Posted: May 22, 2017
8 Maine hikes hidden in plain sight
Written by: Carey Kish
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Traveling north on Route 302 into Fryeburg, you’d never know that, concealed by thick woods just beyond the Jockey Cap Country Store, there’s a massive granite dome rising 200 feet into the sky, its summit offering outstanding panoramic views for just a small amount of hiking time and physical effort. Jockey Cap is just one of countless Maine hikes that are hidden in plain sight — right there in front of your eyes, if only you knew where to look.
Here’s a look at a handful of not so obvious, but easily accessible hikes with the detective work done for you. These fun, scenic walks range between a quarter-mile and five miles in length and are easy to moderate in difficulty. All are sure to surprise and delight every hiker.
Photos by Carey Kish
SACO BEACH LOOP
A few miles from the Old Orchard Beach summer hubbub of amusement rides, arcades, fried dough and pizza slices is Ferry Beach State Park in Saco. This 117-acre gem features a nice stretch of oceanfront beach, a pleasant network of footpaths and some interesting history. Combine the park's trails with a walk along Ferry Beach, three trails of the Saco Bay Trails system and two short sections of paved road for a scenic and ecologically diverse four-mile loop hike known as the Saco Beach Loop. For trailhead directions and map, go to sacobaytrails.org.
THORNCRAG NATURE SANCTUARY
The largest bird sanctuary in New England is located just minutes from busy downtown Lewiston. Six color-coded trails lead to just about every corner of the 357-acre property, a wooded gem of hills and crags, woods and fields, and ponds and streams. Hike them all and you'll cover six or more miles of pleasant terrain, while the noise and traffic of the city will seem a world away.For trailhead directions and map, go to stantonbirdclub.org/thorncrag-sanctuary.
One of the longest hiking routes on the coast of Maine is found a short distance from downtown Bath. The Whiskeag Trail traverse three public preserves and several city-owned properties on its five-mile route through the wooded outskirts of town. It's a lot like a country walk in Britain, with wild terrain, as well as a more civilized portion with hedgerows, cemetery and ballfields. For trailhead directions and map, go to kennebecestuary.org.
LITTLE RIVER COMMUNITY TRAIL
Just minutes from downtown Belfast, this four-mile trail wends from the old brick pump house and outlet dam on Route 1, past the undeveloped shores of two reservoirs built in the late 1800s that back up to the Little River and once served as the city's water supply. This is an A-to-B hike, so plan to spot a car or bike at the finish, or phone Bay Taxi (338-1993) for an easy and inexpensive return shuttle. For trailhead directions and map, go to belfastbaywatershed.org.
One of the highest points of land on the Georgetown Peninsula, Higgins Mountain offers stunning coastal views eastward over Robinhood Cove to Sheepscot Bay. Pitch pines and blueberries dominate the summit ledges, which were burned in the Great Georgetown Fire of 1908 and several subsequent blazes. Snag this easy 0.6-mile loop on the way to the beach at Reid State Park. For trailhead directions and map, go to kennebecestuary.org.
Freeport is home to an impressive system of preserves with hiking trails only minutes from its busy downtown shopping district with L.L.Bean and other retail outlets. Try the trails at Sayles Field, which wend for two miles through 70 acres of woods and fields. Then take the Stonewood Connector to Bliss Woods and continue another mile through the New England Forestry Foundation's 85 acres of working forest. For trailhead directions and map, go to freeportconservationtrust.org.
Eliot Mountain rises inconspicuously above Northeast Harbor in the heart of the Land & Garden Preserve, a 1,000-acre property just outside the southern boundary of Acadia National Park. The network of trails on the mountain are some of the oldest on Mount Desert Island, dating to the late 1800s. On the west side of Eliot Mountain is Thuya Garden, where walking paths lead through flower gardens and native Maine woodlands. For trailhead directions and map, go to gardenpreserve.org.
Tucked in the woods off Route 302 on the southern edge of Fryeburg village is the best short hike in Maine. It takes only 15 minutes to clamber up either side of Jockey Cap's massive granite dome for an extraordinary 360-degree panorama. The vista ranges from Pleasant Mountain and the Presidentials to the Carter-Moriah Range and the peaks around Evans Notch; identify every summit in sight using the Peary profile survey monument on top. For trailhead directions and map, go to quinnsjockeycap.com.