Pork Point Walking Trail, Bowdoinham

At this amazing town parcel, you can follow a 0.75-mile well-worn trail along the edge of the Kennebec River to Pork Point. There are wonderful views most of the way.

The path is unmarked but easy to follow. At times the trail gets quite narrow and edges the short but steep bank down to the river, but for the most part it is flat and easy (with occasional fallen trees requiring a big step).

After you round the corner of Pork Point, the trail continues along the river behind fields before petering out.

When it’s warm out—go for a swim!

Directions: The closest address is 304 Pork Point Rd. Once you are on Pork Point Road, look for a white farmhouse across from wide fields. A few meters from the house on the opposite side of the street is a small parking area and a yellow gate. There’s room for about two cars. If the lot is full, you can park along the side of the road.

Great Head, Acadia National Park

For a fairly moderate hike, Great Head offers gorgeous views of the open ocean and the peaceful waters of Newport Cove lapping up against Sand Beach. (If you strain the beach sand between your fingers, you’ll see it’s made of colorful crushed shells, with a few bits of sea glass.) The knobby peaks of Bubble and Gorham Mountains form the backdrop. The hike is popular, so you might want to do it off-season, in spring, fall, or winter, or before 9 a.m. or after 4 p.m. in the summer.

While they are not technically difficult, the trails cross ledges and pass along rocky cliffs and over uneven forest floor. There’s a short, steep section rising up from Sand Beach, as well. The Appalachian Mountain Club recommends hiking it counterclockwise, perhaps for this reason. If you do the biggest possible loop here, the walk is roughly 2.5 miles.

At the highest point, you’ll find the remains of an old stone tower and teahouse! Maybe bring a thermos of tea in honor of an old tradition.

There are two places to park: the large lot behind Sand Beach, and a smaller lot off Schooner Head Road, slightly to the north of the trail system. If you park in the large lot behind Sand Beach you’ll head down to the beach. You’ll find a set of stairs at the far eastern end of the beach that will bring you to the Great Head loop trail. You’ll need a park pass to access this section of the park.

Eliot Mountain and Little Long Pond Natural Lands, Mount Desert Island

(My map is incomplete)

Along with the 456-foot Eliot Mountain, the interesting Land and Garden Preserve protects 1,400 acres of historic natural lands, gardens, and trails between Seal Harbor and Northeast Harbor. Their two main parcels are Little Long Ponds Natural Lands and Hunters Cliff Natural Lands. They were gifted by David Rockefeller, Sr., in 2015.

The preserve’s network of trails around Little Long Pond connects seamlessly to Acadia’s trails, allowing you to extend a mountain hike with a preamble and/or finale along bucolic streams and quiet forests. The protected area includes clear streams, 17 acres of meadows, marshlands and bogs, gardens and terraces, and carriage roads.

There are several places to park and access the preserve, depending on which part you want to walk in. I started my hike at the large parking lot off Route 3, west of Pierce Head, at the trailhead for Harbor Brook Trail. From here, it is about 1.2 miles to the summit of Eliot Mountain — 0.7 miles of it along the flat path following the brook. The 0.5-mile ascent to the summit requires steady exertion but is not too steep. While I saw no views at the official summit, I did catch a nice view just below it on the Charles Savage trail, near a plaque (the Eliot Monument) affixed to a boulder.

There are several other ways to summit Eliot Mountain. I haven’t yet done them, but one that looks fun is to start at the trailhead below Thuya Garden and do a short loop to the summit of around 1.8 miles. And check out the garden along the way if it is open!

If you get a chance, I recommend walking the Jordan Stream Trail. In the balmy February day I visited, the stream started off as a gentle flow, but became a tumbling roar the closer I got to the pond. Parts of the trail had washed out! Some of the pools looked like they could provide refreshing dips on hot summer days, unless the stream dries up seasonally?

Most of the trails in the preserve, with the exception of the ones that go up Eliot Mountain, are fairly flat and relatively easy. According to my calculations—which could be dubious—there are around nine miles of walking paths in the preserve, not counting carriage roads.

It does look like the carriage roads on the east side of Little Long Pond are a popular place for walkers? I will have to check them out one day! You can swim in the pond as well.

Directions: You can park at several places to access the trail system. I parked at a large lot west of Pierce Head, at the Harbor Brook Trail. You can also park on the shoulder of Route 3 to access the Eliot Mountain Trail, or in a roundabout to access the Friends Path. I am not sure about the other parking areas at the gardens, but the preserve map indicates parking below Thuya Gardens, off Route 3, and at Jordan Pond (which is, of course, inside the park, so you’d walk into the preserve from there.)

