Difficulty: Moderate. A loop hike from the parking area to the top of Newman Hill is about 2 miles in total distance, and a loop hike of both Newman and Bangor hills is about 4 miles.
How to get there: Take I-95 Exit 191 (Kelley Road in Orono). Drive northwest on Kelley Road 0.5 mile to Stillwater Avenue. Turn right and drive 1.1 miles on Stillwater Avenue, then turn left onto Forest Avenue. Drive 1.4 miles, then turn right onto Taylor Road (also known as Dump Road). Drive 0.25 miles and take a left onto Putnam Road, which leads to the parking area.
Information: Trails leading to the summits of Newman and Bangor hills in Orono are located on conservation land owned and maintained by the Orono Land Trust. The property is one of several conservation lands that makes up the Caribou Bog Conservation Area.
To reach the trailhead of Newman Hill Trail, walk to the far end of the parking area and continue down Putnam Road. The trailhead is on the right, just a short distance beyond the gate.
Newman Hill Trail travels through a variety of terrain, including open fields, along ponds and through oak and pine forest on the 88-acre Newman Hill property, acquired by the Orono Land Trust in 2002.
Not far from the trailhead, you’ll reach a fork. Veer right and the trail crosses Taylor Road near Boulder Pond. The trail remains flat for a while, then rises gradually to the top of Newman Hill, which offer a partial view of Pushaw Lake. On the way to the top of the hill, you’ll come to a few other trail intersections. Always veer right. Maps and signs along the way will help you navigate, but it would be wise to bring a map.
From the rocky top of Newman Hill, the trail continues and reaches a trail intersection. Here, turn left to return to the parking area, a 2-mile loop hike; or turn right to hike to the top of Bangor Hill, a 4-mile loop hike. (There are several trails in the network that you can take to make either loop a bit shorter.)
If you choose to return to the parking lot without visiting Bangor Hill and would like to make it a loop hike that is approximately 2 miles long, continue on the Newman Hill Trail until it reaches a trail intersection. Turn left and hike to the old Veazie Railroad Bed, where you will turn left to hike back to the parking area.
If you choose to hike to the top of Bangor Hill, you’ll take Bangor Hill Snowshoe Trail, a narrow trail that travels through a beautiful evergreen forest. This trail leaves the Newman Hill property and enters the south Doiron property, acquired by the Orono Land Trust in 2013.
There are a few steep sections in the trail that can be avoided by taking short detours, which have been marked by the Orono Land Trust. There are also some interesting footbridges, mossy areas and stretches of lichen-covered bedrock. On the way up the hill, take note of a large white pine where the land trust has constructed an interesting bench over the a few of its roots. On the tree is a trail map to help you get your bearings.
While there is no view or sign at the top of Bangor Hill, if you continue past the summit, you’ll reach a spot on the trail that provides a partial view where hikers can see all the way to Katahdin on a clear day.
The snowshoe trail ends at the Caribou Bog Ski Trail. You can turn either way to descend to the old Veazie Railroad bed and make your way back to the parking area. Along the way, you’ll travel along the edge of wetlands (especially if you turn right onto the ski trail), which are home to a wide variety of birds, including great blue herons. Beavers are also common in this area.
The old railroad bed is flat, wide and straight, with a grass and gravel surface. On the way back to the parking area, it travels along the edge of Black Pond and a notable vernal pool. It leads to Taylor Road, which you can follow back to the parking lot. Or, after walking a short distance down Taylor Road, you can turn right onto Newman Hill Trail, which leads through the woods to the parking area.
Orono Land Trust maintains its properties and trails for public non-motorized use, including walking, skiing, snowshoeing, geocaching and bicycling. Dogs are permitted on these trails. And keep in mind that hunting is permitted on the Newman Hill property. For information and maps, visit oronolandtrust.org or call Orono Land Trust President John McCarthy at 947-1633.
Personal note: A light rain fell as John McCarthy, president of the Orono Land Trust, took a pair of scissors on May 4, 2014, and cut the plastic and tape covering a sign beside Taylor Road in Orono. As the plastic fell away, the new sign was revealed. It read: Caribou Bog Conservation Area.
“As opposed to everybody coming to the dump to ski or the dump to bike, we’ve come up with a new name,” said Bucky Owen, vice president of the Orono Land Trust.
The Caribou Bog Conservation Area includes Orono Land Trust’s Newman Hill property; the Hinds conservation easements; the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Caribou Bog Wildlife Management Area; Orono Land Trust’s Dorion lands; and Town of Orono properties. All in all, it’s about 3,000 acres of conserved lands, according to Owen, and the Orono Land Trust is currently working on conserving even more property in the area for wildlife and recreation.
I attended the dedication ceremony with my usual hiking buddy, Derek, and afterward, we joined the group for a hike up Newman and Bangor hills, led by members of the Orono Land Trust. Despite the less than ideal weather, nine people decided to hike, and a family of four decided to pedal their bikes.
Instead of making the forest look dreary, the rain made the colors of spring foliage pop. Moss and unfurling leaves appeared vibrant green; various lichens colored the bedrock red, orange and pale green; and as mud squished under our boots, I thought, “Spring is finally here!”
Along the hike, we spotted the fuzzy, light green fiddleheads of new ferns emerging from the muck and the year’s first mayflower blossoms – white and pink, fragrant and delicate. Flitting among the trees were black-and-white warblers and a number of other birds that I can’t confidently identify. A heron and some sort of duck passed overhead as we walked by the wetlands by the Caribou Bog Ski Trail, and several in the group spotted a belted kingfisher.
Along the old railroad bed, we saw evidence of recent beaver activity, and in a nearby vernal pool, we spotted pale green eggs, which we guessed to be eggs of a yellow-spotted salamander. And atop the radio tower beyond Black Pond, we watched a pair of ospreys return to their nest.
At the end of our hike, the light rain became a downpour, and since the parking area was almost in sight, all we could do is laugh at the irony. Derek and I hastily said goodbye to our wonderful hiking group and dashed into Fred the Forester to peel off our soaked rain jackets and turn on the heater.