Ragged Mountain (Rockport, ME)

Georges Highland Path, Ragged Mountain

At first, it seemed like it wasn’t the ideal day to climb Ragged Mountain (1,303 ft) in Rockport. The bank of fog covering the Midcoast in the early summer morning obscured any views. But hiking in a cloud has its advantages – on a day eventually headed above 90 degrees, a chill mist over the George’s Highland Path (GHP) operated like an air conditioner, keeping us cool on the trail.

Georges Highland Path, Ragged Mountain

We started and finished our moderately difficult hike from the Thorndike Brook trailhead at Hope Street in Rockport, using ME-17 to complete the return loop, about 6.5 miles in just under 3 hours. If we had it to do over (which we probably will – it’s a great hike), we agreed that a shorter out/back (about 4.8 mi) using the GHP would be better, as ME-17 is a fairly busy road. There are two other trailheads, at ME-17 and Barnestown Road, and it is good to keep all three in mind, due to summer crowding.

Blueberry bushes along Georges Highland Path, Ragged Mountain

The Georges River Land Trust maintains the GHP, and has a great trail map here. The Coastal Mountains Land Trust has adjoining preservation responsibilities on Ragged Mountain, and is building the Around the Mountain trail system, which was under construction when we passed through on our descent.

Mushroom, Georges Highland Path, Ragged Mountain

Viewpoints along the GHP are prominently marked on the Ragged Mountain map, and the vista from each appeared to be outstanding, based upon a creative interpolation of elevation and dead reckoning. The cloud covering the mountain, however, only showed us the edges of a ghostly abyss.

Ledges along Georges Highland Path, Ragged Mountain

As we climbed the trail, we heard the familiar chatter of red squirrels, and the call of jays and the hermit thrush. The higher, more open ledges were crowded with full, ripe blueberry bushes, and we frequently stopped to enjoy the cool, dewy treats. Other than to pick berries, we didn’t linger on the summit or its ledges, as the views were the same there through the fog as they were on the forest floor. There is a radio tower near the summit reached by the red diamond trail.

Blueberries, Georges Highland Path, Ragged Mountain

The descent to ME-17 was steep, but manageable, and we wound our way down to the trailhead, which appeared crowded with out-of-state license plates. A flat but noisy walk on the opposite shoulder of ME-17 took us back to Hope Street and the Thondike Brook trailhead. The invigorating hike and beautiful forest were enough for this trip, but we will return for views on a clear day.

Morse Mountain to Seawall Beach (Phippsburg, ME)

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View from Morse Mountain, Phippsburg, Maine

(Update: On June 1, 2020, the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area re-opened to the public, with parking lot capacity reduced to allow for social distancing between vehicles. They advise to plan your trip accordingly, and note that they “turn cars away once the parking lot is full.” You can check the status of the lot online at https://www.bmmparking.com/)

Your five-year old could do this, but everyone in the family will love it. It’s the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area near Phippsburg, Maine, a 3.8 mile out-and-back hike over Morse Mountain (433 feet) to Seawall Beach.  Wife here again to report that I think I may have found my favorite “hike” so far! (Full disclosure: while I love the outdoors, I am not on the hard-core side of the hiking spectrum, preferring instead to walk at a steady pace for up to three hours in nice weather. Furthermore, I do not get an adrenaline rush from dangerous climbs so I avoid them.) Hike is in quotations here because this particular adventure may be more of a beautiful walk, given the minimal altitude, the terrain (mostly paved) and the distance. This hike checks all the boxes for me. Let’s begin!

Morning light through trees, trail over Morse Mountain to Seawall Beach

This trailhead is well-marked. From Route 1 in Bath, you follow Route 209 south to Route 216 to Morse Mountain Road where there is a small parking lot on your left. Arrive early, particularly on summer weekends, because parking is limited (see note and link at beginning to check on it last-minute, particularly with less parking lot capacity due to social distancing). We have been turned away on Father’s Day weekend. At about 8:30 am on a summer Saturday, people are trickling in, but there are usually still spots available. By half an hour to an hour later, all the spots can be full.  There is a friendly attendant there, giving maps, selling crafts and answering questions (donations accepted).

