Sawyer Mountain (1,213 feet) is part of the Sawyer Mountain Highlands, 1400 acres of which is owned by the Francis Small Heritage Trust (see map here), which describes the Highlands as the single largest block of undeveloped land in York and Cumberland Counties. This summit can be reached from trailheads in Limerick or Limington. On the spring day we hiked it, we chose the Sawyer Mountain Trail from the Route 117 trailhead in Limington. The trail is well-marked, with signs and red turtle blazes, and maps were available at a kiosk at the trailhead.
The Sawyer Mountain Road sections were rocky and covered in mud and running water, particular on the long uphill stretch preceding the last .3 mile push to the summit. Black flies increased in number as we moved, but were never more than a minor nuisance. Points of interest including the bright green spring vegetation surrounding streams and several cemeteries and burying grounds along the trail.
The summit offers views facing south, and another town of Limington scenic viewpoint is not far away along the trail, offering a more open view of southern York County. The lollipop-shaped route (about 3.6 miles, an hour and forty-five minutes at an easy pace) we took was easier on the return, as the trail descending along the New Skidway Road was less muddy than Sawyer Mountain Road. As previously mentioned, the summit can also be accessed from the west trailhead via a shorter route on the Smith Trail.
Mt. Cutler (1,232 ft.), part of a newly established Mt. Cutler Park and Conservation Area, is a relatively short hike in Hiram, Maine, with impressive views along the way, and multiple options for shorter and longer walks along five miles of trails (here is a detailed map and guide: MtCutlerTrails2017Rev2C-1). Additionally, in the new 11th edition of the Maine Mountain Guide, Mt. Cutler gets its own map.
The direct route is the Barnes Trail, marked with red blazes, which ascends from a parking area by the former railroad depot off Mountain View Road, up through overgrown Merrill Park, where a (shallow) abandoned gold mine can be accessed from a side trail to the left. The trail quickly ascends up rocky ledges to points overlooking Hiram and the Saco River below.
The ridge walk contains great views and blueberries in the summer. The Barnes Trail does not extend to the actual summit of Mt. Cutler, which is on private land (there is currently no marked trail to the summit, but respectful bushwhacking to it is apparently ok), and instead turns hard left at the notch below the summit, where it meets the Saco Ridge Trail, completing the loop down to the parking area.
In addition to the parking area by the Barnes Trail, a second parking area is planned to be constructed by July 2019, with capacity for twenty vehicles, at the trailhead for the North Trail (blue-paint blazes) on Hiram Hill Road. This trail connects with the Moraine Trail, which climbs a glacial moraine, consisting of rock and other debris pushed into a ridge by a glacier (for those familiar with the Maine Ice Age Trail Downeast, check out this post on sites for western Maine’s Ice Age Trail). North Trail also connects with the White Flag Trail, which joins the Barnes Trail near the front ledges.
Mount Agamenticus, overlooking the southern Maine coast, apparently derives its name from an Algonqiuan coastal place name also used in Gloucester and Charlestown, Massachusetts. It’s not a giant, only 691 feet tall, but is part of the Mount Agamenticus Conservation Region, which covers over 10,000 acres, including over 40 miles of trails, with a trail map here. Its location in York makes it readily accessible from the Maine Turnpike and Route One. I had never climbed Mount Agamenticus, and figured that a looping walk over rolling hills would be a perfect spring tune-up hike.
These trails allow for a variety of hikes by length and ability. On this spring day, I traversed the First, Second, and Third Hills, using the Ring, Fisher, Big A, Sweet Fern, Chestnut Oak, Ridge, Wheel, Third Hill, and Great Marsh Trails, along with Old Mountain Road, Porcupine, Rocky Road, and, again, Ring Trails to complete a loop of around 7 miles. Much shorter loops are available (the complete Ring Trail loop is only 1.9 miles), and the Ring (west) and Witch Hazel Trails contain a “Story Walk” that might keep younger hikers moving from storyboard to storyboard, up the hill.
