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.

Sprague Pond Loop Trail, Basin Preserve (Phippsburg, ME)

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Seam of green moss surrounding stream, Basin Preserve, Phippsburg, ME
The Sprague Pond Loop Trail through the Basin Preserve in Phippsburg, ME, is a quiet hike through diverse coastal woodland.  The Basin Preserve consists of over 1800 acres in Phippsburg, Maine, from land donated anonymously to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in 2006, and adjoins the Sprague Pond Preserve, maintained by the Phippsburg Land Trust. Trail maps of this rolling hike, featuring ridges, mixed hardwood, coastal pitch pine woodland, shrub marsh, and a 10-acre spring-fed pond, are available for download on the TNC website.
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Ridge covered in sunlight and blueberry plants, Basin Preserve, Phippsburg, ME
On a warm spring day, we took the Loop Trail, from the Burnt Ledge Loop trailhead on Basin Road and a portion of the Meditation Trail along Sprague Pond for a 5.8 mile loop (appx 2.5 hrs). Basin Road is closed for winter maintenance until April 15th, and trails (open sunrise to sunset) can also be accessed from the Sprague Pond Preserve trailhead on Route 209.
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Spring runoff in wooded stream, Basin Preserve, Phippsburg, ME
Take time at the Basin Road trailhead to read the sign next to the fenced-in area opposite the trail, where TNC and the Maine Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation maintain a seed orchard, where they are attempting to a produce a blight-resistant chestnut adapted to Maine’s climate. The Sprague Pond Loop Trail is a lollipop loop that divides at Burnt Ledge, and we chose the counter-clockwise loop, heading first down the western side of the trail.
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Rocky terrain and mixed vegetation, Basin Preserve, Phippsburg, ME
This well-marked path, covered in pine needles, winds up and down small ridges, which are covered in blueberry plants.  Despite the recent rains and swollen streams due to snow melt, the trails were dry and well-maintained.  A few fallen trees made for brief scrambles/detours, but this was the exception, rather than the rule.
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Canada geese, south end of Sprague Pond, Phippsburg, ME
We saw and heard songbirds and squirrels throughout the hike, but the animal life peaked at Sprague Pond, where we saw mallard ducks, a great blue heron, Canada geese, a circling bird of prey (unidentified), and a garter snake enjoying the sunny Meditation Trail. Shortly after the pond, a beaver dam and lodge were visible, and a spring torrent fed a rocky waterfall next to the trail.
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Waterfall near Sprague Pond, Phippsburg, ME
After the waterfall, the eastern side of the loop was primarily a mixed hardwood forest, open and light-filled, with desiccated beech leaves rattling in the wind, chattering squirrels and silent birches awaiting spring.  This serene coastal woodland preserve offers a nearly six mile uninterrupted walk through pines, moss, blueberries, and birdsong.  

(Note: no pets or bikes are allowed on the trail)

Rumford Whitecap (Rumford, ME)

View west from the Starr Trail, Rumford Whitecap
View west from the Starr Trail, Rumford Whitecap

Rumford Whitecap Mountain (2,214 ft) in Rumford is accessible through trails maintained by the Mahoosuc Land Trust (MLT), for a 5.4 mile out/back to the summit on the Orange Trail (or slightly longer using the Starr and Orange Trails), or a longer traverse over Black Mountain via the Black/White Trail (requires spotting a car).  MLT’s website advertises Rumford Whitecap as a four-season destination for hiking, snowshoeing, and back country skiing, with blueberries in the summer.

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Forest “gateway” descending the Orange Trail, Rumford Whitecap Mountain, Maine.

I have ascended via the Connector to the Starr Trail (marked with yellow blazes and flagging tape), and returned via the Orange Trail, and would suggest this route (or its reverse) for the views, rather than just the Orange Trail.  I used the guidebooks Maine Mountain Guide and Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path for detailed trail maps and descriptions.  You can also find a map on the AllTrails app or Maine Trailfinder (link at the MLT website above).

(COVID-19 note: the Mahoousuc Land Trust advises on its website: “Our trails and preserves remain open, and are a great way to get fresh air and exercise. . . Please carefully adhere to these State restrictions and guidelines, and note that parking lot and trail closures will result if crowding occurs or the required distancing is not maintained.)

