“Where the mountains meet the sea” is an oft-quoted phrase attributed to poet Edna St. Vincent Millay to describe the Camden Hills. One of the most scenic areas in Maine, the Camden Hills provide some of the most exceptional winter hiking and phenomenal ocean vistas found anywhere in the state.
Approximately 50 miles of hiking trails in Camden Hills State Park and the Georges Highland Path lead to six distinctive peaks. From the barren summits and precipitous cliffs, spectacular Penobscot Bay is revealed in full splendor.
Poet and playwright Millay spent much of her youth living in Camden within sight of the majestic Camden Hills. She is reputed to have enjoyed hiking its trails, particularly those on nearby mounts Megunticook and Battie.
In 1912, a young Millay catapulted to fame with her poem “Renascence,” embodying the charm and beauty of those mountains along the rugged shore of Penobscot Bay. She went on to become the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and one of the most eminent literary figures of the 20th century.
Contrary to what some suggest, I never hiked with Ms. Millay. My Camden Hills trekking experiences began when I moved to the midcoast area 45 years ago. In the intervening decades, I’ve frequented them with friends and family on a regular basis, particularly in winter.
There are no bad hiking choices in the Camden Hills. Mount Megunticook, the highest mainland mountain on the Atlantic coast, offers iconic Ocean Overlook, which provides a commanding view of Penobscot Bay from the edge of sheer Megunticook Cliffs. The summit of nearby Mount Battie peers down into picturesque Camden Harbor where Curtis Island Lighthouse guards the entrance.
On the northeastern end of the range, a prominence on Bald Rock Mountain offers an expansive vista of Islesboro and eastern Penobscot Bay. Multiple trails lead to the summit of craggy Ragged Mountain evincing panoramic views of western Penobscot Bay, while its consequential south-facing cliffs look down into seemingly reflective Mirror Lake.
Situated between Ragged and Megunticook, Bald Mountain offers an easy trek with exceptional views of the bay and surrounding mountains. Vertiginous Maiden Cliff on the western terminus of the Mount Megunticook massif overlooks Megunticook Lake. Ragged Mountain and Mount Megunticook are featured in my mountain guidebook, “Mountains for Mortals – New England.”
Mounts Megunticook and Battie, Bald Rock Mountain, and Maiden Cliff are located in Camden Hills State Park. Ragged and Bald mountains are southwest of the park and accessed via Georges Highland Path. They’re all my favorites.
A recent snowstorm followed by a partly sunny day with seasonal temperatures was an excellent motivation to plan a hike in the Camden Hills. My longtime outdoor companion John Stokinger agreed to join me for a trek on Ragged Mountain. Not an unusual decision, the two of us have enjoyed hikes together in the Camden Hills for almost four decades; many with our young families in the early years.
Beginning our outing at the Thorndike Brook Trailhead in West Rockport, several inches of packed crusty snow were encountered while negotiating up a gentle incline on the Georges Highland Path. Snow-adorned trees embellished the landscape as the trail steepened and weaved easterly to an open ledge with a view of pastoral Grassy Pond.
Proceeding to a trail intersection at about 1.4 miles, we turned right and traversed a prolonged rolling ridge before ascending snow- and ice-covered ledges facing northwest. Angling abruptly left, a short spur trail led to the summit where an overlook offered an exceptional panoramic vista of much of western Penobscot Bay. Following Red Diamond Trail for a short distance, an unmarked right turn climbed through drifted snow to a second peak adjacent to a communication tower. More outstanding seascapes were the reward for our efforts.
Descending briefly west, we rejoined the Georges Highland Path where it passes atop an exceptional sector of extensive cliffs. Partially frozen Mirror Lake was observed almost directly below. Maneuvering north along the rim of the elongated escarpment, the narrow, perpetually scenic route continued back to the summit trail junction.
Many memories of mountain adventures past were shared on the return trip. Another glorious winter day “where the mountains meet the sea” had been added to our collective Camden Hills experience.