hiking in midcoast maine
 

Hiking in Greater Midcoast Maine

Many people visit the Camden/Rockland region for its natural beauty. Others come for the lighthouses … or the lobster! Now our hiking trails and biking routes are being recognized for their quantity and quality. Local resident and hiker Joe Ryan cites our area’s outstanding trails, both in difficulty levels and varied landscapes, from mountains and forests to lakes and bogs. “As a hiking destination, I believe our trails rival those anywhere in America,” he says, “including Colorado and the White Mountains. And for bicycling, this area is the best kept secret in the country. You can go for a great ride in the afternoon, then go to a great restaurant in the evening.”

Camden Hills State Park

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Encircled by Route 1 to the east, Route 173 to the north, and Route 52 and Youngtown Road to the west, this 5,700-acre park boasts 30 miles of trails. Pick up a map at the park entrance, or visit www.maine.gov/dacf/parks/

The Southern Trail Network (5 trails, 4.8 miles) The trails surrounding 800-foot Mount Battie range from a seaside stroll to challenging climbs across plateaus and peaks: The Shoreline Trail (.3 mile) leads from Route 1 through woods to a picnic area set above crashing waves. The Mount Battie Trail (0.5 mile, moderate) offers a short but rewarding hike up the south-facing side of the mountain. There are some steep pitches and sections of rock and ledge, but the view over Camden Harbor and Penobscot Bay makes the effort worthwhile. Park at the end of Megunticook Street in Camden, off ME Route 52. The Carriage Trail (0.5 mile, moderate) climbs steadily through the woods, intersects with the Carriage Road Trail to the summit of Mount Battie, and ends at the Tablelands Trail. The Carriage Road Trail (0.8 mile, moderate) was originally built to reach the Summit House, a private clubhouse. Parking for the Carriage and Carriage Road trails is along Mountain Street about 1.2 miles north of the intersection of ME Route 52 and US Route 1. The Tablelands Trail (1.5 miles, moderate) descends from the summit of Mount Battie northward through woodlands and plateaus to the Ocean Lookout at 1,300 feet. The Nature Trail (1.2 miles, easy) leads from the park’s camping area to the Tablelands Trail in about an hour. From that intersection, turn left to the summit of Mount Battie or turn right to reach Ocean Lookout and the summit of Mount Megunticook, the highest point in the park.

Interior Trail Network (8 trails, 9 miles total)

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The Megunticook Trail (1 mile, moderate) is the most direct route to the park’s finest vistas. It takes about an hour to ascend almost 1,000 vertical feet, with moderately steep segments near the top. From the ledges at Ocean Lookout, gaze down on Mount Battie, the town of Camden, and Penobscot Bay from Acadia to Monhegan. On a clear day, you can see New Hampshire’s Mount Washington to the west. Adam’s Lookout Trail (0.3 mile, easy) connects the Megunticook Trail and Tablelands Trail. The Ridge Trail (2.5 miles, moderate) crosses the ridgetop of Mount Megunticook from Ocean Lookout to the Scenic Trail near Maiden Cliff. This trail, with a wooded summit at 1,385 feet, overlooks Lake Megunticook. The trail also links the Megunticook Trail to the Slope Trail and Zeke’s Trail. The Jack Williams Trail (1.6 miles, moderate) parallels the Ridge Trail at the base of the cliffs along the west face of Mount Megunticook through coastal Maine forest. This and the Ridge Trail also link to the Maiden Cliff Trail. The Slope Trail (1.5 miles, moderate) descends from Mount Megunticook to a rebuilt ski shelter. The ascent is quite steep. Zeke’s Trail (1.3 miles, moderate) follows an old road leading west from the Multi-use Trail and rises to meet the Ridge Trail. A short spur reaches Zeke’s Lookout at 1,190 feet. The Summer Bypass Trail (0.8 mile, easy) avoids low, wet areas on the Multi-use Trail. The Multi-Use Trail runs the length of the park and provides access to the Summer Bypass, Slope, and Zeke’s trails.

Maiden Cliff Network (3 trails, 1.8 miles)

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The Maiden Cliff Trail (1 mile, moderate) starts from a parking area on Route 52 about 2.8 miles north of the intersection with Route 1, then rises to spectacular views from cliffs 800 feet over Megunticook Lake. A large cross marks where 11-year-old Elenora French fell to her death in 1862. Continuing from Maiden Cliff Trail to the Scenic Trail (0.8 mile, moderate) provides another 120-foot ascent to Miller ledges and westerly views to Ragged and Bald mountains and Megunticook Lake. Follow the Ridge Trail to the park’s interior or back to the parking area for Maiden Cliff.

Northern Trail Network (5 trails, 10.8 miles).

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Begin these trails from a parking area near the corner of ME Route 173 and Youngtown Road. The Multi-use Trail (5 miles, moderate), also accessible from the main entrance, is popular for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and horseback riding. While it’s the park’s longest trail, running from the campground to ME Route 173, its gravel surface suits all users. The trail follows the base of Mount Megunticook through forest and bogs busy with birds and wildlife. Mid-route, you’ll find a replica of a ski shelter built 70 years ago. This trail also connects to others in the northern section of the park. Pick up the Bald Rock Trail (0.5 mile, easy to moderate) from the Multi-use Trail 1.3 miles south of the parking lot on ME Route 173. The trail leads east to a barren 1,200-foot summit that many people feel offers the park’s best bay views. The Frohock Mountain Trail (1.9 miles, moderate) begins a short distance south of the parking lot on ME Route 173, crossing steep slopes through mixed forest and over three small summits. The Cameron Mountain Trail (1.9 miles, moderate) heads west from where the Multi-use Trail intersects the Bald Rock Trail and gradually climbs through old farmland and past blueberry fields. Cameron intersects with Zeke’s Trail for access to the interior of the park. The Sky Blue Trail (1.5 miles, easy) branches off from the Multi-use Trail or the Cameron Mountain Trail and meanders through blueberry fields and mature forest.

