I reach for the leash, and his tail starts wagging. His tail — a long, black wiry thing, tipped with white as if dipped in a can of primer — tells me things Oreo simply cannot say.
Oreo — like the cookie. I don’t know who gave him the name, but it suits him. We adopted Oreo, some sort of black-and-white pit bull mix, from a local animal shelter. He’s super cute and super energetic. And since May, he’s been my frequent hiking companion.
Thump, thump, thump. His tail smacks the floor as he sits attentively at my feet. His body quivers with excitement as I snap the leash onto his bright harness. And as we walk to the car, his body sways side to side, thrown off balance by his overexcited tail.
Since Oreo entered my life, new questions pop into my head every day. So I decided to share much of what I’ve learned about dogs in the outdoors in “Let the Dog Out,” a series about (you guessed it) dogs in the outdoors, which I post weekly on my BDN Maine blog, “Act Out With Aislinn,” and which also runs in the Bangor Daily News Saturday Outdoors section. A woman with answers, I am not, but I do have plenty of stories to tell, conundrums to discuss and second-hand knowledge to pass along.
There is one thing I know for certain: Oreo likes to go outside. His tail tells me so. And in our short time together, we’ve already found a number of beautiful and fun trails to explore. The following 10 places are just a few examples of the many wilderness areas you can explore with your dog in Maine:
Great Pond Mountain Wildlands in Orland totals more than 2,300 acres and includes several multi-use roads and trails, and dogs on leash are allowed on all of these roads and trails except for Hothole Brook Trail and Great Meadow Trail, due to an abundance of porcupines on those two trails. Great Pond Mountain and Flagg Hill are two great hikes for dogs and offer stunning views at the top. Access is free. For information, visit greatpondtrust.org.
Petit Manan Point Division of the Coastal Maine Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Steuben is a 2,166-acre refuge featuring two interpretive hiking trails — the Hollingsworth Trail (a 1.5-mile loop) and the Birch Point Trail (about 4 miles round trip) — that are open to the public, and dogs on leash, dawn to dusk. The trails lead walkers through a variety of habitat, from coastal raised heath peatlands to blueberry barrens to cobble beaches. Interpretive signs help hikers understand their surroundings. Access is free. For information, visit fws.gov/refuges.
Pineland Public Reserved Land includes more than 600 acres in the towns of Gray, North Yarmouth and New Gloucester. In this beautiful forest, your dog will enjoy some challenging sections along the 3.2 miles of loop trails. On the north side of Depot Road is the 1.7-mile North Loop Trail, and on the south side of the road is the 1.5-mile South Loop Trail. Access is free. For information, visit mainetrailfinder.com/trail/pineland-public-reserved-land/.
Cliff Trail on Great Island is 2.3-mile loop trail near the highest point of Harpswell. On the trail, you can lead your dog through beautiful forest and up to 150-foot cliffs with spectacular views of Long Reach, where you may want to choke up on the leash. And I’m sure your pup will enjoy helping you find natural materials to build a fairy house in one of the two zones along the trail designated for fairy houses. And if that’s not enough exercise for your pup, there are several other dog-friendly trails in Harpswell. Access is free. For information, visit healthymainewalks.com/walks/cliff-trail.
Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island contains an extensive, if not daunting, network of trails and multi-use roads that help visitors and their leashed dogs explore the many mountains, lakes, ponds and beaches of the park. Choose a route among the 120 miles of hiking trails and 28 miles of carriage roads, but for your dog’s sake, shy away from Precipice Trail, Beehive and other trails that include ladders and rungs. One dog-friendly suggestion: Gorham Mountain. Admission varies depending on duration of use, time of year and vehicle. For information, visit nps.gov/acad/index.htm.
Alewive Woods Preserve in Kennebunk is about 625 acres of forested land and the 45-acre Alewive Pond, conserved by the Kennebunk Land Trust in 1990. The preserve’s trial network, which is open to dogs if on a leash, totals 2.5 miles of multiuse trails (mountain biking, skiing, hiking, snowshoeing) that are easy to moderate in difficulty. And if your dog doesn’t get all his energy out there, take him to another one of the trust’s nearby preserves, such as Wonder Brook-Murphy Preserve (with its 2.5-mile trail network) or The Secret Garden (with its 1.5 miles loop trail). For information, visit kennebunklandtrust.org.
Aroostook State Park in Presque Isle is Maine’s first state park, established in 1939 as a 100-acre parcel. Today, the park totals nearly 800 acres thanks to land donations and purchases. In addition to Quaggy Jo Mountain, the park encompases Echo Lake. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash and are not allowed on the ski trails in the winter. Admission to the park varies depending on age and residency from free to $3. For information, visit www.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/doc/parksearch/index.pl.
Scraggly Lake Public Reserved Land in T7 R8 WELS lies just northeast of Baxter State Park (where pets are prohibited) and includes a campground, a hiking trail and boat launch for visitors and their dogs. The 10,000 acres of heavily forested land features Scraggly Lake and a number of ponds, brooks and bogs. The Owl’s Head Trail, which leaves from Scraggly Lake Road, is a 4-mile hike, round trip. Access is free. For information, visit mainetrailfinder.com/Trail/scraggly-lake-public-reserved-land-owls-head-trail.
Mt. Blue State Park in Weld, more than 8,000 acres of state-owned public land, is Maine’s largest state park — a lot to explore. Take your pooch on the popular day hike of the 3,187-foot Mt. Blue, or if you’re looking for something less strenuous, try the hike to the top of Center Hill or check out some of the park’s 25 miles of multiuse trails. And if you’re still looking for more trails, the Tumbledown Public Lands, with more than 10 miles of hiking trails. For information, search for Mt. Blue at maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/doc/parksearch/index.pl.
Bauneg Beg Mountain Conservation Area in North Berwick is 89 acres and includes the 866-foot tall Bauneg Beg Mountain, which has three peaks and offers a panoramic view, according to the Great Works Regional Land Trust, which conserved the property in 2001. The Bauneg Beg Trail winds through the forest, then up through a large boulder section called “Devil’s Den” and on to the highest peak, according to GWRLT. The hiking trails, Ginny’s Way, Tom’s Way, Linny’s Way, and North Peak Loop also explore the mountain. Dogs are permitted on all trails. Access is free. For information, visit gwrlt.org.