Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hike – Mount Battie and Megunticook Mountain

Camden Harbor from Mt. Battie
Mount Battie and Megunticook Mountain are located in Camden Hills State Park in Camden, Maine.  They represent the finest coastal mountain hiking outside of Acadia National Park.  There are many trails in the park.  This post covers a traverse of Mount Battie via the Mount Battie Trail and the Tablelands Trail; an ascent most of the way up Megunticook Mountain via the Tablelands Trail, a side trip on the Adam's Lookout Trail, an ascent to Ocean Lookout via the Megunticook Trail, a summit of Megunticook via the Ridge Trail, a bypass of Mount Battie via the Carriage Trail, and a walk back on roads to the start.

Directions – Camden is on Route 1.  From the South you can either stay on Route 1 all the way or bypass Rockland by taking Route 90 off Route 1 in Warren.  When you connect back to Route 1, turn left.  There are 30 miles of trails in the State Park.  If you do not have a map go to the park entrance, which is a couple of miles past Camden's downtown on Route 1, and they will give you one.  Because you are not starting the hike in the park, you will not have to pay an entrance fee.

To get to the trailhead take Route 52 off Route 1.  This is back towards the center of Camden.  Once on Route 52 take the fourth street on the right.  This is Spring Street, but there was no street sign when I was there.  In less than a tenth of a mile take a left onto Megunticook Street Extension.  There was a street sign for this.  It will look like you are driving into someone's driveway, but you are not.  Drive up to the end of this street and there is parking for about eight vehicles.

The trail starts at the back of the parking area.  There is a sign warning that the trail is closed from sundown to 6:00 AM.  The 1/2 mile trail breaks into three sections of about the same length, with the bottom and top sections having gradual rises and the middle section having a very steep rise.  You will need both hands free to make it up over the middle section safely.  I would have said wear proper footgear and don't bring dogs, but I would have been wrong.  I passed a man hiking up this section in boat shoes and I met a couple coming down with two dogs.  The owners had to coax them down over the steeper sections, but the dogs made it.

Once you get over the steep section you will come to a ridge with great views of Camden Harbor.  In my opinion, the harbor view here is superior to the summit since you are more aligned with it.  At the summit you are more to the side.  Once you have taken your pictures you can ascend easily to the summit.  I regret not getting any pictures for myself here.

Note - there are a great many cairns built on this trail, almost none of which point you in the correct direction.  There is even a place where there are a dozen or more that people have created.  This is a very popular hiking trail.  My guess is that people don't understand what the cairns are for and everyone has created their own.  Always follow the blue blazes on this trail.  They will steer you correctly.

Mount Battie has an auto road to the top, just like Mount Washington and Cadillac Mountain.  This means there are many tourists at the summit.  Unless you want to get away from the people, spend some time exploring all the views available here.  There is a stone tower erected as a memorial to the soldiers in World War I.  You have 360 degree views from the top of it.  There are displays that identify each of the islands and peninsulas you can see from the summit.  There is also a passage from a poem that Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote that describes the view from Mount Battie.  Walk to the parking lot and then follow the road to the right until you reach even more views.  There are pay binoculars here that you can use to see the sights.  There are also bathrooms at the summit (off to the left of the parking lot), but I did not see any drinking water.

World War I Memorial Tower on Mt. Battie

Plaque with excerpt from an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem

Megunticook Mountain from Mt. Battie

When you are done here, cross over the parking lot to the trailhead for the Tablelands Trail.  The blue blazes continue and there are far fewer cairns.  At one point I came to a ledge that went left and right, but I could not see any blazes.  After exploring for a few minutes I finally found the next blaze hidden between two small bushes almost in front of where I stepped onto the ledge.  Go between the bushes and into the trees on the other side.

This trail drops for .5 miles until it meets the Mount Battie Auto Road.  Cross over the road and the trail continues to the left of a parking area.  It is one mile further on this trail to Ocean Lookout.  The trail continues to drop for another .3 miles until you reach a stream.  At this point the Nature Trail branches off to the right.  Stay on the Tablelands Trail.

You will now ascend the rest of the way on this trail.  While not as steep as the Mount Battie trail, it is at least a moderate rise.  As you ascend you will pass the Carriage Trail coming in on the left, the Jack Williams trail coming in on the left and then you will come to where the Adam's Lookout trail comes in on the right.

I would recommend ignoring this trail and continuing to Ocean Lookout on the Tablelands Trail.  I took the Adam's Lookout Trail, so I will describe it.

The trail drops steeply and steadily away from the Tablelands Trail.  I would estimate a 200-300 foot drop in a short distance.  You will come to a point in the trail where a semi-open ledge is to your right.  This is Adam's Lookout.  There is a very well worn trail that continues directly ahead, but a log has been placed in front of it, and there are no visible blazes, so it is apparently not intended to be used anymore.