View from trail over Morse Mountain to Seawall Beach

The entire trail is paved, as this is a service road, so it is wide enough for a bunch of people to walk together and chat (I doubt you will need a trail map, but if you do: Morse Mountain Map). Shortly after departing the lot, you notice the area is quite well maintained by the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Corporation with members from the St. John Family (who originally conserved the area), Bates College and the public.

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Sprague River Salt Marsh, Phippsburg, ME

Bugs can be a big problem here. Very early or late in the season, or with enough of a breeze, they won’t bother you too much. Otherwise, bring strong (Deet-based) insect repellent, and walk fast. About halfway into the hike, you will see a fork in the road and you head right to get to the summit. “Morse Mountain” is really not much more than a hill, yet there are fantastic views at the lookout: the snaking Sprague River, the cliffs in the distance and the gorgeous…drum roll…beach and ocean!

Low tide, Seawall Beach, Phippsburg, Maine

Yeah, I really can’t wait any longer to tell you that this hike ends at Seawall Beach and for those of you who thought you died and went to heaven when you saw nearby Popham Beach, you will be counting your blessings when you see this two-mile stretch of gorgeous sand that is Seawall Beach. After you leave the summit and return to the main path, you have roughly a mile to go to reach the beach. Then, kick off your shoes and enjoy this huge, uncrowded beach.

Seawall Beach, Phippsburg, Maine

We headed right upon entering the beach area and walked for approximately a mile to the “red pole” which is marked on the map and signals the end of the conservation area. A left turn will eventually bring you to Popham Beach. Try to hit this beach at low tide if you can so you will have plenty of room to roam. Daughter loved the large clam shells, sand dollars, sea gulls, ospreys, and little plovers. On a July trip, we saw plenty of seals, as well.

Swallowtail butterfly near end of life cycle, Seawall Beach, Phippsburg, Maine

Since access is limited, there are so few people on this beach! For three people who hate crowds and love the ocean and the sand, it was kind of hard to leave. The trail is easy and beautiful so the 33 minutes it took to walk back were very pleasant. Here is my advice for your trip to Morse Mountain:

  1. Go to the bathroom before you get on the trail and do not plan to drink much liquid unless you are a camel. There are no restrooms and since the trail was fairly crowded, you cannot just “pop off the trail” and go behind a tree very easily without being seen. The ocean is an option, but it’s Maine-cold.
  2. Bring bug spray.
  3. Consider staying a while at the beach, which means that you might need a towel, sunscreen, hat, and snacks! The beach is that good.
  4. Go early in the day to get a parking spot. If it’s full, you can wait, go to Popham Beach State Park, or try a nearby hike, like one through Basin Preserve.
  5. Try to hit low tide.

This truly is a Maine gem and when visitors come and ask where to go, this is going to be on the top of my list as it showcases the beauty that Maine has to offer without the crowds. A little exercise, fresh air, woods, marsh, beach, snacks, family and friends – you can’t beat it.

Lowell Preserve (Windham, ME)

Lowell Preserve, Windham, Maine

The Roscoe and Elva Lowell Preserve in Windham, Maine is a 308 acre preserve managed by the Town of Windham, close to Little Duck Pond and the Falmouth town line. The trails in the northeast corner of the Preserve connect to the North Falmouth Community Forest. Trailhead parking is at the East Windham Fire Station, 45 Falmouth Road, Windham, and trail map is available here.

Roscoe & Elva Lowell Preserve, Windham, Maine

The trails constitute about eight miles of loops, which can be very difficult to navigate. On the July day we explored, we took about a 3.5 mile loop, using the Libby Hill Trail and the Roscoe Loop. There are self-correcting trail maps placed intermittently throughout the preserve, as well as wooden numbered signs that would be helpful if the numbers had any relation to the map.

