The Donnell Pond Unit includes more than 14,000 acres of remote forested land with crystal clear lakes, secluded ponds, and mountains with panoramic views. Located in Hancock County between Franklin and Cherryfield, this is where visitors can enjoy outdoor recreation in a scenic, remote setting.
If you are interested in learning about geology around the state, check out the Maine Geological Survey Searchable Database.
Land for Maine's Future This property was acquired in part with funds from the Land for Maine's Future program. For more information about the LMF program and the places it has helped to protect, please visit the LMF webpage.
While it almost certain that Native Americans at least occasionally visited these lands, notable archaeological findings have not been discovered here. During the nineteenth century, attempts were made to extract gold, silver, and molybdenum from Catherine Mountain with little success, and the evidence of this activity is barely visible today. Logging has long been part of the history in the area and that tradition continues to this day.
Recreation, comfort, and leisure play prominently in the history of the area. For nearly two hundred years before the advent of refrigeration, ice from Tunk Lake was harvested during the winter and stored in sawdust-filled icehouses for eventual sale and distribution. A lakeside fish hatchery on Tunk Lake supplied small "fry" fish for sport fishing until the 1970's. Wealthy vacationers established an estate on the south end of Tunk Lake in the 1920s. This estate would later end up in the hands of famed Antarctic explore Admiral Richard E. Byrd and was a recognized historic landmark until it was destroyed by fire in the 1980s.
The land conserved at the Donnell Pond Public Lands was assembled in phases with the assistance of numerous conservation partners - particularly The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the Land for Maine's Future Program (which helped to fund more than half the acreage acquired), the Frenchman Bay Conservancy, and private landowners deeply committed to conservation.
- Boating (motorized)
- Cross-country skiing
- Hiking (trails)
- Watchable wildlife
- Fishing - All those fishing must have a valid license and review the State's open water fishing regulations. Anglers are asked to use lead-free sinkers and jigs ot prevent metal poisoning of loons, eagles and other wildlife. FMI: www.maine.gov/ifw
- Fires are permitted at authorized campsites or at a permit site with a permit from the Maine Forest Service.
- Cut no live vegetation.
- Do not use chainsaws, generators, or other power equipment at campsites.
- Carry out all trash.
- Pets at campsites must be leashed and attended; outside of campsites pets must be under control.
- Campsites are first-come, first-serve. Camping stays on public lands are limited to 14 days in any 45-day period.
- Bureau of Parks and Lands staff may take custody of any personal property left unattended for more than 3 days (unless advance written permission is given).
- Hunting is permitted, though special rules apply. Do not discharge weapons within 300 feet of any picnic area, camping area, parking area, posted hiking trail or other developed area. Loaded firearms are not permitted at campsites or on hiking trails.
Consider lending a hand. Contact us if you would like to help with stewardship or maintenance work.
Schoodic Mt. can be climbed as a loop (2.8 miles) or an up and back (2.5 miles). Allow 2 hours. The mountain's summit is bare and flat with 360 degree views, including dramatic views over Frenchman Bay and Mount Desert Island. The most direct route up Schoodic Mountain leaves from the rear of the Schoodic Beach parking area. However, a popular route on a hot summer day combines an ascent from the parking area with a descent to Schoodic Beach for a refreshing swim before the half-mile walk back to the parking area. The western half of Schoodic Mountain's summit, including the communications tower, is private property. Please respect our neighbors and stay on marked trails.
- The Black Mountain Cliffs Loop (2.9 miles - allow 2 hours) starts at the Schoodic Beach parking area, a popular trailhead leading to Schoodic Mountain, Schoodic Beach on Donnell Pond, and Black Mountain. The loop includes a roughly half-mile walk to Schoodic Beach from the parking area as well as 2.4 miles of hiking trail leading up to and back from the cliffs on the southwest flank of Black Mt. The loop also offers a trail link to Black Mt.'s western summit and the Caribou Loop Trail.
- The Big Chief Trail(2.6 miles - allow 2 hours) on Black Mountain starts 2.2 miles down the Black Mountain Road, at a small trailhead parking area. It climbs steadily for approximately 0.6 miles through mixed woods and transitions into spruce and fir shortly before crossing onto open ledges with extensive views over the southern half of Tunk Lake and on towards the coast. A 1.4 mile loop around tiny Wizard Pond using a portion of the interconnected Caribou Loop Trail includes a stop atop Black Mt.'s attractive East Peak before returning to the 0.6 mile trail segment leading back to the trailhead. Natural Heritage Hike for the Big Chief Trail. OR View all Natural Heritage Hikes.Natural Heritage Hikes are narratives that guide hikers through the rich ecological, geological, and cultural elements encountered on 25 of Maine's most popular hiking trails. These descriptions provide the hiker with the what, how, and why of the natural environments they are walking through.