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.

Indian Point Blagden Preserve, Mount Desert Island

This is a popular Nature Conservancy preserve outside of the national park, with a large parking area. There are a couple of small gravelly beaches with clear, cold water. And the apples in the old orchard are not too tart.

Check out the trail map before heading out. It’s in a nook in the white shed adjacent to the parking area. The one-way trail with yellow blazes winds down through a forest. At 0.3 miles, it crosses a private dirt road that cuts through the preserve. At about 0.9 miles, it brings you to a small meadow with old apple trees. Cross another road, Higgins Farm Road, to access the shore trails and explore the 1,000 feet of frontage along Western Bay. There are benches tucked away with views over the water. Don’t worry about wandering off the preserve — there are plenty of signs marking the boundaries.

Directions: After driving onto Mount Desert Island, bea right at the first fork in the road onto Route 102/198 toward Somesville. In 1.8 miles, turn right on the Indian Point Road and bear right at the first fork in 1.7 miles. Higgins Farm Road, and the preserve parking area, is located 200 yards farther on the right. The relatively large lot is on the left, just after turning onto the road.

Blue Horizons, Mount Desert Island

You can find a few places on Mount Desert Island not swarming with people even before winter’s icy landscape deters many. The Maine Coast Heritage Trust preserves, like Blue Horizons, are often less crowded than park trails. Blue Horizons’ enticements may be more subtle than those in the park, but it still offers interesting nature and lots of beauty.

It’s easy to drive by the entrance to Blue Horizons; the trailhead sign is tucked away on a locked gate blocking a driveway. There’s plenty of parking on the road shoulders so no excuse to block the driveway! There are two lived-in cottages on this preserve that house MCHT’s seasonal staff.

You’ll start your walk on the driveway. To do the loop counter-clockwise, take a left onto a footpath about a a third of a mile in. The next section of the path covers some spongy ground, and there’s a long string of bog bridges laid end-to-end here. You’ll soon arrive at a “sweeping cobble beach”. You can make your way carefully along the rocks on the beach, past the cottages, to continue the loop trail. Look for the small wooden arrow at the edge of the forest marking the trail back.

For those who are less steady on their feet, you can walk most of the way down the easy driveway almost to the shore. You’ll see a trail sign pointing right, and a short path from that point will take you to the beach.

Directions: From Route 102 in Town Hill, head west on Indian Point Road. Drive 0.5 mile to a dirt driveway, Fire Road 800, on the right. There’s room for several cars to park along the wide shoulder.

Birch Point Beach State Park, Owls Head

You can get more of a walk at this 62-acre state park if you leave your car at the entrance gate and walk 0.4-mile paved access road to the secluded cove. In the off-season, the gate is closed anyway, forcing you to exercise!

Otherwise, if you park in the large lot close to the shore (and pay the park fee), you can do a relatively short walk along the small beach to two tiny trails that bring you to large, surprisingly smooth slabs of rock ledge over which waves crash.

The walk down the paved drive is easy, as is the walk along the beach. It’s more of a scramble up rocks and through root-filled paths to reach the far reaches of the park.

Leashed dogs are allowed at the park from Oct. 1 to March 31.

Directions: (From Maine Trail Finder) From the intersection of US Route 1 and ME Route 73 in Rockland, head south on Maine Route 73 for 3.9 miles. Turn left onto Dublin Road and continue 1.4 miles, before taking a right onto Ballyhac Road. The access road for Birch Point State Park is 0.8 miles on the left. After Labor Day and before Memorial Day, the gate to the park is closed. Park by the side of the street and walk in.

Clark Island Preserve, St. George

The enchantments of this preserve come very quickly after you leave your car! Hopefully you will have an easy time finding a parking space (on summer weekends, this can be iffy). After walking by the Craignair Inn, you’ll reach a causeway that crosses the narrow sound between the mainland and the small island.

After reaching the island, you’ll take a path immediately to your left (don’t continue straight down the road as this passes through private property).

The little path will include a side spur that leads to a protected, sandy beach — lovely for swimming. Continue back on the path, and it’ll deposit you on the main dirt road that cuts across the island and from which several walking paths depart.

