Two Great Hikes a Stone’s Throw from Freeport

{Dad and Kj like to explore}

I’d like to start out this new and hopefully informative feature with a little bit of an introduction. I’m Terry, a.k.a. Dad and my son Kendrick, better known as Kj is my partner in crime on these adventures. Occasionally, Kj’s older brother will join us, usually for comic relief.  But for the most part, I will do my best to give you directions to where we have been and make a few recommendations as to what to see, do and just as importantly EAT!

Kj ready to hit the trail up Bradbury Mountain.
Kj ready to hit the trail up Bradbury Mountain.

{Spectacular & rewarding hikes with very little effort}

For our initial journey, we are going to explore a couple of jewels teaming with adventure.  These are excellent for getting out and beginning to break in those new hiking boots (personally, I’ve got my eye on a new pair of Asolo Tps 520’s) and assured to remind you why we all love this grand state. Kj and I struck out on these two spectacular and rewarding hikes early on a Saturday morning and we were also rewarded with spectacular views with very little effort.

{Make it a weekend and camp out}

Kj and I love to camp. We are kind of spoiled in a sense because of our 30’ 5th wheel, but this coming year we will be splitting our camping adventures into two categories; with the camper and actually roughing it. Please keep reading this magazine to follow all our adventures. For this journey, we were set up comfortably at one of our favorite luxury camping resorts, Bayley’s Camping Resort in Scarborough. We love this campground and I highly recommend it to anyone, but that’s not what we are talking about here. On this bright, warm Saturday morning we headed for Freeport, the home of the outdoor enthusiasts’ mecca, L.L. Bean.

{Freeport Hikes}

Now, most people who have visited Freeport have seen the signs directing you to The Desert of Maine.  But maybe you may have missed the D.O.T. signs for Bradbury Mountain and Wolfe’s Neck State Park. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure The Desert of Maine is cool, but it’s not really my cup of tea. I like the woods, quiet, clean and nice views. These two hidden gems fit the bill nicely!

Looking towards the east from the summit of Bradbury.
Looking towards the east from the summit of Bradbury.

{Bradbury Mountain State Park}

GPS: 43.900030, -70.179291
Let’s start out with Bradbury Mountain. This easily accessible and wonderful little state park is a gold mine for those of you looking to get out and enjoy an easy stretch of the legs.  It also offers a nice view and a little adventure right in the backyard of L.L. Bean. Getting to the park is easy, take exit 22 off I-295 for Route 125/136 Freeport/Durham. Turn left onto Durham Rd., which quickly turns into Pownal Rd. and finally into Elmwood Rd. Continue to follow this road till you come to a blinking red light, which will be Route 9.  Turn right and look for the park entrance about a half a mile on the left. There is a small fee to enter, but it supports these wonderful outdoor treasures.  So don’t be a cheapskate and cough up the $3 to enjoy one of Maine’s original state parks.

{Northern Loop Trail}

After you’ve paid the fee and parked in the parking area I suggest heading for the Northern Loop Trail. It’s only a short 1.2-mile loop but the view from the top of the 485’ summit is quite spectacular on a clear day no matter what time of year you visit.

Along the way, you will pass a small feldspar quarry that was active in the 1920’s. Feldspar is used in glassmaking and ceramics like plates and cups. Don’t fret if you miss it, I did, Kj pointed it out asking me what it was. In all honesty, I didn’t know until we looked it up later on. A little further along you will next come to a cattle pound. This almost completely intact structure was used by the townspeople in the 1800’s to hold wandering cattle till their owner came to claim them. A small fee was then paid to get the offending animal out of “jail” and taken back home. Much like today’s shelters, only cows don’t tend to run quite so far or as fast as our dogs and cats do today.

You’ll notice many pretty lady slippers and other equally beautiful wildflowers as you follow the trail, please use the hiker’s creed and take only memories and photographs. Leave these natural beauties for everyone to enjoy.

After you pass the cattle pound you will begin to climb steadily upward. Don’t worry, it’s NOT a strenuous climb. There are several trails that will start to spur off and lead you to other parts of the park, but for now, we will concentrate on just climbing to the summit which is quickly approaching.

Towards the southeast from the summit of Bradbury Mountain.
Towards the southeast from the summit of Bradbury Mountain.

{Reaching the summit}

Once you have reached the granite outcropping on the summit take in the view. On a spectacularly clear day, as the one that we were treated to, you can see the Atlantic in the distance. If the sun is out, find a nice warm piece of granite, sit down for a granola bar, some trail mix, a sandwich and a bottle of water. On a nice weekend it may be a little crowded up there, but not absurdly so. There will be plenty of room for everyone to soak in a few rays and enjoy the views of the surrounding forest.

I made Kj wear his pack and carry our lunch.
I made Kj wear his pack and carry our lunch.

When you’re done taking in the splendor from Bradbury’s summit you can either follow your back trail, or you can descend from the summit via the Summit Trail. This is the most popular trail in the park as it is the shortest way to the summit. It does have a few steep spots and plenty of granite steps to help you either climb up or down. I prefer to use it to come down from the summit as a quick way to access the other less traveled trails within the park.

