Note: According to the Falmouth Land Trust web site, each spring, trails are closed during the transition from frozen ground to ensure that the trails are not damaged during the rain and mud season. This year, trails will begin to close March 25th. All trailheads will be cordoned off and signage posted.
The North Falmouth Community Forest is over 400 acres of woodland reclaimed from pasture, with multi-purpose trails accessible from a small roadside parking area on Blackstrap Road (just south of the Happy Cats sign). Close to five miles of lightly-trafficked trails connect (across Blackstrap Road) with the Blackstrap Hill Preserve to the east and with Lowell Preserve in Windham to the west. This being Falmouth, the trails are well-marked, with map kiosks and QR codes (open your camera on your smartphone and scan the barcode to get maps/info). Downloadable or printable maps are harder to come by – try Maine by Foot’s post or the All Trails app. For true map nerds, you can explore using Falmouth’s ARCGIS map site.
On a late February day, we used the Poplar Ridge Trail. the Outback Trail (blue blazes) and the Epiphany Trail (red blazes) to hike an easy 4.2 mile loop, about an hour and forty minutes. The Hurricane Valley Overlook is on the east side of Poplar Ridge, the highest point of the hike (436 feet), and allows a winter view through the trees of Hurricane Valley below. According to the Town of Falmouth website, a page accessible through a QR code on a marker by the overlook, this area was leveled by a hurricane in 1767, which allowed for faster clearing of the land by farmers.
The Upper and Lower Hemlock Trails (white blazes) comprise a thumb-shaped add-on loop to the south from the Outback Trail, if you are looking for more mileage. Either way, a snowmobile trail runs through the middle of the trail system, and you’ll have to walk a short way on this thoroughfare to complete the loop. Listen and watch, and move off the trail when snowmobiles are coming. Additionally, this trail system is extensively used by mountain bikers, so pay attention, and do not hike on paths reserved for bikes.
The snow covered the forest extensively, but was packed enough to allow for just microspikes or other traction devices. As always, watch for cross-country ski or snowshoe tracks, and don’t post-hole your way through someone else’s preferred mode of transportation – there’s room enough for everyone. The rolling hills made for a pleasant walk, with the tracks of deer, porcupine, and small mammals criss-crossing the trail network. On return, you can bypass the climb of Poplar Ridge by taking the Cakewalk Trail.