Take a right down onto this ledge.  There are some views from here, but they are intermittent and semi-obscured by trees.  There are paths worn off in different directions.  If you follow these you will get better views than from this ledge.  It was while following one of these that I picked up the new trail route at the base of the ledge.  As you are facing down the ledge the trail heads away to the left.

This trail quickly connects with the Megunticook Trail.  Take a left and head upwards.  This trail ascends steadily and somewhat steeply.  You will pass alongside a stream on the way up.  There are some stone steps set in place to help on the hike.  When you reach the end of this trail you will step out onto Ocean Lookout just to the right of where the Tablelands Trail also comes out.

From here you have fantastic views of Camden Harbor, Mount Battie, the hills to the north of Camden, and various islands, including Mount Desert Island and Cadillac Mountain.  There was a natural bench in the rock that I used to sit down, lean back, and enjoy the views.  While I was there people came and went.  At any one time there were probably four to eight people around.  There are many places to sit with some natural barriers between them, though, so it didn't seem like it was that crowded.

Camden Harbor and coastline, with Mt. Battie on the right, from Ocean Lookout

Camden Harbor from Ocean Lookout

I had been considering a hike over the summit of Megunticook and then on to Maiden Cliff.  This would have added another five miles to the hike, so I decided instead to just go to the summit.  Unless making the summit is important to you I would also not recommend this trail.  It's a simple series of small ups and downs through the forest with no views.  The summit is fully wooded and if it were not for a massive cairn it would not be obvious that it was a summit.

Cairn at summit of Megunticook Mountain

If you do choose to do it the Ridge Trail leaves Ocean Lookout on the opposite end from where Tablelands Trail and Megunticook Trail came in.  The elevation difference between Ocean Lookout and the summit is only 85 feet, but because of the ups and downs it probably amounts to 150-200 feet of elevation change.  It is one mile for the roundtrip to the summit and back to Ocean Lookout.  The Slope Trail will connect to the Ridge Trail at the summit.

When you are done with the views at Ocean Lookout and decide to head back then take the Tableland Trail back down.  You will pass Adam's Lookout Trail on the left, Jack Williams Trail on the right, and at .7 miles you will come to the Carriage Trail on the right.

You now have two choices.  One choice is to continue on Tablelands Trail then Mount Battie Trail, which means another traverse of Mount Battie, and a descent on a very steep section of trail.  It would be about 1.3 miles in total.  The other choice is to bear right onto Carriage Trail, which will take you around Mount Battie to Route 52.  You would then walk down Route 52 back to where you parked.  It would be about 2 miles for this option.  I took the second option.  I had seen Mount Battie already and I wanted to see something new. 

The Carriage Trail descends easily.  You pass over a couple of streams and at one point there is a stream beside the trail that runs down the surface of a rock ledge for a good 30 feet.  You will pass the Carriage Road Trail on the left.  This would take you back up to Mount Battie if you had changed your mind.  At this point the Carriage Trail flattens out and widens out to a road, although no vehicles are allowed on it.  Follow this to the end and it comes out to a small parking area beside Route 52.

Turn left onto Route 52.  There is space to walk on the side of the road.  It appeared that the mailman had worn a place in the dirt with his car.  This means you can walk safely off the road and cars can easily pass by.

Almost immediately there was a large garden on the left.  It was nice to see, since I had been figuring that now that I had left all the trails that meant there was nothing more to look at.

Continue on Route 52 for .9 miles.  You will see a large cemetery on the right.  Walk until you are past the end of it.  As you are heading slightly downhill keep an eye out to the left for the road you originally drove onto from Route 52 (Spring Street.)  There is no street sign, but there is a stop sign.  It will be the first stop sign you see on the left after the cemetery.

Turn left and walk up Spring Street and then turn left again and walk up Megunticook Street Extension.  This last tenth of a mile gives you one last rise of 100-150 feet.  After walking on the level for close to a mile and a half my legs protested a bit as I finished my hike.

In summary I would recommend skipping the Adam's Lookout and Megunticook Trails and just going straight to Ocean Lookout on the Tablelands Trail.  I would also skip the summit unless summiting is important or you are passing over it on the way to Maiden Cliff.  Finally, I would recommend doing a shuttle between the two parking areas mentioned so that you can eliminate the last mile of walking on Route 52.  Had there been a shuttle the day I hiked I probably would have done the Ridge Trail through the woods to Maiden Cliff, since there is parking there as well.  It would have cut the distance for that potential hike in half.  I plan to get back there someday to hike Maiden Cliff.

July 22, 2012 update:  I finally did a traverse to Maiden Cliff.  You can read about that hike here.

Described Hike:

Cumulative distance:             6.2 miles
Cumulative elevation gain:   2,000 feet
Cumulative duration:            5.5 hours (including an hour on Megunticook enjoying the view)

Direct ascent to Ocean Lookout on Tablelands Trail and no trip to true summit:

Cumulative distance:             4.7 miles
Cumulative elevation gain:   1,600 feet
Cumulative duration:            4.5 hours (including an hour on Megunticook enjoying the view)

Maine Mountain Guide