Libby Hill Loop, Lowell Preserve, Windham, Maine

For those who use mobile applications to navigate, you will find that the Preserve sits in a cellular service “dead zone.” The sheer number of trail intersections and concentric loops maximize the space for recreation, but frustrate wayfinding (imagine a small plate of spaghetti where each noodle is a path, and you will get the concept). Additionally, hunting is allowed in Lowell Preserve, so be sure to wear blaze orange if you are visiting Windham in-season (and suit up your on-leash pet, as well).

Lowell Preserve, Windham, Maine

These are not complaints, but warnings to be prepared, so that users can enjoy Lowell Preserve for what it is. You can see the appeal for trail runners, ATV riders, cross-country skiers and mountain bikers, as there are few preserves this size open for all these activities in southern Maine.

Virginia Loop, Lowell Preserve, Windham, Maine

Shortly after the trailhead, there is a storybook trail for kids, and an area in which to build fairy houses, with a posted sign from the “head fairy code enforcement officer.” Open areas have blueberries and raspberries, and the signs of frequent deer traffic abound. Once the visitor is prepared, Lowell Preserve is a quiet, shaded forest sanctuary. There are no real views or overlooks, but the paths lead through a beautiful “green tunnel” with trees, ferns, wildflowers, birds, and babbling brooks.

Raymond Community Forest and Pismire Bluff

The Raymond Community Forest is a network of four trails over 356 acres between Crescent Lake and Pismire Mountain (833 ft), protected by the Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT). I decided to combine all four into a modified loop (approximately 4 miles/1.5 hrs) to try and see as much of the Forest as possible. The lower trails (Spiller Homestead and Grape Expectations) are open to pedestrians and mountain bikes, while the trails to the east of Conesca Road (Pismire Bluff and Highlands Loop) are pedestrian-only. Leashed dogs are welcome.

Wildflowers, Raymond Community Forest

The clearly marked trailhead, with parking, is located off Conesca Road in Raymond, and has a large kiosk with a map of the Forest and Raymond Community Forest trail maps available. On the warm July morning I visited, the field by the kiosk was bright with wildflowers.

Grape Expectations Trail, Raymond Community Forest

I started by moving left, onto from the central Spiller Homestead Loop to the Grape Expectations Trail, marked with a yellow diamond with a black dot in the center. This pleasant narrow and winding trail was lined with more wildflowers and sweet fern, and has plank bridges to traverse the small streams that criss-cross the Forest. Open areas have patches of wild raspberry and strawberry. I saw a large swallowtail butterfly in the center of the trail, and a juvenile chickadee flew onto a nearby branch to check me out.

Swallowtail Butterfly, Raymond Community Forest

After about a mile, the trail connected back with the Spiller Homestead Loop, marked with pink diamonds, and I continued left on the loop towards Crescent Lake. This trail contains interpretive signs, which identify tree species, geologic facts (look for “glacial erratics”) and natural history, and winds through old stone walls. The sounds of powerboats on Crescent Lake could be faintly heard, but the predominant noise was birdsong and the chattering of chipmunks and squirrels.

Spiller Homestead Loop, Raymond Community Forest

I continued back across Conesca Road on the Pismire Bluff trail (blue diamond with white dot in the center), stopping to eat wild raspberries in the clearing before being swallowed by the woods. The trail climbs steeply and turns sharply, and a large open rockslide area can be seen through the trees to the east. A short (.1 mi) spur leads to a viewpoint on Pismire Bluff, overlooking Crescent Lake and Rattlesnake Mountain to the west.

Pismire Bluff Trail, Raymond Community Forest

Co-located with this spur is the .7 mile Highlands Loop trail (red diamond with white dot in the center), which descends through new forest, ascending again to return to Pismire Bluff. A short downhill walk down the Pismire Bluff Trail and a left turn (after crossing Conesca Road) leads back to the Spiller Homestead Loop and the parking area.

