Pineland Public Reserved Lands

North Loop, Pineland Public Reserved Lands, New Gloucester, ME

The Pineland Public Reserved Lands trailhead is located in New Gloucester, Maine, just south of the Pineland Farms complex on Depot Road, with year-round trails on either side of the road making a figure-eight loop, with Depot Road as the fulcrum at the center. The Lands themselves consist of over 600 acres of undeveloped forest in New Gloucester, Gray, and North Yarmouth. The best maps and descriptions can be found on Maine Trail Finder or Maine By Foot. The southern end of the trails connects to a much longer network of Pineland Corridor mixed use trails leading to Bradbury Mountain State Park, used primarily in the summer by mountain bikers.

Fall colors on North Loop, Pineland Public Reserved Lands, New Gloucester, ME

We completed this leisurely 3.2-mile loop in about an hour and twenty minutes in early October’s peak foliage, taking the northern (1.7 mi) and then southern (1.5 mi) loops each in a clockwise direction before returning to the trailhead. The trailhead is marked by a prominent brown sign on Depot Road with a pine tree on it, with a wide dirt/gravel parking area. A picnic area is adjacent to the trailhead. Plank walkways cover low or wet areas in the North Loop path, as the trail winds mostly downhill through mixed forest, with abundant ferns. Crows, black-capped chickadees, and blue jays called loudly through the widely-spaced trees.

Royal River rail bridge, North Loop, Pineland Public Reserved Lands, New Gloucester, ME

The blue-blazed North Loop crosses a couple pleasant brooks before reaching their outlet, with a 350-foot spur trail leading to the Royal River. Here, a rail bridge spanned the quiet flow, and the conically chewed signs of beaver activity were evident. A slight uphill grade led back toward Depot Road, which we carefully crossed to access the South Loop.

North Loop, Pineland Public Reserved Lands, New Gloucester, ME

This trail opened up substantially around a large area that looked like a former gravel pit or quarry, then became more narrow upon crossing an old logging road, leading back towards Depot Road, with Town Farm Road bounding the Lands to the west. Maine Trail Finder lists this as a fairly busy trail, particularly on weekend days, and there was plenty of foot traffic (both two- and four-footed), particularly on the North Loop. Upon return to the trailhead, we headed towards the Pineland Farms complex, where we had lunch at The Market at Pineland Farms, a great place for fresh soups, sandwiches, and baked goods.

Fall colors on South Loop, Pineland Public Reserved Lands, New Gloucester, ME

Florida Lake Loop

Tree swallows feeding by nesting boxes, Florida Lake, Freeport, Maine

Florida Lake Loop is part of a 167-acre property owned by the Town of Freeport since 2002, with trail maps available from the Freeport Conservation Trust. This 2.9 mile loop, using the orange Lake Loop and blue-blazed North Loop trails, skirts the edge of shallow Florida Lake, passing through wetlands and forest. The trails are accessible from a well-marked turnoff (blue sign for Florida Lake parking) off Route 125/Wardtown Road in north Freeport, leading to a small (six cars or so) parking lot. A map kiosk is located a short walk down the gravel trail towards Florida Lake (this map is faded, so the orange trail appears as yellow). This lake gets its name from the resemblance of its meandering finger-like shape to the familiar southern U.S. state.

Small pond off spur trail, Lake Loop Trail, Florida Lake, Freeport, ME

On the Easter Sunday we visited, mud season was very much in effect, necessitating waterproof boots and a certain agility in negotiating logs over standing water. The turtles sunning themselves on the small outlet of the lake gazed at us with exasperation, then slowly slide into the cold water, no doubt gurgling mild turtle swears as they dove. Nesting boxes line the lake itself, and tree swallows wheeled past our heads in blurs of blue-green and white, feeding and diving inside the small shelters.

Orange-blazed Lake Loop Trail, Florida Lake, Freeport, ME

Heading counter-clockwise around the orange trail, a small spur led to a secluded pond, and we doubled back through the muck to continue around Florida Lake. Princess pine lined the trail, and soon we encountered exotic bright green and reddish Northern Pitcher Plants in the wetlands to each side of the log bridges leading around the south side of the loop.

Pitcher plant, Lake Loop Trail, Florida Lake, Freeport, ME
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