Difficulty: Easy to moderate. Indian Point-Blagden Preserve is home to about 2.7 miles of woodland hiking trails and a 1-mile gravel road that also makes for a nice place to walk. The trails travel over an uneven forest floor with plenty of rocks and masses of exposed tree roots. Watch your step. The trails and road travel gradually downhill to reach the water.
Information: Located on the western side of Bar Harbor on Indian Point Peninsula, the Indian Point-Blagden Preserve covers 110.6 acres and is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. Trails on the property lead through a mossy evergreen forest to the ocean where you’ll find interesting rock formations and an expansive gravel beach.
The property was donated to The Nature Conservancy in 1968 by Donald and Zelina Blagden, and in 1994, an additional 0.6 acre was donated by Phoebe Milliken.
The preserve is located in a part of Mount Desert Island that escaped the devastating fire of 1947, which burned 17,188 acres on the island and caused $23 million in property damage. Most of the preserve is forested, covered with tall red spruce, white cedar and balsam fir trees. And about 8 acres of tamarack trees can be found near the center of the preserve. The woods are mostly mature.
From the preserve’s large gravel parking lot, hikers can find a map and preserve guidelines posted on a building at the edge of the lot. If you’re facing the building, the preserve’s main trail — the 1.2-mile Big Woods Trail — starts to the left of the building. You can either start your hike on that trail, or, if you’re looking for an easier walk, you can walk into the preserve on the 1-mile gravel Higgins Farm Road, which starts to the right of the building.
The Big Wood Trail crosses over a small lawn to soon enter the forest, where it’s marked with yellow painted blazes. Heading north and downhill through a mossy, mature forest, the trail features several wide wooden bridges that will help you keep your feet dry in soggier sections. About a third of the way into the trail, it crosses a gravel road that leads to a private residence. Follow the signs to the left and then back into the woods to stay on trail.
Nearing the shore, the trail emerges from the forest to travel along the edge of a field and apple orchard, which is the site of the old Blagden estate. The trail then dead-ends at Higgins Farm Road. From there, you can cross the road to explore the 0.3-mile Fern Trail, which continues through the forest to the rocky shore. Or you can turn left and follow Higgins Farm Road to 0.5-mile Shore Trail, which also travels through the forest and leads to several points of access along the shore.
From left (clockwise): A sign marks the trailhead for the 0.5-mile Shore Trail on Nov. 22, at Indian Point-Blagden Preserve in Bar Harbor; The Big Woods Trail travels through a dense stand of fragrant balsam fir trees; Two Adirondack chairs are located near the shore. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
The preserve includes over 1,000 feet of frontage on Western Bay. The Fern Trail leads to an area of the shore that’s dominated by outcroppings of Ellsworth schist, the oldest rock found on Mount Desert Island. The metamorphic rock is characterized by contorted, thin bands of white and gray quartz and feldspar, and green chlorite.
The Shore Trail leads to a large gravel beach and another area of outcroppings, where benches and chairs are located. Several ledges lie offshore, and are frequented by sunning harbor seals.
Other wildlife commonly seen on the property include white-tailed deer, porcupines and snowshoe hares. The preserve is also home to a variety of birds, including ruby-crowned kinglets, osprey, at least 12 species of warblers and six members of the woodpecker family, including black-backed woodpeckers, which are uncommon in Maine.
The final trail on the property is the 0.7-mile Rockwall Trail, which starts 0.25 mile north of the parking area off Higgins Farm Road. The trail runs west through the forest and intersects with the Big Woods Trail. It’s easy to miss and isn’t marked on the trail map currently provided by The Nature Conservancy.
The preserve is open year round, from sunrise to sunset. Access is free. Dogs are not permitted. Bikes and motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trails. Camping and fires are not permitted. Be sure to park at the parking lot and walk in. There is no parking at the shore. Stay on trails and respect the areas marked private or not open to the public.
For more information, visit nature.org or call 207-729-5182.
From left (clockwise): A barnacle-encrusted boulder perches at the edge of the water on Nov. 22, at Indian Point-Blagden Preserve in Bar Harbor; An expansive gravel beach can be found by hiking the Shore Trail of Indian Point-Blagden Preserve; A series of wooden bridges are located on the Fern Trail. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Personal note: It was a chilly but sunny and wind-free day on Nov. 22 when my husband Derek and I decided to explore Indian Point-Blagden Preserve. As we followed the Big Woods Trail, we were delighted by the incredibly mossy forest. (“Mossome” is how Derek described it.) Surrounded by thick carpets of moss and a variety of evergreen trees, we were in a world of rich greens. It’s just the kind of habitat I love visiting late in the year, when much of color is sapped from the landscape. Evergreen trees provide color and shelter year round.
While pausing to inspect a clump of lichen, I heard a noise that I at first took for a deer walking through the forest. Then, around the corner came a lone hiker. Derek and I stepped to the side to allow him to pass, but he paused and exchanged a few words with us at a distance. A frequent visitor of the preserve, he shared that it can sometimes be buggy in the spring and summer. He prefers visiting in the fall and winter — so we’d picked just the right time.
By the time we reached the shore, the tide was sneaking inward, about halfway between low and high tide. This left much of the rocky shore and beach exposed, so we took our time exploring. For the most part, our attention was focused on the interesting striped patterns in the rock outcroppings. The contrast between the white and nearly black stripes, twisting this way and that, made for a striking effect.
We also looked for the seals that are known for loafing about on the ledges offshore, but we only spotted a few gulls. Perhaps another day.
How to get there: The preserve is located on Higgins Farm Road in west Bar Harbor. To get there, cross the causeway onto MDI on Route 3. Just after the causeway, turn right at the fork in the road onto Route 102. Drive 2 miles, then turn right onto Indian Point Road. Drive 1.9 miles, then turn right onto Higgins Farm Road. Drive about 150 feet and the parking lot will be on your left.
Aislinn Sarnacki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her 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.