Cranberry Peak, Eustis

Map shows Bigelow Preserve. Cranberry Peak trail is in light green.

This 3,194-foot peak is the smallest of the seven that range across the magnificent 36,000-acre Bigelow Preserve Public Land. If you start from Eustis (which has a smaller parking area than the trailhead from Stratton Pond Brook Road), the 3.2-mile Range Trail to Cranberry’s peak begins fairly gradually, before hitting a steeper section and then easing up for the final mile. The elevation gain is a bit over 2,000 feet.

You’ll see a few mediocre views along the way, which makes the summit, a dramatic rocky point, so splendid. There are views all around, of Sugarloaf, the next Bigelow peak, Flagstaff Lake, and mountains.

In the winter, you’ll probably have to park a little farther away from the trailhead, adding just .2 miles to your walk. Also, for the first 1.5 miles or so, you’ll likely hear, and occasionally see, the nearby Stratton mill. It was producing a sweet odor the day we were there.

I think many people also begin their hike from Stratton Brook Pond Road. It is easy to access, closer to Sugarloaf, and larger. Here you can catch the Appalachian Trail and hike up 2.3 miles to the Range Trail. From the parking area on Stratton Brook Pond Road, you can follow a dirt road leading north away from the lot. Take a quick right on Cranberry Peak Road (a dirt road) and go about 100 yards to where the Appalachian Trail crosses the track (there will be a big sign for the Bigelow Preserve). Turn left onto the AT and start your hike. The first mile is relatively flat before it starts climbing. The trail can be quite muddy in spots.

At 2.3 miles, take a left toward Cranberry Pond (we didn’t swim because signs warning of Giardia contamination.) The summit is 1.5 miles from the pond—the last .3 are quite difficult, steep and filled with boulders. But the view is spectacular.

Directions: If you start in Stratton, the parking area is at the end of Curry Road, a dead-end road in Stratton, off of Route 16. Or, you can start on the Appalachian Trail, which you can access via Stratton Brook Pond Road. After turning off Route 27 to Stratton Brook Pond Road, go about .85 miles to the first large clearing for cars. Start your walk on the dirt road headed toward the mountain—soon you’ll see a sign for the dirt Cranberry Peak Road. Follow this a short distance to where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road. There will be a large sign for the Bigelow Preserve.

Puzzle Mountain, Newry

This is a beautiful and well-hiked mountain with spectacular views from its 3,133-foot summit. The 3-mile trail to the top is fairly gradual and easy for the first 1.5 miles, before getting quite a bit steeper for the second half, with some scrambling up ledges. Views start to pop up after the second mile. At the summit, the trail continues north, along the long-distance Grafton Loop trail. The elevation gained is about 2,330 feet, according to my GPS.

There is an alternative, and longer, route to the top, the Woodsum Spur Trail. Though I saw the first trail intersection, half a mile from the summit, I couldn’t see where it met up with the main path close to the summit. The AMC and Mahoosuc Land Trust recommend hikers follow it down rather than up. I’ll try to find it again when there is no snow on the ground.

Directions: From the intersection of  Route 2 and  Route 26 in Newry, follow Route 26 4.7 miles north. You will see the Grafton Loop Trail sign and the parking area are will be on the right,  across from Eddy Road on the left. 


Old Blue Mountain, near Andover

The 3,600-foot summit of Old Blue is part of the Appalachian Trail. Because the summit is not clear of trees and shrubs, it is not quite as popular as some other nearby mountains.

That being said, if you want a quiet, moderate 2.6-mile hike to an interesting summit with views over scrubby bush and stunted spruce trees, this mountain is perfectly fine.

The first half mile is the steepest; then the trail levels out until the last half mile, when it gets steep again. The elevation gain is roughly 2,236 ft.

Directions: The trail head on South Arm Road is easy to miss because the trail information is set in a few feet from the road. If you are driving east on Route 120 out of Andover, take a left on South Arm Road approximately a half mile outside of town. Go 7.7 miles north on South Arm Road to reach the Appalachian Trail crossing. You will see a road sign (a silhouette of two hikers) alerting you to the trailhead just ahead. Look closely for the trail on your right. There is a small pullover area on the right side of the road that has parking for a few cars.

Monument Hill, Leeds

This loop trail offers a short, brisk climb to an open ledge, looking west, and a Civil War monument erected in 1895 by Major General Oliver Otis Howard. Howard, who was from Leeds, was an interesting fellow who graduated from Bowdoin College in 1850. Among his career highlights was his appointment by President Lincoln to commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau, where he oversaw the integration of former slaves into American society. The college has digitized his letters, photographs and diaries.