Highlands Loop, Raymond Community Forest
View from Pismire Mountain, Raymond, Maine

Raymond Community Forest is a well-maintained wild oasis with great views of the Lakes Region, and its four varied trails allow for hikers of all abilities to enjoy it in different ways. In Raymond, the best place to stop for a pre- or post-hike lunch or a snack is The Good Life Market, at the corner of ME-85 and 302.

Rattlesnake Mountain (Raymond, ME)

Bri-Mar trailhead at ME-85 in Raymond, Maine

Rattlesnake Mountain (1,035 ft) is an approximately 2.6 mile moderately difficult (but family-friendly) out-and-back hike in Raymond, Maine, with two good viewpoints overlooking the Lakes Region. Allow about an hour or two for this adventure, depending on the abilities of those in your group. The small, well-marked parking area for the Bri-Mar trailhead is off Webbs Mills Road (ME-85), and open from sunrise to sunset. No dogs are allowed on this trail.

Wildflowers on Bri-Mar Trail, Rattlesnake Mountain, Raymond, Maine

We had completed this hike several years ago as a family during the fall, and the early July day I chose for this attempt was much warmer, with the field at the beginning of the hike full of wildflowers and bees. The field gives way to a wide, pine-covered road through a swampy area, then progresses upward on a narrower path.

Bri-Mar Trail, Rattlesnake Mountain, Raymond, ME

The forest itself was alive with birdsong, from chickadees, woodpeckers, and mourning doves, as well as the chattering and rustling of squirrels and chipmunks. Deerflies were a problem at the beginning of the hike, but thinned as I climbed. The trail was mostly empty in the morning, as I only saw two other trail users, both trail runners, but can be fairly busy on summer afternoons.

Bri-Mar Trail, Rattlesnake Mountain

The Bri-Mar trail, named in memory of Brian and Marlene Huntress, is maintained by the Huntress family. This trail is easily followed, with red arrows spray-painted on rocks and trees in areas of uncertainty. The trail is steep in places, but becomes more of a ridge hike at the viewpoints and summit. Logs over the trail provide fun obstacles for kids to climb over, and several wild blueberry bushes cover the margins of the trail towards the summit.

Viewpoint, Rattlesnake Mountain

Rattlesnake Mountain is a great Lakes Region hike for families. Enjoy the vistas provided by the two viewpoints on ledges, as the summit itself is wooded, and leads to other trails sloping downward. After the hike, a great place to stop for lunch or a snack in Raymond is The Good Life Market, at the corner of ME-85 and 302, with all kinds of fresh options for every diet. In the fall, we have also picked apples down the road at Meadow Brook Farm.

Shaker Woods Reserve (Alfred, ME)

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Shaker Woods Reserve, Alfred, ME

Shaker Woods Reserve is a short lollipop loop hike in Alfred, Maine, about 1.9 miles in total length (appx 45 minutes). The 34-acre Reserve, accessible from a small parking lot on Stone Road, is owned by the Town of Alfred, and is open from dawn to dusk, for foot traffic only (dogs must be leashed). A detailed map is available from Three Rivers Land Trust.

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Shaker Woods Reserve trails, Alfred, ME

On a cool June morning (read: before mosquitoes woke up), I hiked this quiet, wooded trail, which winds through land bounded on the east by the Middle Branch of the Mousam River and on the south by Hay Brook. Deer tracks covered the trail, and throughout my walk, I could hear them bounding away from me intermittently, but never saw them. The trail was lined with ferns and the bright white flowers of berry bushes.

Shaker Woods Reserve, Alfred, ME

The immersion in nature was not total, as the trail’s beginning skirts the edge of private yards, and vehicle sounds, including a train horn, punctuated the quiet morning. But the songbirds, red squirrels and chipmunks continued their chorus throughout. This short hike is perfect for families, and provides many opportunities for bird and wildlife viewing. 

Shaker Woods Reserve, Alfred, ME

5 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcast Episodes of May 2020

The best podcasts we listened to in May 2020 showed us different viewpoints, or new ways to look at familiar topics. How does vulnerability make us more powerful, how can positivity and the ability to make people laugh benefit us in the outdoors, how can we meditatively appreciate the changing seasons, and what does American wildlife management look like to a visitor from abroad?

