The scenic hills and farmlands of Montville are located about 15 miles west of Belfast and Penobscot Bay, just off ME 220, and sandwiched between ME 137 to the north and ME 3 to the south.
Travel the rural roads of this quiet little community and you’d never know that it contains a wealth of conservation lands and hiking trails, but such is the case.
You see, for roughly the last two decades, the Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance has been hard at work helping to preserve ecologically significant lands in the watershed of the upper Sheepscot River, which begins its 54-mile journey to the Gulf of Maine in the hills of western Montville. In partnership with landowners, the alliance has conserved some 1,350 acres through outright purchase or conservation easements. Nice.
For us hikers, of course, the big attraction are the 18 miles of trails that crisscross these scenic lands in not only Montville, but Knox and Liberty as well, all part of an even larger 28-mile network.
The Sheepscot Headwaters Trail Network is an amazing system of public hiking trails that lead through pleasant forests and open fields, along winding streams and pretty marshes, and to the high points of Whitten Hill and Goose Ridge. A spur trail connects to nearby Hogback and Frye mountains and an additional 11 miles of hiking on trails maintained by the Georges River Land Trust.
For a good introduction to the area, try the Northern Headwaters Trail, a 3.5-mile loop hike that leaves from the Whitten Hill Trailhead on Halldale Road, where there is ample parking and an information kiosk with maps.
The Whitten Trail quickly splits. To the left, the trail crosses Halldale Road to connect with the Bog Brook Trail. To the right, the way you want to go, the path climbs easily to the ridgeline on Whitten Hill to join the Northern Headwaters Trail. Turn right on the Northern Headwaters Trail to begin the loop.
The path follows the long line of a beautiful stone wall for at least a half-mile. Glimpses of surrounding hills can be had through openings in the fragrant pines en route. Beyond an old foundation and apple orchard, you’ll descend to meet the Sheepscot River, here just a small stream.
Following the east bank of the river, placid at first and then gurgling, the trail weaves through a mature forest of big trees and passes some artifacts of days gone by, like pieces of an old stove, a saw blade and bits of rusted farm machinery.
Leaving the Sheepscot, the trail rises to a huge field – the Whitten Fields – with extensive views across the valley to hills of Freedom in the west. Re-entering the woods, tread gently uphill to complete the loop.
If you’re up for more hiking, well, you’re in luck. Besides the two trails mentioned above, these are 13 other trails nearby, all interconnected. So go for it and enjoy!
MORE INFO: Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance, 207-589-3230.