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Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at MaineOutdoors@aol.com.

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Posted: May 21, 2018

Hiking in Maine: Welcome to a perfect time to visit Bethel

Written by: Carey Kish

 

Situated along a scenic stretch of big river amid a jumble of rugged mountain peaks, it’s easy to understand why the historic little town of Bethel is often referred to as “Maine’s most beautiful mountain village.”

Outdoor enthusiasts for sure know Bethel as a hub for all types of adventurous pursuits, from hiking and backpacking to paddling and mountain biking, to downhill and cross-country skiing.

The lifts finally have stopped turning at Sunday River, the trees are greening up and the hiking trails at the lower elevations are showing bare ground. It’s that in-between time in Bethel, after the hubbub of the ski season but before the summer throngs arrive. Kind of quiet and peaceful with not a lot of people around except for locals, it’s a great time to gather up the day hiking gear and visit.

It was early May a year ago when this hiker was last in Bethel. The Mahoosuc Range was still choked with snow, as was Maine’s section of the White Mountains around Evans Notch. Given that hikers can do a lot of damage to trails during this wet and muddy season, I figured it best to give the fragile terrain above 3,000 feet a break and let the warm spring temperatures dry things out.

I chose instead to concentrate efforts on the hills along the Androscoggin River between Bethel and Rumford, and given this year’s very late spring, you might consider doing the same. Over a couple of glorious days with ideal spring weather, I managed to log some good miles on a handful of trails, several old favorites and a few new ones, all of which I highly recommend.

Mt. Will (1,726 feet) straddles the town lines of Bethel and Newry, and a nice blue-blazed loop trail maintained by Bethel Conservation Commission leaves from the north side of Route 2 (opposite the Bethel recycling center). Several interpretive signs are found on the lower portion of the route, which goes through the Bethel Town Forest; the remainder of the trail is on private land. North Ledges and South Cliffs offer fine views over the bucolic river valley to Bethel and on to the Whites.

Farther east on Route 2 in Rumford Center is Glassface Mountain (1,910 feet), the southwestern slopes of which are home to the 32-acre Glassface Mountain Conservation Area owned by Mahoosuc Land Trust. Glassface Ledges Trail leaves from the north side of the highway, opposite the Rumford Boat Launch. The path follows a grassy lane through the Rumford Center Cemetery before climbing to the 1,300-foot level and a sweet view overlooking the river valley.

The 752-acre Rumford Whitecap Mountain Preserve in Rumford protects the bald summit ridge and south slopes of the 2,214-foot mountain and is the signature conservation property of Mahoosuc Land Trust. Two maintained trails ascend the southwest side mountain from a common trailhead on East Andover Road, about three miles north of Route 2 via Route 5.

Combine Starr Trail and Red/Orange Trail for a terrific five-mile circuit that features extensive stretches of walking over open granite slabs and ledges. The spectacular summit view includes Black Mountain to the east, the high peaks of the Mahoosuc Range and White Mountains to the west, and to the south, Mt. Zircon and other peaks of the Oxford Hills.

For an added challenge, connect Rumford Whitecap with the Black Mountain ski area base lodge via the new Black and White Trail, a five-mile hike over a high shoulder on Black Mountain. You’ll need to spot a car or call a cab for this A-to-B trek; Mountain Valley Taxi in Rumford does shuttles.

Mahoosuc Land Trust has information and maps for all the hikes. In Bethel, I found the Inn at the Rostay a comfy place to hole up during my stay, and as a creature of habit, pizza and beer every evening at Sud’s Pub at the Sudbury Inn was just the ticket. For more dining and lodging options, check with the Bethel Chamber of Commerce. Bonus points: the Bethel Historical Society has developed a self-guided walking tour of the village, a must-do after-dinner stroll.

 

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