Ferry Beach State Park in Saco is pretty much deserted this time of year, which is just how this hiker likes it. The gate on Bayview Road is closed, meaning if you want in, well, you’ve gotta walk in. Natural crowd control.
The 100-acre park sports five trails that tally up to about a mile and a quarter of hiking. The woods are pleasant enough and the going over the level ground is a breeze. It really is just a walk in the park here.
Thing is, however, you can combine the park trails with a jaunt up the beach, then add three other short trails in the neighborhood, plus a couple stretches on paved road to make a terrific 4-mile loop hike known as the Saco Beach Loop.
Besides a nice mix of woodlands, the park is home to a couple of interesting natural features (besides the beach of course).
The tupelo swamp is home to the rare (in this neck of the woods anyway) black tupelo or black gum (Nyssa sylvatica). Saunter the boardwalks through the swamp and you’ll get up close and personal to these unusual trees, identified by their gray, deeply-fissured bark, which line the trailway. As does high-bush blueberry, winterberry and a few other shrubs I don’t know the names of.
The trail also spends a goodly amount of time along the shores of Long Pond. Too bad it’s right next to Route 9, but it’s still a nice spot. A beach and sitting bench are found at both its northern and southern ends. Good spots to hang and watch for birds and such.
As mentioned above, to reach the trail system right now, you’ll have to park at the gate on Bayview Road and walk in. Pretty quickly, the Red Oak Trail leaves the park road to the left.
Head into the woods on Red Oak Trail and take it to Tupelo Trail. Turn right on Tupelo Trail to go through the swamp and by the pond to the summer parking lots.
From the bathhouses at the east end of the lot, take the trail under Route 9 via a tunnel, then make your way through the jack pine forest to reach Ferry Beach.
Turn left here and walk north along the ocean to take in this amazing arc of sandy beach that stretches from Pine Point all the way to Camp Ellis. Your range of view is even greater, from Richmond Island to Prouts Neck and up and down the beach to Biddeford Pool and Wood Island Light.
Enjoy the beach walking for the next mile and a quarter, the surf, the sand, the shells, the seagulls. And not a whole lot of people this time of year. As you get further along you’ll start to make out the OOB pier.
Just before you reach Goosefare Brook, about 150 feet beyond the last cottage, a gray one, look for a narrow path through the beach grass. Take this to the end of Oceanside Road to end up actually on the backside of that same gray cottage.
Head down the street through the nice neighborhood of year-round homes and summer rentals. Take your fifth right, onto Dune Avenue (unsigned, but the street is just past #44), then walk a short distance out to Route 9 (Seaside Avenue). Turn left and hike down the side of the road about a quarter-mile. Just beyond a driveway and a yellow fire hydrant, look across the road for a fence and trail, the Atlantic Way Trail.
Hike Atlantic Way across the extensive salt marsh, part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Into the woods on the other side of the marsh you’ll soon come to a junction. Turn left here on Plymouth Trail. Amble through the woods, passing Link Trail on the right. Ahead, at a junction with Vines Trail, continue straight on Vines Trail.
Eventually you’ll emerge on Vines Road. Walk down the road to your left. At Seaside Avenue, turn right and make your way a short distance back to the entrance gate of Ferry Beach State Park and your car.
MORE INFO & MAP: Saco Bay Trails