Androscoggin Woods, Topsham
We visited the day before this Brunswick Topsham Land Trust preserve officially opened, and the land stewards were putting the final touches on this amazing preserve. We got there just as the afternoon sun was hitting the colonnade of trees along the river, lighting up the autumn leaves like stained glass!
The paths follow old logging roads (this area was selectively harvested for many years) so are mostly very easy and wide. The one non-road footpath, which follows the bank of the river, is also easy, and brings you to an open ledge on the river for great views up and down the waterway. If you do the perimeter walk, it’s about 1.2 miles or so. The first 0.2 miles of the trail follows on a grassy mowed path before crossing the railroad tracks and entering the woods.
I think swimming here should be nice here, especially at the boat launch.
Note (2021-2022): Because of the steep driveway that exits onto a fast road, the preserve parking area is closed during the winter.
Directions: (From the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust) From the Topsham Fair Mall, head west on Route 196 towards Lisbon. After passing the I-295 overpass, continue west on Route 196/Lewiston Road for 4.5 miles. When you see W. Merrill Road on your right, slow down and look for the Androscoggin Woods property sign on the left side of the road just past the driveway for 1074 Lewiston Road. The large parking area is down a steep hill, about 100 yards farther on the gravel driveway. Route 196 is is fast, so be careful turning.
Town Forest Trails, Topsham
This is one of the public trails the town lists on its website, but the trail system is not blazed and doesn’t seem frequently visited. That being said, there are some nice perks to exploring here, including walking by one open meadow and ending at another.
But, as the town says on its site, it can be a bit difficult to find the town land. And I’m not sure where is the best place to park. The town recommends starting from the Lisbon side and driving down Edgecomb Road, from Summer Street, but the parking area it recommends is inaccessible now, blocked by a gate.
Once you’re on Edgecomb Road, the road turn to dirt quickly (and its name changes to Ward Street). Right before the bridge over Little River, we parked in a little pull-out large enough for two cars that was marked private property. A neighbor said it was okay to leave a car here, but you might want to leave a note in your dashboard or seek permission.
Hikers can then head across the bridge and down the dirt road. In a short while, you’ll come to a gate that you can scoot around. At just under .5-mile, you’ll reach a fenced meadow. Continue along the road and alongside the meadow until you reach the end of the field, about another .1 mile. Here, you’ll see a snowmobile track heading right into the woods toward the power lines. Take this to the power lines, and you should see an unmarked trail heading into the town forest on the other side. If you take this, in about .3 miles you’ll come out on a large private field.
Return the way you came. Ward Road continues through the woods, cutting through timber land, before coming out on the Topsham side and turning into a paved street again.
Note: The Topsham map shows additional cross trails in the woods, but we couldn’t find them on our visit.
Directions: From Summer Street in Lisbon, turn onto Edgecomb Road and drive about .57 miles to a small turnaround area and bridge. The signs here say private property, so you might want to seek permission or leave a note in your dashboard.
Bridge-to-Bridge Trail and Androscoggin Riverwalk, Topsham
Both kids and grandparents should appreciate this in-town walk that includes a paved walking trail along the Androscoggin River and by the thundering hydroelectric dam. The path is wheelchair accessible and good for biking. And the pedestrian swinging bridge, which bounces slightly as you walk across it, is kind of thrilling! The expanse of river it crosses is wide, giving you lots of chances to check out the river views in either direction.
There are at least two cute pocket beaches along the trail—but the town forbids swimming in the river. There’s also a pretty overlook on a rocky ledge, with a bench for resting and “enjoying the passage of time.”
The paved section of the walking path in Topsham doesn’t quite reach the antique green Frank J. Wood Bridge that crosses the river into Brunswick. But the last 500 feet or so of the route are on a sidewalk, and then across a parking lot to the Wood Bridge. It’s easy to complete the satisfying 1.25-mile loop from bridge to bridge, and through the two towns. The loop is universally accessible, on paved trail or sidewalks, the whole way.
The paved section of trail on the Topsham side is .6 miles, and includes what the town calls the short Bridge to Bridge Trail.
