One of my favorite places to hike is the Bonyun Preserve on Westport Island, managed by the Bath-based Kennebec Estuary Land Trust.

It’s a bit of a drive getting to the preserve, located eight miles south of the Westport Bridge on Route 144, the island’s main road. The ride winds through pretty countryside past attractive homes, historic buildings and tranquil cemeteries.

Along the way, you’ll pass the Squire Tarbox Inn, Westport Community Church and the island’s historic town hall; the preserve is on the lower West Shore Road. A kiosk marks the trailhead where rules for enjoying your visit are posted, and you can download a trail map by visiting the land trust’s web page.

There are three well-packed trails that carry you through about 119 acres of forested land, much of which is on a small peninsula. The Mill Cove Trail is the main route in and out of the preserve. About 100 yards into the trail, it forks; heading straight takes you over the Junction Trail, which was added two years ago.

Becky Kolak, the trust’s program director, told me that the Bonyun Preserve is one of her personal favorites too. She said Junction Trail crosses a newly built wooden bridge spanning a streambed. It was mostly dry during our visit, although in the springtime and periods of heavy wet weather, water spills into the cove, forming a small waterfall.

The path runs gradually uphill, offering some nice views of the cove before ending at Junction Road. The trust has purchased property across the road but doesn’t have public trails or access yet, according to Kolak.

Back on the main trail, it bends sharply to the right beneath a rocky outcropping. It soon comes to another wooden bridge over the inlet’s mucky upper reaches. The trail runs southwards from here before dividing, with the Thomas Point Trail veering to the right. Both come together at the tip of the peninsula that juts into Knubble Bay.

This place is close to where the Sheepscot and Sasanoa rivers converge. Thomas Point was named for James Thomas, an early pioneer who settled here with his family in 1760.

Mill Cove was named because its tidal waters were once used to power two lumber mills. The earliest of these was located on the upper part of the inlet. A saw and gristmill was in operation here as early as 1794, and although no trace of the mill remains, you can see where it once stood.

An informational sign on the trail shows vintage photographs of a second mill site a little further southward on the Mill Cove Trail. A side path leads over an earthen dike where the Heal family operated their mill in the 19th century.

Raw timber was cut into finished lumber with the tidal waters being used to power an up-and-down saw. It was later replaced with a more modern saw with a circular cutting blade. A piece of rusted machinery can be seen partially buried in the mudflats along with the remains of hundreds of lathes left behind after the mill closed.

A short walk from the mill site brings you to the tip of Thomas Point, where you’ll find a stand of wind-blown twisted pine trees. Across the bay lies the town of Arrowsic, and Georgetown is downriver. Northward from here is a part of the river known as Little Hell Gate, named for its roiling current.

On your return, follow the Thomas Point Trail. It carries you along the peninsula’s western shore overlooking Thomas Cove. A small island at the mouth of the inlet is called Thomas’ Great Toe. The path swings to the right through the forest and links up again with the Mill Cove Trail.

The preserve was donated to the trust in 2002 by the family of Bill and Gene Bonyun of Westport. The Bonyun Preserve is open year-round from dawn to dusk.

During our visit, we met a family whose  kids led the way out enjoying the nice weather and two friends from Wiscasset’s Chewonki Foundation.

Motorized vehicles, campfires and dogs are not permitted on the Bonyun Preserve. Hunting and fishing are allowed with permission from the trust.

For more information, visit kennebecestuary.org

IF YOU GO
From Route 1, Wiscasset take either the north or south exit of Route 144 to Westport Island. From the Westport Bridge follow the main road (Route 144) south to the lower West Shore Road. Turn right here and drive 0.25 miles; a small parking area and kiosk are on the left.