Knight’s Pond Preserve

White Trail, Knight’s Pond Preserve, Cumberland, Maine

Knight’s Pond Preserve is a 334-acre preserve that straddles the town lines of Cumberland and North Yarmouth, with the 46-acre Knight’s Pond as the focal point. Parking is available in a small lot at 477 Greely Road Extension just short of Mill Brook, and on the street at the end of Greely Road Extension. The most current map is located on the Royal River Conservation Trust (RRCT) website, and includes more details and place names than the printed ones you will likely find in the kiosk at the parking lot. The property is managed by the Towns of Cumberland and North Yarmouth, the Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust (CCLT), which has a printable scavenger hunt for kids, as well as the RRCT. The trails are well-marked and maintained, with trail map kiosks at most intersections.

Blue Trail leading to Bobcat Mountain, Knight’s Pond Preserve, Cumberland, Maine

We chose a sunny early April day for a full circuit of the Preserve, which took an hour and a half to two hours, about 4.6 miles or so, going up to Bobcat “Mountain” then back around the pond to the western side of the Preserve. Dog walkers, hikers, kids, and mountain bikers were all out enjoying the sunny day. The pond was teeming with waterfowl, and we saw mallards, Canada geese, red-winged blackbirds, and smaller ducks too far away to identify. Beaver lodges are visible on the pond, as well, and the muddy shore is full of animal tracks. Looking at the photos taken by others, it appears Knight’s Pond is also a popular ice skating destination in the winter. Bobcat Mountain (350 feet) is at the northwest corner of the Preserve, and the gap in the trees created by power lines allows for views east to the smoke stacks of Cousins Island.

Knight’s Pond from northwest corner, Knight’s Pond Preserve, Cumberland, Maine

Moving back around the pond, picnic tables are located at the south side, next to a dam, and the stream flowing around the dam is full of small fish and tadpoles, much to the delight of some small children there. The White Trail continues around the edge of the pond, before turning inland. We continued west on the Blue Trail, passing the FAA Tower, a rotating dish visible from well across the pond (with a mechanical sound audible from the trails as you get closer), across the FAA access road to the more rolling terrain close to the North Yarmouth line.

Knight’s Pond from White Trail on west side of pond, Knight’s Pond Preserve, Cumberland, Maine

At the bottom of a steep hill, bubbling Porcupine Stream flows under a footbridge to Porcupine Ponds, next to a Boy Scout cabin (more of a corrugated lean-to). We continued back up Bruce Hill (447 feet) to the Red Trail, which heads south in parallel to the White Trail, with views from Blueberry Hill (451 feet). This runs parallel to the Orange-blazed snowmobile trail before returning to the dead end of Greely Road Extension. A short walk up this quiet end of the road returned us to the parking lot.

Porcupine Stream by Boy Scout cabin, Blue Trail, Knight’s Pond Preserve, Cumberland, Maine

Rines Forest

Light through the trees, Rines Forest, Cumberland, Maine

In mid-March, I hiked a loop using the Loop, Perimeter, and Waterfall Trails in Rines Forest in Cumberland, as a part of a longer loop including Hadlock Forest (Falmouth), which is connected through the Rines Trail. Rines Forest is a 268-acre woodland owned by the Town of Cumberland, and preserved through a conservation easement with the Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust (CCLT). The Forest has a network of about 3 miles of trails open for hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fishing, hunting, picnicking, horseback riding, and snowmobiling as designated (some trails are winter-only).

Loop Trail, Rines Forest, Cumberland, Maine

Parking is available on Range Road, on the south side of the Forest, about 1.2 miles from the intersection with Winn Road. Next to the parking area is a Frog Pond & Salamander Swamp. CCLT’s website includes a printable scavenger hunt for kids. Having begun across Range Road, I continued to follow the green CCLT markings for the trail, until reaching the white blazes of the Loop Trail. The spring thaw still incomplete, I wore micro spikes for the duration of the hike, and in the ice and snow, saw the frozen tracks of a large deer, or possibly a moose.