While all of the island is pretty, including the east spur to an old apple orchard, and the 1-mile loop on the west side of the island through a mossy forest (and another apple orchard), the highlight for many is probably the fairly big quarry. The quarry loop trail brings you to a side trail to the rock ledges above the pool, an enticing spot for swimming. For those less steady on their feet who want to avoid the rougher footpath loop, you can walk down the mile down the main dirt road and then take the short path on your left to the quarry.

Be very mindful that parking may be difficult here on weekends and summer days. The Craignair Inn off of Clark Island Road has set aside eight spaces in its parking area for preserve visitors. You can only park here if you plan on staying less than two hours. If these spots are full or you want to spend longer than two hours at the preserve, you can park 0.75 miles back up Clark Island Road on the west side. The speed limit is 25 miles per hour, and the housing is dense in this little section of road. The Maine Coast Heritage Trust says turn into the gravel driveway across from the Wheeler Bay Refuge fence and park head-in on the left side of the concrete slab. Don’t block the turnaround or other vehicles! You may also park around the entrance to the slab as long as you are not blocking the road or other cars.

Prescott Field Trails, Farmington

(Wheelchair-accessible trail marked in red.) The fields adjacent to the downtown, which lie between Main Street and the pebbly Sandy River, have a network of easy and pretty paths—including a fabulous 0.6-mile accessibility trail.

The accessible trail, made of compacted crushed rock, was the outcome of a collaboration between University of Maine Farmington (particularly rehabilitation services professor Gina Oswald) and High Peaks Alliance, which promotes public access to the outdoors. The Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund contributed money for the project.

The trail system’s main parking area is off Front Street. The lot can accommodate a fair number of cars, perhaps as many as 10 to 12, and there is a trailhead kiosk with a map of the easy-to-follow but unmarked trails. You can also access the trail system from other small side roads that connect to Main Street.

The accessibility trail begins in a river floodplain and silver maple forest carpeted with ferns and Japanese knotweed. The knotweed looks beguilingly delicate but is actually a fierce invasive that has proliferated in Maine.

There are a number of short side spurs that lead down to the beaches of sand and smooth pebbles, popular places to wade and swim. High Peaks Alliance is working to rebuild the demolished bridge across the river to connect the Whistle Stop Trail to town.

Leaving the accessibility trail, you can walk along the side of the playing field to access a 1.5-mile loop around a large field, probably best walked when there aren’t many ticks! There are several short side path to quiet spots along the river.

Directions: Coming into town on Main Street from the south, turn left after the McDonalds onto Front Street. The main parking area is 530 feet ahead, on the left off Front Street.

Goose Eye Mountain, Grafton Notch State Park

There are several ways to reach the top of this fantastic mountain with two peaks (the taller is 3,974 feet). I’ve just hiked the 4.6-mile Wright Trail so far, which leaves from Bull Branch Road, a dirt road that is maintained well enough for low-clearance vehicles.

The Wright Trail in Grafton Notch State Park and Mahoosuc Public Lands initially lulls you into a peaceful state of calm for the first 2.5 miles, before startling you wide awake when the trail begins to ascend steeply. The first half of the trail follows Goose Eye Brook, which has lovely cascades and pools all along this stretch. Those who don’t want to summit the mountain can meander alongside the brook, possibly swimming in one of its deeper pools if it’s hot enough. (You can see on my map where we left the main trail to check out pretty spots in the brook. You’ll start to see nice stuff around 0.6 miles in.) The trail ascends gradually, offering a gentle walk through the woods. You’ll have to cross a few streams, though, jumping from rock to rock.

The nature of the hike changes when you reach the campsite, at 2.5 miles. Here you’ll make a crossing over Goose Eye Brook, which can be difficult. Then the trail starts to head steeply up. You’ll get a bit of a reprieve after a half mile or so of climbing, when the trail flattens a bit before climbing again. Shortly, at 3.1 miles, you’ll emerge over tree line on a spectacular but very exposed ridge. The wind can come gusting at you without many nearby peaks to blunt its force!

After walking along the ridge a short ways, you’ll dip back into the forest again before reaching the Appalachian Trail. Turn left and you’ll arrive at the lovely summit of Goose Eye in 0.3 miles (passing southbound the At to Mt. Carlo on your right at 0.2 miles). Views abound all around. If you had turned right at the AT back when it intersected with the Wright Trail, you could climb steeply for 0.1 mile to the summit of North Peak, which has great views of Goose Eye.

When we hiked this trail in September, 2021, it was very muddy, especially at the top along the ridge.

