Names are sometimes deceiving. Take Devil’s Back Trail on Orr’s Island; the name conjures up images of a barren, rock-strewn path where angels fear to tread.

You’ll find instead, well-trodden paths leading through a serene wooded setting to the shoreline where you can enjoy a nice water view and take in the salty sea air.

The preserve managed by the Town of Harpswell spans both sides of Route 24.The newer trail, opened in 2016, fronts Gun Point Cove and starts at the parking area. It led us gradually downhill. In just a few minutes, we were approaching the water’s edge, where we surprised three cormorants that took flight, flying low over the water.

Making our way north we followed the Seal Rock Trail and spotted two Eiders, a hen and larger drake. The males are pretty easy to identify with their distinctive white feathers on their neck and back, and jet-black crown and yellow beak.

Across the water we saw a small herd of harbor seals sunning themselves on a small rocky island. We watched as several more swam offshore, their small black heads darting back and forth, disappearing under the water only to pop up a few minutes later. We counted 14, the most we’ve ever seen in one place.

Along the trail we passed outcroppings of white quartz. The path eventually loops around running gradually uphill through the woods and back to the parking lot.

Across the road is the Byles Trail (1.2-miles) that carries you northward through the woods and loops back along Long Cove. At the entrance is a sign listing rules for enjoying the preserve. The woods here are a mix of tall pine, hemlock, spruce and stunted cedar.

Not far from a small inlet, the path runs along a rushing brook. We passed a few aged apple trees twisted and windblown. A small depression revealed where a home once stood. The walk back takes you past a tumbling stone wall left behind by an early settler.

You can enjoy both trails on one visit. They’re well marked, easy to traverse and suitable for all ages. We encountered two other couples during our recent visit.

The Devil’s Back Trail area is made up of two parcels of approximately 36 acres. The town of Harpswell’s website says the trail got its name for the land it’s on, the road running along the “spine” of the Devil’s Back.

To get there, from Cook’s Corner in Brunswick, follow Route 24 south for 9.4 miles. Soon after crossing onto Orr’s Island, you’ll see a small parking area and trail sign on the left.

It’s about 15 miles from downtown Bath.
Harpswell Heritage Land Trust is celebrating its 35th year. Since 1983 they’ve conserved 1,621-acres in Harpswell.

To learn more visit

Phil Di Vece has resided in Maine since 1979 and written two books on Wiscasset history. He works as a freelance journalist and an active retiree at L.L. Bean in Freeport.

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