Soon after the trailhead kiosk, you’ll have a choice of going left or right. I think both routes are equally steep, but thankfully short! The trail is well marked, but there do appear to be other, unofficial trails heading off into the woods close to the top.

Directions: There is a narrow pull-off for several cars on North Road, where the trailhead is located. From Route 106, turn onto Church Hill Road. The turn to North Road on the right will be approximately a mile. Go another mile on North Road, and the trailhead will be on the right.  

Blueberry Mountain, near Weld

This is a relatively short, but quite steep, trail to a lovely summit. The mountain summit is part of the Tumbledown Public Lands but the bottom section of the trail takes you through private land. Here’s more info.

After driving 1.3 miles along a gravel road that leads into a bible camp, you’ll see a parking lot on your left (before you reach the main camp buildings). Then you walk along a little footpath to an old track heading up the hill. The track very quickly begins to climb steeply. And that sets the tone, really, for the entire 1.4-mile trail. There are a few moments of respite where the trail levels out, and the final .1 mile or so along the summit ridge is level. The summit, marked with a large cairn, has stupendous views. Overall, the path is well marked with blazes and easy to follow.

Directions: At the intersection of Route 142 and 156 in Weld, head north on Route 142 toward Philips about 3.8 miles until you see a sign on the left for Blueberry Mountain Bible Camp. This is a dirt road. Turn onto this road and drive uphill for about 1.3 miles. You’ll see a parking lot on the left for hikers.

Mt Blue, Weld and Avon

The ascent up Mt. Blue is not as bad as it looks when you’re staring at the mountain from afar. Shaped like a formidable bell curve, it’s a prominent landmark for miles around. The trail up the 3,192-foot Mt. Blue is a steady, but not too steep, trek uphill for about 1.5 miles. The final stretch, maybe 1/4 mile, is the steepest, and then you get to a nice overlook, and a little farther along, to the observatory tower on the 3,187-ft. summit with panoramic views. 

The elevation gain is 1,783 feet.

Directions: At the intersection of Route 156 with Route 142 in Weld, turn onto Center Hill Road. The road takes a slight left about .5 miles from the main roads; follow the signs for the Center Hill Trails and for parking. Continue past the Center Hill Picnic Area for another 3 miles on Center Hill Road until you reach another fork in the road. There’s a small sign for Mount Blue Trail on your right here. Bear right and follow this road for about 2.5 miles to the end, and the trailhead and parking area.

Center Hill Nature Trail, Weld

If you don’t quite have the energy or the time to tackle the difficult mountains around here — Mt. Blue, Blueberry Mountain, or Tumbledown — then this path is a really nice, easy alternative! It is just half a mile, and very gentle, although the footing is rocky and rooty at times. There are several beautiful viewpoints. You will find the trailhead near the parking area on the top of Center Hill, where you can also pick up a little nature guide.

Directions: At the intersection of Routes 142 and 156 in Weld, turn onto Center Hill Road. Drive approximately a half mile, bear left at the fork and continue up Center Hill Road for another two miles, passing the Mount Blue State Park headquarters. The entrance to the Center Hill picnic area is a little farther along the road on the right, marked by a sign. Turn right up the road and drive to the parking area at the top of the hill.

Black Mountain, Sumner

The way up this mountain isn’t easy; the area has been clear cut and it can be at times tricky to find the trail. Mostly, though, there are enough cairns, flags, and occasional spray-painted arrows on rocks to find your way. Watch for these signs carefully because otherwise there is no discernible footpath for much of the way through the harvested area. Instead, you follow grassy tracks or walk up skidder roads. I recommend bringing a GPS. 

At roughly .8 mile, you finally enter the woods and walk along a little footpath, which rather steeply climbs for a little more than .25 mile to the start of the mountain ridge. At this point you’ll see a fairly large cairn. The views, which are fine but not spectacular, are the best here, as far as I could tell. The trail continues another couple hundred yards to another big cairn on ledges. If you have a GPS, you’ll see the path does not continue to the true summit of the mountain. I tried to bushwhack a bit to reach it and a little pond, but it was tough going.

Directions: From Route 219 turn onto Greenwoods Road. Follow that for 1.35 miles until you reach the junction with Labrador Pond Road on your right. Take a sharp left here (you’ll still be on Greenwoods Road), and look for Black Mountain Road on your left, about .2 mile farther along. Drive roughly 2.4 miles on Black Mountain Road to the trailhead, which is past a house and up a steep hill. The trail is to your right, blocked with small boulders. The road can be pretty crummy; some people park .2 miles or so lower down and walk up to the start of the path.

