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Using Trails

Eastern Trail in Portland, Maine Photo Essay

By: Cindy Barks
July 12, 2019

The park at the Bug Light lighthouse is a popular spot for runners, bicyclists and dog walkers. South Portlander Mark MacIsaac, shown here with his dog Phoebe, is among the locals who use the park on a regular basis. Photo by Cindy Barks.
The park at the Bug Light lighthouse is a popular spot for runners, bicyclists and dog walkers. South Portlander Mark MacIsaac, shown here with his dog Phoebe, is among the locals who use the park on a regular basis. Photo by Cindy Barks.

From quiet pine forests to a bustling working waterfront, and from wide sandy beaches to rocky shores, the 65-mile Eastern Trail—currently 30 percent complete—offers a vivid snapshot of Maine’s many charms. The multiuse trail, which follows the corridor of the historic Eastern Railroad, packs plenty of variety into its north-south route from South Portland to Kittery.

Along the way, trail users can take in lobster boats skirting the picturesque Bug Light lighthouse in South Portland, watch snowy egrets wading in the ponds of the Scarborough Marsh, or detour a few blocks to dip their toes into the Atlantic Ocean at Old Orchard Beach. The trail also passes through dense pine forests and quaint coastal towns.

Within the next year or two, organizers say a 1.6-mile gap will be closed, allowing trail users to travel off-road for more than 16 miles from Bug Light to Saco. The Eastern Trail is also a part of the much larger 3,000-mile developing East Coast Greenway.

The Eastern Trail is managed by the Eastern Trail Management District and the Eastern Trail Alliance.

