Hiking Around the Island

Into the Woods

About 12 miles of trails, often steep and strenuous, lead through wooded areas and over rocky ledges up to the highest ocean cliffs on the Maine coastline. Volunteers and experienced woodsmen work tirelessly to improve the trails but there will always be a slippery spot or a steep climb. Know your limitations!

  • The woods are chiefly spruce and fir balsam; in some places tall slender trees interlace their branches in gothic arches, as in a cathedral. Quiet aisles are carpeted with deep-piled needles, adorned with ferns, wildflowers, tiny new trees, and mosses.
  • Unusual and rare flowers and plants grow on the Island, but because it is so far out to sea there is a limited chance for reseeding by wind or birds. Some species are in danger of dying out. Many visitors – and there may be 200 in a day during the summer – play ‘botanist for the day’ and frantically gather specimens, but the living plants and their flowers are necessary to produce the seeds for next year’s beauty. Stop and look, photograph or paint, but please do not pick or dig up any living materials. The long-standing custom of presenting departing visitors with bouquets of flowers is charming if the flowers are gathered by Islanders from their own yards, but distressing to see if they’re from the wildlands or roadsides.
  • Get a trail map at an Island shop before setting out.  Most of the Island is wild land, with woods and undergrowth so thick you can’t cut across from one trail to another without becoming lost. The trail map published by the Monhegan Associates, showing trails, their names, their numbers, and their difficulty, is reliable, cheap, and easily available. You can view it online but really should plan on purchasing one (for a nominal fee) to carry when you hike away from the Village. 
  • There are few guide posts.  Most trails are marked by small numbers on trees and sometimes rocks at the beginnings and intersections of trails.  Trail directions over rock ledges are occasionally indicated by cairns – piles of stones along the trail which mark the way. For the safety of those who follow you, do not disturb the cairns or build new ones.
  • On the trails, expect rough paths, steep climbs, spectacular views, and quiet forest glens. Do not expect easy transport for strollers, ‘rest stops,’ vending machines, or trash barrels.
  • Use great care around cliffs and surf (and see that your children do the same!).
  • When hiking, wear sensible shoes and clothing to protect against ticks and poison ivy. If you’re hiking alone, a walking stick can be a great help climbing over rocky inclines. 
  • As elsewhere in New England forests, there are mosquitos and poison ivy along trails.   Avoid such nuisances by wearing long pants with your socks pulled up over their bottoms, and use insect repellents. 
  • Wheels: Bicycles, especially including trail bikes, are not permitted on the trails of the Island. Strollers, even “jogging” strollers, are impossible to maneuver on the trails beyond the main fire roads, and there are no provision for wheelchairs or walkers on this privately owned island. 
  • Litter in the woods is unsightly and unsanitary; if there’s an emergency, pack out used tissues.  
  • Children who can’t hike rough trails will need carrying. There is no playground, and though Swim Beach is good for relaxing, the water is quite cold and there are no toilet, garbage, or dressing facilities there. 
  • Dogs must be leashed and controlled at all times to protect themselves, other dogs, and people.Although private homes and some rentals allow pets, the Inns do not. You’ll be charged boat fare for your dog and are expected to dispose of its waste as in a city.