On a recent trip to Maine, we discovered an Audubon Sanctuary that is a truly special place.
The Moosehead Lake region is a very popular destination for travelers from all over New England. The Appalachian Trail winds through the area, loaded with hikers who are either day tripping or through-hiking to the Hundred Mile Wilderness on the way to Mt. Katahdin. For those staying in the area for a few days or longer, a trip to Borestone Mountain is surely worth the drive.
The mountain is part of a 1,600 acre woodland preserve which includes three mountain ponds and two peaks, the West and East summits. Offering spectacular 360 degree views of the north woods of Maine, the trail is steep and rocky, considered moderate by AMC standards.
The climb from the trail entrance on Bodfish Valley Road is fairly inclined early on, but levels out in about a half a mile. Stone steps make some of the going a bit easier, though your lungs may not agree.
It is just 1.1 miles to the visitor center building but it may seem longer with the strain. The canopy of the woods offers a cooling effect, welcomed on an otherwise hot summer day.
The goal is to reach the visitor center, a small hut at the end of a pebbly road once you emerge from the trail. Hikers must sign in before proceeding to the next part of the journey: the hike to the summit. There is a small fee requested which we happily paid. It’s always good to support trail maintenance and restrooms and the fine people who bring these opportunities to visitors like us.
Upon arriving at Sunrise Pond, we immediately saw how clear the water was. The entire area was once a fox farm, and the pond, though only 8-10 feet in depth, was used as a fish hatchery in the 1950s.
There are two additional crystalline ponds which are respectively 80 and 110 feet deep, but there are no fish in there today. Hidden in the woods along the deeper ponds are original Adirondack-style cabins which can be rented by families or groups.
Access to the buildings is via boat from the visitor center and Audubon staff oversee the rental and care of the units. These are truly amazing structures which were built in the early 1900s and have been recently renovated with modern kitchen and bathroom facilities.
Though COVID-19 has cancelled this season’s rentals, inquiries for next season are being taken.
From the visitor center, the next one mile hike to the summit starts along the pond with boardwalks, roots and rocks. The trail then proceeds sharply upward over 130 stone steps. The trail is well maintained and has good markings.
Upon leaving the tree line though, the hike becomes more of a boulder scramble. There are rails and iron handles to keep you safe, but this is not for the faint of heart. Also, dogs are not allowed on the property.
The views are spectacular; bring binoculars and a warm layer as winds can shift and make it surprisingly cool.
Once reaching the West summit, continue 10 minutes longer to reach the East summit and an interpretive map which outlines each mountain in the panorama.
For those afraid of heights or not inclined to pitch to the summit, the alternate Peregrine Trail winds through a moss and fern-lined channel, offering glimpses of the ponds and summits in a much more interior trail. The trail ends at an overlook, gazing down over the aquamarine-colored Sunset Pond. It is like the Caribbean in the backwoods of Maine.
If your travels take you up to Moosehead Lake and Mount Kineo, be sure to plan for a day hiking the trails and mountain ponds of Borestone Audubon Sanctuary.