Terraces to a Hidden Garden

While on vacation in Downeast Maine last month, we brought Alden to our favorite low-key hiking destination: Asticou Terrace Trail.  This trail is in the Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island.  A small parking lot can be found on Route 3/Peabody Road.  Cross the road to the start of the Asticou Trail.

Wonderful stone steps and quick switchbacks bring you up the side hill to beautifully crafted shelters.  Each one gives you a view of the ocean harbor below.  Lindsay and Andrew last visited this trail in the winter many years ago and the shelters provided the perfect spot to relax with a thermos of hot chocolate.  Today, however, it was warm and beautiful so we stuck to water.


Northeast Harbor



One of many lookout shelters on the Asticou Terrace Trail.

Eventually the trail brings you to the Thuya Lodge museum.  A nice museum docent gave us the tour and we enjoyed viewing how the lodge provided comfort many years ago to travelers of the region.  A well stocked library on the second floor is a botany lovers dream with turn of the century books with delicate drawings, plus modern plant books to help you identify any plant or wildflower.  The Lodge was originally the home of Joseph H. Curtis, who also created the Asticou Trail that we had just hiked up.  After his death, Charles K. Savage became the trustee.

We then took the short walk over to the Thuya Gardens, designed by Charles K. Savage.  The gardens are absolutely beautiful and busy with visitors, even for a Tuesday in mid-September.  There is a road and limited parking for those that don’t want to hike up through the terraces.  There is a donation box at the front entrance that you’ll want to put some money into – very much worth a few bucks.  It’s not completely handicapped accessible, but older folks with limited mobility will still enjoy it and there are plenty of benches to rest.


Magnificently carved doors open to Thuya Gardens.

The bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds were taking in the last chance of nectar before fall sets in.  We even found some monarch caterpillars and one curled in a “J” getting ready to turn into a chrysalis.  Both staff and volunteers do a wonderful job keeping the gardens looking beautiful and well-marked so you can learn the names of the flowers and plants.


Painted lady butterfly


Red admiral butterfly


Monarch caterpillar gets into “J” position. A chrysalis will form today.

Further beyond the gardens are some wooded trails, elegantly maintained like the gardens.  Gates and fences all around the garden and wooded trails define the garden boundary and create a cozy atmosphere.  Trails beyond lead further into the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve.


Peaking outside the garden door to other trails.

This wonderful garden has so many nooks and secret paths that folks of all ages will delight in exploration, quiet contemplation, and curiosity.  After we had exhausted every trail, we made our way back down the Asticou Terrace Trail, taking the Curtis Memorial cutoff to view the memorial for Joseph Curtis.

If you make your way to Mount Desert Island, this is a must see!


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