Swimming: After your hike, you can plunge into the popular Frenchman’s Hole, which is on Bull Branch Road about 1.1 miles before the parking area for Wright Trail. Kids like to jump off the rocks into the deep pool underneath the waterfall. You can also cool off in one of the pools you’ll pass alongside Wright Trail.

Directions: Follow Sunday River Road for 7.8 miles; it’ll switch to gravel at around 6.5 miles. When it take a sharp left to cross Bull Branch river, you’ll come to a fork in the road. Go right onto Bull Branch Road. You’ll pass Frenchman’s Hole in a little under a mile on your right. On hot days, it’ll be mobbed here! Continue another 1.1 miles or so to the end of the road, blocked by a gate. There’ll be a large parking area here. Walk back along the road a short ways to see the trailhead kiosk (on your right if you’re walking away from the parking area).

West Mountain Falls, Carrabassett Valley

If you don’t feel like hiking a grand mountain, you can check out the 0.4-mile (one-way) trail up the South Branch of the Carrabassett River, which is chocked with rocks and boulders that create many pools and small falls. (On my map, you can see where I ducked off the trail briefly to check out nice spots along the river.)

The trail is rocky and rooty, and initially descends quite steeply down to the river, so it’s not as easy walking as the cross-country ski trails or Narrow Gauge Pathway. But for relatively little effort, you can reach the falls and the big pool below it. Bring your bathing suits on a hot day!

The trail is unmarked, except at the trail head where there is a sign, but it is easy to follow. It appears to continue beyond West Mountain Falls some ways but I haven’t yet explored it.

Directions: From the main Access Road to the base of Sugarloaf, turn onto West Mountain Road. Continue about 1.25 miles, almost to the golf course. Before you reach the Sugarloaf Golf Course, you’ll see a trail sign on your left. You can park on the road shoulder, and there is also what looks like a small parking area on the right, across from the trail head.

Kidney Pond Trails, Baxter State Park

Trails to ponds around Kidney Pond are in blue; Sentinel Mountain Trail is in yellow; Doubletop Mountain Trail is in red

Kidney Pond, in southern Baxter State Park, has several trails spiraling away from it. One of the most popular walks is the hike to Sentinel Mountain. But the other paths (all easy to moderate, as they’re a bit rocky and rooty but mainly flat) are also great — both for the remote ponds they lead you to and also for the views they provide of mountains looming over water. Visitors can rent canoes from park rangers (you can track down a ranger at the Kidney Pond station) to explore the ponds and some of the little paths extending beyond them.

Sentinel Mountain — The hike to the 1,842-ft. mountain is 3.1 miles one way from Kidney Pond. From Kidney Pond campground, the trail to Sentinel Mountain winds around Kidney Pond for a rocky 0.5 miles before heading off to the right (south). For the next 2.3 miles, you walk through forest and over bog bridges. The final 0.5 miles to the views is up a steeper pitch, until you reach the 0.6-mile loop around this small but magnificent mountain. There are views in every direction. Do the loop — and then if you have time, do it again! One western-facing ledge is called Sunset Ledge, and I imagine the spectacle is wonderful from here.

Doubletop Mountain — A wonderful, challenging hike to two summit peaks—3,489 feet and 3,455 feet—both of which cast the illusion of being unscalable, except maybe to climbers, when you’re looking at them from below. In truth, Doubletop is not a technical climb (there were several children at the top when we visited), and the views, especially from South Peak, are breathtaking.

Lily Pad Pond Trail — The trail portion of this hike is .9 miles from Kidney Pond Campground. But you’ll need a boat to access the full 20 acres or so of Lily Pad Pond. The trail portion takes you to a marshy stream where there are park canoes that you can use if you’ve arranged to get a key from a ranger. If you canoe to Lily Pad Pond, you’ll find a trail to Windy Pitch Pond at the southeast corner.

Slaughter Pond — My favorite of the many small, remote ponds sprinkled around  Kidney Pond. It’s also the farthest away — an approximately 2.3 mile one-way walk through beautiful forest and slightly outside the park’s boundaries. The path begins on an old tote road, flat and easy. Even after it turns into a footpath, the walking remains fairly gently for a woods walk. Before you come out to the pond, you pass a canoe graveyard (I mean, the boats not left to die here, but there are so many scattered near the shore it looks a bit post-canoe apocalyptic). Then you’ll arrive at the smallest and sweetest of little gravel beaches. Looks very tempting for swimming (but beware the leeches). You can get to the pond either by taking the Doubletop Mountain trail from the Kidney Pond parking lot, or on the Slaughter Pond trail, which leaves from the trailhead and small parking lot farther up Kidney Pond Road.

