Difficulty: Easy. The 0.4-mile Compass Harbor Trail is wide and fairly smooth, with steep side trails that lead down to the beach.
Information: Located just outside downtown Bar Harbor, the Compass Harbor Trail is a walking path that explores the former estate of George B. Dorr, a man who was known as the “father of Acadia National Park.”
At the beginning of the trail is an educational display about Dorr and the property. Dorr served as the park’s first superintendent from 1919 to 1944, and donated the 58-acre property — known as Old Farm — to the park two years before his death.
Starting at Route 3, the trail starts as a single wide path, then splits into a loop. Throughout, numbered posts serve as markers for a virtual tour, which can be downloaded as a free mobile app called Old Farm.
At the beginning of the loop, a sign points left to Compass Harbor Trail and right to Schooner Head Path. You can walk the loop in either direction.
If you veer left at the intersection, hiking the loop clockwise, you’ll continue through a mature forest that includes tall white pine, white cedar, red oak, white birch and spruce trees. As the trail nears the coast, several side trails split off and lead down the steep bank to a beach on Compass Harbor. There you’ll find a combination of ragged rocks, cobblestones and patches of silky sand. You’ll also find large granite blocks, which are the remains of Dorr’s saltwater pool, and the remains of an old rock staircase that leads from the pool to the woods.
Back in the woods, Compass Harbor Trail travels close to the forest’s edge to the tip of Dorr Point, a granite outcropping that offers views of the Porcupine Islands, Ironbound Island and beyond to the mountains on Schoodic Peninsula. The trail then visits a beach on the other side of the point before turning away from the water to climb a magnificent rock staircase.
At the top of the steps is the foundation of Dorr’s mansion. The 30-room summer “cottage” was built by Dorr’s parents in 1878 and 1880. Today, only short, moss-covered walls of brick and stone remain.
Past the ruins, the trail continues through the forest to intersect with the Schooner Head Path, which travels south over 5 miles to reach Schooner Head Overlook. At this intersection, turn right to continue on Compass Harbor Trail and complete the loop.
All visitors to Acadia National Park are required to pay an entrance fee upon entry May through October. Park passes are available at several locations on the island, including park visitor centers. Dogs are permitted on most park trails if a leash no longer than 6 feet long. As always, pick up after yourself and your pets, including their waste.
For information, call 207-288-3338 or visit nps.gov/acad.
How to get there: From the intersection of Mount Desert Street and Main Street in downtown Bar Harbor (The Village Green), drive south on Main Street (Route 3) for 1 mile. The small parking lot for Compass Harbor Trail will be on your left, just before Old Farm Road.
Personal note: After a 5-mile snowshoe on Ragged Mountain last week, I decided to give myself a break and search for an easier hike — a scenic path where I could enjoy the sun and observe wildlife. Compass Harbor Trail perfectly fit my criteria.
A thin, hard-packed layer of snow covered the ground on Jan. 7, as I set out to explore Dorr’s Old Farm property. Just a few hundred feet from the trail, I paused to listen to the sound of a woodpecker drilling holes in a nearby tree. Scanning the forest, I followed the sound to its source: a hairy woodpecker. The black-and-white bird clung to the tall, straight trunk of a red pine. Pieces are bark fell rained down as it excavated for insects.
As I watched through my camera lens, a larger bird swooped in and landed on a tree even closer to where I was standing. With a bright red crest on its head, the pileated woodpecker was instantly recognizable. About the size of a crow, it’s Maine’s largest woodpecker, and it was so close that I could see the amber of its eyes.
Upon reaching the coast, I carefully navigated a side trail down to the beach, where I picked my way over algae-covered rocks to photograph a group of bufflehead ducks. As I watched them, one of the males started rapidly bobbing its iridescent head as it glided through the water — a courtship display they perform in early winter.
Farther out to sea, I spied a common loon in its drab winter plumage. And beyond that, I could just make out the yellow bill and stark white chest of a male common eider. It was a lucky day for wildlife watching.
With snow dusting the blocky granite of Dorr Point, the scenery was absolutely stunning that day. I remained on the beach for quite some time, just enjoying the view, then headed back into the forest to visit the foundations of Dorr’s home. Squirrel tracks cut across the old foundations. Lush green moss grew on the old walls. It really doesn’t take long for nature to reclaim a place.
For more of Aislinn Sarnacki’s adventures, visit bangordailynews.com/act-out. Follow Aislinn Sarnacki on Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram: @actoutdoors. Her guidebooks “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” “Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path” and “Dog-Friendly Hikes in Maine” are available at local bookstores and wherever books are sold.