If you’ve ever driven along Harpswell Neck, you know the scenery in the area is so beautiful that you can feast your eyes on some of Maine’s most gorgeous coastline without even leaving your car.

There’s the distinctive and historic Cribstone Bridge between Orrs and Bailey Islands; the vista over Mackerel Cove, with its postcard-perfect lobster boats; and the views to Chebeague, Cliff and dozens of other islands from Land’s End.

Then, just outside your car, there are strolls along the spectacular Giant’s Steps, and through classic Maine villages; galleries and gift shops; and lobster restaurants and seafood shacks.

So you’d be forgiven for visiting the area without realizing there’s great hiking to be had. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t realize it myself until I was researching the area recently and discovered the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust.

HHLT (hhltmaine.org) is dedicated to preserving the natural resources and landscapes of Harpswell. As part of this mission, they protect more than a dozen trails, preserves and easements on Harpswell Neck and surrounding islands, including a number on both public and private lands, and some accessed only by boat.

Located on the finger of land between the Ewin Narrows to the west and Long Reach to the east, the Cliff Trail offers one of the longest hikes in the area – and some of the best views, especially when tides are high. With a network of routes that can make your trip between a few hundred yards and more than two miles, this is a great outing for hikers aiming to burn calories or families looking for a fun and scenic weekend stroll.


Starting at the Harpswell Town Office, the Cliff Trail takes you immediately to the shores of the tidal Strawberry Creek, where you’ll likely see seabirds wheeling through the air, fishing for food in the flats. Watch your footing as you follow the trail over mostly flat but somewhat rough and rooty terrain to the end of the creek, where a short side path will take you to a small waterfall called the Cascades – which may or may not be flowing, depending on the height of the tides.

Here you have a choice to bear left and follow the longer 2.3-mile loop trail, or to turn right and take a shorter cutoff to the cliffs. Whichever path you choose, pay close attention to the blazes – I noticed many offshoot trails and portions of the Old Town Road that are only blocked by a couple sticks on the ground, and old markings in the woods could easily take you in the wrong direction.

The longer route continues through mostly flat woods to the northern end of the loop, where there’s a scenic view over marshy Henry Creek. When the trail swings east from there, the ground changes significantly, with rocky and steep stretches before opening up to wide views from the banks of Long Reach.

Traveling south along the reach, the terrain continues to rise, with the trail finally achieving its high point at the titular 150-foot cliffs that plunge down to Long Reach. Two open ledges offer unparalleled views of the area, especially to the north and east. Either ledge makes a great resting point for lunch – once you make it here, the hard work of the hike is over.

Continuing in the same clockwise direction after the cliffs, the trail swings through one of two Fairy House Zones in the area (the other is on the cutoff trail). If there’s any place fairies would choose to live, I’d have to believe it’s in these sheltered woods, with their gnarled roots and helpful young fairy house architects. If you or your children want to help provide the fairies with new turnkey properties, follow the ordi- nances posted in the area, and be respectful of the beautiful and truly imaginative houses created by previous visitors.

After the fairy village, the trail descends quickly and finally comes out of the woods at the recycling center on Community Road. Round the recycling center and you’ll be back at the Town Office parking lot.

The Cliff Trail is a short way off the beaten path through Harpswell Neck, and that can make it easy to miss. If you’re visiting the area or you’re an uninitiated local looking to expand your hiking repertoire, the Cliff Trail and HHLT’s many other protected properties are worth visiting. Step out of your car, lace up your hiking boots and hit the trail – and I guarantee you’ll feel like you’ve caught a little bit of that fairy magic when you get there.

Jake Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Josh, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Jake can be reached at:


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