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A guide to short foliage hikes that are off the beaten path – Press Herald

A guide to short foliage hikes that are off the beaten path – Press Herald

A view of Little Bigelow shows off the fall foliage in the western Maine mountains. Courtesy of High Peaks Alliance

Many of the best short, fall hikes in Maine, the ones with sweeping views, usually prove too busy to fully enjoy, certainly to ever enjoy in solitude and silence.

As it turns out, little-traveled trails with memorable panoramic views and enviable outlooks are plentiful in Maine. You just have to know who to ask. That’s why we reached out to several land trusts, hiking club members and conservationists to find a choice list of easy foliage hikes.

The fall colors may not be as brilliant this year because of the dry summer. But even with more subdued tones, Maine’s a beauty – and sure to deliver on these eight hikes:

Bald Pate Mountain Preserve in South Bridgton has sweeping summit views. The Bob Chase trail is the most popular route to the summit. Courtesy of Bob Travis

BALD PATE MOUNTAIN PRESERVE, BRIDGTON

Bald Pate meets all the criteria we set for this list of uncrowded fall hikes: short, exceptional views and generally little foot traffic, according to Matt Markot, the director of Loon Echo Land Trust.

“It has the added benefit of being adjacent to the permanently conserved Five Fields Farm, where there is great apple picking,” Markot said.

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The trail head in York County – roughly an hour from Portland – is on Route 107, a few miles up from Sebago Town Hall.

BLUEBERRY MOUNTAIN, NORTH OF WELD

Located within a 19,000-acre swath of public land, Tumbledown Mountain in Franklin County is the most visited mountain in Maine, according to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Nearby Blueberry Mountain is just as spectacular, just not as crowded or well-known.

The 2.2-mile roundtrip hike has a viewpoint halfway up as well as the 360-degree view from the bald summit that takes in the high peaks mountain range in the distance. There are a few steep pitches. The state asks hikers to remain on the trail, which crosses private land. Park next to the camp lodge, not at the sports field beyond it.

The trailhead is at the Blueberry Mountain Bible Camp, accessed by a 2-mile dirt road off Route 142.

CENTER HILL NATURE TRAIL, WELD

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If you want more of a walk than a hike, try the short nature trail at Mt. Blue State Park. It’s less than a mile, but gets you to views of Mt. Blue, Webb Lake and across to Tumbledown Mountain. You’ll be encouraged to stop, contemplate and relax at the rough-hewn bench at the top.

The trail head is at the parking lot at the Center Hill picnic area in the state park in western Maine, about a half hour south of Rangeley.

Glassface Ledges is rarely busy and offers a scenic hike that takes about an hour. Courtesy of Mahoosuc Land Trust

GLASSFACE LEDGES, RUMFORD CENTER

“A great bang-for-the-buck hike, rarely busy, probably one-hour max for most people,” said Kirk Siegel, executive director of the Mahoosuc Land Trust.

And it’s a snap to get to the ledges from Bethel in Maine’s western mountains, and about a 90-minute drive from Portland. 

The trail head is along the Androscoggin River at Rumford Center, down at Hastings’ Landing boat launch off Route 2.

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HATCH PRESERVE AT HAWK MOUNTAIN, WATERFORD

“Extraordinary views for a very easy investment” was how Lee Dassler, executive director of the Western Foothills Land Trust, described the hike up Hawk Mountain. 

In autumn it also promises views of raptors during the fall migration.

The Hawk Mountain Trail is just .7 miles and terminates at the town-owned Hawk Mountain lookout. Grades are gentle to moderate and the trail has some rough, rocky spots that the land trust hopes to remedy in the near future. The summit’s broad cliffs offer panoramic views to Mt. Washington, Bear Mountain and Sebago Lake. 

The trail head is off Hawk Mountain Road, a short distance from Route 35 in South Waterford in southern Oxford County.

PEARY MOUNTAIN, BROWNFIELD

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This is a short, relatively easy hike with great views on the way up to two summit ledges, about a mile to West Peak and another .5 miles to the other summit. West Peak is 910 feet, while the true summit is 960 feet. 

From the true summit, the views extend to New Hampshire’s popular 3,000-footers Mount Chocorua and the twin-peaked Mount Doublehead as well as 6,300-foot Mount Washington on a clear day. The other summit shows the backside of Pleasant Mountain.

The trail head is on Farnsworth Road off Route 113 in Brownfield in Oxford County.

Center Hill in Mt. Blue State Park offers epic views in less than a mile of hiking. Courtesy of High Peaks Alliance

RAYMOND COMMUNITY FOREST, RAYMOND

The 350-acre preserve offers four miles of multi-use trails but the draw is the special views from the top of Pismire Mountain, accessed via the Pismire Bluff Trail, which is 2 miles roundtrip. 

It’s a simple hike, according to Allen Crabtree with the Denmark Mountain Hikers, that offers an overlook to Crystal Lake and Rattlesnake Mountain. An abundance of oak trees would offer brilliant colors in fall during a wetter year.

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The trailhead is off Conesca Road in Raymond, on the east side of Crescent Lake just northeast of Sebago Lake in Cumberland County. 

SABATTUS MOUNTAIN, LOVELL

This is another hike with summit ledges and good views to the western mountains on trail maintained by the Greater Lovell Land Trust. This one also is a choice spot for viewing bird migration. 

It’s an easy 1.3-mile roundtrip loop with overlooks along immense cliffs where a hiker can rest at one of several benches at the 1,250-foot summit.  

It only has 180-degree views but the expansive overlook has long ledges that allow for plenty to gather when it gets busy on beautiful weekends. 

The trailhead is off Sabattus Trail Road, off Route 5 on the east side of Kezar Lake in Oxford County. 


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