Posted on September 24, 2023 and last updated on September 24, 2023

Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve, Atkinson


  • Preserve Size: 7,296 acres
  • Trail Mileage: 6.6 miles in system
  • Pets: yes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Sights: wetland, forest

While the walking isn’t over the top here (more later), this is an incredible preserve — 7,296 acres — protected by the Northeast Wilderness Trust to let the area rewild and the forest mature into old age. This land is contiguous with another 6,500 acres protected by a forever-wild easement. Together, the two areas contain more than 13,000 acres in the Piscataquis River watershed.

The trust says the region contains one of the largest, most varied, and intact freshwater wetland systems in Maine, with mature American chestnut trees and Atlantic salmon habitat. Hikers, paddlers, and wildlife watchers are welcome; hunters and fishermen must ask permission.

All that is wonderful! But the trails on this preserve, when I visited in 2023, seemed a touch neglected in places and would have benefitted from more bog bridges and even short bridges, if attracting hikers is part of the goal. In the northern section, off Maple Street, you can hike a blazed 2.2-mile loop. In sections, it can be muddy. If you’re walking clockwise, you’ll reach an old road/snowmobile track at about 1.3 miles, take a right, and look carefully for the footpath that reenters the woods on your right in about 0.1 mile. The road, meanwhile, continues straight, passing a field.

In the southern section of Alder Preserve, you can hike in an extraordinary place. When I visited in 2023, the long, 4.2-mile track through many alders had been cut back some time earlier in the summer, so was easily passable, albeit it was starting to get dense again with grass. It looks like the trail follows an old road, as it is fairly straight. If you’re starting from the upper (northern) parking area and trailhead on South Stagecoach Road, take the red-blazed trail to the unblazed but easily followed main path. (The map shows an alternative route, but this is incredibly wet!). Very shortly, the trail will arrive at a beautiful wetland. If you continue, you may have to forge some streams. Then you can walk four miles, along a mainly easy and flat route with some dips up and down at brooks, to the second trailhead/parking area farther down the road.

If you’re starting at the more southern trailhead and parking area on South Stagecoach Road, you can drive in a short ways and park off to the side so you’re not blocking the road. Walk past the gate and very soon you’ll reach a pretty wetland and bridge. Continue past the bridge and in 0.25 miles you’ll arrive at another wetland, and possibly, a submerged track! I couldn’t pass it without taking off my shoes.

Directions: There are three trailheads for the trail system. One is off Maple Street, about a half mile from the intersection with South Stagecoach Road, on the left. It is easy to see with a trailhead kiosk and ample parking. There are two other parking areas off South Stagecoach Road, about a four-mile drive away. If you’re driving south on South Stagecoach Road, the first trailhead and parking area will be on the left, about 1.4 miles after the road splits at Doore Road. There’s a small sign for the preserve, and boulders blocking the trail behind. To reach the second trailhead farther south on South Stagecoach Road, continue 2.2 miles south, and you’ll see the turn on your left. Drive a short ways to reach the gate with the trail behind.

Let me know if you have any trail updates or corrections!