Waterfall Trail, Rines Forest, Cumberland, Maine
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Cliff Trail (Harpswell, ME)

Henry Creek lookout, Cliff Trail, Harpswell, ME

Note from Town of Harpswell website: from May 1, 2021 to October 1, 2021, the first 1/2 mile of Cliff Trail will be closed to hikers due to a Maine Conservation Corps construction project to make it ADA accessible. The remainder of the trail is open. Park at the Town Office (263 Mountain Road) and walk up the path behind the building to access the trail entrance/exit on Community Drive. There will be temporary signs and maps installed to help hikers with the changes while the work is being completed.

The Cliff Trail in Harpswell is an approximately 2.3 mile loop, with expansive views of the Long Reach, a long finger of a bay extending from Casco Bay inland. The popular trail, with parking at the Harpswell Town Office on Mountain Road, is well-marked and maintained by the town of Harpswell (see printable map and description here at town website). I started the white-blazed trail clockwise at sunrise on a mid-January morning. It was dark and a little muddy, with plenty of roots to trip over, but no snow had accumulated, and no traction devices were necessary. Strawberry Creek, to the west of the trail, narrows to a quiet, scenic cascade, and the trail turns inland.

Cliff Trail, Harpswell, ME

Low pines and white birch bark lend an enchanted forest feel, with periodic fairy house “zones” adding to the effect on the way to the Henry Creek lookout. After this viewpoint, the incline of the trail begins, a series of switchbacks through rocks and mossy hummocks that takes you up and down the ridge of the eponymous cliff.

Sunrise at Long Reach, Cliff Trail, Harpswell, ME
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Hadlock Community Forest

Hobb’s Brook Trail, Hadlock Community Forest, Falmouth, Maine

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 Hadlock Community Forest in Falmouth, Maine, is accessible primarily from a small parking area near the end of Hadlock Road with a map and kiosk. Information regarding the almost 300 acre property, with a loop trail of about 2.9 miles, can be found on the Town of Falmouth’s website for the forest. Many activities are allowed in the Hadlock Community Forest, including hunting in-season, so wear blaze orange during those times. I visited on a mid-March day, needing microspikes for the entire trail. For me, this was part of a longer 6.7 mile loop through a connector to the Rines Forest.

Highland Trail, Hadlock Community Forest, Falmouth, Maine

The Hobb’s Brook Trail (white blazes) leads from the Hadlock parking lot to some foot bridges over marshy areas and quiet streams until reaching the Highland Trail (blue blazes), where I took a left, then a right to stay on the Highland Trail to the Perimeter Trail (yellow blazes) where I followed the easy, gently rolling terrain over pools, bogs, and boulders. These low areas provide many vernal pools in the spring thaw. Taking a right on the Highland Trail from Hobb’s Brook would bring you eventually via the Cross-Falmouth Trail to Blackstrap Hill Preserve.

Hadlock Community Forest, Falmouth, Maine

A right on the Rines Trail after about 1.5 miles led toward Cumberland. Starting here, I heard a steady cannonade from the Falmouth Gun Club to the west. At a T-intersection with the snowmobile trail, I took a right, following the green blazes to an intersection with Cumberland Trails.

Rines Trail, Hadlock Community Forest, Falmouth, Maine

On the trail to Rines Forest, I disturbed an owl that swooped upward and set itself on a branch, regarding me sternly. I will cover the Rines Forest separately, but upon return, I continued on the Perimeter Trail to return to Hobb’s Brook, and back to the parking area.

Owl on Rines Trail, connecting from Hadlock Community Forest to Rines Forest, Cumberland, Maine

In closing, a word to the good people of Falmouth, who, I can only assume, from my observation, are assembling a Hadlock Museum of Dog Poop. Bagging your dog’s poop and then hanging it from trees like Christmas ornaments in hell is not an acceptable practice. You’ve done less than half the job. I was floored by the amount of scatological decoration employed on this trail. It is a beautiful hemlock forest ruined by a disrespectful infestation of plastic-encased dog poop.

