A new preserve and hiking trail in Phippsburg opened this week after a year and a half of planning and trail building by the Phippsburg Land Trust.
The 95-acre property, named McKay Farm Preserve, offers a 2.1-mile loop hike that navigates hills, ravines, ledges, fields and an old town road. It’s connected to the trail system of the neighboring Cooley Center Pond Preserve, which extends the loop hike to 4.8 miles.
“It’s really beautiful land with these ledge outcroppings,” said Phippsburg Land Trust Director Dan Dowd. “It feels like you’re very, very deep in the woods of Phippsburg — because you are.”
The land was purchased from the Morse family by the Phippsburg Land Trust in December of 2019. A majority of funding for the acquisition was provided by a North America Wetlands Conservation Act grant that was secured by the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust for multiple conservation projects in the region.
When purchased for conservation, the McKay Farm Preserve didn’t have any trails on it. Phippsburg Land Trust worked with local volunteers to plan and construct a large loop trail that explores much of the property.
“We really make an effort to include interesting aspects of the land in the trails,” Dowd said. “And one of our other priorities is to keep people’s feet as dry as possible, so we try to avoid wetlands and muddy areas.”
There is currently no road access or parking for the new preserve or trail. Instead, visitors can access it by parking at the Cooley Center Pond Preserve and hiking the South Perimeter Trail, which intersects with the McKay Farm Preserve loop trail.
To reach the parking lot for Cooley Center Pond Preserve — which covers 253 acres and features vernal pools, high ledges, mixed woods, small streams and a beaver pond — take Route 209 (High Street) south from Bath to Winnegance. Continue on Route 209 (Main Road) south for 4 miles to the Center Store. Turn left onto Parker Head Road and drive 0.6 mile to the parking lot, which will be on your right.
This is an intermediate level hike due to its length and some steep sections. Hikers will cross small streams, walk along wetlands, cross over old farmland and encounter large rock outcroppings. Other highlights include the remains of an antique vehicle, old stone foundations, rock walls, old apple trees and multiple large trees that have been knocked down by beavers.
“The beaver activity in the northwest corner is out of control,” Dowd said. “There’s a huge oak tree that a beaver took down.”
Two short loops branch off of the main loop trail. One visits an overlook at the edge of a marsh.
Both the Cooley Center Pond Preserve and McKay Farm Preserve are open from dawn to dusk. Dogs are permitted on both preserves but must be under the control of their owners at all times. Trail access is free.
The Phippsburg Land Trust has purchased or acquired easement rights to nearly 800 acres since the late 1980s. The land trust plans to organize a guided walk on the new preserve in the near future, but details have yet to be released. the near future. Visit phippsburglandtrust.org for a trail map and more information.