Marker at the summit of Bradbury Mountain.
Marker at the summit of Bradbury Mountain.

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Trail on Bradbury Mountain.
Trail on Bradbury Mountain.

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{Wolfe’s Neck State Park}

GPS: 43.822115, -70.083013
Once you’ve enjoyed the views from the top of Bradbury Mountain head back towards Freeport in search of another wonderful slice of heaven only minutes away from the outlet shops that line US 1. At the intersection of US 1 and Bow St. (right across from L.L. Bean) turn left onto Bow, which turns into Flying Point Rd. follow the signs for the park roughly 2 ¼ miles. Turn right onto Wolfe’s Neck Rd and follow for about another 1 ½ miles to the park entrance on the left.

Heading into the woods at Wolfe’s Neck State Park.
Heading into the woods at Wolfe’s Neck State Park.

{White Pines Trail}

After you’ve paid the small fee and parked your car there are several trails you can follow. For those with limited mobility issues, I suggest the White Pines Trail. It’s only about a half a mile in length and has a nice firm fairly flat and barrier-free base. It follows along the Casco Bay shoreline, crosses a couple of bridges, offers plenty of benches for taking a break and has several scenic spots.  These spots feature informative panels pointing out different landmarks, flora, fauna and some of the wildlife you may encounter. This trail terminates near this particular park’s greatest wildlife inhabitants: an Osprey nesting area located roughly 200’ offshore on Googin’s Island.

Wolfe’s Neck has a few informational boards like this one along its trails.
Wolfe’s Neck has a few informational boards like this one along its trails.

{Casco Bay Trail}

For those looking to stretch their legs and also looking for some challenging terrain I highly recommend starting out on the Casco Bay Trail. This trail also takes you along the shoreline, but you will be able to see the other neighboring islands, Cousins, and Eagle. This trail will eventually join the White Pines Trail and you will be able to access several different spots where you can venture down to the water, sit on a sun-baked outcropping, enjoy the lapping water and maybe do a little bird watching.

I made Kj carry our drinks and stuff here too. That will teach him to call me “old.”
I made Kj carry our drinks and stuff here too. That will teach him to call me “old.”

{Harraseeket Trail}

When you’re done soaking up some vitamin D and have had a sip or two of water(always keep hydrated) continue onto the Harraseeket Trail. This is the most challenging part of this 2.1-mile loop. It climbs over some steep and uneven ground going through several different areas of the park. It also crosses the park’s access road twice so use caution crossing the road.  Those coming into or leaving the park may be startled as you pop out of the woods quite unexpectedly. The entire loop also offers a pretty nice challenge and is teaming with wildlife.  They include ospreys nesting on Googin’s Island to red and grey squirrels, deer, raccoons, fox, partridge and many other woodland creatures.

The park has a wonderful picnic area with several picnic tables, some wheelchair and handicap accessible. Plenty of trash and recycling receptacles, restrooms, a nice open field to toss a ball or frisbee, plenty of benches and plenty of informative panels along all the trails. Consult the park map and pick the trail that best suits you and piques your interest.

Looking at the island just offshore, you can see an Osprey nest at the very top center.
Looking at the island just offshore, you can see an Osprey nest at the very top center.
There are lots of great ocean views in Wolfe's Neck State Park.
There are lots of great ocean views in Wolfe’s Neck State Park.
Kj likes to scramble up big rocks and mug for a photo.
Kj likes to scramble up big rocks and mug for a photo.

{Freeport}

After hitting these two parks you’ve earned a little reward in my humble opinion. Kick off your hikers, slip on your sneakers, and maybe find a place to wash up a bit because you may have worked up a little bit of trail stink. If you’re looking for pizza I recommend Fire & Co., Sam’s or Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro. All 3 have excellent pizza and several other menu choices. If you’re looking for a pub check out Gritty McDuff’s, The Broad Street Tavern, or dive into Maine history and check out “The Birthplace of Maine” The Jameson Tavern. These are just the places I have tried and that Kj seems to like.  YES, I have taken Kj to a pub and YES, they are kid friendly during the day and early evening hours. Keep in mind there are many different dining options in the downtown area as varied as your taste buds. I’m only recommending the places I have been to.  By all means, try them all and let me know what you find.

These two easy hikes are just the thing for a little afternoon adventure. Kj and I hope to see you out there. So, if you a see a tall skinny kid making fun of his middle-aged Dad feel free to say “Hi!”  Also, tell me what you think of my recommendations.  Hope to see you out there!

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Terry, a.k.a. Dad is an OTR chemical driver who enjoys, researching and visiting many of the historical and beautiful places throughout Maine. He has written several articles for Discover Maine magazine and looks forward to the day when he can make a living exploring the state he loves most.

Kendrick, a.k.a. Kj, the youngest of Terry’s 3 sons, shares his Dad’s passion for history and adventure.

They both enjoy camping (in a tent) as well as “glamping” (in their 5th wheel), hiking, climbing, whitewater rafting and any other outdoor adventure that allows them to see the splendor of the state of Maine.

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