Difficulty: Moderate. The trail to the summit is steep in some areas but short. Though the footing can be challenging, there is no “technical hiking” or hiking that requires climbing skills (such as scrambling up boulders or using hand bars). This hike will be dangerous in colder temperatures due to ice near the summit.
How to get there: The Donnell Pond Public Reserve is 12 miles east of Ellsworth. In East Sullivan, turn onto Route 183 and drive 4.5 miles. Turn left on a gravel road marked by a sign. When you come to a fork in the road, there will be a sign directing you right to Black Mountain. Continue on that road until you see a small parking lot on your right with a kiosk including a map of the trails. Up the road a few hundred feet and to the left is the trailhead. You can see it from the parking lot.
Information: Black Mountain is just over 1,000 feet in elevation. Hiking to the East Peak via Big Chief Trail and back down (without taking a loop) takes about two hours if you stop for a break at the top. The terrain varies from mossy woodland to bald granite at the top. A hiker could spend several days exploring all of the trails in the reserve, including trails to Schoodic Mountain, Caribou Mountain and Black Mountain cliffs.
Personal note: This climb didn’t sound great according to information I found online, but I wanted to try it anyway and I was pleasantly surprised. Hiking Black Mountain was like finding a treasure. The well-marked trail offers great views, beautiful surroundings and a good workout. Black Mountain has a West Peak and East Peak. Once you reach the West Peak, where the trees open up to reveal a stunning view, continue down a dip and into the forest again. The trail will lead you across to the bald East Peak, the taller of the two. Signage, blue blazes and cairns will guide you.
Main online source: www.nrcm.org/documents/Donnell_Pond_hike.pdf
What to eat: View a trail recipe suggested for this hike, along with a great story, at “Foodie on Foot: A Mother/Daughter Lunch on Black Mountain” on the BDN blog “Stop Thinking and Cook” by Linda Trenholm.