The Bold Coast:
Cutler Coast Public Land
Heading north on US 1 in Maine before hitting Canada is a small public preserve called Cutler Coast Public Land. Until recently, Cutler was a small hidden gem that few people were familiar with. Thanks to social media, the secret is out.
Cutler is an unique hiking and camping experience found no where else in the US. The site consists of over 10 miles of hiking trails that meander along the rocky coast and offer sightseeing and unique primitive camping opportunities.
Location Name: Cutler Coast Public Land
Location: Cutler, Maine
Latitude/Longitude: 44.69877, -67.15810
Date: October 9th, 2020
Parking: No fee required
Weather: 36F; Winds W 20 kts, Sunny
On a Scale of 1 to 5
Cutler is not an easy place to get to based on the location. If you are coming from outside of the state, you have a long 5-6 hour drive through Maine to get to the trailhead. The last place to get supplies is Machias, Maine. After that stores, gas stations, etc become slim to non-existent. We filled up with fuel in Machias and headed to the trailhead. Along the way you will pass the NAA Cutler, a Navy VLF Transmitter site. This site is visible from the road and from within Cutler near the last campsite (Fairyhead #3).
Once you arrive at the trailhead, depending on the time of year, day of week and time of day, you may or may not finding parking. The parking lot (perhaps by design?) is two small lots that hold a total of maybe 20 cars at most.
When we arrived on a Friday morning at around 9:30am,(October) we got the last spot in the parking lot. In doing research on Cutler, I came across a lot of information about van dwellers using the location as a free overnight parking/sleeping location. I noticed several #Vanlife vans parked which I’m sure leads to reducing available parking spots.
My advice for visiting Cutler is to visit in September or October as it is past the black fly/buggy season and less tourists around. If you can, come during the week instead of a weekend. Definitely avoid a holiday weekend.
Besides the #Vanlife people, there are two types of people who visit Cutler: day hikers and campers.
Whether you are day hiking or camping you will need a map. The state of Maine provides a pretty decent pdf map/brochure.
I downloaded this map into my Avenza mapping app. For detailed navigation I used GaiaGPS and printed my custom Caltopo maps for reference.
The trail is blue blazed and signage is well done making navigation very easy. There many complaints online about the inland forest trail not being maintained. Also, the trail has been described as a medium to difficult trail.
Neither of these are true. In fact, the trail is super easy to hike with very little elevation change (<1,000′). I would consider this a beginners trail. The mileage of 5 to 10 miles might be challenging for some; however if you have done any hiking it is not difficult.
There are two considerations about this site: there is very little fresh water to filter and the weather can make this site miserable. Before we left to camp overnight at Cutler we had a nasty low pressure system pass us on the way to the Canadian Maritime’s. This brought in cold temps (mid 30’s) and high winds (30 mph gusts). Being out of the west, we were buffeted fairly well from the wind.
The morning of the trip was COLD. Probably around mid 20’s with the wind chill. While we had planned to camp overnight (and were properly outfitted to do so), we decided to just hike the trail and scout out camping locations for the future. We carried are full packs as always in the event we needed to shelter down for the night.
At the trailhead is a sign and register book that allows you to indicate what campsite you will be staying at. Note, there is no official reservation system or fees. First come, first serve. They do have a limit of 2 days at a site.
Previously they had 3 camping sites, but have expanded it to 5. Not all are listed on the map. In fact, it was hard to distinguish what was an official site and what was just a stealth site.
We decided to start hiking along the coast and work our way down to where the trail heads back inland and follow that back to the car. After a very short hike in, we came to the coast and were blown away on how cool the scenery was here. Plenty of places to stop for a break and take pictures and eat a snack. Along this trail are two small fresh water streams that would be a good place to filter drinking water (see my map).
Further down the trail near Long Point and Fairy head campsites are easy safe acces to the rocky beach. There are several overlooks along the way that have straight dropoffs. If you are not paying attention it would really easy to walk right off them as this is a primitive trail with no guardrails. Use caution!
Officially there are five campsites along the Coastal Trail. However, we came across several “unofficial” stealth sites along the way. We also saw several fire rings…no fires are allowed in Cutler. Long Point campsite was massive and when we passed through seemed to have been taken over by a large conglomerate of people. The fact that the Black Point Brook Cutoff trail leads right to the campsite results in more people camping there. Other sites were much smaller.
*I should note, loaded down with my full radio gear, laptop and winter camping gear I was rolling in around 32 pounds of total weight. It was a little ridiculous.
After passing through the campsites, I was in desperate need of a belt and had been scheming in my head on how to fabricate a duct tape belt for my pants. It was actually cold enough that I ditched my shorts back at the car.
I found some misc rope laying on the ground so I quickly made myself a belt was happy the rest of the trip. It’s the little things in life.
The Inland Trail takes you from the last campground (FH #3) and heads back to the trailhead. This trail was much faster to hike and we did it in a little over 2.5 hours. The trail is wide, smooth and easy to hike. If you are trying to get to a campsite quickly, I would go this route. The following morning I would then take the Coastal Trail back to the trail head. Either way, Cutler is an amazing place however it’s popularity is outgrowing the accomodations. If you are really into hiking or camping, this is definetly worth checking out.
In the amateur radio realm, while I did have my full radio gear with me, I didn’t have time to set it up as we were fighting limited daylight. There is the consideration one might get QRM from the VLF array. One thing to note about cell phones being that close to the Canadian border, you may get long distance charges if the Canadian cell towers pick up your signal.
Overall, Cutler is well worth the trip, just be aware you might arrive and find no parking or access. Have a backup plan ready to go.
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