The 4,500-acre Great Pond Mountain Wildlands up the coast in Orland is comprised of two large parcels of conservation land sporting an extensive network of foot trails and old gravel roads that combine for about 17 miles of fine walking opportunities.
Among these, the magnificent granite cliffs and summit slabs of the namesake Great Pond Mountain are the big draw, providing three miles of fantastic hiking and crazy views.
The 3,400-acre Hothole Valley parcel includes the extensive valley bounded by Great Pond Mountain to the west, Oak and Flag hills and Flying Moose Mountain to the east, and Hothole Mountain and Condon and Hedgehog hills to the north. A series of streams and brooks feed into Hothole Brook, which bisects the broad valley and flows 3 miles west through swamps and beaver bogs into pristine Hothole Pond.
Fourteen miles of gravel roads—former logging roads—crisscross the Hothole parcel; some are open to vehicle traffic on a limited basis, and all are open for use by hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. Traditional foot trails reach the summits of Oak and Flag hills.
The Dead River parcel is 1,075 acres and includes the summit and the southern and western slopes of Great Pond Mountain west to the Dead River, the northern arm of Alamoosook Lake, and 1.5 miles of waterfront. Four miles of gravel roads and hiking trails provide access to this section of the Wildlands, which includes this described hike.
The hike starts from the Don Fish Road, a half-mile beyond the Dead River Trail parking area and a mile beyond the Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery. Follow the blue blazes of the Stuart Gross Path uphill to an unsigned 4-way intersection.
Proceed straight ahead through the intersection on what is known as the Mountain Trail. Follow the wide track over exposed bedrock up the long moderate western ridge of the mountain.
The views to the south get better and better as you climb. You’ll want to be veering off to explore each of them as you go. Plan on it.
Eventually the trail breaks out onto the wide open summit slabs, a virtual sea of beautiful granite. Before climbing further, take the obscure side trail down and to the left (as you face south) to the great cliffs on the south face of the mountain.
There, cliff top views range from Tunk, Caribou, Catherine, Black and Schoodic mountains well Downeast to the many peaks of Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island to Blue Hill, Penobscot Bay and the Camden Hills. Mount Waldo and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge & Observatory are also visible to the southwest. Craig Pond is just below.
It’s a pretty amazing view, a pretty amazing place. Sit for a while and savor it. Where else do you need to be after all?!
A little further east along the cliffs, views open up over the breadth of the Wildlands to Oak and Flag hills, and to Lead Mountain, as well as Toddy and Patten ponds. Trundle over the narrow path (be careful) and check it out too. It’s worth it. You can go quite aways; turn back when you’ve seen enough or the trail peters out.
To reach the true summit, return to the main trail on the big open slabs and head upslope. The path eventually enters the woods on the right and weaves upward through the mossy rocks and ledges. Out into the open again, bear left across a final slab to the 1,038-foot summit (the sign was missing when I was up there earlier this year, but the post remains) where there are limited views through the trees.
The Great Pond Mountains Wildlands is managed for wildlife habitat, recreation, environmental education and sustainable timber harvesting. It’s open year-round; dogs on leash are allowed. There’s no fee, but donations are appreciated. The Great Pond Mountain Wildlands Trail Guide can be downloaded online for free.
MORE INFO: Great Pond Mountains Wildlands.