Dows Woods Nature Preserve, South Portland
Behind a row of townhouses, you’ll find a 9.3-acre preserve, with a 2-acre pond, close to the high school.
Directions: Across from the South Portland High School upper parking lot, turn left onto Preservation Lane. At the end of this short street, there is parking for about four cars. Directly in front of the lot, you’ll see the trail, which heads into the woods through a break in the low stone wall a few feet from the edge of the small parking area.
Trout Brook Nature Preserve, South Portland
I saw quite an array of birds in this small, lovingly tended “pocket” park. The trails are well built, there is a sturdy bridge over a stream, and there are several signs up about the importance of keeping this brook clean (it has a history of extreme pollution). The best place to park is off of Providence Avenue. The trail starting at the Parrott Street trailhead is very steep, and can be slippery in icy conditions.
Directions: There are four access points (that I could see) to this preserve, from Parrott Street, Providence Avenue, Sawyer Street, and Boothby Avenue, all of them well signed. The easiest place to park and enter the preserve is from Providence Avenue.
Eastern Trail’s Off-Road Segments, South Portland to Kennebunk
It’s an incredible idea, a 3,000-mile “green trail” from Maine to Florida. While some of the 62-mile Eastern Trail is off road in Maine (from South Portland to Kittery), the majority is (right now) along roads, some of them busy roads. Nonetheless, you can do a cool walk or bike ride on an off-road, flat, easy, well-maintained gravel or paved trail that passes through South Portland, Scarborough, Saco, Biddeford and Kennebunk. It is wheelchair accessible. Go here for more information.
New sections of the trail are being constructed. The one I know about is a link-in-progress between the South Portland section (the excellent Greenbelt Walkway) and Scarborough segment.
The section of the trail that cross the Scarborough Marsh is beautiful, and so quite popular, and also great for bird watching. The portions between Kennebunk and Saco are bucolic and peaceful. I was really impressed with this trail, how nice, quiet, and pretty it is.
A few distances: From Scarborough’s Eastern Road trailhead, it is 8.4 miles one way to Thornton Academy. The off-road Kennebunk to Biddeford section is 6.1 miles. The Greenbelt section in South Portland is 5.6 miles.
I have also included on my map a short footpath on the 90-acre Clark Preserve, in Kennebunk. It’s marked in red, and it can be a bit overgrown.
Directions: You can pick up the trail anytime it crosses a road. But there are biggish lots at the Wainwright Sports Complex and Bug Light Park in South Portland, and on Eastern Road (off Black Point Road) in Scarborough. Also there’s a small parking lot on Pine Point Road. You can also park at Thornton Academy and Kennebunk Elementary School.
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Long Creek Trail, South Portland
The Long Creek Trail follows the Long Creek for about half a mile. It is a good trail for the people who live nearby. I parked behind The Opportunity Alliance, close to where I found some steps to the trail. The trail includes a short pier overlooking the creek.
There’s a good land trust map here.
Directions: Turn onto Westbrook Street from the junction of Westbrook Street and Western Avenue in South Portland. Go about 1/2 mile until you see the entrance to Brickhill on the right. Take this right, then follow the road all the way to its end, at a parking lot.
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Spring Point Shoreway, South Portland
This is a favorite spot for lots of locals. The walk includes some smashing views, a lovely little beach, a historic fort built in 1808, a little lighthouse you can walk to along a stony breakwater. Between the beach and the fort are some big, blocky boulders that require some scrabbling. To avoid them, look for stairs to the left to a paved pathway. You can manage almost a 2-mile loop here. You can also head over to the Greenbelt for a longer walk.
Directions: The most common access to the trails is from either Willow Street (via Willard Beach) or The Southern Maine Community College campus. Reach SMCC’s campus, by following Broadway to its northern end and turning right. Willow Street is off Preble Street in South Portland; a parking lot will be about 300 yards from Preble Street on the right.
Greenbelt Walkway, South Portland
I was pleasantly surprised by this paved bike-and-pedestrian path that is very wheelchair accessible. There was only a small stretch on roads — just 100 feet or so — and they were quiet, neighborhood roads. At a couple of points you have to cross busy streets, but this is no problem. The rest of the roughly 5.5-mile trail wends its way behind houses, past some waterfront views, through woods and along some fields (at the end). The trail extends from Bug Light Park to the massive Wainwright Recreation Complex. Some homeowners along the path have set up dog oases, with water bowls and treats. Phoebe enjoyed this part of the walk.
Directions: Begin your walk at either Bug Light. To get to the park, follow Broadway to its northern end in South Portland. Turn left onto Breakwater Drive and then left onto Madison Street. Follow Madison Street into Bug Light. To get to the Wainwright athletic fields, follow Highland Avenue south 2.6 miles from ME Route 77 in South Portland, and look for Gary Maietta Drive on the right. From Scarbrough, follow Highland Avenue 2.8 miles north from its intersection with ME Route 207. Follow Gary Maietta Drive until it ends at the Wainwright Athletic Fields’ parking lot.
Hinckley Park and the Armory Trail, South Portland
This is a special little city park, with two ponds pretty enough to draw a watercolorist the day I went. The artist set up her canvas to paint all afternoon while her dog lay at her feet. My dogs loved swimming in the two ponds. The park is about 40 acres, and offers several trails, including one that goes around both ponds, about a 3/4-mile jaunt. The trails are pretty well worn, so they’re easy enough to follow even though there aren’t trail blazes. Many of them lead out to neighborhoods around the park.
The 0.3-mile Armory Trail connects the park to Rusty Lantern Market on Broadway. It was a bit overgrown and grassy when I walked it.
Directions: According to the South Portland Land Trust, there are two parking areas for accessing Hinckley Park. By far the more popular, and the bigger of the two, is the lot located off of Highland Avenue, which has room for several cars. There is also room for a few cars in a small turnout located next to Stillman Street.
Clark’s Pond Trails, South Portland
Instead of catching a matinee or going on a shopping spree, go for a walk! Clark’s Pond Trail South Portland Land Trust trails skirts the pond behind the mall. While parts of the walk don’t let you forget you’re in an urban setting (there is some litter, and occasionally signs of homeless people), it is peaceful and fun to be in such a different world so close to a shopping mall. Retracing my steps, I did about 2.4 miles of walking here.
The South Branch Trail nearby is accessible from the Cinemagic parking lot. The loop is roughly 0.6 miles, part of which follows the brook.
There’s a good map of the area here.
Directions: If you are arriving by car, use the western (or second) entrance into the Home Depot lot after you’ve turned off of Gorham Road. You’ll see a kiosk and parking to the right of the building. If you head left, you’ll walk out on a small peninsula with benches. If you go right, you’ll walk about 1.1 miles to the end of the trail on busy Westbrook Street.