Great Pond Mountain Wildlands, Orland
Great Pond Mountain, protected by the area’s eponymous land trust, offers spectacular views for a relatively small mountain (1,030 feet) and a fairly easy, gradual hike with well-maintained trails. The summit is exposed, which makes for expansive views of three nearby mountain areas—Acadia, Camden’s hills, and even as far, I believe, as Schoodic Mountain—but it can be slick in the winter! Also, the trails in the immediate vicinity around the mountain in the Wildlands are wonderful and well-marked, with occasional views. The two lakes, Craig Pond and Alamoosook Lake, that buttress the trail system here are fabulous for swimming.
There are several access paths to the mountain, and two different trailheads .4 miles apart on the access road (Don Fish Trail on Google maps. It’s plowed in the winter). At Mountain Trailhead, which is the second one farther along the access road, there is parking for four or five cars. From here, the summit is about 1.5 miles along the Stuart Gross Trail and the elevation gained is 850 feet.
The other trailhead, at Dead River Gate, is the first one you reach on the access road. It has parking for five or so cars. From this point, the hike to the summit is a bit more than 2 miles. You’ll begin on the wide Dead River Trail—which, incidentally, is great for skiing and biking. At .5 miles, you’ll come to the intersection with the ~.6-mile Hay Ledges Trail, which includes a nice overlook and bench off to the right about 2/3 of the way along.
The Hay Ledges Trail deposits you at the .9-mile Stuart Gross Trail, which brings you along a gradual ridge to both the mountain’s wooded summit and to its overlook with gorgeous views. Be sure to wear snowshoes or spikes on your boots in the winter! Also, it can be hard to find the trails (there are two loops up here) if snow is covering the blazes—but the hike is popular enough that you will likely be treading upon others’ footprints.
If you have time, I highly suggest checking out the picnic spot on the Dead River, off Dead River Trail. A steepish .3-mile path takes you from Dead River Road to the lakeside, where there is a secluded spot for a swim and snack. The trail begins wide and gradually narrows, with firs enclosing the trail on either side as you get closer to the lake. Or, you can end your hike in the clear aquamarine waters of Craig Pond, a most amazing place for a swim.
The Dead River Road, which includes a looong hill, is good for skiing and biking. There is also a 1.4-mile (and growing) bike trail — the Capstone Trail — woven into the hiking trail system. We hiked along Capstone from Hay Ledges Trail to the Dead River Road, as it served as a connector path.
Directions: Dead River Gate: On the Don Fish Road .5 mi. past Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery, this gate accesses the west side of the Wildlands. Turn off Route 1 in Orland onto Hatchery Road. Go 1.4 miles to the Hatchery and continue another .6 miles. Mountain Trailhead: This trailhead is .4 miles past the Dead River Gate, with parking for about four cars on the right.