Yes, she’s a beauty for sure, that La Verna.
One hundred and twenty lovely acres with nearly a mile of magnificent coastline. Three miles of leisurely hiking trails. Just up the road a piece in Bristol.
Never been? You’re in for a treat, so pack up the rucksack and go! Perfect weather of late has kept this hiker on a tear, taking full advantage of the bluebird blue days and not overly warm temperatures, working my way up and down the coast sampling new hiking spots and revisiting a few old friends.
One of my all-time favorites is La Verna Nature Preserve. Getting there is scenic enough. Off Route 1, cruise through Newcastle and Damariscotta – making note of the King Eider Pub for the way home—then head on down the Pemaquid Peninsula on Route 130. In Bristol, turn east on either Upper or Lower Round Pond Road. Both will deposit you on Route 32.
Three miles south of the post office is the trailhead parking lot on the right. Pick up a trail map at the kiosk, trundle across the road, pass through the stone wall, and you’re off for a wonderful loop hike of three miles.
The first segment is the Hoyt Trail, marked by blue paint diamonds. This trail passes over private property, so please respect the owners and stay on the trail. It’s a gentle downhill jaunt through mixed woods past fields, stone walls, and some old growth oak and spruce. Cross Meadow Brook and soon reach the boundary of the preserve proper. At the junction just ahead, bear left on Ellis Trail with its yellow diamond blazes. Trend up to a knoll with impressive white pines and red spruce, then easily downward, the roar of the ocean surf in the distance. At a clump of four oak trees, descend toward the water and a clifftop outlook. Bearing south now, the trail traces a spectacular route 100 feet above the ocean.
Circle around a shallow cove to another view point. Reach the folded and layered rocks of Leighton Head. Scramble out to it for far-reaching views up and down Muscongus Sound to Louds Island, tiny Bar Island, Ross Island, Haddock Island and others. Further out you might recognize Monhegan Island, nine miles out to sea.
It looks a lot like the Bold Coast at Cutler here. That same rugged and remote feel, but so much more accessible to us southern Maine denizens. Linger for a while and enjoy. This place is very, very special.
From Leighton Head, continue the hike on the Tibbitts Trail, following green markers now, with plenty more great oceanfront scenery to be had. At a junction, take the short detour on Lookout Trail to a long rock ledge, well worth your time for a little more sitting and watching and drinking it all in.
Ahead, pass through a jumble of windthrow, a testament to the power of our coastal weather. At a boulder and a gnarled spruce, bear inland away from the ocean. Soon, bear right on the red-blazed Laverna Trail and make your way slowly back to the original junction, and then out to the car. La Verna Nature Preserve is a property of the Pemaquid Watershed Association, which has been involved in land and water stewardship and environmental education efforts in the Pemaquid River watershed since 1973.
PWA has preserved 278 acres on 13 parcels through conservation easements. They also own and manage eight preserves totaling 358 acres, all of which sport hiking trails of various lengths. Masters Machine Company of Bristol has adopted the La Verna trails and generously supports their ongoing maintenance, a nice local touch that keeps the paths in great shape.
Before leaving please consider leaving a donation to help PWA and its friends continue its good work.
SUMMARY: 3.0 miles round-trip, 1.5 hours, easy.
MORE INFO & TRAIL MAP: Pemaquid Watershed Association.