It’s not a long hike from the Mountain Road trailhead to the top of First Hill via the Ring (west) and Fisher Trails – I covered it in fifteen to twenty minutes at a moderate pace. For those with mobility issues, there are also parking lots closer to the top. The open summit has observation decks to orient you to the sights in all directions, from the Atlantic to Mount Washington, and a Learning Lodge is open weekends from 11 am to 3 pm from Memorial Day to Columbus Day.
There are picnic tables with views of the ocean, and restroom facilities. Songbirds abound, and I spotted an American Goldfinch near the old ski lift structures. Descending toward Second Hill, the trail still held some ice in shaded places, the only sign of winter’s clutches. The low points around Second and Third Hills were dotted with vernal pools, which were already riotous with the sounds of peepers.
While First Hill is well-trafficked, with trail runners and dog walkers, the only other human being I saw on Second and Third Hills was a mountain biker. The trails here are not as well-marked as those on First Hill, and I had to double back several times to find the trail, particularly on the Ridge Trail, and Third Hill Trail. In addition, the summits are wooded, with less spectacular views than that of First Hill. But the hiking is not strenuous, and the scenery contains peaceful brooks and ample wildlife viewing opportunities. I saw turkeys, deer, and innumerable songbirds, as well as sizable ant mounds on the way down Third Hill.
Mount Agamenticus is an easily accessible, family-friendly trail network which allows the user to build his/her own itinerary based on activity, ability, and time, and provides boundless opportunities for observing fauna and flora.
(Updated in February 2019 to include winter hiking details)
Pleasant Mountain (2,006 ft) is a mountain in Bridgton right next to Shawnee Peak ski area, with trails mostly on land owned by the Loon Echo Land Trust (see here for detailed maps). Dad and daughter hiked this with our cousin in April 2017 as part of our preparation for our 100 Mile Wilderness trek via the (moderate) Southwest Ridge Trail (also known as the MacKay Pasture Trail), 5.8 miles up/back. I hiked this most recently in February 2019. Map and description are also available in the stellar Maine Mountain Guide.
This hike can be busy in summer, particular up the Ledges Trail, but a winter morning can provide solitude. There were a few hikers, but I also saw woodpeckers, crows, and a herd of deer. The deer were using the same path, and bounded away from me, big white tails flashing, every time they heard my footsteps crunching in the snow, coming no closer than about fifty yards.
We have hiked this mountain via the Ledges Trail from the east, and enjoy the western approach more, as the ridge hike provides wonderful views on the way up, including at the Southwest Summit (1,900 ft). The parking area on Denmark Road is well-maintained, plowed in winter, and easy to find (for directions, use Google Maps to search “Pleasant Mountain Southwest Ridge Trail“), and it is a fairly steady climb to the top, with a steeper climb after the junction with the Ledges Trail, for the last .2 miles to the top. A wood teepee structure near the Southwest Summit makes for a good point to take a break along the way.
A mix of sun, shade, and elevation provide different challenges throughout the hike in spring and summer, as the ridge northeast of the Southwest Summit blocks the sun during most of the morning. As of February 2019, the trail was well-packed, and I used micro-spikes from the trailhead to the summit, with no need for snowshoes. Steps to the right or left of the packed snow, particularly in the valley between the Southwest Summit and the Main Summit, will put you post-holed into deep snow. There were cross-country ski tracks parallel to the trail, providing more options.
A depressed area in the section between the Southwest Summit and Pleasant Mountain Summit is a vernal pool in spring, with incredibly loud peepers, a heavy covering of snow, and probably the first ticks of the year in April. The pool gave us our first chance to use our water filtration system, the MSR Sweetwater, in April 2017. A couple of pumps produced clear, cold water.
As seen above in the summit photo, the views of the White Mountains to the west, particularly Mount Washington, are wonderful on clear days. An old fire tower still stands on the summit. The descent requires a slight uphill climb in the valley between the main summit and the Southwest Summit, but it’s a quick downhill (careful of footing) after that, back to the trailhead, about a three-and-a-half hour out-and-back hike. If you can time it right, stop by Standard Gastropub in Bridgton after the hike to enjoy craft beer and unbelievable food.
