Harpswell, a town in Cumberland County, Maine, is a hidden gem for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts. The town is home to the Schiller Coastal Studies Center, a 118-acre property owned by Bowdoin College, which offers a network of trails that meander through diverse ecosystems, offering breathtaking views of the rugged Maine coastline. The tranquility of the Schiller Coastal Studies Center Trails is a hiker’s paradise, providing an opportunity to explore Harpswell’s natural wonders and immerse oneself in the serenity of nature.

Overview of Schiller Coastal Studies Center

The Schiller Coastal Studies Center (SCSC) is a research and teaching facility of Bowdoin College. It is located on Orr’s Island, one of the three main islands of Harpswell. The center is dedicated to the study of marine and coastal ecosystems, and it provides a unique opportunity for students, researchers, and visitors to explore the rich biodiversity of the Maine coast.

The Trails at Schiller Coastal Studies Center

The SCSC boasts a network of trails that traverse through various habitats, including mature forests, salt marshes, rocky shores, and tidal pools. The trails are well-maintained and marked, making them accessible to hikers of all skill levels. Here are some of the main trails at the SCSC:

  • The Forest Trail: This trail winds through a mature spruce-fir forest, offering a peaceful hike amidst towering trees and lush undergrowth.

  • The Marsh Trail: This trail takes you through a salt marsh, where you can observe a variety of bird species and other wildlife.

  • The Shore Trail: This trail follows the rugged coastline, offering stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the chance to explore tidal pools teeming with marine life.

Wildlife at Schiller Coastal Studies Center

The diverse habitats at the SCSC support a wide range of wildlife. Birdwatchers will be delighted by the variety of bird species that can be spotted here, including ospreys, bald eagles, and various species of waterfowl and shorebirds. The tidal pools along the Shore Trail are home to a myriad of marine creatures, such as starfish, sea urchins, and various species of crabs and shellfish. In the forests, one might spot white-tailed deer, red foxes, and a variety of small mammals and reptiles.

Conservation Efforts at Schiller Coastal Studies Center

The SCSC is not just a place for recreation and research; it is also a site of active conservation efforts. The center is involved in various projects aimed at preserving the natural habitats and biodiversity of the Maine coast. These include monitoring of bird populations, restoration of salt marshes, and research on the impacts of climate change on coastal ecosystems.

Visiting Schiller Coastal Studies Center

The trails at the SCSC are open to the public from dawn to dusk. Visitors are asked to respect the natural environment and to stay on the marked trails to minimize impact on the habitats. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash at all times. There are no facilities at the center, so visitors should come prepared with water, snacks, and appropriate clothing and footwear for hiking.


The Schiller Coastal Studies Center Trails offer a unique opportunity to explore the natural wonders of Harpswell. Whether you are a seasoned hiker, a birdwatcher, a nature lover, or a student of ecology, you will find something to captivate your interest here. So, lace up your hiking boots, pack your binoculars, and get ready to discover the tranquility and beauty of this hiker’s paradise!

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