The Kennebec Land Trust puts out a hiking guide with everything you need to enjoy 32 preserves and 54 miles of trails in the trust’s working region.
Just 6 miles separate the hubbub of downtown Augusta from the relative peace and quiet around Shed Pond, an undeveloped 37-acre pond straddling the Manchester–Readfield town line. Monks Hill rises to 750 feet over the pond’s west shore, its wooded summit marked by a simple sign amid a park-like grove of white pines.
Shed Pond and Monks Hill are part of Gannett Woods and Wyman Memorial Forest, two properties owned and managed by the Kennebec Land Trust. Climb the hill and meander around the pond, then exit through the New England Forestry Foundation’s Allen Whitney Memorial Forest and sidle along Scribner Road for a nice 4-mile circuit hike.
This hiker wouldn’t have known about Shed Pond and Monks Hill but for a copy of KLT’s Hiking Guide, a beautiful guide to 32 preserves and 54 miles of trails in the trust’s working region, which ranges Chesterfield to Litchfield and Leeds to Sidney. Since 1988, KLT has protected some 7,000 acres on more than 70 properties.
The Kennebec Land Trust published its first hiking guide in 2014, a bounty of 20 preserves and 36 miles of hiking. I remember wandering about them, guide in hand, exploring some sweet new places: Curtis Homestead in Leeds, Parker Pond in Fayette, Jamies Pond in Hallowell and Small-Burnham Conservation Area in Litchfield. What a difference six years makes.
The second edition of the KLT Hiking Guide, published last year, is a work of art of sorts. The full-color booklet contains 40 sturdy, water-resistant pages and is bound together with a key ring so you can remove a page and take it with you on the trail. You can also add future hike pages as they become available, because you just know KLT will add more hikes.
Each hike includes a photo and overview of the property, a map with a legend and location inset, a detailed trail description and driving directions. The front of the guide has an introduction and displays the generous sponsors who helped make it happen. In the back there’s a property summary (name, owner, and whether dogs, hunting and snowmobiles are allowed), a fold-out map of the region, and a checklist to keep track of your completed hikes.
KLT’s signature properties are Mt. Pisgah Conservation Area in Wayne and Winthrop, and Vaughan Woods in Hallowell. Three trails – Tower, Blueberry and Ledges – climb to the 809-foot summit of Mt. Pisgah, which is adorned with a 60-foot fire tower that offers an incredible 360-degree panoramic view. Vaughan Woods, protected by an easement held by KLT, features delightful walking on old carriage trails, fabulous stone bridges and a pretty pond.
With the KLT Hiking Guide in your possession, you’ll be able to explore these wonderful, well-loved lands and so many more, like these fine places I checked off the list this spring.
Gott Pasture Preserve in Wayne protects 75 acres on the west shore of Wilson Pond. The scenic drive to the trailhead over Morrison Heights Road with its lovely views over Androscoggin Lake is a real treat all by itself. Then there’s the Shore Loop and Hemlock Woods Connector, which combine for a 1.5-mile loop that includes time along the lightly developed pond, an old foundation and a hilltop of boulders.
The 164-acre Howard Hill Historical Park is an urban oasis on the west side of Augusta that features a network of trails on namesake Howard Hill, which tops out at nearly 500 feet. The upper eastern slopes provide a great look at the Capitol dome, downtown Augusta and the Kennebec River.
There are the aforementioned trails at Shed Pond and Monks Hill in Gannett Woods, and just a few miles north in Vienna Woods Conservation Area, there’s the Pinnacle to climb. From the granite bench atop the little bump you can enjoy a good view of the Kennebec Highlands.
KLT is fortunate to have some 60 volunteer stewards to help look after their wealth of trails. If you’ve got some time to spare, consider lending a hand. Volunteers are like gold to every land trust. To get started on your own central Maine hiking adventures, visit tklt.org/merchandise to order a copy of the KLT Hiking Guide ($18 plus tax).
By Carey Kish
Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island is an outdoors writer and two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker. Follow Carey’s adventures on Facebook @ Carey Kish.