by Carey Kish
A wealth of Maine mountaintops not too far from home offer panoramic vistas with minimal trail mileage and physical effort, perfect for hikers looking to get outdoors for just a few hours. Here’s a sampler of ten summit hikes, fun and rewarding walk-ups that each require an hour or less to reach the top. Most are within an hour’s drive of Portland and none are more than two hours away. Enjoy!
Mt. Agamenticus, York
Combine Ring and Vulture View trails for a pleasant walk to the expansive meadow atop the 692-foot peak, where there are ocean and mountain views from two observation decks, an old firetower, nature education center, and remnants of the former Big A Ski Area. (1.5 miles, 55 minutes one-way; www.agamenticus.org).
Bald Mountain, Camden
Take the Bald Mountain Trail (a section of the fabulous 50-mile Georges Highland Path trail network) to the extensive summit ledges at 1,280 feet for outstanding views of Penobscot Bay, adjacent Ragged Mtn. and the surrounding Camden Hills. (1 mile, 55 minutes one-way; www.coastalmountains.org).
Bauneg Beg Mountain, North Berwick
Meander along Bauneg Beg Mountain Trail to this craggy 850-foot summit, the only major mountaintop in York County without a communications tower. Descend via rocky Devil’s Den, then along North Peak Loop and several old stone walls. (1.5 miles, 1 hour for loop; www.gwrlt.org).
Douglas Mountain, Sebago
This 1,416-foot summit is most easily reached via Ledges Trail. Enjoy the stone observation tower and far-reaching views of the Presidentials and Pleasant Mtn. Descend via Woods Trail. (0.9 miles, 40 minutes from Ledges Rd. trailhead parking lot; www.mainetrailfinder.com).
French Mountain, Rome
Part of the 6,000-acre Kennebec Highlands, French Mountain Trail leads to the 714-foot top, where there are good views of the beautiful Belgrade Lakes region, including nearby Whittier Pond, Mt. Phillip and Long Pond. Combine the left and right forks for a loop hike. (0.8 miles, 25 minutes for loop; belgradelakes.org).
Higgins Mountain, Georgetown
A nice loop trail winds over this rocky 259-foot summit, one of the highest points on Georgetown Island. Hardwood trees dominate the lower slopes, while pitch pines grow on the upper reaches, where there are fine views to Robinhood Cove and beyond to the Gulf of Maine. (0.5 miles, 25 minutes for loop; kennebecestuary.org).
Mt. Pisgah, Winthrop
Climb Tower Trail to the top at an elevation of 809 feet, then scamper up the abandoned 60-foot firetower (at your own risk) for a grand panorama over Androscoggin Lake to Maine’s western mountains and on to the Presidential Range. Complete the loop hike via Ring Trail. (2 miles, 1 hour for loop; www.tklt.org).
Sabattus Mountain, Lovell
From the airy perch atop the immense cliffs on the southwest face of this 1,253-foot mountain, hikers will enjoy great views ranging from Pleasant Mtn. to the Baldfaces near Evans Notch to Mt. Washington. (0.8 miles, 40 minutes one-way; www.mainetrailfinder.com).
Sawyer Mountain, Limerick
Hike Smith Trail and Old Sawyer Mountain Road through the Sawyer Mountain Highlands, the largest unfragmented block of undeveloped land in York and Cumberland counties, ending at a lovely lookout amid the pine woods at 1,231 feet. (1.5 miles, 1 hour one-way; www.fsht.org).
Streaked Mountain, Hebron
A short but steep hike leads up rock slabs on the distinctive west face of this 1,770-foot peak, topping out on expansive open ledges offering excellent westerly views over the Oxford Hills and on the White Mountains. (0.6 miles, 45 minutes one-way; www.mainetrailfinder.com).
Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide and author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast.