Merrymeeting Fields Preserve, Woolwich

This Kennebec Estuary Land Trust preserve offers loops through woods and fields along the lovely Merrymeeting Bay. The trails are well marked and easy to follow. Down the road (Chopps Point Road) is the Coffin Wildflower Reservation if you want to do two preserves in one day! (For years I conflated these two preserves. A terrible mistake! But they’re both beautiful and well worth visiting.)

Directions: Take Route 1 North to Route 127 (just across Bath bridge on the left). Take North on 127 to Route 128 and turn left. Follow about 6 miles to Chopps Point Road, turn left. 0.9 miles to parking lot and kiosk on right.




McCoy-Chapman Forest, Bethel

In the spring of 2019, there was an approximately 2.3-mile track from the trailhead on North Road to a highpoint on the land and a view. 

The one-way track was mostly well marked, with blue arrows. There are three stream crossings—and only one with a bridge! So take care stepping across the stones in the creeks. The route to the view is a gradual uphill, so not terribly strenuous.

At the end of the marked path, you’ll reach an open clearing. Take a sharp right up a hillock to a small cleared area and a view of the western mountains.

Mahoosuc Land Trust protects this 493-acre forest, and is working to conserve a huge amount of land in the nearby vicinity. They will be making more trails in the McCoy-Chapman Forest as well, including a loop along the Androscoggin River and a trail that will run parallel to Chapman Brook. Good news!

Directions: From the intersection of Route 2 and North Road, drive about 5.25 miles, and look for the small land trust sign and an open field on your right. The trailhead is a little under a mile after you pass the Crocker Pond House. You can park on the side of the road. The path begins along the edge of the field before heading into the forest.

 




Twin Bridges Preserve, Otisfield

The Crooked River Forest consists of five parcels all together. Two of them (as of 2019) have trails: this one and Intervale Preserve, in Harrison.

Twin Bridges has a parking area, kiosk, and a system of pathways, which were being constructed in the spring of 2019 (which is why my map is incomplete). The river—a major tributary to Sebago Lake— is lovely, and makes for pretty spots along your walk.

Directions: The trailhead is off Route 17, just about 100 yards of so from the rest stop.




Lake Region School Trails, Naples

These trails are listed in local walking information, but frankly, there isn’t much to them! There are some connector trails between the high school and middle school, and they’re probably used by the cross-country team and maybe local dog walkers. However, any trail is a good trail if it passes through nature!

Directions: A good place to pick up these trails is from Lake Region Middle School’s athletic fields. If you park at the school’s parking lot (probably it’s good to avoid school hours) off Kansas Road, you’ll see the wide trail across the field almost directly opposite the school.




Long Meadow Brook Reserve, Lovell

The trailhead is on a remote back road in Lovell that might be quite hard for an average car to pass in the winter. Even after the snow melts, the road is still rough.

If you do make it out here, you’ll be treated to a quiet tract of land, which is recovering from being a tree farm, and a bog with mountain peaks in the distance. The Greater Lovell Land Trust says these mountains are Mount Kearsage North and the Baldfaces, and that the area is considered a significant habitat for wading birds and waterfowl.

The “cultural spot” marked on the map is the stone foundations of an old home or barn. While the paths are short and mostly easy, they get quite steep as you head down to the boggy area.

Directions: You’ll follow some winding back roads to get here. From Harbor Road, turn onto Union Hill Road. In .3 miles, you’ll take a right onto Kezar Lake Road. The parking area and trailhead is off to the left after 1.75-ish miles. Turn left up a steep old logging drive to the parking area and trailhead kiosk.




Intervale Preserve, Harrison

The Crooked River Forest consists of five parcels all together. Two of them (as of 2019) have trails: Intervale Preserve, in Harrison, and Twin Bridges, in Otisfield.

Intervale at the moment has two wide tracks that cross it. One of them is clearly a snowmobile path, which I didn’t explore. The other trail, which leads you to the river’s edge, is marked with trail blazes.