Spring waterfalls on the Connector between the Starr and Red/Orange Trails, Rumford Whitecap
Spring waterfalls on the Connector between the Starr and Red/Orange Trails, Rumford Whitecap

Both trails, divided by a pleasantly running brook in a valley between them, were muddy, but well-maintained.  The Connector crossed the brook, with spring runoff created small waterfalls along the way.  Rains can create a morning fog, but also spur the growth of a variety of May wildflowers from the trailhead to the summit.

Spring wildflowers, Rumford Whitecap, Rumford, Maine
Spring wildflowers, Rumford Whitecap, Rumford, Maine

The Starr Trail transitions from a grassy woods road to a winding climb, becoming more strenuous as the deciduous forest changes to a more sparse, rocky pine forest, and opens up on ledges with spectacular views of the Mahoosucs and White Mountains.

Descent out of the woods into the clouds on the Starr Trail, Rumford Whitecap
Descent out of the woods into the clouds on the Starr Trail, Rumford Whitecap

After the junction with the Orange Trail, the summit is only about another .5 miles, hopping over small cool rivulets of water running down the exposed rock face.  Close to the summit last May, there was what appeared to be a large deposit of bear poop, but a quick look around didn’t disclose any prints.  The summit itself is open in all directions, and a great spot for a picnic.

The long summit ridge of Rumford Whitecap
The long summit ridge of Rumford Whitecap

After a brief rest at the summit to enjoy the view and chew on some jerky, I headed back down the Orange Trail.  The trail ran like a creek in places, with the spring rains, and remains diverted for a section.  The hike can take about two to two and-a-half hours, with plenty of stops to listen to birdsong, inspect wildflowers, watch bumblebees at work, and pick up and inspect pieces of quartz.

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

Hiking in Maine can be an activity that is Social, but Distancing

With the temporary closure of schools and businesses, the uncertainty in the air, and the moratorium on group activities in many places, the universal mood seems to be a somber one, at best. But, with care, resolve, and education (try this article on social distancing), a more sanguine view can prevail. What is a healthy thing to do that requires relative isolation – six feet of separation with non-family members, and no direct contact with surfaces that might contain lingering viruses?

Six feet of separation is easy to maintain on a trail.

Hiking, in its many forms, needs no more cheerleading for its holistic wellness benefits. But getting outside for mental health has never been more important. Here in Portland, Maine, schools will be closed until at least the end of April, a stay-at-home order has been issued, and non-essential businesses are temporarily closing. These actions, and others, can all have degenerative ripple effects on time, and on physical and mental health, if we let them.

Observation bench, Mariaville Falls Preserve, ME
Observation bench, Mariaville Falls Preserve, ME

First, breathe. We were fortunate to be born in a country with the infrastructure and prosperity to get through this. Here in Maine, we are less-densely populated than most other places, surrounded by an embarrassment of natural riches in the form of the coast, lakes, and mountains.

Second, prioritize. Number one is the safety of you and your family, and others in the community at large. Follow directives of the Maine CDC. The National Recreation and Park Association has issued a helpful statement, with guidelines on social distancing while using parks and open space. And be ready to turn around. Ironically, outdoor spaces have become more crowded. As of March 26, York had closed down its beaches after a crush of people showed up, and Maine closed selected coastal state parks until April 8 due to overcrowding. Acadia National Park has closed facilities indefinitely to discourage out-of-state visitors. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has requested that all hikers stay off the trail for at least two weeks, due to unprecedented crowding that is “the opposite of social distancing.”

Got all the spacing, sanitizing, and trail closures down? Great. Now pick your hike. Stay local. Try this article by Carey Kish on a Dozen Great Hikes to Celebrate Maine’s Bicentennial. Use Portland Trails’ great online maps to grab something closer to Portland. Try AllTrails, MaineByFoot or MaineTrailFinder. Find a land trust in Maine. Or look at our interactive map and trail guide.

Top Five Easy Nature Fixes within about an hour of Portland?

Cliff Walk at Prout’s Neck (Scarborough) (As of March 26, 2020, this appears to be closed due to COVID-19)

Morse Mountain/Seawall Beach (Phippsburg) (As of March 29, 2020, this is closed to the public due to COVID-19)

Burnt Meadow Mountain (Brownfield)

Fore River Sanctuary (Portland)

Mill Brook Preserve (Westbrook)

Remember- these are close, and popular, and may be crowded. The Portland Press Herald also just published a list of wild lands for exploration during this strange time.