Mt. Zircon, Peru

I am sure the views are stunning from the top of this 2,240-foot mountain, but when I reached the open ledgy summit, I got caught in a rain squall and could see nothing but clouds and the droplets of water running down my glasses. If you start this hike from South Rumford Road, the distance to the peak is about 2.8 miles, the majority of which (2.1 miles) is along an old dirt road that climbs gradually. Along the way you pass a former spring house (at 1.5 miles) and a pipe gushing with potable mountain stream water off to the right side of the road. The footpath to the summit is about .6 miles farther along this road, on the left.

Although there are a few minor tracks joining the main route along the way, the main road is easy to discern and follow. If you have a high-clearance car, it’s possible (?) you can drive up this road (if the gate at the bottom is open) to get closer to the start of the footpath. Once you arrive at the footpath, which is marked with a homemade sign, it’s approximately .7 miles to the summit. This section of the hike is steep and rocky.

Directions: The trailhead is off South Rumford Road, on the south side, about 62 feet from the junction of South Rumford Road and Hall Hill Road. You can park off to the side at the bottom of the road here, or, if you have a sturdy vehicle, drive up this road to the spring house.

Bear Mountain, Hartford

This is a beautiful and relatively easy little mountain (1,208-feet). There is no real footpath, rather you hike up old woods tracks/snowmobile/ATV trails that are not marked, but are easy to follow with a steady, gradual climb. At the base of the mountain is a little grassy area with a wooden sign marking this as the parking spot for Bear Mountain. From here, continue up Bear Mountain Road past a few houses. The road then deteriorates, becoming eroded and rocky. At roughly .9 miles, you’ll see a slightly narrower track headed off to your right. This runs in a more or less straight line (south) for about a third of a mile, before making a hard turn to the right. Continue up the last section to a ledge with a boulder and pretty view of Little Bear Pond.

To continue to the summit, return to the main track (Bear Mountain Road) and take a right. You’ll see another snowmobile trail coming in from the left, but continue on the main route, which bears right. A little under a half mile later, you’ll see a track on your left which heads up to some ledgy areas and views. Walk along here, or stay on the main route, to reach the open summit with beautiful views.

Directions: From Route 4 in Turner, turn west onto Route 219. Shortly after, turn right onto Bean Street, and take a quick left into Berry Road, which on Google Map becomes Berry Mahoney Road. At approximately 2.5 miles, you’ll come to the intersection with Bear Mountain Road. Take a right, and park in the little grassy area you’ll see on the right.

Parker Pond Headland Preserve, Fayette

I found this to be a lovely preserve, even if it didn’t quite meet my expectations. For instance, the trail doesn’t skirt closely to the shore with lots of stops along the water; it’s more of a pleasant forested walk. However, there are two really lovely view points — one high (250 ft.), and one at the pond’s edge, which also looks like it could be a decent swimming spot. The high rocky ledges look out over Parker Pond and Birch Island.

At one point, the upper loop somewhat unexpectedly (if you weren’t looking at a map) comes out on the dirt Fellows Farm Road. You can find the trail again a few feet farther along the road, to the left. More info at Kennebec Land Trust.

There is also a .6-mile loop through an open field and woods on a parcel that is part of this preserve but not physically connected. To reach this little parcel, look very carefully for a small KLT land trust sign on the right of Sandy River Road, before you reach Fellows Farm Road. You can park at the edge of the road, next to the entrance to the meadow. The trail was well blazed but hadn’t been cleared of fall-down debris when I visited in the summer of 2018.

Dogs have to be leashed until the first trail intersection on the highland loop trail.

Directions: From Route 17 in Kents Hill, take Rt. 41 north 3.6 miles to the Chimney in West Mt. Vernon. Take Sandy River Road 2.5 miles to Fellows Cove Road. Take Fellows Cove Road to the end to a KLT sign and a parking area on the right. The registration box is at the trail head. I think Fellows Cove Road might not be plowed in the wintertime.

Round Top Mountain, Rome

Round Top Mountain in blue; A Trail in orange; trail to the lake in pink

Round Top appears to be a fairly popular little mountain, 1,133 feet, in the Kennebec Highlands, with decent nice views and an easy to moderate hike. After about one mile or so of a steady, gentle uphill, the trail crosses an old track and also at this point splits, forming the start and end of a loop. I recommend doing this loop clockwise, to get some of the nice easterly views over the Belgrade Lakes as you go down. The spur trail, at 1.7 miles, also leads to a small ledge with views (but these aren’t as nice as the ledgy views you’ll see on the hike down).