I wonder if more trails are in development for these areas?

Directions: To reach Intervale Preserve, make your way to Scribners Mills Road in Harrison. The trail head is a .6 miles from the intersection with Maple Ridge Road, and half a mile from where Scribners Mills Road crosses Crooked River.




Merritt Island, West Bath

This 28-acre island is owned by Bowdoin College and is on the Maine Island Trail, which means people are free to visit and explore as long as they’re respectful. The island is attached to the mainland via a causeway that does get covered at high tide, so mind the tide charts.

The path around the perimeter of the island is not blazed but it is easy to follow. It has some roots and felled trees to scramble over, and climbing up the bank from the causeway at the beginning can be a bit of a challenge.

Directions: Take Foster Point Road to Hill Road in West Bath. Turn left onto Mountain Road. When the road splits, stay left on Mountain Road. In about three-quarters of a mile, you’ll see a dirt road to the right with a small sign for Merritt Island. Stay left on the very narrow drive (past a driveway on your right) and continue to where it dead ends at a small parking area.




Stark’s Hill, Fryeburg



Fryeburg Academy’s ski team trains on these seven kilometers of groomed track. The school allows the public to use the trails on the weekend only, and asks for a donation at the trailhead.

The trails are built onto a mountainside, so there are some significant hills. They are groomed depending on the team’s needs, so the day we visited, the tracks weren’t set for Classic skiing, and some of the steeper trails higher on the hill had not been touched.

Directions: From Route 5, turn onto Oxford Street. Take a quick right onto Smith Street. Follow it through the B and C Collision Center. You can park in a big cleared area before the locked gate, which marks the entrance to the ski area.


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Highlands Ridge Trails, Bridgton



I mapped more than 9 miles of trails here at this vast Nordic ski trail system, which wraps around the Bridgton Highlands country club. And my map doesn’t even show the full extent of trails. North of my map, there are even more trails—with more to come, possibly, in the future! The trails on the actual golf course were closed when I visited. The groomed tracks in the surrounding forest are protected, shaded, and pretty. A couple additional short trails in the woods were closed for logging.

The most impressive part of this spot is that the whole system is maintained by volunteers, with “well-worn machines and homemade drags.” Donations are appreciated. Because the trails are in the valley, protected from the sun, you can ski pretty late into spring. When we visited in early March of 2019, after a not-great winter for skiing, there were still pretty decent groomed tracks (for Classic skiing, only). The trails are mostly well-marked, with maps at most intersections. Paper maps are available, too, at trailheads.

For the most part, the trails are easy, but there are some long, gradual hills. In general, you’re going to be headed downhill heading northeast (away from the country club and toward Middle Ridge Road).

Directions: The trailhead is off the access road to the Bridgton Highlands Country Club, which is off Highlands Ridge Road. You will find one of the main trailheads next to the tennis courts.




Black Mountain Nordic Trails, Rumford



This is a wonderful place to x-c ski, albeit on the small side. It also appears that the tracks are only groomed (for both Classic and skating) when a race is scheduled. We were lucky the day we visited because there were high school teams at the mountain racing all day. We managed to get out on a lovely 5K course in between the sprints.

It’s important to note here: the black diamond trails are really black diamond! There are some mega hills here. The course is really challenging.

Plus, no matter how many trails are groomed or not groomed, you have to buy your $15 ticket. So it’s really best to check it out beforehand.

Directions: You can
park in the large parking area for the alpine ski hut, and you buy your
x-c ski tickets inside. The ski area is at the end of Glover Road, off
Isthmus Road.




Howard Hill, Augusta



You can get your aesthetic political fix here, on Howard Hill’s 164-acres, because its high point is an overlook with a lovely view of Maine’s capitol building.

The best place to access the roughly 3 miles of trail here is at the end of Coos Lane, where you can park at the 8-acre Effie L. Berry Conservation Area kiosk. This little preserve provides access to the trail system on Howard Hill.