Below are the five best hiking and outdoors podcast episodes we listened to in May 2020, with a brief description of each podcast.

A warning – playing podcasts or music on external speakers while hiking is basically a capital offense.  Playing podcasts or music through headphones/earbuds while hiking is somewhere in the spectrum of inadvisable to mortally dangerous.  Just from a common sense standpoint, why would you want to have your hearing and attention somewhere else if you want to maximize the benefits of being immersed in the outdoors (or, more basically, fail to hear the bear you just startled)?  All that being said, hike your own hike.

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Rich Roll Podcast1. For Colin O’Brady, Infinite Love Fuels Human Potential (May 18, 2020) from The Rich Roll Podcast

Rich Roll’s podcast always digs deep, and this interview with elite adventure athlete Colin O’Brady covers O’Brady’s December 2019 human-powered ocean row with an intrepid crew of rowers 600 nautical miles across the Drake Passage from South America to Antarctica. This incredible feat was timed with the release of O’Brady’s memoir, The Impossible First, covering O’Brady’s journey into adventure sports, culminating in his solo crossing of Antarctica.

O’Brady is a skilled storyteller, and his rapport with Roll yields many nuggets from the experiences of both men. O’Brady talks about the difficult process of writing his book, finding inspiration, and the valuable practice of embracing vulnerability, which O’Brady has honed through a unique twelve year written correspondence with a group of twelve friends called “the fellas.” All this experience helped O’Brady through the book and the rowing journey, which included governmental roadblocks, freezing water, and massive waves.

At the end of the interview, Roll plays a later follow-up interview with O’Brady, in which Roll gives O’Brady a chance to respond to a February National Geographic article critical of O’Brady’s accomplishments. The segment is interesting and fair, but may be a little too “inside baseball” for most. What lingers is O’Brady’s gratitude, and the compelling story of his ascent to the highest levels of adventure racing (2 hrs 42 minutes).

Apple Podcast link: For Colin O’Brady, Infinite Love Fuels Human Potential


Backpacker_Radio_new_art2. Sean “Shug” Emery on Hammock Camping and Life as a Circus Clown (May 13, 2020) from Backpacker Radio

The Backpacker Radio interviews tend to be wide-ranging, but few are as broadly interesting as the story of Sean “Shug” Emery, a former circus clown for Ringling Brothers and currently a YouTuber, providing information and funny videos about hammock camping. Emery, an outstanding raconteur discusses how he became a clown, with wild stories from the dog-eat-dog world of Clown College, and his years traveling with the circus via train. This even includes a breakdown of the vaunted “clown car” trick.

Eventually, Emery transitions to his current life in Minnesota, where he backpacks (and still performs). Emery talks about the Boundary Waters, hammocks, art, and practical advice for new or older backpackers. As pointed out by hosts Chaunce and Badger, Emery’s antics are reminiscent (in a good way) of Robin Williams. The podcast closes with the obligatory Backpacker Radio poop story, a mailbag, and some backcountry matchmaking (3 hrs 1 minute).

Apple Podcast link: Sean “Shug” Emery on Hammock Camping and Life as a Circus Clown


Wild Ideas Worth Living

3. Finding Humor with Brendan Leonard (May 11, 2020) from Wild Ideas Worth Living Podcast

Shelby Stanger’s podcast is about turning ideas into reality, and in this episode, she talks to author/illustrator/adventurer Brendan Leonard about his comedic work and inspiration. Leonard’s website, Semi-Rad, contains his humorous drawings, essays, and adventure writing (try clicking through “100 Favorite Things” and not smiling or going down an internet rabbit hole). His comedic drawings mostly consist of charts and graphs, like a pro-con list of adopting a dog or a grizzly bear, or greeting other people on the trail.