Rocky Pond and Little Rocky Pond — Aptly named ponds, as they both have boulders poking up through the pond surface that create good foreground for photos of more distant mountains! Rocky Pond is 0.6 miles from Kidney Pond parking area, with Little Rocky Pond another 0.6 miles beyond it, on a trail that is slightly rougher and seems less used than the first section to Rocky Pond.

Celia, Jackson, and Little Beaver Ponds — Celia Pond is about 1.5 miles from the Kidney Pond parking area, through a pretty forest. I recommend continuing on to Jackson Pond, another 0.2 miles farther on the trail, as you can see Doubletop Mountain and other peaks in the backdrop of the peaceful pond. The unmaintained trail to Little Beaver Pond (there were blowdowns when we walked it), is just beyond Celia Pond, and is marked with a park sign. The quiet pond is 0.7 miles farther.

Draper Pond — The closest of the ponds the circle Kidney Pond — it’s just 0.5 miles from the Kidney Pond parking area. And the water access is a bit smoother and easier than some of the others.  

The park has a great hiking resource here.

Directions: The best place to pick up all these trails is at the Kidney Pond parking area, at the end of Kidney Pond Road, a short dead-end road that leads to the cabins on the pond and a largish parking area. The turn into Kidney Pond Road is almost opposite the Foster Field camping area.

Grotto Hill, Otis

I found Grotto Hill on All Trails, and on this helpful blog, and am so glad to have checked it out.

The 1.1-mile trail to the summit and overlook over Beech Hill Pond and Graham Lake is unmarked, so can be tricky to find. Also, scrambling down from these open ledges to the grotto, or talus caves, is a slightly uncomfortable busk whack. I’m more interested in views than cliffs, so could have skipped that part.

The best place to park near the trailhead is at the public boat launch on Beech Hill Pond. The private road to the launch is called both West Shore Road and Camp No. 1 Road on Google maps.

From the boat launch, continue by foot along the road for 200 feet or so, and you’ll reach a little lane on your left. Walk past the a shed (it has a no trespassing sign on it), and continue straight past a second shed-like building. The path continues another 0.25 or so to a beaver pond. The trail was completely flooded when I visited in June 2021; you could just barely walk along a the edge to keep your shoes reasonably dry. There are other ways to reach the summit via ATV trails according to the All Trails map—this might be necessary in the future!

Continue straight up the trail. You’ll pass a jeep track on your right. Ay 0.6 miles, you’ll arrive at an open clearing with wide tracks leading straight and left. You’ll find the ATV trail to the summit on your right; it heads up and into the woods. Follow this about half a mile to a ledgy, open area with great views over the dramatic cliffs (which contain the grotto). You can continue another 0.1-mile along the ATV track to an open area with a fire pit that is marked as the summit on online maps. No views here, but a nice open spot.

Directions: From Rt. 180, turn onto Moore Road, and in a quarter mile, turn right onto West Shore Road/Camp No. 1 Road. Go 1.5 miles, past the public beach (go for a swim later if you have a town permit!) to the public boat launch. Park along the edge of the lot, and continue by foot 200 feet or so to the trail on your left. There will be a shed to the right of the trail.

Fields Pond Audubon Center, Holden

Fields Pond trails in blue. Hart Farm trails in green.
Fields Pond has a cool, shady trail that traces the edge of the pond, as well as fantastic mowed paths through meadows filled with butterflies and lots of birdsong (when I visited in June 2021). One of these field trails ends at a private spot by a frog pool covered in a carpet of lily pads. You can rest on the bench here.

The Audubon Center also had connected its trail system to the adjacent Hart Farm trails, so visitors can do a long walk through different habitats.

If you want to do a big loop starting along Field Pond, be careful not to miss the lefthand turn up the bank toward the ravine and Hart Farm. It’ll be in a half mile from the the boat launch, on your left once you reach a small clearing by the pond. The trail is blazed, marked with a small wooden block with the letter E on it and has stone steps leading up the bank. Despite all these markers, I walked right by! I am sort of glad I did, though, because I continued on an obvious path along the pond that ended up at a small sandy beach and dam. While I am pretty sure this is private property, there were no signs forbidding the public from stopping by. It’s a very pretty spot, and seemingly nice for swimming.