Otherwise, you can access the trails at the end of Blaisdell Street, Ganneston Drive, or Parkwood Drive. The trail at the end of Blaisdell Road (and I’m not sure you can park here) is the quickest and steepest way to the view.

When I visited in the winter of 2018, the flagged trails were easy to follow, with maps posted at every intersection.

Directions: From Winthrop Street in Hallowell, turn onto Coos Lane. Continue onto the end loop of the lane; you can park behind the building, close to the trailhead kiosk.




Scott’s Landing, Deer Isle



The Island Heritage Trust says this is one of the island’s best places for birding, and was once a productive spot for Native Americans to fish. The preserve includes fields, woods, and a beach where you can see a midden where native people discarded shells. There are many places to duck out onto the beach from the trail system. The land trust has created a self-guided tour of this interesting spot.

Directions: Turn into the preserve driveway off Route 15, soon after the causeway. The entrance is across from Causeway Bay.




Shore Acres Preserve, Deer Isle



There are nice views here, out over Greenlaw Cove. And as you walk through the forest, alongside the coastline, light filters through the forest (if it’s sunny, that is!), creating that sparkling yet diffuse light you only find by the sea. I recommend walking the perimeter trail to the Meadow Trail. The trails are flat and so easy in that sense, but they are very rooty. I like these self-guided tours the Island Heritage Trust creates for its preserves.

Directions: From Route 15 on Deer Isle, turn left onto Sunshine Road, across from the gas station. Go 1.2 miles down Sunshine Road before bearing left onto Greenlaw District Road. After a mile, the preserve trail head and parking lot on the right.




Hatch Cove and Schumacher Preserve, Castine



Perhaps the neatest part of this preserve is the nearby beach on Wadsworth Cove and the tidal swimming pool behind it. When I visited the area, slushy, icy waves were rolling onto the beach, and the pool looked like it could be very enticing on a hot summer day.

There are no formal trails on the fields of Hatch Cove Preserve (which also contains an old farm pond), but you can walk a little ways down Wadsworth Cove Road and across the Route 166 causeway to the small Shumacher Preserve, on your left. A short trail takes you to a lookout over Hatch Cove and to the stone remains of British Revolutionary War redoubt, or temporary military shelter.

The fields at Hatch Cove are a good place to see bobolinks. And there is a charming old farm pond in the middle.

Directions: Take Route 166 south towards Castine, turning right onto Wadsworth Cove Road before crossing the Neck. Park along edge of Wadsworth Cove Road or the Backshore Road.






Crockett Cove Woods, Stonington



Come here for the quiet, and for a walk in a forest layered in a blanket of moss. At the start of the trail, if you begin at the trailhead off Whitman Road, the trail will take you over massive boulders covered in moss and lichen, still so green even in the middle of winter (if the snow hasn’t covered them, that is). From one end to the other of this 98-acre preserve, it’s roughly 1 mile.

The Nature Conservancy describes this 98-acre forest as a “coastal fog forest,” dominated by cool, moist air, which was donated by the designer and painter Emily Muir in 1975. Here is a self-guided tour.

Directions:  From Route 1, take Route 15 down the Deer Isle peninsula. About three miles past the Sunset Post Office, turn right on Whitman Road. Turn right onto Fire Lane 88. The preserve entrance is marked by a small sign. Note: When I visited in the winter of 2019, the road to this parking lot was barricaded, so I parked in the smaller lot off Barbour Farm Road.




Big Falls Preserve, New Gloucester and Auburn



After parking at the spot where a paved road turns into a dirt one, and walking .3 miles along the discontinued Woodman Road, you’ll come to a footpath on your right. The path follows Meadow Brook before coming to a small waterfall and pool in about .6 miles. It then turns back towards the dirt road for a .6 mile trek back to the trail head. It sounds like the Royal River Conservation Trust has plans to reroute the trail to avoid wet areas, improve signage, and create a more formal parking area.

Directions: Parking is available on the right-hand shoulder of Woodman Road, at the northern end of Woodman Road in New Gloucester.