Looking across Elbow Pond to Mt O-J-I and Barren Mountain, Baxter State Park
Looking across Elbow Pond to Mt O-J-I and Barren Mountain, Baxter State Park

Again, check state and local guidelines on the trails or parks you are using. Some may be closed due to COVID-19, some may just be closed to protect trails during mud season. The best source of information is the maintainer of the trails, whether that be a government agency, a municipality, a land trust, or a non-profit.

The point is not some Instagram-worthy photo opportunity, it’s fresh air and time in nature, so don’t sweat the surroundings. Baxter Woods or Evergreen Cemetery are great places to walk. If you can’t make it way out onto remote trails, there are other outdoor options. Last weekend, dad and daughter took advantage of the sunny weather, using Portland Trails and the East Coast Greenway to safely walk ten-plus miles to Wainwright Fields in South Portland.

Check out this Press Herald article on what to do when your plans are cancelled due to virus restrictions. Look at this Bangor Daily News feature on educational outdoor family activities. And if you are looking for educational opportunities outdoors for children during closures, try Learning on the Trails, a “pop-up virtual, trail-based education initiative” by filling out this form for Portland Trails.

This is not meant to be a flippant article, but suggestions specific to getting outdoors in the Portland area. People are deeply affected by this pandemic. Post-hike, consider getting takeout or delivery from a local restaurant – Portland’s Old Port has an updated list of businesses where this is available, as does Portland Food Map. The best place to look for where to help is at your friends and neighbors, but donations of money or time to places like Preble Street or national charities like the Salvation Army or Meals on Wheels can help those less fortunate.

The Portland Press Herald also recently featured a list of ways to help in your community during the pandemic.

So see you on the trail. We won’t get closer than six feet, but we will wave and say hi, and we’ll get through this together.

(Note: we will be updating this post as new opportunities develop)

Mill Brook Preserve South (Westbrook, ME)

Mill Brook Preserve South, a 32-acre annex/extension of the Mill Brook Preserve, opened its trails in October 2019, and has a 1.5 mile easy lollipop loop for hiking, running, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing, ending in a short spur trail with the opportunity to view the annual migration of the alewives in late May and June. As with the Mill Brook Preserve, the best information and trail map can be found at the website of the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust, which holds this land, and coordinates the 28-mile Sebago to the Sea Trail.

Kiosk at Mill Brook Preserve South trailhead, Millbrook Estates, Westbrook, Maine

The Mill Brook Preserve South trailhead is located next to well-marked parking spaces in the Millbrook Estates (300 E. Bridge St, Westbrook). We hiked the loop and the spur a couple times in February 2020, an easy hike of about forty minutes. The trail was packed snow, with softer snow on the margins, and I would suggest traction devices (Yaktrax or microspikes) to avoid slipping and sliding.

Edge of forest at southwest end of Mill Brook Preserve South adjoining cattle farm, Westbrook, Maine

We saw woodpeckers and red squirrels, as well as the tracks of deer. Dogs are allowed on the trail, but must be leashed, especially in the portion next to the working cattle farm (you will see signs). The beginning of the trail is next to a horse farm, so children may enjoy seeing these domesticated animals, if you strike out with woodland creatures.

Mill Brook in winter, Mill Brook Preserve South, Westbrook, Maine

The spur trail midway through the loop leads downhill to Mill Brook, and on this winter visit, the flow was mostly under a sheet of ice, with an open area close to the near bank. In early summer, this area can be a great spot to watch the alewives run (and a midway picnic stop with smaller kids).

Mill Brook in winter, Mill Brook Preserve South, Westbrook, Maine

As in its northern sister preserve, navigation along the trails is forgiving and self-correcting, with maps posted at critical intersections throughout the Preserve.

Fore River Sanctuary (Portland, ME)

On a cold but sunny February day, we hiked Portland, Maine’s Fore River Sanctuary and Jewell Falls via the Forest City Trail and Railroad Loop from the Hillcrest Trailhead, an easy lollipop loop of about 1.2 miles (35 minutes). This preserve, maintained by Portland Trails, is 85 acres of nature inside Maine’s largest city, and contains a waterfall, as well as a lowland marsh area popular with bird watchers. Portland Trails has a digital map page with links to every type of map you would want for completing this hike, and any other in their network.