Caribou Loop Trail
The Caribou Loop Trail (minimum 7 miles - allow 6-8 hours) ties together rugged Black and Caribou Mountains to create over 6 miles of backcountry hiking in Downeast Maine. The core loop is 6.1 miles, though hikers will need to add at least 0.9 miles of trail (one-way) to reach the core loop. Multiple access points mean that hikers can combine different sections of the loop into unique experiences. Access points include the Schoodic Beach/Mt. and Big Chief trailheads as well as the Caribou Mt. Trail, a 0.9 mile trail located approximately 1 mile down the Dynamite Brook Rd (accessed off Rt. 182 between Franklin and Cherryfield).
The new Tunk Mt. and Hidden Ponds Trails provide the opportunity to explore scenic ponds and climb a low but brawny mountain with inspiring views.
- The Tunk Mt. Trail (3.2 miles roundtrip - allow 3 hours) is an up and back hike involving some steep climbing once above Mud Pond (reached at approximately 0.7 miles). Several vista points with wide-ranging views southward are encountered on the climb. The upper summit area, including a vista northward, is on property owned by the Nature Conservancy.
- The Hidden Ponds Trail (2 miles roundtrip - allow 1-2 hours) uses the first half-mile of the Tunk Mt. Trail and then loops for one mile around Salmon Pond. This trail, while still involving travel over rocks, roots, and bog-bridging does not include significant climbing. It passes by Salmon and Little Long Pond while being only a short walk from Mud Pond (via the main Tunk Mt. Trail). An interpretive brochure further describing the trail's ecology and geology can be downloaded. The Tunk Mt./Hidden Ponds Trailhead is accessed off Rt. 182 between Franklin and Cherryfield. Hikers can link in to the Caribou Loop Trail by walking south on the Dynamite Brook Rd. for roughly one mile.
Downeast Sunrise Trail (DEST)
The Downeast Sunrise Trail is an 85-mile scenic rail trail running along the entire Downeast coastal area connecting multiple scenic conservation areas, intersecting salmon rivers, and providing year round recreation opportunities. It is open to snowmobiles, ATVs, horse-back riders, skiers, hikers, bikers, walkers, and joggers. Between Franklin and Cherryfield (where there are parking areas/trailheads), it passes through several sections of the Donnell Pond Public Lands. Shared-use roads open to vehicular and recreational trail use link the Sunrise Trail with other destinations within Donnell Pond Public Lands.
- Hand-carry boat launch
- Picnic area
- Trailered boat launch
- See Visitor Accessibility
Use Leave No Trace principles. Plan ahead and prepare for your outing; recreation on Maine's Public Lands is largely a self-reliant activity. Pay attention to potentially strong winds out on the water, respect the dangers of cold water immersion, and always wear your life jacket when boating. When hiking, stay on trail to protect fragile ecosystems. Start only small campfires in designated fire rings.
Moving firewood can transport exotic insects & diseases that pose a serious threat to our forests. Don't transport firewood, buy it from a local source. Buy It Where You Burn It
Avoid transporting aquatic plants on propellers or other boat/trailer parts. Never move or otherwise dump fish into a waterbody. View pictures and read more information at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection
Open All Year Each season presents its own opportunities, charms, and considerations. Spring and early summer is prime fishing, though mosquitoes and black flies may be heavy. Summer is popular for hiking, other trail activities, boating, and camping. September and October are ideal times for leaf peeping and exploring the forests while October and November usher in bird and deer hunting (with bear hunting in late summer/early fall). Winter is a truly scenic time to snowshoe, ski, snowmobile, and ice-fish. Be aware that many access roads are not plowed in the winter unless timber harvesting is occurring.
Hancock County, Maine
Bureau of Parks and Lands
Eastern Public Lands Office
106 Hogan Road, Suite 5
Bangor, Maine 04401
download trail map: 10x17inches, color (PDF 1MB)
Directions and Parking
Access is twelve miles east of Ellsworth off Route 182 or 183.