Leonard talks about cooking during a pandemic, Instagram recommendations, cultivating humor, how his life informs his drawings and writings, and trying to meet the needs of his audience. This episode highlights Leonard’s uplifting outlook, which is relentlessly positive and humorous, with observations through the lens of the outdoors (32 minutes).

Apple Podcast link: Finding Humor with Brendan Leonard


logo-cropped-square4. Episode 123: Hobblebush (May 16, 2020) from The Nature of Phenology

Phenology is the study of the life cycles of plants and animals through the seasons. The delightful Nature of Phenology podcast, hosted by Hazel Stark, is a production of WERU, a community radio station serving Midcoast, Downeast, and Central Maine. This mid-May episode focuses on hobblebush, a flowering shrub whose white flowers are familiar to anyone who has spent time in the Maine woods.

The hobblebush’s large, flat leaves are sometimes known as “Boy Scout’s toilet paper,” and its name comes from its low-lying branches, which can easily ensnare a foot or an ankle. This episode is excellent, and anyone (particularly those in Northern New England) interested in learning more about the seasonal changes around them should subscribe to this easily digestible (5 minutes) weekly podcast filled with nature sounds and insights.

Apple Podcast link: Episode 123: Hobblebush


Scotland Outdoors

5. Wolves in Wyoming from Scotland Outdoors

To a New Englander, Euan McIlwraith and Mark Stephen’s excellent Scotland Outdoors podcast, produced by BBC Radio, often seems like a fascinating alternate natural history. What are the similarities we hold with an English-speaking area with a similar climate, populated by comparable or analogous plants and animals, but managed differently over time? Fitting, then, that this episode turns its gaze toward Wyoming, and the Scotland Outdoors crew explores the re-introduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park with British ecologist and writer Philippa Forrester.

One of the best ways to evaluate our own surroundings is to see it through someone else’s eyes, in this case, a view of American wolves from the United Kingdom. Forrester discusses her book about the twenty-five year impact of wolves in the ecosystem, including the wolf archetype over time, and the reaction of humans to the re-introduction process. This episode, including an eloquent reading by Forrester from her book, blends anecdotes and science in a fascinating overview of man’s relationship to large predators (33 minutes).

Apple Podcast link: Wolves in Wyoming


Back in 2018, we ranked our top ten hiking and outdoors podcasts of 2018.  In 2019, we changed the format, listing our five favorite hiking and outdoors individual podcast episodes of 2019.  We consume a lot of podcasts, and those focused on being outdoors seem to have proliferated exponentially since we started listening.  That’s why, in 2020, we are trying something new.  This year, we will attempt to pick out the five best hiking and outdoors podcast episodes each month (or at least our favorites).

Disagree?  Have suggestions?  Leave a comment or Contact us.

Presumpscot River Preserve (Portland, ME)

Calmer water and a cormorant, past Presumpscot Falls, Portland, ME
Calmer water and a cormorant, past Presumpscot Falls, Portland, ME

The Presumpscot River Preserve, with trails maintained by Portland Trails, consists of 48 acres along the Presumpscot River, which flows from Sebago Lake to Casco Bay, owned collaboratively between the City of Portland, City of Falmouth, Portland Trails and private landowners. This Preserve is accessible from trailheads at Oat Nuts Park on Summit, Hope Lane, Overset Rd, and the west side of Rte 100 at the bridge over the Presumpscot (Portland/Falmouth line).

Presumpscot River Preserve, Portland, ME

From the Route 100 Trailhead, it is approximately 2.2 miles one-way to the Oat Nuts trailhead on Summit, and 1.6 miles to Presumpscot Falls. This makes for a 4.4 mile or 3.2 mile total out and back. A lollipop loop is possible, using the Sebago To The Sea Trail, but requires travel on roads (Garsoe Drive and Route 100). For comprehensive maps, see Portland Trails’ site.

This small riverside preserve is an excellent place to bike, to run trails, to see birds and wildflowers, to fish, and even (for the bold) to swim. Spring wildflowers cycle through their peak here, including trillium, trout lilies, and lady slippers, and every week can include a new bloom.