The footpaths on this mountain at times intersect with an older, less well maintained track called the Kennebec Highlands Trail. Some of the Round Top trail also overlaps onto this trail, so keep an eye out for when the footpath turns off of it (it’ll be marked with blazes and signs, but if you’re lost in thought, these can be easily missed).

There is also another trail, the A Trail, for both mountain bikers and hikers, that starts at this trailhead parking lot that goes up the neighboring McGaffey Mountain. I’ll return to do this at some point (although not on a bicycle!).

Directions: A parking lot is located at the corner of Watson Pond Road and Wildflower Estates, 4 miles south of Watson Pond Road’s junction with Route 27.

Aziscohos Mountain, near Rangeley (Lincoln Plantation)

This 3,215-foot mountain has been a favorite hike for people since the 1800s. When I hiked this trail in September, 2017, there was a peeling, laminated article posted near the top of the mountain with a photo of people in old-fashioned dress (the woman in a very long, heavy skirt) who were looking happy on the summit.

The mountain, though glorious, is hard to find! I found this strange — although it’s probably because the mountain is privately owned. We passed the trailhead, which is off Route 16, several times before spotting it. The trick is to drive all the way to the dam, if you’re coming from Rangeley. Then turn around and drive 1 mile east from the dam. At this point, you’ll see a gravel road on your right. 100 feet or so beyond that gravel road, the trail head off into the trees on the right. It was not marked or blazed when I was there. There is a pullover alongside the road for parking. About 50 or so feet in from the road, you’ll see the trail sign.

The trail goes up fairly moderately for 1.1. miles until it turns up the slope toward the summit. The next .4 miles or so goes up a fairly rocky, steep section of the trail. The area seems like the site of an ancient rock fall — the rocks are now frozen in place with moss growing over them. When you are done with this hard section, you have a .1-hike to the summit. You’ll see an an older unmaintained trail heading off to the right.

The top of this mountain has 360-degree views and is breathtaking. Of course, the better your mood, the more beautiful the views! The elevation gain is 1,460 feet.

Directions: From Rangeley and Oquossoc, take Route 16 west towards Wilson’s Mills for approximately 18 miles (about a mile before the dam). The trailhead is on the left, 100 feet before a gravel drive. Route 16 makes a wide curve here. You  can park along the shoulder of the road.

West Kennebago Mountain, near Rangeley, Upper Capsuptic Township

You have to drive several miles on dirt logging roads to access this trailhead. When you at last see the 3,705-foot mountain, it looms startlingly in front of you, seeming to come out of nowhere (maybe if I had been looking up a bit more during the drive, it wouldn’t have surprised me so much). The parking area for this mountain is on the side of the road, and the trailhead is a few feet further up the road.

You start out on a wide track, which narrows a bit as you go up. There is a fairly steep section that involves a bit of climbing over rocks that can be wet and slippery. Close to the top of the mountain, you’ll reach a wooden platform — I hear it’s a helipad — and at 100 yards or so further along the trail you’ll come to the summit and a lot of radio towers. There are decent views from the helipad and from the summit. Make sure you walk the scratchy path around the tower fence to take it all in. 

Directions: From Oquossoc, take Route 16 west. At around 4.8 miles, turn right onto Morton Cutoff Road, a dirt road that is well signed. After 3.2 miles, you’ll reach a large intersection. Take a right and drive 5.5 miles. You’ll see the mountain in front of you eventually. Once it feels like you’ve driven by the mountain, you’ll see a small parking area on the left. The trailhead begins slightly past the parking area.

Fuller Mountain, Phippsburg

A roughly .6-mile hike will take you to the top of Fuller Mountain, to its nice views, and to the remains of a mountain-top quarry. I believe this trail is on private land, so take care. It is not marked, but the trail is easy to follow. From the parking area, you start out on an old track, walking below a ridge (which will be on your right). At some point you start following a stream. At roughly .35-mile, the track takes a sharp right up the hill. The climb is short and a bit steep. Keep following the path to the open, ledgy summit — it is fairly discernible where people have walked before.

Directions: There is a small pull-off of Meadowbrook Road, where the road make a sharp turn. It’s about .4 miles from the junction with Pasture Road.

Marr’s Ridge Trail, Whitefield

This trail kicks off with a short, quick uphill to an interesting granite sundial and a view of distant hills (in Camden). Then you head off for a loop through the forest. The trail is well-blazed, and the footpath interlaces with old tracks/roads. When I visited in September 2017, there was an intricate system of tubes connecting a number of trees in a patch of the woods close to the start of the trail for maple syrup!

Directions: The trailhead is on the west side of (South) Hunts Meadow Road, between Cooper Road and Route 126. It’s less than a mile from Cooper Road, and approximately 1.6 miles from Route 126.