(Updated in January 2019 to include winter hiking details)
Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield, Maine, is a favorite hike of ours in all seasons, including when daughter was much younger. Brownfield is less than an hour from Portland, and during mid-late summer, the wild blueberries all the way to the summit make for a pleasant distraction and motivator for younger children. In winter, the moderate climb through vanished foliage yields great views of the White Mountains.
Our preferred route is via the Burnt Meadow Mountain Trail (blue blazes) and Twin Brook Trail (yellow blazes), an approximately 3.6 mile loop, which took us about 2.5 hours at a relaxed pace in summer, and 2 hrs, 10 mins in winter. The spur trail up to Stone Mountain (blue blazes) from the Twin Brook Trail adds about another 1.4 miles round-trip, which was about an hour added to the loop hike in the winter time. These trails are well-marked and maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and the Friends of Burnt Meadow Mountain.
As usual, the best description of this hike is in the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. And in the new 11th edition of this guide, Burnt Meadow gets its own map. In winter, the parking lot is small and icy, and hikers may have to find a parking spot on the narrow shoulder of Route 160. For updated winter trail conditions, check the Burnt Meadow Mountain Trail page on All Trails. On the January 2019 day I went, the snow on the trail was packed, and micro-spikes helped with some of the resulting ice on rocks. The only deeper snow was on the Stone Mountain trail.
The Burnt Meadow Trail passes through shaded woods and over exposed rock faces up a short, steep climb to the North Peak (1,575 ft). On the way, we saw hawks wheeling below us, and visibility was outstanding on a sunny, cool June day. In winter, the climb had the effect of being a pleasantly continuous ridge hike without the leaves to obscure views.
Pink lady’s slipper orchids.
The broad, open summit of Burnt Meadow is a great place for a picnic. We didn’t linger too long in summer, though, just enjoyed some jerky and proceeded across to the Twin Brook Trail. A large cairn marked the point to start our descent. The Twin Brook Trail was a rolling course back to its junction with the Burnt Meadow Mountain Trail, and from there back to the parking lot.
In winter, I took the Stone Mountain Trail, as the surrounding area from the summit is easier to see without the leaves. This trail is substantially less traveled than the North Peak or Twin Brook Trails, and required some travel through deeper snow, but nothing requiring snowshoes as of January 2019.
One of the reasons we love this hike in the summertime is its proximity to the Brownfield Town Beach, which is a great place to cool off (Note: While dogs are plentiful on Burnt Meadow Mountain trails, they are not allowed at the beach after June 1st).
Sweetie’s Ice Cream in Standish is a great way to cool off on the way back to the Portland area in the summer. Another option is the Whistle Stop General Store in Baldwin to grab food – open all winter for snowmobilers and other travelers.
A short distance from downtown Lubec, the easternmost town in the U.S., Mowry Beach is a quiet 48-acre conservation area overlooking Deep Cove, Lubec Channel and Canada’s Campobello Island. This area, managed by the Downeast Coastal Conservancy (DCC), offers a .4 mile trail from Lubec’s Consolidated School on South Street to a parking area at the end of Pleasant Street, including a 1,700 foot boardwalk. The DCC publishes a map and brochure, available on their website.
We learned of this beach through a great Cobscook Trails Map and Guide published by Cobscook Trails, with hikes throughout the Cobscook Bay region, a free and widely available (at local businesses) pamphlet which I would recommend for anyone exploring the area. At the Pleasant Street end of the trail, which we accessed via a short walk from downtown, is 1,800 feet of shorefront along a sand beach. According to guides, ancient tree stumps can be seen along the lower portions of the beach at low tide, a forest that was present during an era with lower water levels.