Presumpscot River Preserve, Portland, ME

On recent trips, we saw cormorants, herons, ospreys, nuthatches, gulls, and sparrows. Some of these birds are drawn by late spring’s alewife run. In mid-summer, there are blackberries along the Oat Nuts trail, and in open areas near power lines, closer to the Overset entrance.

Presumpscot River near Oat Nuts Trail intersection, Portland, ME

Portions of the Oat Nuts trail have poison ivy close to (but not on) the trail, so be cautious about small children wandering and grabbing. Additionally, you will find mosquitoes aplenty during the wetter months, which are not terrible if you keep moving.

Presumpscot Falls, Portland, ME

The falls are loud, rushing, and impressive, particularly in the spring melt, and the trail continues alongside, showing the former dam site, which was removed in 2002. The trail ends at private land prior to the Allen Ave/Falmouth bridge, so please respect private property.

Oat Nuts Trail, Portland, Maine

The Presumpscot River Preserve is a family-friendly destination, with shaded trails and loops of wildflowers to explore, close to Maine’s largest downtown, but far from a city. We have a particular affinity for this place, having visited as a family, and have smelled wildflowers, picked berries, and inspected salamanders and bugs underneath logs there for years.

Tumbledown Mountain (Weld, ME)

View of Tumbledown from Tumbledown Pond, Weld, Maine
View of Tumbledown peaks from Tumbledown Pond, Weld, ME

Tumbledown Mountain (3,068 ft) in Weld, Maine, is a beloved hike to many Mainers, due to its accessibility and the unique nature of Tumbledown Pond near the summit (this pond is a geological feature called a “tarn”).  Normally, taking a break to swim or fly fish at the top of a mountain is just a daydream.  We first hiked this in April 2017 during our 100-Mile Wilderness training, and again more recently in May 2020, so neither of these warm weather activities were available at elevation.

Ascending the Loop Trail on Tumbledown Mountain, Weld, ME.
Ascending the Loop Trail on Tumbledown Mountain, Weld, ME.

The Loop Trail ascends to the Tumbledown Ridge Trail from a trailhead on Byron Road, and by descending on the Brook Trail you can make a loop with Byron Road that is about 5.6 miles.  In good conditions, this is a moderate to difficult hike, but winter/spring trail conditions can push the meter toward or past strenuous.  Do not attempt to summit Tumbledown before June without checking trail conditions, unless you have gear (and the experience) to deal with snow and ice.

Spring melt waterfall on Brook Trail, Tumbledown Mountain, Weld, ME.
Spring melt waterfall on Brook Trail, Tumbledown Mountain, Weld, ME.

An easier out-and-back ascent (4.7 miles) can be accomplished from the Brook Trail trailhead on Byron Road, the route we took more recently. Trail maps and info are available via the Tumbledown Conservation Alliance and our go-to guide, the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, which has a detailed trail map inside.

The Loop Trail ascends through a lovely pine forest, then a steady uphill climb past some truly massive boulders.  At the time of year we went, the beginning of the trail was very boggy.  We started to see signs of winter’s staying power as we gained elevation, with large slabs of ice under rocks, and snow in shaded areas.  The snow became deeper as we moved up, and the trail was difficult to follow.

View from Tumbledown Mountain, West Peak, Weld, Maine.
View from Tumbledown Mountain, West Peak, Weld, ME.

We crossed and re-crossed a torrent of ice and water as we climbed, until we couldn’t find a way around it, and puzzled over the trail for a few minutes.  Thankfully, daughter located the small opening in the boulders we needed to climb through, complete with iron rungs to hold on to.  Daughter made it through with her pack, but dad had to remove his, as it was a tight fit through a frozen waterfall (aptly named “Fat Man’s Misery”).  The Maine Mountain Guide notes that this part of the trail makes it unsuitable for dogs, and we would definitely agree (the aforementioned Brook Trail is an alternative ascent for those with canine companions). It was a short scramble from there to the west peak, with breathtaking views of the surrounding area.

