Location: Hancock County
Distance: approximately 2 miles
Ages: 5 (possibly 6) and up for the route we took, other routes may be easier
I lived in Orland during my middle school and high school years, so I’ve spent some time in the beautiful and Birkenstocked town of Blue Hill. I am a regular Blue Hill Fair goer, I’ve read my Robert McCloskey and E.B. White, but I have somehow never been up Blue Hill Mountain. So when a friend suggested it as a good kid hike, I had the very deep reaction of, “Oh. Right. That one.”
Blue Hill Mountain lies in a Blue Hill Heritage Trust preserve off Mountain Rd. To get there, take either Route 15 or 172 to Blue Hill. From Route 15, turn left on Mountain Rd and drive until you see a large, unmarked dirt parking area on your right. From Route 172, turn right onto Mountain Rd. and look for the parking area on your left. The trailhead is across the street from the parking. I strongly suggest downloading and printing a map for this area as the trails criss-cross a bit. I didn’t and ended up having to pull one up on my phone to make sure we were taking the right turns. (Luckily, there is a cell tower at the top of the mountain, so I didn’t have to worry about signal strength.)
The trail first takes you through an old farm and orchard, which is now a beautiful wildflower field, full of lupines and daisies when we were there. The incline through the field is steeper than it looks, so take a breather as you need and turn around to see the awesome view opening up behind you. At the top of the field, there are two trailheads. We took the one on the left, the Hayes Trail. The one on the right is the Tower Service Road, which may be a gentler way to the top if my description of the Hayes Trail sounds too intense.
The Hayes Trail starts with lovely stone steps headed up the hillside. They are well maintained and not too steep, but steady. The hillside was covered with green blueberries and there was great tiny critter watching, with caterpillars, butterflies, and dragonflies all over.
After the stone steps, the trail turns into a less groomed rocky trail through the woods. It can get a little tight and steep in places, so stay close to anyone with balance issues. Then comes the hard part: a steep climb over large, loose boulders. Thankfully, today Mr. “The Mountain Moved” was okay with some shifting underfoot–perhaps because we were going up not down–and managed okay. I will say that while fun, this climb is a bit of a challenge for short-legged folk just because of the size of the rocks. My son is a big five-year-old and had to struggle a bit; smaller kids might have trouble with this part.
After the climb, the trails opens up to a great view of Mount Desert Island. The view in this direction is better here than at the summit, so take it in for a minute.
The trail heads back into the pine woods as you wind your way to the summit. The Tower Service Road intersects here, and, while we found the trails could have been marked a little better in this area, it doesn’t matter much. If you keep to a trail and keep going up, you’ll end up in the right spot. The summit is marked with rock cairns, but no signs, and it nice and open. If you continue across the top, there’s a stamping station. If you letterbox or participate in the Trust’s Passport to the Trails, get your stamp on here. If you don’t, the butterfly stamp makes lovely hand decorations.
We walked right across the summit and headed down the Osgood Trail on the other side. While just as steep as the rock climb on the Hayes Trail, the surer footing makes this possibly a better ascension choice for anyone worried about the big steps of Hayes. The Osgood Trail took us deep into a spruce forest, then we crossed a small wooden bridge over onto the South Face trail to loop back to the beginning. As we crossed back to the eastern side of the mountain, we hit our first bit of whining for the hike, but it quickly subsided after the view opened back up. The South Face Trail connects back with the Hayes Trail, then it’s a quick jaunt back down the steps and you are back in the field, which on the descent feels more than a little reminiscent of a scene from the Sound of Music.
Anyone? Just me?
This was a great hike for both the adults and the kids. I was worried about the length, which is just about at the upper limit for my five-year-old’s attention span, but because the terrain was nicely varied and it was just challenging enough, it kept his interest. If you do it in August, I bet you’ll be rewarded with lots of ripe blueberries to keep your energy up along the way.
One note: I did find a tick on me at the end of this one, so, as always, make sure to do a thorough tick check afterwards.
Kid rating: Two thumbs, no wait. Four thumbs, no wait. I’m told this was TEN THUMBS UP HIKE (out of two thumbs).
Kid review: “I liked the whole hike, but especially the flowers.” “I liked the part where the dragonfly landed on me.” [I have no memory of this, but okay.]