On the October day we visited, seals were active, using the rapidly outgoing tide to move swiftly east at waterskiing speeds in the Lubec Channel in search of food. For sea-glass collectors, this working waterfront has a variety of shiny objects along the shore. During our walk, we also encountered two people helpfully picking up any garbage left on the beach.
We turned into the trail, passing bright beach rose bushes. The trail and boardwalk are alive with birds, and we startled a large bird of prey that had been resting in a tree next to the boardwalk, which took off almost straight up, like a rocket (which, in turn, startled us). DCC’s guide lists rough-legged hawks, northern harriers, and northern shrikes as frequent visitors to the conservation area.
We continued through the coastal bog and an area lined with cattails and small trees, emerging behind the Lubec Consolidated School. For those with mobility issues, intimidated by longer hikes, or entertaining smaller children, this relatively short walk on wide paths and boardwalk is a great side excursion from the village of Lubec.
The “Bold Coast” of Maine is the area of coastal Washington County stretching from approximately Milbridge to Calais, and accessible through a route designated as the Bold Coast Scenic Byway (see map here from Maine DOT), which largely follows U.S. 1 North. Bold Coast Maine, a collaboration by the Washington County Council of Governments and Downeast-Acadia Regional Tourism, has an extensive site dedicated to the many attractions of this region, with a great interactive map, searchable by interest (Arts and Culture, Food and Drink, Recreation, etc.). For some area context, including post-hike food and drink, see the post on this blog on Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec.
For hikers, the centerpiece of this great region has to be the Cutler Coast Public Lands, managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, which publishes an excellent guide and map. An important update to this map, however, is a rerouting of the Inland Trail, just east of the junction with the Black Point Brook Cutoff, which adds 1.2 miles to any loop using this segment, and was still in place as of October 2018.
These lands, overlooking the Bay of Fundy, have 10 miles of trails and three remote tent sites (first come, first serve) for hiking and camping with unparalleled views. We started on the Coastal Trail, which is a 1.4 mile hike east from the parking area off Route 191 in Cutler to the ocean. According to the guide, this is the easiest segment, and the remainder of the trails are “moderately difficult.”
None of the trails we explored here were particularly strenuous, but the paths are winding and require some climbing up and down over the rolling terrain. Like Quoddy Head, however, there are sudden cliffs that make it a potentially dangerous place for younger children. The rocky coastal sections are steep, and footing could be treacherous in rainy periods. And given the boggy inland areas, the insects in May and June must be fairly aggressive.
The payoff upon reaching the coast, however, is instantaneous, as the dark rocky cliffs and forested coastline meet dramatically with the ocean in a stimulation of the five senses that can only be experienced firsthand. We picked our way slowly down the Coastal Trail toward Black Point, stopping at each short side overlook trail to listen to the powerful rumble of the waves and smell the mix of sea spray and pine.
The Black Point Brook Loop, with a turnaround at the beach at Black Point Cove, is normally 5.5 miles, but with the reroute on the Inland Trail, was closer to 6.7 miles, which took us about four hours at a slow pace, with many stops.
We agreed that a better (delayed gratification) itinerary for us would have been to take the Inland Trail first to the Black Point Brook Cutoff, have lunch at Black Point Cove, then hike up the Coastal Trail, so that our route back would take us along the shore (rather than having the forested trail and circuitous reroute on the return trip).
The Inland Trail was impressive in its own way, however, with variety in flora and fauna, rocky sections, mossy green hummocks, and some open meadows. The fall colors were much more pronounced in this section, with many deciduous trees and colorful bushes. We also saw many birds, including a noisy pair of Canada jays near the path.
For those looking for a longer route, or an overnight trip, the Fairy Head Loop is 9.2 miles (10.4 miles with current reroute), including 3.8 miles along the shore front, and this route accesses the three permitted campsites.
This quiet section of Maine’s Bold Coast, where the woods and the ocean come together, instantly became one of our favorite hikes. Any time a hike ends at a beach (see Morse Mountain), it’s special, and the Cutler Coast rivals any scenery on the East Coast, without the crowds of Acadia.