If you want to go for a swim after your walk, you can also find another swimming beach at the other end of the pond, close to the Field Pond boat launch. There is a small path leading away from the parking lot to a privately owned sandy beach. A sign posted to a tree says people are welcome as long as they don’t have dogs, pack out their trash, and are considerate of neighbors.

Also, please note: No pets allowed.

Directions: The address is 216 Fields Pond Road in Holden. There are two parking areas, a smaller one at the boat launch and a larger one at the center.

Beech Mountain, Acadia National Park

Like all the mountains in the national park, you’ll have many paths to choose from when planning your ascent up 841-foot Beech Mountain.

Away from the summit, I think the best views in this trail system are off the 0.3-mile Beech Cliff Loop Trail, which is easily accessible off the parking area at the end of Beech Hill road. Definitely make sure you include this little loop in your visit to this mountain no matter where you start, though. It’s not too difficult, although there is some mild scrambling over rocks.

The next prettiest spot for views is at the top of the steep but short 0.5-mile Beech Cliff Trail, which leaves from the north end of Echo Lake parking lot. This trail has rungs and ladders, so isn’t open to dogs. If you want to hike up to the ridge and avoid those iron ladders, take Canada Cliffs Trail, which is longer — 1 mile — but is less rugged. It leaves from the south end of Echo Lake parking lot. Be prepared for stone steps on both trails.

Though it doesn’t have views, the interior Valley Trail passes through a nice, cool forest. The first 0.2-mile stretch, at its north end, is packed gravel and wheelchair-accessible, I think.

A bonus from leaving from Echo Lake is you can swim at the end of your sweaty hike!

But here’s a loop I enjoyed, leaving from Long Pond rather than Echo Lake: Beginning at the trailhead on Long Pond (which you can’t swim in), take the 1-mile Beech West Ridge Trail to the summit. You’ll find it at the far end of the parking area right by the lake. The trail begins by hugging the shore of Long Pond on a flat, easy path, before beginning to ascend right around where you walk by a couple of lakeside cabins. The climb is fairly tough but short, with views. At 0.9 miles, you’ll get to an intersection. Take a right here and walk the final 0.1 mile to the fire tower and open summit. From here, take the Beech Mountain Loop Trail in either direction (although the eastern leg is steeper and has fewer views than the western leg) to the parking area. Cross the lot and continue on the Beech Cliff Loop Trail for fabulous views. Hike back along the ridge on the Canada Cliffs trail before cutting in and finishing up on the shady and cool Valley Trail.

Directions: There are three main trailheads for Beech Mountain. The smallest is at Long Pond, at the end of Long Pond Road. The largest lot is at Echo Lake Beach (this is large due to the popularity of this great swimming spot), and a fairly large one at the end of Beech Hill Road. 

Ducktail and Partridge Pond Trails, Amherst

Both of these remote ponds are wonderful, with wide flat ledges sloping gently into the water. You can’t find more ideal swimming spots. On the hot June day we visited, we had both ponds all to ourselves.

The ponds are part of the 4,794-acre Amherst Mountains Community Forest, which doesn’t have too many trails, just enough. You can reach Partridge Pond via a 1.3-mile trail, or you can swing by Ducktail Pond first. This route is just a hair shorter, at 1.2 miles.

We walked in via the Ducktail Pond trail, which was easy to follow until we arrived at Ducktail Pond. Then the blazes were harder to find where a couple of of little footpaths intersect. To keep on the path, it’s helpful to remember that the trail takes a hard left at the very tip of the pond, right where you first emerge on the water. You cross a little stream, and continue straight. Or you can walk along the ledge on the side of the pond, and then dip left into the campsite. At the campsite, look for cairns for a trail that heads away from the pond. It will intersect with the trail to Partridge Pond in about 0.3 miles, and Partridge Pond is another 0.5 miles from this point.

When you emerge onto Partridge Pond, you’ll cross a ledge between the pond and stream, and will walk onto the pond’s campsite. Look for a little path to your left that will take you to a big, broad ledge — a great place for swimming and soaking in the sun.

Directions: From Route 9, turn onto Ducktail Pond Road, which is marked with an Amherst Community Forest sign. The first parking area and trailhead for Partridge Pond Trail is on the left, in about two miles. The parking area and trailhead for Ducktail Pond is another 0.7 miles farther down the road.