All that aside, the Hadlock Community Forest is a flat, easy hike for the family, and connects to Blackstrap Hill Preserve and Rines Forest for those looking to create a longer hike that’s not all that far from Maine’s urban centers.

Blackstrap Hill Preserve

White Trail, Blackstrap Hill Preserve, Falmouth, Maine

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 Blackstrap Hill Preserve, along with the Blackstrap Community Forest, is comprised of two separate properties totaling almost 600 acres, owned by the Falmouth Land Trust (FLT) and the Town of Falmouth, and divided by north and south. On a mid-March day, I parked at the Blackstrap Community Forest parking lot on Blackstrap Road, where there is a parking lot and map kiosk (see the FLT website for a map), and completed a loop of about 4.2 miles in a little under two hours, using the White Trail, Waterfall Trail, Red Trail, Greenline Trail, Saw Whet Trail, and Cross-Cut Trail. The Preserve is also accessible from a trailhead further up Blackstrap Road (same as for North Falmouth Community Forest), just north of Babbidge Road, as well as another small parking lot off Hurricane Road. A connector to the east (from the River Trail) extends to the Hadlock Community Forest, as well.

Waterfall Trail, Blackstrap Hill Preserve, Falmouth, Maine

After a short walk across the grassy field to the White Loop Trail, I put on micro spikes to deal with the icy footing. The White Loop Trail led to the Waterfall spur trail, marked with purple blazes, which added about .7 miles out and back, with the pleasant sound of the creek leading downhill. The waterfall was not so much one massive torrent, but a pleasing series of cascades, and would be a nice, easy hike for young children in warmer months.

Blackstrap Hill Preserve, Falmouth, Maine

I returned to the White Loop Trail, continuing a counter-clockwise loop to the Red Trail, which was wide and sunken, making it a sort of frozen river in the winter melt. At the Red Trail intersection with the Yellow Trail (which I bypassed), you can begin to hear the highway again. The trail network is mostly self-correcting, with maps at major intersections, but placards have been torn or blown down from several stands along the way.

Blackstrap Hill Preserve, Falmouth, Maine

I turned left by a lazy bend in the West Branch of the Piscataqua River to take the Greenline Trail toward the Saw Whet Trail. The Saw Whet climbs a ridge next to a marshy area, and is not particularly well-marked, but I eventually re-acquired some white blazes, eventually returning to the Red Trail and then the White Trail, which widened out for the loop back to the parking lot.

Blackstrap Hill Preserve, Falmouth, Maine

North Falmouth Community Forest

North Falmouth Community Forest at Blackstrap Road trailhead, Falmouth, ME

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.

Hurricane Valley Overlook, Poplar Ridge Trail, North Falmouth Community Forest

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.

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Hamilton Audobon Sanctuary (West Bath, ME)

Mud flats of Back Cove from Red Trail, Hamilton Audobon Sanctuary, West Bath, Maine

The Hamilton Audobon Sanctuary, located near Foster Point in West Bath, Maine, contains about 93 acres of forest, marshes, and mud flats, with miles of looping trails surrounded by wide views of the New Meadows River and its Back Cove. Parking is located at 681 Fosters Point Road in West Bath, where there is a lot, map kiosk and composting toilet, open each day from dawn to dusk. Check out the map and guide at Audobon’s website (Note: dogs are not allowed at Hamilton Audobon). These trails are level, well-marked, and easy.

Light through the forest, Hamilton Audobon Sanctuary, West Bath, Maine

The sanctuary is named after Millicent Hamilton, who lived on the land on which it now sits until her 1986 death, and who gave the property to the Maine Audobon Society. I started the Red Trail in a wide field with views of the river and the chattering sound of chickadees, blue jays, and woodpeckers, the trail marked by posts along the margins of the field. A foot bridge leads across a creek to the Blue Trail, which starts in a crowded wood, making its way to Back Cove Point. I had the trail mostly to myself, and the shoreline was quiet and empty with the exception of a few early morning clamdiggers on the flats.

