Hikes to try near Cobscook Bay State Park

Posted July 14, 2010, at 8:32 a.m.

EDMUNDS – Only the road sign indicates a mountain lurks somewhere to westward.

Between Dennysville and Whiting, Route 1 passes through Edmunds Township, primarily known for Cobscook Bay State Park (a gem) and the Edmunds Unit, Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge (underutilized). For the driver, the temptation exists to whip along Route 1 and ignore the recreational possibilities that, except for the state park, receive scant marketing …

… including the trails on Bell Mountain and Crane Mountain.

Mountains in Edmunds? Isn’t the terrain along Route 1 relatively flat and forested?

Not so. Located within the Moosehorn boundaries are several low-slung mountains, such as Bell and Crane. Aptly identified by a road sign as “Bell Mountain Road,” the access road intersects Route 1 from the west exactly 0.3 miles south of the green steel bridge that carries the highway over Crane Brook in Edmunds. The access road is also 2.8 miles north of the Whiting General Store.

Turn left if headed north from Whiting, right if headed south from Dennysville. The gravel road curves slightly be-fore cutting through the woods to a grassy field, evidently utilized as a log yard in years past. The road continues west through a steel-pole gate; pull into a parking lot before the open gate and head toward a sign posted at forest edge.

Sign into the Bell Mountain guest book and then check out the sign, which indicates that Bell has two trails: “steeper,” arrowed left, and ‘‘gradual,’’ arrowed straight ahead.

Bear left. The blaze-marked trail climbs uphill over sphagnum moss-covered rocks, rising rapidly through the thick tree cover. A short distance into the hike, a hiker will pass a natural phenomenon: a cedar tree growing directly from a boulder. Cedars actually abound on Bell’s tumbled slopes and block all views except for a brief glimpse east to Tide Mill Farm, situated on salt water between Route 1 and Cobscook Bay.

Somewhere en route, the “steeper” trail crests the summit and transitions to the “gradual” trail, which circles Bell from the west. Tricky footing demands greater attention than during the ‘‘steeper’’ ascent — and the trail occasionally vanishes during sudden twists and turns. Watch carefully for the scattered blazes that mark the trail’s disjointed route to the Bell Mountain signpost.

The hike takes about 40 minutes.

Then drive west about a mile to park beneath Crane Mountain. Check out the trailhead sign, because as at Bell Mountain, the trail loops east and west. Either direction will re-turn hikers to the trailhead.

The West Trail rises gently through a sun-sprinkled spruce-fir forest containing scattered cedar. Not far above the parking lot, the woods thin along the granite slopes, and outstanding views open toward the forested hills flowing westward into interior Washington County. Covered by coniferous blankets occasionally slashed by granite shelves, the adjacent hills probably mirror Crane. Water sparkles at Eastern Lake to the northwest.

The trail then loops to the east, descending gradually across terrain less jungled than Bell’s. After crossing a clearing on the mountain’s southern slope, the trail angles sharply westward and descends to the parking lot.

A hike “around” Crane Mountain also takes about 40 minutes. The return drive to Route 1 takes perhaps five minutes.

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