Portland Trails kiosk at Hillcrest Trailhead

This winter weekend day, we did not see many birds, but many people enjoying the trail with their dogs. The trail was hard-packed snow, with icy sections, and Yaktrax, microspikes, or other traction devices would be advisable. We took a short loop, but the preserve has 5.6 miles of trails, so many other routes are possible.

Jewell Falls, Fore River Sanctuary, Portland, ME

It is a short walk from the Hillcrest trailhead to Jewell Falls, the star attraction of the preserve. Tactically, for those with small children, it may make more sense to use the Rowe Avenue or Starbird Road trailheads, and loop counterclockwise, so that Jewell Falls is the big payoff in the second half of the hike. Jewell Falls in winter is a white cascade of ice, snow, rock, water, and sound, and we picked our way down the stone steps next to the falls to watch and listen.  The falls are named for Tom Jewell, a Portland Trails founder, whose family donated the land around the falls to Portland Trails.

Fore River Sanctuary, Portland, Maine

The winter woods on the Forest City Trail were open and quiet, punctuated by the scampering of red squirrels. This icy path led down across the railroad tracks to the lowland marsh, where water carved its passage through the salty hummocks, a pleasant place to watch for wildlife.

Fore River Sanctuary, Portland, Maine

Crossing back over the railroad tracks, we completed the clockwise loop, stopping briefly again by Jewell Falls to observe the wintry paths of water, before returning to the Hillcrest Street trailhead.

Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve (Lovell, ME)

The Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve consists of over 800 acres in Lovell, Maine, preserved and maintained for public use by the Greater Lovell Land Trust (GLLT) –  see GLLT map here.  A detailed description of trails is also available in the AMC Maine Mountain Guide.  While snowmobiles are allowed in winter on marked trails, I didn’t see any on the sunny February Sunday I visited.  I followed an easy to moderate (double, triple?) lollipop loop for about 4.6 miles (appx 2 hours, 886 feet of elevation gain), summiting Amos Mountain (955 ft) and Whiting Hill (801 ft) via the Blue, Orange, Yellow and Red trails.

Icy mill dam outlet of Heald Pond, Lovell, ME
Icy mill dam outlet of Heald Pond, Lovell, ME

From the (well-plowed) parking lot on Slab City Road, it is a short downhill walk to the Blue Trail, past the southern outlet of Heald Pond.  Informational kiosks are at the parking area and at the beginning of the Blue Trail, additionally, small placards at trail intersections, each with a laminated trail map, make navigation self-correcting (“You Are Here” is difficult to screw up).

I wore snowshoes the entire route, and once off the snowmobile trail, was breaking trail through the deep, crusty snow.  While the snowshoes made for enhanced mobility, the rasp and stomp of my steps eliminated my chances of seeing much wildlife.  I was lucky enough to see a large pileated woodpecker, and the signs in the snow of others – the soft tread of foxes, the larger, circling tread of coyotes, the bouncing tread of deer, and the deeper, larger crescents left by moose.

Mt Washington wreathed in clouds from Amos Mountain viewpoint, Lovell, ME
Mt Washington wreathed in clouds from Amos Mountain viewpoint, Lovell, ME

I bypassed Whiting Hill on the way out, sticking to the west shore of Heald Pond on the Red Dot Trail, and clambering down the Otter Rocks Spur briefly to look at the frozen lake, and the sole visible ice fishing shack.  As I was solo, wearing snowshoes, and shoreline ice is often the most treacherous, I didn’t venture out on the frozen pond.  Continuing gradually uphill, I reached the intersection with the Chestnut Trail (blue blazes), and turned left, towards the Heritage Loop Trail (orange blazes), and a broad circle of the summit of Amos Mountain.

Summit cairns and bench, Amos Mountain, Lovell, ME
Summit cairns and bench, Amos Mountain, Lovell, ME

To the west of the summit is a viewpoint, just short of the Rogers Family Trail (blue blazes), with views of the Whites, with Mt. Washington as a centerpiece.  The wooded summit of Amos Mountain contains rock cairns and a bench, with views to the southwest.

