Difficulty: Easy to strenuous, depending on what trails at the sanctuary you explore. The most challenging hike takes you to the top of Borestone Mountain on a steep and rocky trail and is 4.2 miles, out and back. This hike includes more than 200 stone steps and a few metal rungs to help you up the steepest sections. Easier hikes are located at the sanctuary, including a 1.3-mile gravel road that’s closed to vehicles and ends at a beautiful pond.
Information: Rising nearly 2,000 feet above sea level, Borestone Mountain is a popular hike in Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness region. From the mountain’s two bald peaks, hikers are rewarded with breathtaking 360-degree views of the area.
Clockwise from left: The trails up Borestone Mountain feature many stone steps; Midday and Sunset ponds are seen from the rocky ridge of Borestone Mountain on July 15 in Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness region; mushrooms can be seen growing out of the forest floor along the Base Trail. (Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN)
The mountain is located in Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary, which encompasses nearly 1,600 acres and also includes rare older forest and three crystal clear ponds: Sunrise, Midday and Sunset. The sanctuary is also home to a number of easier trails, including a wooden boardwalk.
From the sanctuary’s entrance gate, you can walk up the 1.3-mile gravel road to reach the Robert T. Moore Visitors Center near the edge of Sunrise Pond. Or, shortly after the gate, you can turn left onto the 1.1-mile Base Trail, which weaves through a beautiful forest to pop back out onto the gravel road just before the visitor center.
Marked with bright green blazes, the Base Trail starts out steep, traveling up rock staircases and hills threaded with big tree roots. However it does eventually even out. A little over halfway to the visitor center, a side trail to Greenwood Overlook branches off to the right. That trail is less than 0.1 mile long and leads downhill to cross the gravel road and end on a ledge with a nice view of Little Greenwood Pond.
After that intersection, the Base Trail evens out and even travels a bit downhill to its terminus at the gravel road. Turn left and it’s just a short walk on the road to the visitor center and Sunrise Pond. There you can sign the registration book and pay your visitor fee before heading out on the 1-mile Summit Trail.
Tracing the shore of the pond, the Summit Trail starts out with a series of narrow bog bridges then travels over a tangle of tree roots and rocks to reach the bottom of a long rock staircase. From that point on, it’s consistently uphill. I counted around 200 stone steps and that’s ignoring the natural slopes and rocks you’ll also climb to reach the top.
Clockwise from upper left: Steel rungs are located near the West Peak of Borestone Mountain to help hikers up especially steep sections of trail; Sunrise Pond is one of three crystalline ponds in Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary; a sign marks the start of the Borestone Summit Trail near the shore of Sunrise Pond. (Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN)
The trail becomes increasingly rocky and steep, with a few sections that require hand-over-foot climbing. There’s a series of metal rungs to help you up the steepest sections near the first peak, which is the West Peak at 1,960 feet above sea level.
From the West Peak, it’s about 0.3 mile to the East Peak, which is the mountain’s summit at 1,981 feet above sea level. Between the peaks, the trail dips down into the forest and features a very steep, rock slope where you’ll need to exercise extra care. (I got down on my butt and slowly slid down, using footholds along the way.)
At the West Peak is a display of two maps that label the many surrounding mountains and ponds. This may help you pick out landmarks as you enjoy the 360-degree view. Both East and West peaks are bare bedrock, with plenty of space to sit down and rest.
Maine Audubon sanctuaries are open to the public year round, dawn to dusk. Due to COVID-19, the Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary visitor center building is currently closed. Dogs are not permitted. For Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary, trail fees are $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors. Access is free for Audubon members. Outhouses are located near the entrance gate and visitor center.
For more information, visit maineaudubon.org or call 207-717-6001 (June–September) or 207-781-2330 (October–May).
Personal note: The sun was shining, the temperature was in the low 70s and a constant breeze swept away the bugs on July 15. I couldn’t have asked for a better day for hiking. So it was no surprise when I arrived at Borestone Mountain and found a dozen cars parked at the trailhead. While the sanctuary was certainly busy, I judged that the trails wouldn’t be overcrowded and continued with my Plan A: to hike the mountain.
Birdsong echoed through the forest as I hiked up the Base Trail, which was much steeper than I’d remembered, having hiked the mountain twice before. I told myself it was a good warmup. I also told myself that the bulbous mushrooms popping out of the duff were especially interesting and needed to be photographed. Meanwhile, I managed to catch my breath.
At the edge of Sunrise Pond, I stood for a while and watched the sun dance in the shallows while damselflies and dragonflies zipped over the surface. I then counted the stone steps as I clambered up the Summit Trail, perching my camera on rocks and stumps to video myself every now and again. It was quite the production.
During the hike, I passed a number of hikers, mostly in pairs, though I did stop to talk (at a distance) with a married couple and their two young grandchildren. They hiked on the Base Trail to Sunrise Pond then planned to return to the parking lot on the gravel road for a small loop hike. I suggested they pop off the gravel road on the way back to enjoy Greenwood Overlook. I hope they did.
Atop the mountain, I harvested a few wild blueberries, then sat on the sun-baked rock of the West Peak to eat a turkey sandwich from Monson General Store. From the nearby East Peak, I could hear hikers hooting and hollering. “Echo!” they yelled. I was tempted to yell it back, just to spook them. There’s something about hiking that brings the kid out of everyone. In fact, when I made it to the open East Peak, I laid on my belly near a ledge, looked out over the land and pretended I was flying. It helped the illusion that turkey vultures were soaring below me. What a treat to get a birds-eye view of a bird.
How to get there: From downtown Monson, drive north on Route 15-Route 6 (Greenville Road), then turn right onto Elliotsville Road (which is about 0.5 mile from Monson General Store). Drive about 8 miles, cross a narrow bridge, then turn left onto Bodfish Road. Drive about 0.2 mile and the gravel parking lot will be on the left after the railroad tracks. Across the road is the Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary entrance gate. Walk around the gate (through the doorway for hikers) and you’ll find a kiosk displaying a trail map on your left and an outhouse on your right.
Aislinn Sarnacki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram: @actoutdoors. Her guidebooks “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” “Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path” and “Dog-Friendly Hikes in Maine” are available at local bookstores and wherever books are sold.