While Isle au Haut does not have a plethora of mountain peaks to explore, Duck Harbor Mountain is the notable standout. Starting just south of the Duck Harbor boat landing and campground, the Duck Harbor Mountain Trail climbs above the forest canopy to wander up and around the exposed granite formations and ridgelines to reach the summit as well as several other little viewpoints, offering views of Duck Harbor to the north and Western Head to the south. A few scrambling obstacles on the south side of the summit add to the difficulty. The trail ends at the junction with the Goat Trail at Squeaker Cove where hikers can continue hiking along the inspiring coast.
While the Duck Harbor Mountain Trail is only 1.2 miles long, this is still a fairly strenuous hike due to the many ups and downs and a few scrambling obstacles. From the Duck Harbor boat landing and campground, walk the Western Head Road south for less than .2 miles to find the trailhead on the left (east) side of the road.
|Rating:||Fairly strenuous day hike|
|Access:||Western Head Road just south of Duck Harbor|
|Time Required:||1-2 hours (one way)|
|Length:||1.2 miles (one way)|
|Elevation Change:||300-ft gain to summit with several ups and downs along the way|
|Seasons:||Spring through fall|
The Duck Harbor Mountain Trail starts under the forest canopy but wastes no time heading up the steep solid rock of Duck Harbor Mountain. Within a few moments, you will be standing at the first teaser viewpoint with a nice view looking back at Duck Harbor. (If your time on the island is limited, spending 15 minutes to come up to this first viewpoint and then turning around is well worth it!)
Continuing along the trail, Duck Harbor Mountain is a mix of bare rock formations and areas of trees and vegetation. The trail wanders around hitting several minor viewpoints before making its way up to the actual summit. As is the case with many Acadia peaks, the views from the actual summit are mostly obscured by trees and are actually less interesting than the "teaser" views near the start and end of the trail. (Since the trail hits many highpoints in its wanderings, it is easy to wonder which one is the actual summit block; look for a US Coast & Geodetic Survey marker in the rock.)
South of the summit, the trail actually gets a bit more difficult as it continues meandering from highpoint to highpoint. There are a few spots that may challenge some with a bit of scrambling to get up or down a boulder formation; you will need to use your hands in at least two spots. As the Duck Harbor Mountain Trail gets closer to the ocean, it will eventually descend into a lush forest and end at the intersection with the Goat Trail at Squeaker Cove. From this point, depending on how much time and energy you have, you can explore the coastal trails in either direction or enjoy relaxing at one of the coves before walking the Western Head Road back to Duck Harbor.
In addition to the popular must-do oceanside trails, the Duck Harbor Mountain Trail is also time well spent on Isle au Haut. If you have the time and energy, use this trail on the way to or from the Goat Trail instead of walking the not-so-exciting Western Head Road. While the views may not be as stunning as some of the peaks on Mount Desert Island, it is still a great route with its share of vertical challenges.