Located at the northern terminus, South Portland’s Bug Light (Breakwater Lighthouse) is the perfect place to set out on a southbound exploration of Southern Maine’s Eastern Trail. The lighthouse park offers parking as well as sweeping views of Portland. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Located at the northern terminus, South Portland’s Bug Light (Breakwater Lighthouse) is the perfect place to set out on a southbound exploration of Southern Maine’s Eastern Trail. The lighthouse park offers parking as well as sweeping views of Portland. Photo by Cindy Barks.
The park at the Bug Light lighthouse is a popular spot for runners, bicyclists and dog walkers. South Portlander Mark MacIsaac, shown here with his dog Phoebe, is among the locals who use the park on a regular basis. Photo by Cindy Barks.
The park at the Bug Light lighthouse is a popular spot for runners, bicyclists and dog walkers. South Portlander Mark MacIsaac, shown here with his dog Phoebe, is among the locals who use the park on a regular basis. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Heading southeast from Bug Light Park, cyclists on a tour with Summer Feet Cycling of Portland take a break along the South Portland Greenbelt, a 5.6-mile off-road pathway that coincides with the Eastern Trail and the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Heading southeast from Bug Light Park, cyclists on a tour with Summer Feet Cycling of Portland take a break along the South Portland Greenbelt, a 5.6-mile off-road pathway that coincides with the Eastern Trail and the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway. Photo by Cindy Barks.
A short section of old railroad tracks along the South Portland Greenbelt commemorates the spot where the Portland Railroad and spur tracks once connected to a previous factory district. Photo by Cindy Barks.
A short section of old railroad tracks along the South Portland Greenbelt commemorates the spot where the Portland Railroad and spur tracks once connected to a previous factory district. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Old buoys decorate the walls along a portion of the Eastern Trail/South Portland Greenbelt. Sections of the greenbelt pathway follow the shores of Portland, Maine’s Casco Bay. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Old buoys decorate the walls along a portion of the Eastern Trail/South Portland Greenbelt. Sections of the greenbelt pathway follow the shores of Portland, Maine’s Casco Bay. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Ebbing tides in Maine’s Casco Bay reveal the sandy bottom of the bay, framed by Portland’s skyline. The Eastern Trail/South Portland Greenbelt runs along the shoreline of the bay for a time and offers expansive views of the area. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Ebbing tides in Maine’s Casco Bay reveal the sandy bottom of the bay, framed by Portland’s skyline. The Eastern Trail/South Portland Greenbelt runs along the shoreline of the bay for a time and offers expansive views of the area. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Sections of the Eastern Trail/South Portland Greenbelt pass by picturesque channels that flow into Casco Bay. Portland’s Old Port area is visible in the distance. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Sections of the Eastern Trail/South Portland Greenbelt pass by picturesque channels that flow into Casco Bay. Portland’s Old Port area is visible in the distance. Photo by Cindy Barks.
The Eastern Trail/South Portland Greenbelt walkway runs through Mill Creek Park, an urban park in the heart of South Portland's downtown Mill Creek-Knightville area. The park is located at the busy intersection of Ocean Street and Broadway. Photo by Cindy Barks.
The Eastern Trail/South Portland Greenbelt walkway runs through Mill Creek Park, an urban park in the heart of South Portland’s downtown Mill Creek-Knightville area. The park is located at the busy intersection of Ocean Street and Broadway. Photo by Cindy Barks.
The Eastern Trail/South Portland Greenbelt walkway runs through the heart of Mill Creek Park, a tranquil spot in South Portland’s bustling downtown area. Photo by Cindy Barks.
The Eastern Trail/South Portland Greenbelt walkway runs through the heart of Mill Creek Park, a tranquil spot in South Portland’s bustling downtown area. Photo by Cindy Barks.
South Portland’s Cape Whoopies offers a quirky stop just blocks from the Eastern Trail on Cottage Road. The shop features a gourmet version of the signature Maine sweet treat. Photo by Cindy Barks.
South Portland’s Cape Whoopies offers a quirky stop just blocks from the Eastern Trail on Cottage Road. The shop features a gourmet version of the signature Maine sweet treat. Photo by Cindy Barks.
The Portland/South Portland area is rich with lighthouses, and the Spring Point Ledge with its unique 900-foot-long rock breakwater is an easy bike ride or short drive from the Eastern Trail’s northern terminus at the Bug Light lighthouse. Photo by Cindy Barks.
The Portland/South Portland area is rich with lighthouses, and the Spring Point Ledge with its unique 900-foot-long rock breakwater is an easy bike ride or short drive from the Eastern Trail’s northern terminus at the Bug Light lighthouse. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Potentially Portland’s most treasured attraction, the Portland Head Light is a must-see. Located about 3.2 miles from the Eastern Trail’s northern terminus (Bug Light lighthouse), it is a fairly quick trip off the main trail. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Potentially Portland’s most treasured attraction, the Portland Head Light is a must-see. Located about 3.2 miles from the Eastern Trail’s northern terminus (Bug Light lighthouse), it is a fairly quick trip off the main trail. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland in 1807, and the community commemorates its famous native son in a number of memorials. Among them is the imposing statue of the poet in downtown Portland—about 4 miles from the Eastern Trail’s northern terminus. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland in 1807, and the community commemorates its famous native son in a number of memorials. Among them is the imposing statue of the poet in downtown Portland—about 4 miles from the Eastern Trail’s northern terminus. Photo by Cindy Barks.
