Among the variety of benefits conserved land provides to the public, especially hikers, access to hiking trails is one of the most visible. Trails are one of the first pieces of infrastructure that most land trusts build to allow visitors to enjoy their property. To hikers, more miles of recreational trails are always better than fewer.
The fact that land trust properties even allow hiking, however, escapes some of us who lace up our boots. That’s too bad, because a random sample of the hiking opportunities on just a few land trust locations reveals just how special these places are for hikers.
What follows are a few of the more than 100 land trust properties that stretch from one corner of Maine to the other. Try any of these trails and you’re sure to be rewarded with outstanding landscapes, great views and, in some cases, challenging terrain for experienced hikers.
Coastal Mountains Land Trust
Coastal Mountains is a trust that conserves land on the western side of Penobscot Bay, in several towns from Prospect to Rockport. Some of its 8,953 acres scattered among those towns have trails, but not all. One of the best mountain hikes is found in the Hatchet Mountain Preserve in Hope. The trail is less than a mile to the top of Hatchet Mountain, elevation 1,079 feet, overlooking Hope village.
The trail is moderately difficult over an abandoned road that’s reverting to trail. The views from the top include Bald Mountain, Ragged Mountain and the mountains of Camden Hills State Park. Although the property is only 27 acres, the trip to the top of the mountain is a great little hike. There are also other hikes in the Coastal Mountains Land Trust worth checking out. Go to www.coastalmountains.org for regulations, trail maps and descriptions of all of their trails.
Directions to Hatchet Mountain: The preserve is located on Map 14 in the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer by DeLorme. It’s in the grid that runs from C2, C3, D2 and D3. From Camden take Washington Avenue, Route 105 for about 5 miles to an intersection with Route 235. Bear left and follow Route 235 for about a half-mile to the parking area on the right and the start of the trail.
Georges River Land Trust
Although you would never know it by its name, this land trust has mountain conserved property among its 13 holdings in several towns from Montville to St. George. Among them is Ragged Mountain in Rockport. The trail is a little over 2.5 miles, moderately difficult, to the open 1,200-foot summit with wild blueberries and rare alpine plants growing between bare ledges.
The trail climbs the mountain from the west side, while on the eastern slope is the Camden Snow Bowl, a lift-serviced ski area. There are radio towers on top, and looking westward from the summit it’s possible to see Mount Washington in New Hampshire.
The views are outstanding, and looking east includes Penobscot Bay, Rockland Harbor and Owls Head. The trail is part of the 40-mile-long Georges Highland Path that traverses several more mountains.
Directions to Ragged Mountain: Ragged Mountain is on Map 14 in the DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer, grid D3. From the north on Route 1, go through Camden toward Rockport. Just past the Rockport town line, take a right onto West Street. After a little more than 2 miles you come to Route 17. Turn left and drive a little more than 2 miles to the parking area on the right just past Mirror Lake, next to the road on the right.
For more information on all their properties with hiking trails go to www.grlt.org.
Blue Hill Heritage Trust
This trust includes Blue Hill Mountain, as you would expect from the name. It also holds several properties with trails in six towns. The 935-foot mountain is very popular with visitors, most of whom are local. It’s a prominent peak that rises over the village of Blue Hill. There are two main trails to the top, the Osgood and Hayes trails, both about a mile in length.
There’s also a short connector trail between the two. The views from the partially wooded top are of Mount Desert Island and the village of Blue Hill at the mountain’s base. The trails are easy to moderate in difficulty. For information on all of the trails within the trust’s properties go to www.bluehillheritagetrust.org.
Directions to Blue Hill Mountain: The trails are located on Map 15 in the DeLorme atlas, grid A4. However you get to Blue Hill, from Bucksport or Ellsworth, the trails are found on Mountain Road, just across from the west end of the Blue Hill Fairgrounds on Route 172. Drive down the road west for a little less than a mile. There’s a parking area on the left for the Hayes Trail. A little farther up Mountain Road is the trail for the Osgood Trail. There’s a pull-off for a couple of cars on the left.
There you have it, a few of the many land trust properties that offer hiking trails. For early spring hiking these unique mountains are tough to beat. Now if we could just get an early spring to go along with them. To find a complete list of all of the land trusts in the state with even more miles of trails, go to the Maine Land Trust Network at www.mltn.org.