The preserve is much more than what it appears on paper.
On paper, the Cutler Coast may seem a little bland.
The public lands offer only 10 miles of trails across 41/2 miles of coastal headlands. And since it’s a four-hour drive from Portland, there’s cause for concern that getting there could take longer than exploring the whole preserve.
On top of that, there’s no guarantee you’ll even have a chance to camp. Cutler is strictly first come, first served, and there are only three registered backcountry sites.
But, if you plan correctly, it’s a chance that’s more than worth taking.
The Cutler Coast is nestled near the easternmost point of Maine near the Canadian border on the Bay of Fundy. This area is known as the Bold Coast for its dramatic coastline, sheer cliffs and rugged shores. More specifically, the Cutler Coast is a public preserve of 12,234 acres located off Route 191 between the towns of Cutler and Lubec.
Of the 12,000-plus acres, only about a quarter is used for foot travel. The rest of the lands are managed for all-terrain vehicle use.
What all visitors need to understand is that the campsites lie nearly 5 miles down the trail at Fairy Head. It is possible to hike all your belongings in for an overnight and end up with no place to stay. This is not necessarily bad because obstacles and uncertainties such as these help manage crowds and limit the amount of visitors that will share the area at one time.
The trail immediately directs you toward the coast, the ocean’s song beckoning you onward. After investing in just a mile, the trail spills out onto a rocky outcropping where you can witness what makes this area so fantastic.
From here on, the trail intimately follows the Bold Coast southwest toward Fairy Head. Exploration along here is seemingly endless. An entire day could be spent on this 4-mile stretch. Nooks, coves, cliffs and some of the most magnificent ocean views await any visitor.
The trail conditions could be translated in many ways. It is certainly rugged in the classic Maine backcountry sense. Often winding and gradual, the path can be strenuous at times. It definitely lacks the constant ups and downs found throughout much of the New England landscape, thus making it accessible to visitors of any capability. It should be noted that parts of the trail remain fairly wild. While moving through the frequent scrublands, travelers are forced to blaze a vague trail through heavy growth; be sure to check for ticks. Also, much of the trail traverses large open expanses of shoreline rock, so sturdy shoes are a must.
The biggest misrepresentation while making your way to Fairy Head is the number of available campsites. There are at least five established camping areas with the first two located much closer than the cluster found on Fairy Head. Some are better than others, but all provide stunning scenery and views. Note: the farther southwest you go, the louder the signal horn on Little River Island Light House. This navigational aid rings every 10 seconds and can be heard from the western reaches of Cutler Coast. If you are a light sleeper, pack earplugs.
If you get an early start, you might be able to nab a choice site along Fairy Head, where
you can spend a whole afternoon basking in the sun, exploring tidal pools hidden within the endless masses of stone and soaking up the views.
If you plan a multiday trip, make sure that you bring plenty of water. Some water sources are available, but are not plentiful or exceptional.
Once you experience the beauty of the Coastal Trail, you may not be inclined to take the Inland Trail back to the trailhead, but the Inland Trail is just as spectacular in its own varying way; don’t miss it.
The magnificent beauty of the Cutler Coast will leave your heart filled, soul charged and mind blown. At the risk of exposing this gem, it’s the pure embodiment of Maine that should be witnessed and cherished by all.
Collin Blunk lives for adventure. He spends every possible free moment in the great outdoors; paddling on the ocean, hiking trails, climbing mountains and sleeping as many nights under the stars as he can. He is a writer for TheWildOutsiders.com.