Ledges Trail

Ledges Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

The Ledges Trail is accessed from the Middle Fowler Trail/Nature Trail trailhead kiosk a short walk north from the parking area of the South Branch Pond campground at Baxter State Park. This hike in the lesser-traveled northern part of the Park is fully described in the Maine Mountain Guide., and BSP’s downloadable South Branch Pond map covers the area. A left (north) turn at the Ledges Trail intersection after a third of a mile will take you up a wooded blue-blazed trail to the ledges facing west.

Ledges Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

On the way up, I disturbed a pair of large, colorful pileated woodpeckers, who voiced their collective displeasure, and flew off to other trees. The ledges provided a series of views over South Branch Ponds and South Branch Mountain and Black Cat Mountain, with changing September leaves.

Ledges Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

The Ledges Trail exits the woods about a half mile north of the campground, with a walk along the dirt and gravel road leading back to parking or the campground. This was a short lollipop loop from South Branch Pond campground, maybe a mile and a quarter total. I was moving quickly due to impending thunderstorms on my trip, but this hike will not take more than thirty to forty-five minutes.

Ledges Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

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Mt. Pisgah

Kennebec Land Trust kiosk at parking area, Mt. Pisgah, Winthrop, Maine

The Mt. Pisgah Community Conservation Area in Winthrop, Maine, is part of over 1,000 acres managed by the Kennebec Land Trust (KLT) and the Town of Winthrop. A trail map is available on the KLT website. The structure of the trails, all marked with blue blazes, makes a full loop impossible without re-tracing steps, but on a mid-October day, we chose to use the Tower Trail, Ledges Trail, and an easy .3 mile up and back on the Blueberry Trail to complete a satisfying 4-mile clockwise exploration of Mt. Pisgah in a little under two hours.

Twisted sugar maple on Tower Trail, Mt. Pisgah Conservation Area, Winthrop, Maine
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Pleasant Mountain (Bridgton, ME)

Dad and daughter atop Pleasant Mountain summit
Dad and daughter atop Pleasant Mountain summit

[Note: As of May 22, 2020, Pleasant Mountain Trails have been re-opened by Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT). You can read guidelines here.]

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 first 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, but have done it since in February.  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.

Winter morning view of Moose Pond from near Southwest Summit, Pleasant Mountain
Winter morning view of Moose Pond from near Southwest Summit, Pleasant Mountain

We have also 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.

Wood teepee near Southwest Summit, Pleasant Mountain
Wood teepee near Southwest Summit, Pleasant Mountain

 

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.

View of the White Mountains from Pleasant Mountain main summit
View of the White Mountains from Pleasant Mountain main summit

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.

Pleasant Mountain summit in winter, with observation tower guideline and Mount Washington in background
Pleasant Mountain summit in winter, with observation tower guideline and Mount Washington in background

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.