Kezar Lake and the Whites from Whiting Hill summit, Lovell, ME
Kezar Lake and the Whites from Whiting Hill summit, Lovell, ME

I descended Amos Mountain to the Hemlock Loop Trail, and a small picnic area, then headed towards Whiting Hill and its loop back to the start of the trail and the parking area.  Whiting Hall has a more open summit, with views to the West of Kezar Lake and the White Mountains beyond, and an easy downhill walk ended at Slab City Road.

This would also be a beautiful fall hike, but I enjoyed having the place mostly to myself in the snow.  Parking areas on Route 5 and Heald Pond Road can also be used to shorten the hike for children or the less mobile – see the GLLT map for locations.  This Reserve is not far from Sabattus Mountain, and the post-hike stops available in Lovell are the same – the Center Lovell Market, for picnic supplies and a restaurant, and (after checking seasonal hours) Ebenezer’s Pub for food and Belgian beer.

Mount Tom (Fryeburg, ME)

In January 2020, I hiked Mount Tom (1,073 ft) via the West Ridge Trail, an approximately 3.5 mile out-and-back from the parking lot for Mount Tom Preserve at Menotomy Road in Fryeburg, which took about an hour and fifteen minutes.  Like Hawk Mountain and Mount Tire’m, which I did earlier the same day, this is a short but rewarding Oxford Hills hike.  This can also be done as an approximately 4-mile loop hike by continuing after the summit to the Mount Tom Trail, then returning south on Menotomy Road, which is usually relatively quiet, to the start point.

Kiosk and start of West Ridge Trail from Nature Conservancy parking lot, Mount Tom Preserve, Fryeburg, Maine.
Kiosk and start of West Ridge Trail from Nature Conservancy parking lot, Mount Tom Preserve, Fryeburg, Maine.

This parking lot, and the Preserve, which includes the summit, are maintained by The Nature Conservancy (TNC).  TNC’s excellent description of the Preserve follows:

Mt. Tom Preserve protects a silver and red maple floodplain along the Saco River, and includes the rocky summit of Mount Tom at 1,040 feet in elevation. The 995-acre preserve spans the Saco River and boasts over 3,500 feet of river frontage. Several day-use hiking trails provide recreational opportunities, as does as a 1.14 mile seasonal snowmobile trail that is part of a larger network maintained by the Interstate Sno-goers. Visitors can summit Mt. Tom, canoe along the Saco River, or just walk through the beautiful forests!

River terrace forests support clean water for resident native fish, invertebrates, and other animals that use river beaches. The floodplains provide excellent habitat for spotted salamanders and several species of turtles, with a lush understory of sensitive fern and royal fern. Two regionally rare birds–the golden eagle and peregrine falcon–have been regularly sighted near the rocky cliffs of Mt. Tom, during the breeding season. Two rare plants–the fern-leaved false foxglove and smooth sandwort–have also been found within the dry oak-hickory forest on the south facing slope of the mountain, and old eastern red cedars dot the hillside.

View south from West Ridge Trail, Mount Tom, Fryeburg, Maine.
View south from West Ridge Trail, Mount Tom, Fryeburg, Maine.

The West Ridge Trail, marked by white blazes and small TNC emblems, rolls across that floodplain, crossing small brooks, passing ghostly birches and large rock formations, until becoming steep about a mile in.

West Ridge Trail, Mount Tom Preserve, Fryeburg, Maine.
West Ridge Trail, Mount Tom Preserve, Fryeburg, Maine.

The trail ascends the ridge, with frequent views through clearings in the trees, to meet the Mount Tom Trail, at which point, it turns right, and shortly thereafter, reaches the summit and its rocky ledges and views.

Mount Tom summit, Fryeburg, Maine.
Mount Tom summit, Fryeburg, Maine.

The descent in winter was easy, with microspikes, and I saw several other groups, all with dogs, ascending the trail on my way back.  An added benefit in winter was the lack of bugs, which would be omnipresent in the late spring and early summer in the first portion of the trail.  This hike may be challenging for very young or out-of-condition hikers, but presents an easy to moderate walk in the woods, with views to the south of the Saco River Valley.

West Ridge Trail in winter, Mount Tom Preserve, Fryeburg, Maine.
West Ridge Trail in winter, Mount Tom Preserve, Fryeburg, Maine.