Update as of September 2012: The Loop Trail mentioned in this 1-minute hike is not maintained by the Georges River Land Trust, as it offered nothing to the hiking experience. That’s why I noticed it was very overgrown.
“The Loop Trail is discontinued now and do not maintain it … The “quickest” way to get to the tower at the top (actually the trail passes just below it) is via the Route 17 trailhead, and as you likely found, it isn’t an easy hike once you start climbing. The approaches from Thorndike Brook and Barnestown are easier (i.e. more of a gradual climb), but they result in a long hike to get all the way over to the tower. In my opinion, however, either of those routes is a better experience than coming up from Route 17. The trail has more outlooks in different directions, and the approach to the tower is more spectacular because you are rounding the summit with Penobscot Bay directly in front of you.” -Jay Astle, Stewardship Program Manager, Georges River Land Trust.
Difficulty: Moderate. The hike, up and back, is 4.8 miles. The trail rises gradually to the rocky summit and has some tricky footing.
How to get there: Start at Camden Snow Bowl at 20 Barnestown Rd. in Camden. Driving out of the Camden Snow Bowl, turn right and drive up the hill. The parking lot to the trailhead will be on the right. You will come upon it suddenly after a bend in the road (and likely drive by it the first time). The sign at the parking lot reads “Bald Mountain Preserve.” The trail starts from the small parking lot.
While I chose to hike Ragged Mountain via Barnestown Road access trail, two other routes lead to the summit as well. 1) The Thorndike Brook trailhead, on Hope Street in Rockport (1/2-mile past the Route 17 parking area), gives access to Ragged Mountain via the Thorndike Brook Trail. 2) The Route 17 access in Rockport is the approach for Spruce Mountain and Mount Pleasant to the south, and Ragged Mountain to the north. The parking area can be found two miles north of the intersection of Routes 17 and 90 in West Rockport.
Information: Ragged Mountain is about 1,300 feet in elevation and straddles the Camden-Rockport town line. While much of the hike is in the shelter of hardwood forest, there are several rocky outlooks and clearings filled with a variety of delicate plants, and the final stretch to the summit is open to the elements. The mountain’s ridge is mostly exposed bedrock that supports a 40-acre acidic rocky summit plant community. And at the summit is a tall communications tower and building that is fenced off from the public. To learn about the ecological significance of the mountain, visit www.maine.gov/doc/nrimc/mnap/focusarea/ragged_bald_mountains_focus_area.pdf.
Throughout the hike, people can enjoy beautiful views of Bald Mountain to the northeast, Hosmer Pond and the Penobscot Bay to the east, Mirror Lake to the south, the humps of Spruce Mountain and Pleasant Mountain to the southwest, and a number of ponds to the west (Grassy Pond, Fish Pond, Lermond Pond and Alford Lake).
The trail to Ragged Mountain from Barnestown Road is part of the Georges Highland Path, more than 40 miles of connected, low-impact hiking trails maintained by the Georges River Land Trust. For information, visit grlt.org.
Despite the lengthy description that follows, this trail is easy to follow. From the trailhead, hike to a kiosk not far in the woods to read the rules and view a map. Hike past the kiosk to a trail juncture. Turn right to hike to Ragged Mountain (left for Bald Mountain, a shorter hike). After a short distance, the trail crosses the road and continues up to Ragged Mountain. At 1.3 miles is a trail juncture with trail signs. Turn left to hike the remaining 1.1 miles to the summit. After a short distance, you will come to a fork in the trail, turn right, following the blue blazes. Soon after, you will come to another fork with a sign for the Loop Trail. Turn left to take an alternative Loop Trail, which is more difficult to follow and more overgrown than the regular trail, but still marked by blue blazes. Turn right to follow the shorter trail to the summit. The two trails will merge before the final stretch to the summit, which is marked by towers and buildings.
Personal note: In spring, summer and fall, the trail is fairly narrow with grasses, ferns and other plants growing along the edges. Beware of ticks, which cling to the tips of plants to latch onto animals, including hikers. Check your body for ticks after each hike. Consider wearing pants (tucked into socks for increased safety) and Insect Shield clothing.