Ragged Mountain Recreation Area

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Many miles of hiking trails lead from the main parking lot. Look for information kiosks near the boat launch area. For a trail map, contact the Camden Parks and Recreation Office at 207-236-3438 or info@CamdenSnowBowl.com.

Coastal Mountains Land Trust

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Since 1986, this organization has worked with landowners to establish a system of conservation lands, protecting wildlife habitat and biodiversity and, coincidentally, allowing low-impact public recreation. Here are a few popular hiking routes: The Summit Trail in Bald Mountain Preserve is a strenuous, two-mile round trip through forested slopes and up exposed ledges to the “bald” summit, which offers a 360-degree view of the Camden Hills and Penobscot Bay. At 1,280 feet, Bald Mountain is the fifth highest peak on the eastern seaboard. This Preserve offers visitors unusual geologic features, wildlife habitat, and a community of rare subalpine plants. The moderately easy hike up Beech Hill offers panoramic views of Penobscot Bay, the Camden Hills, and the St. George peninsula. The Preserve is a stop on the Maine Birding Trail, and almost 300 acres are managed for bird habitat and organic blueberry production. Beech Nut, a sod-roofed stone hut, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. From Route 1 in Rockport, just south of the intersection with Route 90, take Beech Hill Road to the parking area. Lincolnville’s Fernald’s Neck Preserve offers miles of trails through dense softwood forest near the shores of beautiful Lake Megunticook. Above Hope Village on the side of Hatchet Mountain, the 27-acre Hatchet Mountain Preserve is a steep, south-facing parcel covered by stands of red oak that frame dramatic panoramas to the east past Bald and Ragged mountains and toward Penobscot Bay. For more about these and other preserves, visit www.coastalmountains.org.

Georges River Land Trust

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This organization’s mission is to conserve the ecosystems and heritage of the 225-square-mile Georges River watershed region. Its Georges Highland Path is a 50-mile network of low-impact footpaths built and maintained by the Land Trust and based on the participation of landowners. When hiking these trails, please respect the fact that you are usually on privately owned land: Searsmont’s 3-mile Canal Path follows part of the late-1700’s Georges River Canal. Interpretive displays describe canal elements you can see today. The Mount Pleasant Trail in Rockport follows a rocky discontinued road from the Mount Pleasant Farm into an upland hardwood forest, climbs the northern slope of Mount Pleasant, passes a scenic blueberry field, and crosses the mountain through a conifer forest. This trail joins the Spruce Mountain Trail, creating Mount Pleasant, Spruce Mountain, Ragged Mountain, and Bald Mountain as one continuous hike. The Ragged Mountain Trail in Camden and Rockport offers some of the region’s steepest and most strenuous hiking. However, from the ridgeline, hikers enjoy vistas to the west all the way to the White Mountains and to the east to island-speckled Penobscot Bay. The open, 1,200-foot summit of Ragged Mountain supports wild blueberry and fragile alpine flora. The Ridge to River Trail in Searsmont connects Gibson Preserve to the Canal Path, including a five-mile footpath along the Georges River and valley views from Appleton Ridge. The Spruce Mountain Trail in Rockport is a 20-minute climb through hardwood forest to a bald granite peak and unobstructed views of Ragged Mountain and Penobscot Bay. This trail meets the Ragged Mountain Trail at Route 17 and the Mount Pleasant Trail at Mount Pleasant Street. The Jones Brook area includes three connected trails on the upper St. George peninsula. The three quarter- mile Town Forest Trail features a small waterfall and pool; the 1.5-mile Jones Brook Trail connects Kinney Woods to historic Fort Point and offers views of beaver lodges and moss-covered granite outcrops; and the half-mile Fort Point Trail leads to an 1809 fort that protected American shipping lanes during the Napoleonic Wars. The Oyster River Bog Trail is a moderately easy walk. Also known as the Rockland Bog, this 6,000- acre woodland nestled amid Rockland, Rockport, and Warren conserves more than 1,600 acres by the City of Rockland, the Oyster River Bog Association, and the Southern Maine Wetlands Conservancy. The 4.5-mile, mostly level Thomaston Town Forest Trail provides excellent views of the Oyster River and the huge glacial erratic Split Rock. You may even see deer, wild turkey, and moose. The Thomaston Village Trail, an easy threemile sidewalk excursion from the Thomaston Green, provides sweeping views of the St. George River and its waterfront, whose clam flats are among the most productive in the state. Learn more about sections of the Georges Highland Path at www.georgesriver.org.

Hiking Monhegan

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A land trust protects about 380 acres (two-thirds) of the island and maintains about nine miles of trails through interior “wild lands” and along perimeter cliffs. Monhegan’s trails are narrow and rocky, with steep climbs, sheer drops, and dense growth. Look for white trail numbers on green wood blocks, as well as cairns (small stacks of stones). If you’re just visiting for the day, choose the #7 Whitehead trail, with some climbing to panoramic 160-foot-high headlands; #4 Burnthead, mostly level through meadows to a 140- foot headland; and Lobster Cove, a narrow trail that leads to the wreck of the tugboat D.T. Sheridan. View and download a trail map at www.monheganassociates.org.

Hiking on Monhegan Island, Maine