Directions: There are several places to park: You can leave a car at the pedestrian swinging bridge on the Brunswick side, off Route 1 and across from Cushing Street. There are also two parking areas on the Topsham side, one at the other end of the swinging bridge, and the other at the start/end of the path, closer to the green Frank J Wood Bridge. All marked with green icons on my map. Go here to see all the parking areas.
Tarbox Preserve, Topsham
This Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust preserve is nestled between the Cathance and Muddy Rivers (but bisected by Middlesex Road). The blazed trail starts on the west side of the road. It follows a wide half-mile track to the shores of the Cathance River. The bank is very steep and wooded. When I visited in September, 2019, there was no official trail to the water, but I scrambled down anyway. The river makes a wide oxbow curve here, exposing a reedy mudplain. Then you can follow a footpath back to make a one-mile loop. The land trust has designated two loops, one for walking and one for skiing!
Directions: From Maine Street in Brunswick, cross the bridge and turn right onto Elm Street. This road eventually will turn into Middlesex Road. Follow it for 3.9 or so miles until you see a dirt parking area to your left. The approximate address is 660 Middlesex Road.
Mt. Ararat School Trails, Topsham
These trails feel a bit unloved. The high school cross-country team must run here as roots have been spray painted white. And I saw one sign for nordic skiing, so some must enjoy these wide, hilly trails in the winter. But there’s quite a bit of litter, and some sections are muddy and could use a board or two, or some stonework. But there is a legit mountain here! Mt. Ararat — its summit is 241 feet (no view).
Part of the route up to the old fire tower (chained and locked) is paved, and there’s a long, straight stretch of paved walkway at the top of the hill. There are No Trespassing signs just to the right of this walkway, but some of the signs indicate a tolerance for hikers (there’s a golf course next door).
Directions: Mt. Ararat High School is off of Rt. 201, just to the north of the crossing with Rt. 196. The trailhead is located to the right, next to the power lines, about 200 yards into the access road to Mt. Ararat High School.
Topsham Bike Path, Topsham
This is the first leg of a paved Topsham Bike Path. You’ll see a map below showing the stages still to come. I think you can park at the municipal buildings. You will cross Main Street and start off on a short section in the woods. The rest runs along the busy Brunswick/Topsham Bypass. Eventually the path will connect with the Androscoggin River Path. Nice! And wheelchair accessible.
Directions: Right now the best place to pick up the trail is at the Topsham town hall on Main Street. Cross the street and head down the path.
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Town Landing Trail (Smart Property), Topsham
This .3-mile there-and-back trail can be part of a longer walk that includes the Ravine Trails, Androscoggin Brunswick-Topsham Riverwalk, and the Androscoggin River Bike Path in Brunswick and Topsham.
This little spur takes you down a rather steep bank right to the river’s edge. It is a quiet, little tucked-away spot. It probably can be a bit wet at times. The small sliver of protected land contains a Silver Maple Floodplain Forest, with “towering silver maples,” green ashes, warblers and waterfowl.
Directions: From the Brunswick-Topsham bridge, take your first right at the lights onto Elm Street. Be sure to park at River Landing Residences, at 29 Elm Street, or at the old fire station on Green Street, and not at the end of Town Landing Road, as it is someone’s driveway!
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Bradley Pond Farm, Topsham
Check to see if this preserve is open before you go!
I am grateful when farmers open up their pastures and land to the public. You can go for about a 2-mile walk here, skirting big fields and catching views of Bradley Pond and the surrounding wetlands. The trail is maintained by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust.
Directions: If crossing into Topsham from Brunswick over the Frank Wood Bridge (green bridge across Androscoggin River), continue north on Rt. 201 for 5.5 miles. Take a slight left on Bradley Pond Road and continue for a half mile. Road will turn into dirt and turn left. Parking will be down the hill on the left, next to the information kiosk.
Cathance River Preserve and Corridor Heritage Trail, Topsham
This is one of my favorite walks. The trail is made up of many loops, so you can go for a considerable distance or keep your walk brief. Check the Cathance River Education Alliance’s map below, which shows all the trail loops. I usually start my walk at the Heath Loop, which takes you around the heath with a little pond. Mica and other minerals sparkle along a portion of the trail.