The quaint Old Port area contains a working waterfront where tourists regularly mingle with lobstermen. Located just 4 miles or so from the Eastern Trail’s northern end, the Old Port’s seafood restaurants, shops, bakeries and breweries are within easy reach. Photo by Cindy Barks.
The quaint Old Port area contains a working waterfront where tourists regularly mingle with lobstermen. Located just 4 miles or so from the Eastern Trail’s northern end, the Old Port’s seafood restaurants, shops, bakeries and breweries are within easy reach. Photo by Cindy Barks.
For a step back into classic newspaper culture, the Press Hotel—located in the now-renovated former Portland Press Herald building—stands out. At about 4.1 miles from the start of the Eastern Trail, the hotel’s downtown-Portland location is convenient for trail users. Photo by Cindy Barks.
For a step back into classic newspaper culture, the Press Hotel—located in the now-renovated former Portland Press Herald building—stands out. At about 4.1 miles from the start of the Eastern Trail, the hotel’s downtown-Portland location is convenient for trail users. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Continuing south from the South Portland area, the Scarborough Marsh is the Eastern Trail’s next major attraction, with its wide flat surface and scenic terrain. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Continuing south from the South Portland area, the Scarborough Marsh is the Eastern Trail’s next major attraction, with its wide flat surface and scenic terrain. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Bordered by budding trees and salt-water ponds, the Eastern Trail through the Scarborough Marsh is a popular destination for locals and visitors. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Bordered by budding trees and salt-water ponds, the Eastern Trail through the Scarborough Marsh is a popular destination for locals and visitors. Photo by Cindy Barks.
As Maine’s largest saltwater marsh, the Scarborough Marsh features 3,200 acres that are owned by the state and managed as a wildlife management area. The marsh lies along both sides of the Eastern Trail. Photo by Cindy Barks.
As Maine’s largest saltwater marsh, the Scarborough Marsh features 3,200 acres that are owned by the state and managed as a wildlife management area. The marsh lies along both sides of the Eastern Trail. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Carole Brush, executive director of the Eastern Trail Management District, left, and Nancy Borg, the Eastern Trail’s executive director, walk along a scenic stretch of trail through the Scarborough Marsh. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Carole Brush, executive director of the Eastern Trail Management District, left, and Nancy Borg, the Eastern Trail’s executive director, walk along a scenic stretch of trail through the Scarborough Marsh. Photo by Cindy Barks.
The Scarborough Marsh is considered important for wildlife as a resting, breeding and feeding ground. The marsh is said to feature great blue herons, snowy egrets, bald eagles, seals, wild turkeys, deer, turtles and other Maine wildlife. Photo by Cindy Barks.
The Scarborough Marsh is considered important for wildlife as a resting, breeding and feeding ground. The marsh is said to feature great blue herons, snowy egrets, bald eagles, seals, wild turkeys, deer, turtles and other Maine wildlife. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Along with hiking and biking opportunities on the Eastern Trail, visitors to the Scarborough Marsh can also explore the area in kayaks and canoes, which are available for rent by the Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center, located within walking distance of the Eastern Trail. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Along with hiking and biking opportunities on the Eastern Trail, visitors to the Scarborough Marsh can also explore the area in kayaks and canoes, which are available for rent by the Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center, located within walking distance of the Eastern Trail. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Along a spur route just blocks from the main Eastern Trail, Old Orchard Beach gives trail users a taste of a classic beach town. The scenic 7-mile beach was one of the contributing factors to the mid-1800s start of the Eastern Railroad, the predecessor of the Eastern Trail. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Along a spur route just blocks from the main Eastern Trail, Old Orchard Beach gives trail users a taste of a classic beach town. The scenic 7-mile beach was one of the contributing factors to the mid-1800s start of the Eastern Railroad, the predecessor of the Eastern Trail. Photo by Cindy Barks.
As the Eastern Trail continues south from the Scarborough/Saco/Old Orchard Beach area, it passes through dense stands of pine trees in the Arundel/Biddeford area, offering a sense of solitude. Photo by Cindy Barks.
As the Eastern Trail continues south from the Scarborough/Saco/Old Orchard Beach area, it passes through dense stands of pine trees in the Arundel/Biddeford area, offering a sense of solitude. Photo by Cindy Barks.
A couple walk along a secluded section of the Eastern Trail in the Kennebunk area. The trail passes through miles of quiet woodland bordered by streams and wetlands. Photo by Cindy Barks.
A couple walk along a secluded section of the Eastern Trail in the Kennebunk area. The trail passes through miles of quiet woodland bordered by streams and wetlands. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Arundel resident Greg Raine walks his son’s dog Zoey along a wooded section of the Eastern Trail in the Kennebunk area. From Kennebunk, the trail continues south toward Kittery. Photo by Cindy Barks.
Arundel resident Greg Raine walks his son’s dog Zoey along a wooded section of the Eastern Trail in the Kennebunk area. From Kennebunk, the trail continues south toward Kittery. Photo by Cindy Barks.
The Scarborough bridge on Maine's Eastern Trail | Courtesy Eastern Trail Alliance

Related: Maine’s Eastern Trail

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Cindy Barks
Cindy Barks

Cindy Barks is a freelance writer/photographer and Arizona newspaper reporter who has covered trails extensively in her community and in the southwestern U.S. She writes a travel and hiking blog at nearandfaraz.com.

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