Difficulty: Moderate. The hike to the west vista near the summit of Indian Mountain is about 3.4 miles, out and back. The trail is steep in several areas, and the climb is fairly constant. Watch your step for rocks and exposed tree roots on the trail. You may also want to watch for piles of moose poop.
How to get there: From the light at the center of Greenville, drive north on Lily Bay Road and turn onto the first road on your right, Pleasant Street. Continue on this main road for about 12 miles to Hedgehog Gate, where you’ll need to pay a fee of $7 per person to continue. (Exactly 2 miles from Lily Bay Road, Pleasant Road turns from pavement to gravel. It then becomes K-I Road. And at 3.7 miles, you’ll cross a bridge that only fits one vehicle at a time. The gravel road is rough in some places. Several side roads branch off from this main road. Follow the signs that direct to “lodges,” which refer to Appalachian Mountain Club wilderness lodges that are near the trailhead you’re seeking.)
Past Hedgehog Gate, continue 1.9 miles and turn left onto Little Lyford Ponds Road. Drive about 2.1 miles — passing the parking area for the Head of the Gulf along the way — and the first trailhead for Indian Mountain is on the left; continue another 0.2 mile and the second trailhead, which has more space for parking, is on the left.
Information: Indian Mountain rises 2,341 feet above sea level in the Appalachian Mountain Club Recreation and Conservation Area, an expanse of wilderness east of Moosehead Lake that is accessible only by gravel woods roads. A hiking trail called Laurie’s Ledge Trail leads to two outlooks near the top of the mountain that offer two entirely different views of the region.
To reach Laurie’s Ledge Trail, hikers have two trailhead options. Both trailheads are close to each other on Little Lyford Ponds Road. The trailhead with the more spacious parking area (fitting about three cars) is across the road from the entrance to Little Lyford Lodge, and the other trailhead is just a couple tenths of a mile south of that. Both trails climb the mountain gradually to intersect in 0.4 mile.
At the intersection, a sign will direct you to hike along a wide trail (marked with red diamonds and trail blazes) to reach Laurie’s Ledge Trail and Indian Mountain Circuit in 0.3 mile. At that intersection, you will veer left onto Laurie’s Ledge Trail.
Laurie’s Ledge Trail, which is marked with yellow blazes, is increasingly steep and rocky, with a few sections of stone and log steps. From its intersection with Indian Mountain Circuit, it’s about 0.5 mile to Laurie’s Ledge, which is reached by a short side trail, and about 1 mile to the West Vista near Indian Mountain summit.
Laurie’s Ledge is an opening on a ledge that is just over 2,000 feet above sea level on the eastern slope of the mountain. In the clearing a small wooden bench, where you can sit and take in the open view of the land to the east of Indian Mountain. To the right, you’ll see Gulf Hagas Mountain, and behind it, the bald White Cap Mountain. To the left of the mountain range, you’ll see First Little Lyford Pond and Second Little Lyford Pond.
The West Vista, which is located a bit northwest of the mountain’s summit at about 2,300 feet above sea level, is an equally (if not better) outlook, offering a view to the west of the mountain. To the right, you’ll be able to see the distinct bump of Elephant Mountain, where a B-52 bomber crashed in 1963, killing seven men aboard. In front of Elephant Mountain are a number of ponds: Lost Pond, Mountain Brook Pond, Grassy Pond and Pearl Ponds. To the left of the mountain is the larger Horseshoe Pond and Blue Ridge.
The entire hike, out and back, is about 3.4 miles. Dogs are permitted but must be kept under control at all times. Keep in mind that there are no outhouses at the trailhead or located along the trail. And as always while in the great Maine Outdoors, practice “Leave No Trace” ethics by cleaning up after yourself and leaving the wilderness as you find it.
If looking for a longer hike, the Indian Mountain Circuit — a trail that travels around the mountain to visit Horseshoe Pond — is 6.4 miles, according to AMC.
For a map of the trails on Indian Mountain and surrounding trails, visit AMC’s website at www.outdoors.org/lodging/mainelodges/maine-hiking.cfm. For information about AMC and their trails and wilderness lodges in Maine, call the organization’s Maine chapter at 737-9870 or visit the office at 15 Moosehead Lake Road in Greenville.
Personal note: The grassy patch that constituted as a parking area for the Indian Mountain trails was empty on July 3, when I arrived with my dog Oreo to hike to the outlooks on the mountain. I wasn’t surprised. The man collecting fees at Hedgehog Gate had told me that few people pass through the gate with the sole intention of hiking Indian Mountain. Most day hikers are headed to nearby Gulf Hagas.
Mosquitoes and deer flies honed in on both of us as soon as we stepped out of the car, so I rubbed oily bug repellent on my skin and over Oreo’s black and white fur before gathering our gear and changing into my hiking boots.
As I stuffed sweating bottles of water into my pack, an all-terrain vehicle pulled up and the passenger, a young woman, dismounted. She thanked the driver for the lift, and he sped off, back down the dirt road.
She was hiking the mountain, too, she said. We commented on the fair weather, then she hit the trail. I waited a few minutes before entering the woods myself. I didn’t want to crowd her.
After the long, bumpy car ride, Oreo was eager to get going — but when isn’t he? Straining at the end of his leash, he pulled me up the narrow trail. I battled with him for a while, and eventually, he calmed down.
The trail was well marked, signed and maintained, without even one downed tree blocking the way. It was almost a constant climb, and soon enough, the 70-degree weather felt more like 80.
Along the way, Oreo pounced on something beside the trail. Worried that it was a squirrel or snake, I yanked him back with the leash. And as I was doing so, a large toad jumped and hit Oreo in the nose. Oreo looked confused, and I laughed, holding him back from the toad, which hopped into the underbrush. The toad didn’t go far, but Oreo had either lost interest or could no longer see it because it because of its bumpy camouflage skin. I took the opportunity to take a few photos.
At Laurie’s Ledge, we met up with the hiker we’d seen at the trailhead. She seemed open to talking, so I sat and we had a little conversation — first about the trail, then about ourselves. She used to live in Tennessee and had quit her job as a cardiac specialist to move to Maine and work at AMC’s Little Lyford Wilderness Lodge for the summer. She’d arrived just six days before, and as a staff member at the lodge, it was her job to know about the recreational opportunities of the area, so she could pass that knowledge along to guests. She had been spending the past few days paddling and hiking, she said, and she was having a blast.
She didn’t plan on hiking all the way to the west vista that day, she said, but maybe some other day. Her goal was to hike Katahdin by the end of the summer. I told her a bit about Katahdin and left her to enjoy the view at Laurie’s Ledge.
Oreo and I continued to West Vista, which I actually preferred over Laurie’s Ledge because it seemed more remote. We sat there for a while in the howling wind, cooling off from the climb.
We’d just turned around to descend the mountain when Oreo bolted, possibly after a squirrel. My boot slipped on an exposed tree root and I slid down the trail, scraping my left calf on a rock and landing hard on my forearm. Oreo turned around and looked at me as if to say, “oops.” I sighed and sat up to find my legs were resting on a pile of fairly fresh moose poop. I couldn’t help but laugh. After brushing a few brown bits off my leg, I got up and continued the descent. I have a long red scrape down my leg and a bruised forearm, but to me, they’re just reminders of a good day.
For more of Aislinn Sarnacki’s adventures, visit her blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com. Follow her on Twitter: @1minhikegirl.