into something less than the private thoroughfares we natives enjoy for a good part of the year.

And my favorite part of that special island is “the quiet side” west of Somes Sound, where, even in mid-summer, the trails on Acadia, Beech, Mansell, Bernard and Western mountains are uncrowded and the views are spectacular.

If you leave home early enough in the morning, or if you’ve spent the night near or on the island, you might want to combine, as I usually do, three wonderful diversions: sightseeing, hiking and paddling.

I’d suggest bearing to the right on Route 102 at the intersection shortly after the causeway as you arrive on the island. This route will take you through picturesque Somesville and along the west shore of the sound for a short distance and then along the east shore of Echo Lake. You’ll pass the road to Ike’s Point on the lake, where there’s a public launch site.

This is my chosen spot to launch the kayak for an early- morning short circumnavigation of the lake, with the most prominent visual feature being the dominating prominence of Beech Cliff along the southwest shore. It’s always fun to paddle in its shadow knowing that before the morning’s over you’ll be scaling it to drink in the view of the lake from high above.

A couple of well-spent hours exploring the shoreline of this small treasure of a lake make for a perfect morning.

Back in your car you’ll proceed for a short distance to the road on your right leading to the parking lot and trail head for the Beech Cliff trail where your hiking adventure will start.

You’ll pass along the shore of Echo Lake briefly, then turn left to a steep, but short, ascent to the top of the cliffs. Take a right on the half-mile Beech Cliff Loop where you’ll be treated to a breathtaking view down into the lake, and across to Acadia and St. Sauveur mountains to the east. You’ll want to include those prominences on a future trip.

Returning from the loop, you’ll turn right and proceed west for about a quarter of a mile to an intersection with the Valley Trail, which you’ll follow south for another quarter mile to a well-marked intersection with the Canada Cliff Trail on your left.

This trail, about a mile long, proceeds first east and then turns north along the top of the bold set of cliffs for which it is named, sharing the same views as those from Beech Cliff.

You’ll rejoin Beech Cliff Trail on which you’ll turn right for the short scramble back down to your car. One of the rewards of this hike, if the weather’s warm enough, is the sandy beach on Echo Lake right at the end of the trail, and the chance to cool off from your morning exertions.

Back in your car on Route 102, head south toward Southwest Harbor. After a little more than a mile you’ll pass Fernald Point Road on your left that leads to Flying Mountain with its dominating view down into and across Somesville Sound. If you have the time and the energy on this trip, I’d certainly recommend including the hike up Flying Mountain Trail, then north on Valley Cove Trail up the west shore of the sound.

It’s a little over 2 miles to Valley Peak Trail, which will bring you back along the top of a set of cliffs to your starting point. If you don’t include this circuit on your Echo Lake-Beech Cliffs day, be sure to make plans for a future visit.

Then it’s back on the road through Southwest Harbor and, assuming you’ve worked up an appetite, the short trip down Clark Point Road to Beal’s Lobster Pier, where you can dine on fresh seafood on a working dock overlooking the harbor.

Now for the sightseeing portion of your recreational trifecta. Leaving Southwest Harbor heading south, turn left on Route 102A through Manset, out around Seawall and on to Bass Harbor. Be sure to pop out to oft-photographed Bass Harbor Light, where there’s a short but rewarding hike on Head Light Trail.

You’ll pass the terminal for the ferry out to Swans Island, which you’ll hear more about in a column later this summer.

Proceed along quiet Route 102 through Bernard and Seal Cove back to the north end of the island, with your head swimming with unforgettable images, as mine always does, and the knowledge that there’s so much more to explore on this special island.

John Christie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son, Josh, write in Outdoors about places to enjoy beauty only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at: [email protected]