Quoddy Head State Park encompasses 541 acres of prime real estate on West Quoddy Head in Lubec, the easternmost point of land in the continental United States. Established in 1962 on lands acquired by the state from private landowners, the park is perhaps best known for its iconic red and white-striped lighthouse standing tall on the shore of the Grand Manan Channel. The name Quoddy Head is the Passamaquoddy term meaning “fertile and beautiful.”

The park features about five miles of hiking on six trails. By combining four of the five trails — the Coastal, Inland, Thompson and Bog — hikers can enjoy an outstanding 3.5-mile loop that wends along the dramatic coastline, through maritime spruce forests and into a unique peat bog.

The first Quoddy Head Light, commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, was completed in 1808. The present tower, the third on the site, was built in 1858. Automated by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1988, the state maintains the light and its powerful 5 1/2-foot tall Fresnel lens with the help of the West Quoddy Light Keepers Association.

West Quoddy Head Light isn’t generally open to the public, but the former light keeper’s quarters are open as a museum and visitor center, a must-see that captures the colorful history of the light station and its long list of dedicated keepers.

Rugged cliffs and bold ocean views characterize the walk along the Coastal Trail in Quoddy Head State Park. Photo by Carey Kish

After visiting the light and the museum, strike off southwesterly on the Coastal Trail, which offers grandstand views across the channel to the impressive columnar basalt cliffs of Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick.

The Inland Trail and Coastal Trail coincide for a short while before the Coastal Trail breaks away left. A short distance ahead is Gulliver’s Hole, a narrow chasm in the rocks far below, which booms with a thunderous roar when the tides are just right, much like the famous Thunder Hole in Acadia.


Soon after, the trail arrives at High Ledge, a wide and grassy ledge 150 feet above the ocean. From this vantage point, the fine westerly view takes in a long series of rugged cliffs, cobble beaches, steep headlands and mountainous little bumps.

At Green Point, any of several side paths on the left will lead you out to the wide, flat, open and grassy point, which yields more broad vistas of the bold Quoddy coastline. In late summer be on the watch for humpback, minke and finback whales cavorting offshore.

Beyond Green Point, the Coastal Trail journeys on, at times down close to ocean level, other times high above it. Sections of rough footway with slippery rocks and roots are juxtaposed with delightfully soft carpets of needles edged with green mosses. Swinging around a cobble cove and a jumble of jagged rocks, the trail finally reaches the west shore of Carrying Place Cove and the Thompson Trail in a grassy clearing.

Before continuing on, take the spur trail straight ahead through Minzy Field to the cove and its long arching sandy beach, a great spot for lunch and some beachcombing. The cove is so named because it was once a canoe portage site for Native Americans crossing over the narrow peninsula from the ocean to Lubec Flats. The cove is also the site of the former Quoddy Head Life-Saving Station (circa 1874), which housed men and equipment used to search for and aid shipwrecked vessels.

Pitcher plants along the Bog Trail in the West Quoddy Head Bog. Photo by Carey Kish

The old woods road that is the Thompson Trail rises gently through mixed woods and eases over a knoll before descending into woods of spruce and fir. After a winding section of bog bridges is the Bog Trail, a short detour that leads to West Quoddy Head Bog, the easternmost open peatland in the United States. A boardwalk explores the seven-acre, nearly circular expanse, and interpretive panels tell the bog’s fascinating story.

Return to the lighthouse and parking via the Inland Trail. If you’re up for more, the one-mile Coast Guard Trail circles out to fine views across the Lubec Channel to the town of Lubec.

Quoddy Head State Park is officially open from May 15 to Oct. 15, but visitors are welcome any time of year, with parking allowed outside the gate (but please don’t block it). For more info and a trail map, visit www.parksandlands.com.

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

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