Schoodic Mountain has long been one of this hiker’s favorite coastal destinations, its bare summit the crown jewel among the peaks of Donnell Pond Public Reserved Land. The 15,500-acre state-owned preserve in the unorganized township of T9 SD is a dozen miles east of Ellsworth as the crow flies.
Sure, there’s a fenced-in communications tower on top of Schoodic, but I choose to ignore it each time and focus on the wonderful panorama, which offers a good reward for a modest 1,069-foot mountain and a hike that’s just 1.3 miles one way.
The gems of Black, Caribou and Tunk mountains, and their hidden ponds are nearby to the northeast, while Donnell Pond and its sweet stretch of sandy beach beckons just below. Looking southward over Schoodic Bog to Frenchman Bay, the many summits of Acadia on Mount Desert Island are profiled, from Champlain to Cadillac, Sargent to Western Mountain. Scanning farther west, the Camden Hills fill the distant view.
On the clearest of days, the view to the northwest can include the high peaks around Sugarloaf and Bigelow all the way to Baxter State Park and Katahdin. Closer in, along the Old Airline Road (Route 9), the forested bumps from Lead Mountain to Big and Little Chick hills can be identified.
On a beautiful late August day I was lunching on the rocks atop Schoodic in the company of my wife, Fran. Cell phone service was good so between bites I posted some photos of the hike on Facebook. A friend responded almost immediately, asking if I’d climbed the mountain via the new trail from the south that starts on Route 1. No, I replied, we’d hiked up from the Schoodic Beach trailhead.
I’d barely finished typing my answer when my friend posted a colorful map of the Schoodic Connector Trail, an ambitious project of Frenchman Bay Conservancy that meanders for 6.5 scenic miles through five of their abutting conservation lands, ending in grand style on Schoodic’s summit.
Destined to become a Down East hiking classic, this new trail was officially opened last July, and I vowed right then to make the trek a high priority. A week later we returned to hike the Schoodic Connector Trail from one end to the other.
Since 1987, Frenchman Bay Conservancy has worked to conserve landscapes that are high in scenic beauty and ecological significance. The land trust has protected more than 6,600 acres through acquisitions and conservation easements from the Union River and Frenchman Bay watersheds east to the Hancock County line.
The lands across which the Schoodic Connector Trail extends were assembled by the conservancy between 2005 and 2015. From south to north along the trail these properties include Baker Hill, Long Ledges, Long Ledges II, Schoodic Bog and Schoodic Bog II.
In the fall of 2014, a Maine Conservation Corps trail crew cut a 2.5-mile link that connects existing trails at Baker Hill and Long Ledges with those at Schoodic Bog. This summer, Frenchman Bay Conservancy marked and signed the new section and began getting word out about this fantastic hiking opportunity.
The Schoodic Connector Trail begins at the Baker Hill trailhead on Punkinville Road just a quarter-mile north of Route 1 in Sullivan. After passing through the aforementioned preserves and their delightful forests, wildlife-rich wetlands and ledge outcrops with occasional vistas, the Schoodic Connector intersects the Downeast Sunrise Trail, the multi-use former rail corridor that extends 85 miles from Ellsworth almost to Calais.
Beyond, the Schoodic Connector crosses private land and makes a steep climb on the rocky, eroded Schoodic Mountain Trail (an old trail familiar to locals) to Schoodic Knob. From there it’s a fine walk over bedrock to the peak of Schoodic and the trail’s official end. At the summit, hikers will enter Donnell Pond preserve. The finishing trailhead below can be reached directly or by first looping north to Donnell Pond.
The complete Schoodic Connector Trail hike is an eight-mile point-to-point journey that requires spotting a car at the end. To plan your own autumn hike of this fun new trail, visit frenchmanbay.org.