Wilderness & Coastal Trails in the City & Beyond

The diversity of scenery in Portland makes for a tough decision when it comes to a stroll in or around the city. Oceanside trails abound, as do treks through quiet forests and rolling country hills. The best trails include all three, winding through pristine, secluded beaches where you'll be tempted to stop and stay forever.

Mackworth Island

Mackworth Island, situated five minutes outside of downtown Portland, is located at the end of a low bridge that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. As you cross it, in car, on foot or on a bike, the creaky wooden boards beneath you lend to that island sentiment; you are indeed leaving the mainland for a sanctuary of sorts.

Once you park (and parking is limited - but if you arrive on the early side, before 9 a.m., you're likely to find a space), you can either choose to venture down to the idyllic beach with perfect views of Portland, or you can begin your trek around the island. Huge oak trees line the path around the island which never leaves the ocean's side, so spectacular views are varied and plentiful.

Back Cove

Back Cove is Portland's very own outdoor exercise rink, or at least it appears to be. Circling along the circumference of the cove, this circular trail is the preferred jogging, biking, and walking spot for those interested in exercise. The trail is pretty flat, measuring one mile in diameter and 3.5 miles in circumfrence. It's perfect for a leisurely afternoon stroll or an early morning jog. At any hour of the day, you'll find others enjoying this popular walk.

Baxter Woods

Baxter Woods, not far from Back Cove, is a nature reserve and home to the largest forest in Portland. Its quiet solace is unique in the midst of a city, and the trails throughout find you staring up towards the tops of gigantic Maine pine trees. There's a small pond with lily pads at one end of the park, and a field perfect for picnics as well. Bring a sandwich and blanket and spend the afternoon beneath a pine; the quiet of the forest will have you wondering where civilization went but you won't be missing it.

Wolfe's Neck State Park

If you've spent a day shopping in Freeport and are longing for the peace of nature after a bout of consumerism, visit Wolfe's Neck State Park, a five- minute drive from downtown. Visitors can engage in bird-watching, as ospreys dwell close by on Googins Island during the summer months, vacationing in the warm Maine sun before making the trek to South America in the fall. Guided nature programs are available to visitors who wish to explore trails with the added informative aspect of a tour guide. Walks, short talks and activities are just some of the programs offered to those who are interested.

Peaks Island

Last but not least, a trip to Portland wouldn't be complete without a walk on one of the bona fide Casco Bay Islands: Peaks Island. The island is accessible from Portland via a 20-minute ferry ride with memorable views of Fort Gorges, various islands, and the city itself. Once you arrive, the Peaks Island Loop is a popular and scenic trail that follows the perimeter of the island and passes beaches as well as quaint cottage houses. Rent a bike on the island if you wish and spend the afternoon off the beaten path, exploring the many shaded wooded areas or warm patches of sand on one of the many beaches. This is why Maine is truly the "way life should be.”

by Heather Clarke

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Portland, Maine
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