Difficulty: Moderate. The dead-end trail is 0.6 mile long, steep and rocky. However, it is not so steep that hand-over-foot climbing is necessary.
Information: Rising 1,103 feet above sea level, Hatchet Mountain features a wide, zigzagging trail that leads to open views of the Camden Hills and the ocean beyond. A major landmark in the town of Hope, the mountain was named after a local legend about two Native American groups in the region.
According to the Hope Historical Society, the story is that two warring groups — Tarrantines and the Wawenocks — called a truce after two years of war and gathered in Hope to talk peace in 1617. As a symbol of goodwill, they buried a hatchet on the side of the mountain that overlooks the village, beside a great boulder. They then turned the boulder over onto the burial spot, and since then, the mountain has been called Hatchet Mountain.
This story was written by Hope resident A.F. Duton about three centuries after the fact, and is therefore considered a local legend. Duton’s grandfather was one of Hope’s early settlers. It’s believed that he learned the story from Wawenocks who still lived in the region in the 1800s.
From left (clockwise): A sign marks the parking area for Hatchet Mountain Preserve in Hope; The hiking trail that leads up Hatchet Mountain in Hope is wide and rocky; Hatchet Mountain Trail leads to open views of the Camden Hills on Oct. 14, in Hope. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
The trail up the mountain is located on the southeast side of the mountain, on a 27-acre preserve owned and maintained by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust. The property was conserved through the support of Hope residents and a donation by landowner Walter Lamont Jr.
Starting at a small parking lot off Hatchet Mountain Road, the wide trail is marked with a kiosk and barred to vehicles by a large metal gate. Walk around the gate to start the hike, which starts out fairly steep. Traveling through a mixed forest, the trail switchbacks up the mountain, forming a giant zigzag with four sharp turns. The surface of the trail is a mixture of gravel and broken rock.
A wide variety of plants grow along the edges of the trail, including small, blight-resistant American chestnut trees that have been planted. Other trees you’ll see include white pine, red oak and slender white and gray birch trees. Interesting features along the way include slopes of exposed bedrock, small ledges that drip with flowing water and beds of soft moss.
At the second major turn (about halfway up the trail) is the first major viewpoint on an open ledge covered with broken rock. There you’ll find a large bench built out of local stone. The view includes the nearby Hobbs Pond, with Bald and Ragged mountains beyond.
Continuing on, the trail climbs through the forest, turning sharply once more before climbing up to a second viewpoint. There in the exposed bedrock you’ll find a plaque dedicated to Scott Dickerson, former director of Coastal Mountains Land Trust.
The trail turns once more and climbs gradually over exposed bedrock to a final viewpoint at an area near the summit of the mountain where the vegetation has been cleared. From there hikers can enjoy a view that extends all the way to the ocean. The trail tapers off at the edge of the preserve.
The preserve is open during daylight hours. Access is free. Dogs are permitted but must be on leash after noon. Hunting for non-predator animals is permitted. No restrooms are available. For more information, visit coastalmountains.org or call 207-236-7091.
Personal note: Climbing into the 70s, the day was unseasonably warm on Oct. 14, when my husband Derek and I hiked Hatchet Mountain with our dog, Oreo. But the cool breeze and colorful foliage reminded us that it was indeed fall. Though many leaves had been knocked off the trees in recent wind storms, plenty of orange-red oak leaves and yellow birch leaves remained, forming a bright canopy with all the greenery that had yet to turn color.
As we trudged up the steep slope, we stopped several times to let Oreo splash in the water that streamed down the rock to form puddles. I also stopped for a while to watch two noisy chickadees collect seeds from plants along the edge of the trail, and again to watch a couple of warblers — and attempt in vain to identify them. Later, I emailed some photos to bird expert Bob Duchesne, who identified one bird as a yellow-rumped warbler and the other as a northern parula.
The views were spectacular, and the rock formations were interesting as well. Throughout piles of broken rock, I noticed sheets of shiny mica, a mineral that looks almost like glass and glitters in the sun.
While the trailhead parking lot was empty when we arrived, by the time we left, three more vehicles had joined ours, filling the small lot. Therefore, if planning to hike Hatchet, I suggest you have a plan B hike, just in case the parking is full. There are plenty of other mountains to hike in the area, including Bald Rock, Bald, Ragged, Spruce, Megunticook and Battie.
How to get there: From Camden, take Route 105 to Hope Center, then take a left onto Hatchet Mountain Road (Route 235). Drive 0.5 mile and the parking area will be on the right, marked with a sign.
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, the land trust that owns the preserve was misidentified. It is owned by Coastal Mountains Land Trust.
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.