I find it kind of sweet that this area is called the ‘highlands,’ since we’re not talking immensely high elevations! What you do find here seem to be foothills that step up gradually to the great mountains of New Hampshire and northern Maine. Nonetheless, the little mountains in this area are great — they’re relatively easy to climb and some offer fine views, including this one. Don’t expect spectacular majesty and you’ll come away fulfilled by this hike, I think.
This preserve encompasses more than 1,400 acres. “The Sawyer Mountain Highlands are located in the largest un-fragmented block of undeveloped forested areas in York and Cumberland counties,” according to the Francis Small Heritage Trust.
There are two ways to summit summit the 1,213-feet Sawyer Mountain. The trailhead off Route 117 in Limington seems more popular — probably because it is easier to get to. You can do a .7-mile, easy nature loop from this trailhead. If you want to summit the mountain, you have two options: take a 2.8-mile footpath, which starts by climbing gradually and then levels out before climbing gently again. The other slightly shorter 2-mile or so route goes up the old Sawyer Road, which offers a relatively steady, easy incline. The footing is somewhat rocky, though. At .8-mile, you’ll pass a route off to the right, leading to Norton Road. A side path from this trail leads to old home foundations and appears to be a dead end.
If you keep going to the summit from this intersection, you’ll soon come to an intersection (with some interesting old remains from earlier settlements). You can continue up Sawyer Road (on your right) to the final .3-mile trail (to your left) that leads to the summit. Or you can take a left, and pick up the footpath (on your right), which leads to the summit.
On the other side of the mountain, you will find a 1.4-mile trail thats starts from the gravel Sawyer Mountain Road. This trail is marked with little wooden turtle signs. You start up a steep walking path from the trailhead, which levels off for a pretty stretch through forest, crisscrossed with stone walls, before joining the old Sawyer Road (rocky and slippery when wet). The road continues up the mountain to your right. About .4 miles later, you’ll come to an intersection with a sign for the summit, which is another .3 miles to the right and up.
At the summit there’s an open grassy area. If you are standing facing the views, you’ll see a trail off to your left, heading over to another scenic overlook (not as nice as the summit). From there, you can hike down and back up the old Sawyer Road. You’ll come to an intersection with the footpath that leads down to the Route 117 trailhead in Limington.
There is a gorge off the old Sawyer Road on the Limerick side of the mountain. The path unfortunately has been closed off by the landowners to hikers, and I couldn’t see an alternative way to get there, although I didn’t look too hard. (This was in July 2017.)
Directions: For the Limerick trailhead, take Route 11 in Limerick and turn on to the Emery Corner Road. Follow the Emery Corner Road for 2 miles until it ends at the Sawyer Mountain Road. Turn left on the Sawyer Mountain Road and follow it for 1.1 miles (it turns into a dirt road) up a steep hill to the parking lot on the right. For the Limington trailhead, you’ll find a parking lot off Route 117 at a sharp turn in the highway, 2.5 miles south of the junction of Routes 25 and 117, and 2.4 miles north of the junction of Routes 11 and 117.