Difficulty: Moderate. The island is home to about 5 miles of trails and gravel roads. Rocks and exposed roots make for tricky footing in some areas, and the trails travel over hilly and uneven terrain.
How to get there: Burnt Island is one of the Georges Islands, which lie about 4 miles south southwest of Port Clyde is Muscongus Bay. They include Allen, Benner, Davis, Burnt and Little Burnt islands. Its coordinates are 43867946, -69.290137. The dock, beach and island caretaker house is on the north side of the island. If you’re turned away from the ocean on the sandy beach (to the left of the dock), the Loop Trail is straight ahead, across the lawn.
Information: Burnt Island in Muscongus Bay is one of the many islands included in the Maine Island Trail, a 375-mile recreational waterway that connects more than 200 islands and mainland sites open for day visits or overnight camping along the entire coast of Maine. Burnt Island itself privately owned and open for day visits. Those wishing to stay overnight must acquire special permission through the Maine Island Trail Association.
The 265-acre island is also used by Maine’s Outward Bound Hurricane Island School, which has an easement on the island, on which it maintains a building and several tent sites. Outward Bound courses travel to the island to learn about rock climbing, backpacking and other outdoor skills.
A beautiful hiking trail called The Loop Trail runs along much of the perimeter of the island, starting at the dock on the north end. The trail is well-maintained, with many wooden bridges and stone pathways. However, be prepared to run into some muddy sections, exposed roots and rocky areas. Numbered tent sites used by Outward Bound are located along the trail.
Wild rosa rugosa bushes line much of the trail, as well as lobster buoys and ruined traps that have washed ashore. The trail travels over stony beaches, up and along sea cliffs and through mossy forests.
After running along the shore for nearly 2 miles, the Loop Trail turns inland (after tentsite 24) and travels 0.2 mile to the observation tower on the highest point of the island. From there, the Loop Trail continues 0.25 mile to the gravel road that leads to a saw mill, Outward Bound building and basecamp, and the dock on the north end of the island. (Look out for poison ivy between tent sites 18 and 19.)
Where the Loop Trail turns inland on the southwest edge of the island, the Western Trail continues 0.66 mile along the shore of the west side of the island. No tent sites are located along this trail, as it is outside the Outward Bound easement.
Another trail — the Pooh Trail — runs through the center of the island 0.74 mile, from the Loop Trail (around tentsite 14) to the gravel road that leads to a saw mill, Outward Bound building and dock on the north end of the island.
And the Moss Trail (0.19 mile) runs from the south end of the gravel road to the Loop Trail and the tower at the highest point of the island.
The Climbers’ Shortcut Trail (0.38 mile) travels through the woods from tent site 4 on the Loop Trail to the climbing routes on the sea cliffs, just before tent site 11 on the Loop Trail.
Island rules, posted at the dock and along the Loop Trail, are:
- Don’t tie up to the wharf.
- Do not take up a mooring without permission.
- No fires.
- No dogs.
- Stay around the beach area. If you’d like to go onto the island, keep on paths, keep a distance from buildings, and respect the privacy of those living and working on the island.
- The observation tower is closed. (It was vandalized several years ago by island visitors and is unsafe.)
- Day use only. Camping is by permission only on a limited basis for Maine Island Trail Association.
- Pick up after yourself and take back all trash.
- Ask the island caretaker if you have any questions.
The Maine Island Trail Association provides detailed information about each site in a trail guide and an online guide, which are updated annually and available with a MITA membership. MITA members receive comprehensive information about the trail, helpful tips for safe and responsible boating and guidelines for low-impact recreation. Members also support ongoing stewardship and education efforts aimed at preserving trail sites. For information, visit mita.org.
Personal note: I visited Burnt Island to tag along with a teen sailing course run by the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School for a BDN Outdoors story, and while there, I had some extra time to explore the island trails. While I didn’t get to all the trails, I did walk the Loop Trail from the dock to the rock climbing cliffs along the east shore of the island. I also hiked the Climbers’ Shortcut Trail and the gravel road, where I came across a pond full of noisy green frogs. To me, their call sounds like someone trying to spit and gulp at the same time. They’re recognizable by their yellow throat and two dorsal ridges that start behind their eyes and runs down their back on both sides.
While I was delighted by the beauty of the trail, what I enjoyed most was the abundance of rosa rugosa bushes. I’ve never seen so many roses in one place. The fragrance was heavenly. I also enjoyed watching the cormorants sunning on the rocks and the eiders swimming in groups with their tiny ducklings.