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Wendy Almeida

Wendy Almeida wrote about enjoying the outdoors with kids in her monthly Kid Tracks Outdoors column for the Maine Sunday Telegram for more than 10 years. Her kids have grown up exploring the trails of Maine on foot, skis and bikes as well as through the Geocaching and EarthCache games. The family has found treasures of all sorts while out on the trail and the journey continues to be as much fun now that the kids are teenagers as it was when they were preschoolers. Follower on Twitter @wea1021 and Instagram instagram.com/wea1021

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Posted: April 22, 2015

5 kid-friendly hikes with great views in Maine’s western mountains

Written by: Wendy Almeida

 

The western mountains of Maine offer some great family-friendly hikes with great views as the forest emerges from its winter slumber. You can find rails that are short, easy hikes for little ones as well as more challenging climbs for older kids. At this time of year be ready for all sorts of weather by dressing in layers and packing gloves and hats. Packing an extra pair of socks will make any parent a life-saver for kids who are attracted to mud puddles. They are likely to be plentiful on any trail in spring.

Wendy Almeida photo

Wendy Almeida photo

SAWYER MOUNTAIN, LIMINGTON

This hike is about 3 miles round-trip with a 500-foot elevation gain. For children who have the endurance for a steady uphill climb, this trail offers a sense of hiking a “big” mountain with the self-esteem boost that comes from a manageable challenge. And being only 40 minutes from Portland, it’s a nice option for busy urban families looking for an afternoon hiking adventure close to home.

Why we like it: There is an old cemetery along the trail that is quite interesting. From the “no math” stones that have inscriptions that include the person’s age at passing in years, months and days, to the misspelling my younger daughter spotted on our first visit, it’s worth a quick, respectful stop. When my children were in elementary school, we often bring along crayons and paper to make rubbings of both the cemetery stones and fallen leaves on the trail.

Getting there: The trailhead is located at a sharp turn on Route 117, 2.5 miles south of the junction of Routes 25 and 117, or 2.4 miles north of the junction of Routes 11 and 117. There is a small parking area where trail maps are available in a map box. GPS Coordinates: 43.752, -70.729

Wendy Almeida photo

Wendy Almeida photo

BALD PATE PRESERVE, BRIDGTON

There are looping trails of varying distances within the preserve that are well marked. It’s an easy mile with about a 300-foot elevation gain to the summit of Bald Pate Mountain from the trailhead.

Why we like it: One year the girls were interested in learning about coniferous (evergreen) trees for a 4-H project and this area had several easy to identify examples. There are also great views of the surrounding mountains and it’s likely you’ll still see a snow-capped Mount Washington from this summit.

Getting there: From Route 107 in Sebago, the trailhead is about 7 miles from the intersection of routes 114 and 107. The trailhead sign is a little hard to spot on Route 107 when coming from the southern direction because it’s positioned at an angle that is easier to see from the other side of the road. GPS Coordinates: 43.968, -70.710

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Wendy Almeida photo

DOUGLAS MOUNTAIN, SEBAGO

This is a nice introduction to mountain climbing for little ones with the incentive of seeing a stone tower at the summit. The Eagle Scout Trail is about one mile with a moderate climb. It is well-marked from the parking area and connects to the Nature Trail. That last part of the trek uphill is steep, but short. Another option is to climb the Ledges or Woods trails because they are the shortest routes to the summit but require a walk back out to Douglas Mountain Road to climb the paved road to the old trailhead (about 1/2 mile).

Why we like it: The Ledges Trail is a short ¼ mile to the top of the mountain with several spots with rocks to climb and views to enjoy during the climb. The kids always feel a sense of accomplishment hiking to the top, which was do-able when they were preschoolers. And the stone tower at the summit is a crowd-pleaser no matter the age of the hikers. A map identifying the mountains at the top of the tower helps orientate visitors to the view. And if you want to wow the kids with your worldly knowledge, the inscription, “Non sibi sed omnibus” on the boulder near the tower, translates to: “Not just for myself, but for all.”

Other: There is a $3 trail use fee per car. The parking area is locked at 6 p.m.

Getting there: From Route 107 in Baldwin, take Douglas Hill Road to Dyke Mountain Road. GPS Coordinates: 43.876, -70.696

Wendy Almeida photo

Wendy Almeida photo

JOCKEY CAP, FRYEBURG

This is another short hike, about 1/4 mile, with only a 200-foot elevation and offers a sense of accomplishment for young children. A great view of the surrounding mountains make this trail a good choice for the fall foliage season.

Why we like it: This area is a popular rock-climbing destination so many times we’ve seen climbers in full gear scaling the face of Jockey Cap. There are also boulders that form a couple of small caves for kids to explore and climb along the trail. An interesting molded mountain map at the top to identify the various mountains in view and a great way to introduce kids to the White Mountain range.

Other: There are some very steep drop-offs at the top so parents should stay close to young children to be sure they don’t get too close to the edge.

Getting there: From the intersection of Routes 113 and 302 in Fryeburg the trailhead is exactly one mile. The trailhead is behind Jockey Cap Country Store, which is next to the Dollar General store. GPS Coordinates: 44.022, -70.962

Wendy Almeida photo

Wendy Almeida photo

BURNT MEADOW MOUNTAIN, BROWNFIELD

This mountain has three summits that are all about the same elevation and offer great views of the surrounding area. Hiking to the summit, about 1,100-foot elevation gain within 1.2 miles, is a solid challenge for older kids. Be ready for a workout if your family wants to reach the summit.

Why we like it: There are plenty of places within a mile of the trailhead to sit and soak up the sun and enjoy the mountain views while eating a picnic lunch. It took us years before we actually climbed to the summit on this mountain because the goal each time we’ve visited has been more about finding a nice place to relax and enjoy the view. The trail is good for little ones if the goal is hiking the first half-mile and staking out a place to spread out the picnic blanket, which was our first introduction to the trail.

Other: The start of this trail is to the right of the trailhead parking area. Don’t be confused with another spread of trees that looks like a trail. The real one is marked with light blue trail blazes.

Getting there: The trailhead is on Route 160, about three miles from the junction of routes 113 and 5 in Brownfield. The trailhead is not well marked and is easy to miss unless cars are already parked there. GPS Coordinates: 43.9177, -70.8830

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