Difficulty: Easy to strenuous, depending on how much of the trail you choose to explore. The wide, gravel-based Round the Mountain Trail is fairly flat much of the way but does feature some gentle hills and a few steep hills, especially at the Camden Snow Bowl. An especially flat section of the trail was designed to be wheelchair accessible and meets ADA standards. This accessible section is about 0.25 mile long, surfaced with stone dust and starts at the Thorndike Brook Trailhead.

Information: Circling Ragged Mountain and Little Ragged Mountain in midcoast Maine, the new Round the Mountain Trail is a multi-use pathway that’s open to foot traffic, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Weaving through a beautiful mixed forest, the trail travels along the lower slopes of the mountain range, offering views of nearby landmarks such as Mirror Lake and Hosmer Pond. It also offers some nice perspectives of Ragged Mountain itself.

Still under construction, the trail will measure about 8.5 miles when complete. Currently 5.5 miles of the trail are finished and open to the public. The completed section starts at the new Thorndike Brook Trailhead in Hope, then heads east and wraps around the south end of the mountain to end at the Camden Snow Bowl.

A project of the Coastal Mountains Land Trust, the completed trail has an estimated cost of $1.65 million. The land trust has been working on construction over the past two years and expects to complete the entire trail by the end of 2022.

From left (clockwise): A large wooden kiosk displaying a trail map is found at the Thorndike Brook Trailhead for the Round the Mountain Trail on Dec. 11, in Hope; Round the Mountain Trail; Ragged Mountain looms over the new Round the Mountain Trail. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

Major support for the project was provided by the Maine Water Company, Maine Recreational Trails Program, Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Land for Maine’s Future Program. In addition, more than 400 individuals have donated money and volunteer work. Their names will be displayed on the Thorndike Brook Trailhead kiosk come spring.

Surfaced with 3/4-inch crushed rock, the trail measures 6 feet wide and crosses several brooks, including Thorndike Brook multiple times.

“When completed, it’ll have something like 80 bridges,” said Jackie Stratton, project manager for the Round the Mountain Trail with the Coastal Mountains Land Trust.

The trail was designed to link nearly 25 miles of existing trails in the area, she said. The 5.5-mile section of the Round the Mountain Trail that is complete intersects with multi-use trails at the Camden Snow Bowl, a hiking trail that leads to the summit of Ragged Mountain and a multi-use trail that leads to Goose River Trails, which are popular for mountain biking.

Rather than wait until the entire trail was complete, the Coastal Mountains Land Trust decided to open the completed 5.5-mile section of the trail this year. The Camden Snow Bowl trailhead opened in November, with the Thorndike Brook Trailhead opening a few weeks later, in early December.

If starting at the Camden Snow Bowl trailhead, trail users should expect a somewhat steep, zigzagging ascent up the eastern slope of Ragged Mountain before the trail becomes more level and curves around the south side of the mountain. If looking for a more gradual approach to the loop trail, start at the Thorndike Brook Trailhead. From there, a 0.9-mile side trail leads to the loop. The trail is mostly flat with a few gradual slopes.

Trail access is free year round. Dogs are permitted but must be leashed. Bicycles are asked to yield to trail users who are on foot. For more information, visit coastalmountains.org or call 207-236-7091.

From left (clockwise): A metal footbridge spans Thorndike Brook on the Round the Mountain Trail; A cyclist riding a fat tire bike tackles the snowy Round the Mountain Trail; A sign instructing bikes to yield to hikers is posted along the new Round the Mountain Trail. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

Personal note: Half a dozen vehicles were parked at the new Thorndike Brook Trailhead when I arrived on the morning of Dec. 11, which was forecasted to be a sunny day in the low 40s. A thin layer of snow dusted the ground, and beyond the frozen field, Ragged Mountain reared up out of the woods.

Jackie Stratton, a project manager for the Coastal Mountains Land Trust, met me at a large wooden kiosk at the edge of the parking lot. There we pored over the trail map before setting off on the trail (both wearing face masks and keeping our distance).

Stratton walked with me on the trail for about 2.5 miles, offering nuggets of information along the way. The field had been part of an old homestead, she explained, pointing out some old apple trees. Not far from the kiosk, we came to a stone seating area with giant slabs of rock, like a mini Stonehenge. It will be a great place for picnicking, surrounded by a field recently filled with a variety of native plants for pollinators and birds.

At the edge of the field, we crossed a scenic metal footbridge spanning Thorndike Brook. Thin sheets of ice, coated with snow, lined the edges of the wide brook, cracked into jagged plates. Throughout the day, I paused at brooks several times to inspect interesting ice formations. It’s one of my favorite things to do while hiking in the winter.

Each season in Maine has positives and negatives in regards to hiking. In the winter, when the trees are free of their leaves, views open up. Through the skeletal trees, I spied the shimmering surface of Mirror Lake, not yet frozen over. I also viewed the rocky, snowy hulk of Ragged Mountain, and later in my hike, the cliffs between Ragged Mountain and Spring Mountain, which lies to the south.

As we walked, we passed several trail users. There were runners, cyclists riding fat tire bikes, hikers and leashed dogs. Several of them expressed to us how much they loved the new trail. Everyone seemed in good spirits. It was a beautiful day, after all.

After about 2 miles of walking, Stratton turned around and I continued for over 1.5 miles, hiking into the dip between Ragged and Spring mountains. I then turned around for an out-and-back hike of about 7 miles. In two years, when it’s complete, I’ll return to travel the whole 8.5-mile loop, maybe by bike.

Dozens of wide bridges can be found along the new Round the Mountain Trail in the midcoast region. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki / BDN

How to get there: Thorndike Brook Trailhead is located at 223 Hope Street in Hope, approximately 0.7 mile from where Hope Street intersects with Route 17 in Rockport. Coming from Rockport, the large parking lot will be on your right, just after Hope Street crosses Thorndike Brook.

The Camden Snow Bowl Trailhead is located at 20 Barnestown Road in Camden, which is about 3.5 miles outside of downtown Camden, at the edge of Hosmer Pond. There you’ll find the large parking area for the Camden Snow Bowl. Park on the left side of the lot (the toboggan chute parking), then follow the Round the Mountain Trail signs. Approximately the first 1 mile of the trail follows the existing Kuller Trail.

Aislinn Sarnacki can be reached at asarnacki@bangordailynews.com. 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.

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Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.