Back Cove grasses, Hamilton Audobon Sanctuary, West Bath, Maine
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Devil’s Back Trail (Harpswell, ME)

Gun Point Cove from Devil’s Back Area trails, Harpswell, ME

The Devil’s Back Trail area in Harpswell, Maine, is another jewel managed by the Town of Harpswell. This rugged but narrow area straddles Route 24 on the way to Orr’s Island, with the east side overlooking Gun Point Cove, and the west on Long Cove. The Town of Harpswell has descriptions and a trail map here, and there is an excellent treatment of this hike in Maine Hikes off the Beaten Path.

Devil’s Back Area, Harpswell, ME

The trails depart from a small parking lot, and contain matching butterfly wing or infinity loops (whichever comparison you prefer) on each side of 24, totaling about 2.5 miles (I take every side trail and viewpoint). I started to the east on a January morning, descending the winding and narrow path to immediate ocean views on the Gun Point Cove Loop. The path was empty, with only the sound of the crashing winter waves and I watched a variety of seabirds bobbing slowly up and down on the tide.

Long Cove from Devil’s Back Area, Harpswell, ME
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Cliff Walk at Prouts Neck (Scarborough, Maine)

Cliff Walk at Prouts Neck, Scarborough, Maine
Cliff Walk at Prouts Neck, Scarborough, Maine

(Update January 17, 2021: From spring to early summer 2020, this trail was temporarily closed, and was re-opened with distancing requirements. Hikers have advised that the Prouts Neck Association has requested that this route be walked in a clockwise direction, ending at the gate by the Winslow Homer House. In order to accomplish this, hikers should walk from Black Point Road across Seal Rock Drive, and begin the Cliff Walk by the Scarborough Beach Club. As directed below, please respect private property, obey any posted signage, and turn around if the gates are closed.)

If you like dramatic cliffs, ocean views, rocky beaches and stunning homes, this may be your walk! The residents at Prouts Neck in Scarborough, Maine harbor a secret gem in their gated community – but fret not – while the entrances are hidden and parking is complicated, it is still possible (and legal) to walk variations of the same 1-mile route that Winslow Homer did, even if you are not an “insider.”

This is definitely categorized as a Sunday stroll-type of walk, a walk with a good friend that you haven’t seen in a while or a lone walk with a camera or sketch book. The uneven terrain and sometimes narrow path demand a leisurely pace. The smell of rugosa roses, the salty ocean breeze and the lobster boats are center stage and require frequent pauses. The views are unbeatable. The only problem is logistics. Below we will describe how to safely and lawfully enjoy a hike in summer, or even winter, from the Black Point Inn (45 minutes to an hour) or a longer “lollipop” loop from Ferry Beach (3.7 miles, about an hour and a half).

Western Cove from Black Point Road, Prouts Neck, Scarborough, Maine
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Mackworth Island (Falmouth, ME)

Halfway Rock and Great Diamond Island from Mackworth Island, Falmouth, ME

Mackworth Island, connected to the Falmouth mainland by a causeway off Andrews Avenue, is a State Park donated to the State of Maine in 1946 by Governor Percival Baxter for state public purposes and “as a sanctuary for wild beasts and birds.” The island, which also contains the Baxter School for the Deaf, is open daily 9 am to sunset. Parking is limited, so have a backup plan (the nearby Gilsland Farm Audobon is nice), or be prepared to wait. The visitor fee is currently $3 for Maine residents, $4 for non-Maine residents, and $1 for non-resident seniors and children 5-11 (Maine residents over 65 and children under 5 are free). An outhouse is available by the parking lot.

Mackworth Island, Falmouth, ME

The flat, easy trail (handicap-accessible) that rings the island for about 1.4 miles is maintained by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, and the rocky beach surrounding the island is fun to explore, particularly at low tide. You will see seagulls and osprey, and the eastern end of Portland across the bay, as well as Fort Gorges and the islands. You won’t need a trail map, but if you are into those, you can find them at Portland Trails website or the Maine State Parks and Lands site for Mackworth Island.

Casco Bay through the trees, Mackworth Island, Falmouth, ME
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