Difficulty: Easy-moderate. From the south parking area, the hike is about 5 miles long, but much of that is on smooth multi-use trails. From the north parking area, the hike is a little less than 3 miles long if you just visit the observation platform, and 4 miles long if you hike beyond that to the group shelter.


How to get there: To hike the trails from the south, park at the Perham Town Office off High Meadow Road in Perham. To get there from downtown Presque Isle, take Route 164 (Washburn Road) to Washburn. At 10.4 miles, turn left onto Route 228. Drive 7.4 miles, then turn left onto High Meadow Road. Drive 1 mile and the town office and town park will be on your left. Park there, then start your hike by crossing High Meadow Road and walking east a few hundred feet to a gravel multi-use trail on the old Bangor and Aroostook Railway bed. Walk north on this multi-use trail 1.28 miles and take the Calvin Wardwell Salmon Brook Lake Trail, which will be on your right and marked with a sign. (GPS coordinates: 46.878142, -68.241125) 

You can also hike the trails from the north. This is a shorter hike that does not include any walking along the multi-use Aroostook and Bangor Trail. To get to the north parking lot from the Perham Town Office, drive 1.2 mile west on High Meadow Road, then turn right onto Tangle Ridge Road. Drive 3.2 miles and the gravel parking area will be on your right. The trail starts by the kiosk in the parking lot, which is gravel and across the road from a large farm house. (GPS coordinates: 46.916606, -68.249272)

Bangor and Aroostook multi-use trail.
Bangor and Aroostook multi-use trail.

Information: The 1,706-acre Salmon Brook Lake Unit is a state-owned reserve in Aroostook County that is home to six rare plants, a variety of wetlands, upland woods and the shallow, 50-acre Salmon Brook Lake. The public can explore this ecologically diverse property on a beautifully constructed multi-use trail, a boardwalk and hiking trails that lead to an observation platform overlooking the fen lawn surrounding the lake. 

The observation platform.
The observation platform.

There are two parking areas for hiking the Salmon Brook Lake trails.

The south parking area is at the Perham Town Office and Town Park on High Meadow Road. From there, you cross High Meadow Road and walk (or ride an ATV or bike) north 1.28 miles on the Bangor and Aroostook Trail — a wide, gravel multi-use trail that follows the old Bangor and Aroostook Railway bed. This multi-use trail is 61 miles long and is open to ATVs, horseback riders, bicyclists and walkers. In the winter, it is open to cross-country skiers, snowshoers, dog sleds and snowmobilers.

A larch tree (or tamarack) by the Bangor and Aroostook Trail.
A larch tree (or tamarack) by the Bangor and Aroostook Trail.

After 1.28 miles on the multi-use trail, the Calvin Wardwell Salmon Brook Lake Trail will be on your right. The trail, dedicated in 2008, starts out as a wide wooden boardwalk that stretches several hundred feet through a cedar swamp. The trail then becomes a wide path surfaced with crushed shale. The trail runs over a few small hills for about 0.2 mile to the a group shelter, picnic table and outhouse near Salmon Brook. To the right of the shelter is a boat launch for canoes and kayaks; and to the left of the shelter is a hiking trail that heads into the forest on a series of narrow bog bridges. You can ride an ATV or bike all the way to the group shelter, then must continue on foot. 

Calvin Ward Salmon Brook Lake Trail
Calvin Wardwell Salmon Brook Lake Trail

The narrow hiking trail leads through a mixed forest for 0.5 mile to an observation a boardwalk and large observation platform in the fen surrounding Salmon Brook Lake, which only reaches 5 feet at its deepest and has an average depth of around 2 feet. This is a great place for wildlife watching and picnicking. Wooden benches are located along the edges of the platform. 


From the observation platform, the hiking trail continues north through the forest for another 0.9 mile, where it reaches a trail intersection. You’ll want to turn left and you’ll soon reach the Bangor and Aroostook Trail. There, turn left again and walk a little over 2 miles along the multi-use trail (passing the trailhead to the Calvin Wardwell Salmon Brook Lake Trail along the way) back to the south parking lot at the town office. 


If you had turned right at the intersection, you’d head onto the newest section of the trail network, a 0.5-mile trail that leads to the north parking lot on Tangle Ridge Road. This parking area and trail was created a few years ago for people who would prefer not to walk along the multi-use Bangor and Aroostook Trail in order to visit Salmon Brook Pond. 

(If you decide to hike from the north parking lot, you’ll hike about 0.5 mile to the trail intersection, crossing a few scenic, wooden boardwalks along the way. At the intersection, you turn right to hike 0.9 mile to the observation platform. And from there, it’s a little less than 0.5 mile to the group picnic shelter and outhouse.)


The Salmon Brook Lake Unit is dominated by what’s known as an unpatterned fen ecosystem, and within this ecosystem are several natural communities. For example, surrounding the lake is a 65-acre sedge-leatherleaf fen lawn, home to leatherleaf, sweet gale and slender sedge. North of the lake is a shrubby cinquefoil-sedge circumneutral fen surrounded by spruce and cedar swamps. And south of the lake is a spruce-larch wooded bog. 

Salmon Brook near the group shelter.
Salmon Brook near the group shelter.

Rare plants in the property include small round-leaved orchis, lapland buttercup, showy lady’s-slipper, swamp fly-honeysuckle, marsh valerian and Pygmy water-lily, according to the Maine Natural Areas Program.


The Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands’ Off-Road Vehicle Division, BPL’s Northern Region Lands Office, and the Town of Perham all partner to manage the Salmon Brook Pond trails. 

Dogs are are permitted on the trails but should be kept under control at all times.

For more information, call BPL’s Northern Region Lands Office at 435-7963, ext. 209, or send an email to vern.labbe@maine.gov. 

Personal note: Packed into an old SUV, my family and I — along with our dog, Oreo — made the long drive up to Aroostook County last weekend to camp in a rustic cabin on the shore of Echo Lake in Presque Isle. With a cargo carrier strapped to the top of the vehicle and a giant cooler full of food fastened to the back hitch, we were ready for a weekend of campfires, hiking, swimming and fishing. 


On the itinerary was a trip even farther north and a bit west to the town of Perham to hike the Salmon Brook Lake trails. Having read about the trails online, I thought they’d be the perfect day hike for our group, which included my husband, my mother-in-law and her longtime boyfriend. My dog, Oreo, is game for any type of hike, long or short, so I knew I could please him. But I didn’t want to select anything too long or difficult for the rest of the group. 

We hiked from the south parking area at the Perham Town Office, which may have been a poor decision on my part because the hike ended up being a bit longer than my companions anticipated. If we’d hiked from the north, it would have been shorter. Nevertheless, we had a great time, and the trails exceeded our expectations.


Seemingly out in the middle of nowhere, the trails were well constructed and maintained, and the wooden bridges, boardwalks and platforms were impressively built and in good condition. Then there were the many beautiful habitats the trails visited, including the sedge-leatherleaf fen lawn where the observation deck was located. 


In the woods, we had fun pointing out a variety of bright mushrooms, berries and wildflowers. And along the Bangor and Aroostook multi-use trail, we found some old railway ties, and I managed to photograph a few different species of butterflies as they fluttered from wildflower to wildflower.

More pics:

Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is a Maine outdoors writer and the author of three Maine hiking guidebooks including “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine.” Find her on Twitter and Facebook @1minhikegirl. You can also...