A couple hundred feet below the wooded 1,503-foot summit of Noyes Mountain in Greenwood, a rusted length of heavy cable strung between iron posts marks the precipitous lip of the old Harvard Mine, a source of precious green tourmaline since 1904.
The expansive outlook from this airy spot ranges southeasterly to North Pond, Lake Penneseewassee and the low hills around Norway, while to the west the vista reaches beyond nearby Patch Mountain all the way to the peaks of the White Mountain National Forest.
Three well-marked trails combine for a fine three-mile loop hike on Noyes Mountain, the signature natural feature of a 295-acre preserve owned and managed by the Western Foothills Land Trust. Noyes Mountain Preserve protects the grand view not only from the mountain, but of the mountain from Route 117 over the length of Lake Penneseewassee, a seminal panorama cherished by locals and visitors alike, and photographed, painted and sketched by countless artists.
“Three years ago I just happened to hear through a local realtor that the Noyes Mountain property was available,” said Lee Dassler, the trust’s executive director. “We recognized the land’s wildlife habitat qualities and its capacity for myriad recreational benefits, so we decided we would work to buy it. It was a big risk and a big fundraising campaign, but it paid off.”
You’ll find the Noyes Mountain trailhead on Richardson Hollow Road in Greenwood, less than a mile east of Greenwood Road, which leads about five miles south to Route 117 in Norway. The small trailhead parking lot isn’t plowed in winter, so parking carefully along the road is a must.
A few yards along the trail is a kiosk with interpretive panels and a trail map. Beyond, the Noyes Trail guides you to a junction in a half-mile; bear right to follow the Harvard Trail over the mountain and out to the Harvard Mine, then return via the Perham Trail.
Since its establishment in 1987, the Western Foothills Land Trust has conserved more than 7,000 acres through acquisitions and easements in the greater Oxford Hills region, including six preserves with close to 25 miles of foot trails plus six working forests. A new pocket map of preserve trails will be available this spring at local shops in the area, and may be downloaded from the trust’s website at wfltmaine.org.
The Hatch Preserve in Waterford now protects 184 acres atop Hawk Mountain, a perennially popular spot with picnickers and partiers, hikers and rock climbers. Three miles of old woods road trails all lead to the peak’s south-facing ledges, which look out over Bear Pond and the Bear River to Long Pond and Highland Lake and on to Pleasant Mountain.
The Virgil Parris Forest preserves some 1,300 acres around the undeveloped shores of South Pond in Buckfield. The two-mile Packard Trail offers a nice loop hike along the western edge of the pond. A work-in-progress, the new Lowell Trail will eventually make a two-mile loop to several ledge viewpoints high above the east side of South Pond.
In Otisfield, five miles of old twitch (or skidder) trails gently wend through the woods along the Crooked River, while in Norway, the combined 272 acres of Shepard’s Farm Preserve and Wilt Swamp Preserve feature four miles of winding trails open to hikers and mountain bikers.
The signature property of the Western Foothills Land Trust is the 212-acre Roberts Farm Preserve on the south shore of Lake Penneseewassee in Norway. The site of an old dairy farm dating to 1823, the north-facing slopes of this beautiful, thickly-wooded land are home to seven miles of groomed cross-country ski trails, a one-mile hiking and snowshoeing trail and a half-mile ADA trail.
Roberts Farm features a warming hut that’s open weekends from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Trail use is free, as are the equipment loans of skis, boots and poles if you need them.
The Trust has big plans for Roberts Farm, including a new office, meeting and function space, a barn, public flush toilets, more parking and an electric vehicle charging station. They’re also buying more land to connect Roberts to downtown Norway less than two miles to the east.
“Our focus is on recreational assets,” said Dassler. “We’re looking to develop more trail systems in our 10-town service area.”