To continue to the river, head toward the Ecology Center. The Barnes Loop Trail will take you to the pretty Cathance River the fastest. You’ll follow the mercurial Cathance for quite a way as it changes from mild and meandering to frothy and roaring, and back again. Three other loops make up the system: Beaver, Rapids and Ravine.
Some of the trails are easier to walk than others—they are wider, more level, and less rooty. I found the Ecology Center Road to the Barnes Loop Trail to be easy going if you’re seeking a relatively gentle path.
From the Ravine Loop, you can link to the Cathance River Corridor Heritage Trail, which isn’t as dramatic as the preserve’s trails, but is quiet and peaceful. Dogs are allowed on this side of the river. You can also start the Corridor Trail at Head of Tide Park.
This is a wonderful, surprisingly wild-feeling preserve despite being adjacent to the expanding Highland Green development.
Directions: Traveling on Maine I-295 North or South, take the Topsham Exit 31. Turn east toward Brunswick, onto Rt. 196 East. An overhead sign will indicate: Rt. 196/Cooks Corner/ Bath/ Rt. 1. Continue straight ahead. Travel 1.2 miles — straight through the Lee Toyota intersection. Travel approximately .5 miles. Turn left at the traffic light into the Highland Green entrance. Once you have entered Highland Green’s entrance road, follow the “Cathance River Nature Preserve Visitor and Hiker Parking” signs to reach the parking lot. (While more units are being built, hikers are instructed to park at a temporary lot for the Ecology Center. If the Ecology Center parking area is full, additional parking can be found at the Community Center.)
Ravine or Highland Trails, Topsham
In this unexpected place, you can leave behind a busy little neighborhood and roads and literally sink into a peaceful, light-dappled ravine. The walk takes you along a narrow, winding stream with sandy banks. The Ravine Trails network contains four mini-trails, which total about 1.5 miles. The Ravine and Brook Trails, and part of the Gazebo Trail, follow the brook. The Abby Trail climbs up, leaving the ravine behind for a small silver forest of birch trees. *In the summer of 2016, the Abby Trail had been disrupted by a development.
You can avoid the steep dip at the start of the trail system by taking the second of the two paths into the woods from the school’s fields.
Directions: From the Frank Wood Bridge (green bridge across Androscoggin), cross into Topsham and head through the first set of lights on 201. After the Dairy Queen, take a right on Pleasant Street. The trail entrance is straight ahead, just as Pleasant Street begins to turn right. There is no designated parking area for the trails, although you can park at the Williams Cone School after school hours and on weekends, or at the Topsham Grange Hall.
Topsham Ponds Trails (near the transfer station), Topsham
There are many miles of tracks behind the town transfer station, including more than four miles of single track, used by mountain bikers, skiers, runners, horseback riders, and four-wheelers. In 2018, a group began building trails for mountain biking (the squiggly lines on the map), and they’ve done a great job.
The easy and smooth mountain bike trails are beautifully made and maintained, so great for beginners. They let you glide through sun-dappled and quiet woods. Additionally, I appreciate that the four segments of the trail form one large loop, making it easy to know where you are at all times.
Meanwhile, the ATV trails wind all around, linking backyards to the network. It’s amazing that an area that arose from garbage-filled landfills can be so idyllic! The two ponds—Big Eddy and Little Eddy—are warm and shallow. Humans can’t swim in them — but it’s okay to let a dog wade in.
Directions: The trail system is off of Townsend Way, the road to the town’s transfer station. There is a trailhead and parking area on the left, right before the gate to the transfer station.
Foreside Trails, Topsham
These town trails wind around the recreational fields next to the Androscoggin River. Access to the river itself is a bit tough and the banks are muddy. Otherwise, just enjoy your stroll along the river’s edge until the trail ends at a creek and you turn back the way you came. The trail spur that goes to the TnT Bible Church crosses an area with a lot of beaver activity, so it can be very wet and difficult to cross.
If you continue across the street behind the recreational fields, you first have to ascend a steep bank. Then the trails wind around between the neighborhoods and are popular with dog walkers.
Directions: To access the trails, take a right at the lights onto Rt. 24/ Elm Street. Follow for a half mile, and take a right on Foreside Road. Half-mile down, you’ll see the recreational fields. Parking is available in lots on either side of the street. Dog bags are available.