“A gravel route that passes through the woods, marshlands, and coastal villages of southern Maine.
— Leslie Kehmeier
Need to Know
This is a true multi-use trail and a major off-road component on the East Coast Greenway, a future long-distance route from Calais, Maine to Key West, Florida. Users on the route include ATVs, bicyclists, hikers, and equestrians.
The ~90-mile Down East Sunrise takes its name from its location in Down East Maine, dubbed by early mariners for being “downwind” from more western ports such as Boston. Also, it’s one of the first trails to experience sunrise in the United States.
The trail begins on Ayers Junction Road near Pembroke, at the site of a future extension eastward to the Sipayik Trail. The first section heads mostly southwest through forestland for 29 miles toward the coastal village of Machias.
Leaving Machias, you’ll cross many bridges over coastal rivers as you head west. In 3.5 miles, you’ll cross the Machias River on a trestle, one of 28 bridges on the trail. The next 12 miles cross a remote landscape from Whitneyville to Columbia Falls. Food is readily available along this part of the route. After Harrington, the trail runs alongside US 1 on the way into Cherryfield, a location where sandy soil and fog contribute to boatloads of delicious blueberries.
Crossing the Narraguagus River on the way out of Cherryfield, you’ll begin another lonely section for 15 miles to the 150-acre Schoodic Bog at the foot of scenic Schoodic Mountain. Insect-eating plants and turtles can be found here, as well as beavers.
Nearby, North End Road leads to a public beach and camping at the Donnell Pond Public Reserved Land. Watch for deer and other wildlife on the final 12 miles to Ellsworth. The rail yard for the Downeast Scenic Railroad is about 0.3 miles north of the trailhead at the southern end of the route.