View of Tumbledown Pond, a tarn on Tumbledown Mountain, Weld, Maine.
View of Tumbledown Pond, a tarn on Tumbledown Mountain, Weld, ME.

The Tumbledown Ridge trail, a pleasant downhill ridge hike with more views of the valley, brought us to Tumbledown Pond, which was frozen on both occasions.  The tarn is a great place to stop and enjoy a meal and a break. In May 2020, the wind was too powerful to allow much of a stay, but we found a spot in the lee of a large boulder to crouch and have a snack.

Tumbledown Pond outlet, a waterfall cascading down over the Brook Trail, Weld, ME.
Tumbledown Pond outlet, a waterfall cascading down over the Brook Trail, Weld, ME.

The descent is down the Brook Trail to Byron Road.  Humans and animals use the same trails, and there can be a surprisingly high amount (read: tonnage) of moose droppings on the Brook Trail, but we did not see any moose on the way down.  We agreed that we would have to come back to Tumbledown in the summer, as this was one of our favorite hikes.

Oh, and one bonus feature…

Funny billboard in Canton on the way to Tumbledown
Funny billboard in Canton, ME, on the way to Tumbledown.

We saw this billboard on the way through Canton, Maine, in 2017 and could not resist taking a picture.

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, and as an Amazon Associate Hiking in Maine blog earns from qualifying purchases.)

Center Hill Nature Trail (Weld, ME)

The Center Hill Nature Trail is a short (half-mile) loop located on Center Hill (1,658 ft), inside Mount Blue State Park, off Center Hill Road (unpaved) in Weld, Maine. This trail begins and ends at the parking area for the Center Hill picnic area, and includes excellent views of Mount Blue, Tumbledown Mountain, Webb Lake, and the surrounding lakes and mountains.

Center Hill Nature Trail, Mount Blue State Park, Weld, Maine
Center Hill Nature Trail, Mount Blue State Park, Weld, Maine
The steep, winding access road from Center Hill Road to the summit is paved, but not plowed in winter. There are snowshoe trails accessible to hikers from the base of the hill, or from the winter trailhead at park headquarters at 299 Center Hill Road, Weld, Maine. The best guide is Mount Blue State Park’s map and brochure.
View of (right to left) West, Old Blue, Tumbledown, Little Jackson, and Jackson Mountains from Center Hill Nature Trail, Mount Blue State Park, Weld, Maine.
View of (right to left) West, Old Blue, Tumbledown, Little Jackson, and Jackson Mountains from Center Hill Nature Trail, Mount Blue State Park, Weld, Maine.
We visited in May, before the summit road was open, and navigated the icy road to the summit on foot, then walked the Center Hill Nature Trail counter-clockwise, stopping at each viewpoint.  The trail was wet, but easily navigable, and snow was only present in shaded areas.
Viewpoint from Center Hill Nature Trail, Mount Blue State Park, Weld, Maine
Viewpoint from Center Hill Nature Trail, Mount Blue State Park, Weld, Maine
This short trail is perfect for families, with picturesque spots to take photos and picnic tables with beautiful views, and brochures are available (in summer) for a self-guided natural history hike through numbered stations.  In the summer, swimming is available a short drive away at Mount Blue State Park’s Webb Beach and Campground on the opposite side of Webb Lake.
View of Mount Blue's trademark conical summit from Center Hill Nature Trail, Mount Blue State Park, Weld, Maine
View of Mount Blue’s trademark conical summit from Center Hill Nature Trail, Mount Blue State Park, Weld, Maine
For those doing more challenging hikes in the area of Tumbledown, Mount Blue, or other peaks, this ring is a nice break, and the viewpoints and benches are an easy way to get the lay of the land of the Mount Blue area.
View through the trees of Tumbledown, Little Jackson, and Jackson Mountains from Center Hill Nature Trail, Mount Blue State Park, Weld, Maine.
View through the trees of Tumbledown, Little Jackson, and Jackson Mountains from Center Hill Nature Trail, Mount Blue State Park, Weld, Maine.