Difficulty: Easy-moderate. The 1-mile loop trail that lead to Salmon Pond and Little Long Pond is easy and travels over fairly even terrain. The trail to the ridge of Tunk Mountain (1.8 miles one way) is moderate, as it becomes steep near the top. Hikers will even need to use two metal rungs to clamber up one of the boulders.
How to get there: Tunk Mountain is located between the towns of Franklin and Cherryfield. The trailhead is off Route 182 (Blackwoods Scenic Byway), which spans between the two towns. From the junction of Route 1 and Route 182 in Franklin, turn east on Route 182 and drive 14 miles. The parking lot to the trailhead, marked by a blue sign, will be on the left.
Information: Tunk Mountain, which rises 1,157 feet above sea level between the Down East towns of Franklin and Cherryfield, is a favorite hike for nearby residents. A 1-mile blue-blazed hiking trail leads to Salmon and Little Long Pond at the base of the mountain; and another trail leads to Mud Pond and then up to the top of Tunk Mountain. You can make the hike nearly 4.5 miles long if you explore all possible trails (the loop trail to the ponds, the Tunk Mountain Trail to the mountain’s top, and all possible trails exploring the ridge). Pets are permitted, and the trails are free to use.
Harold Pierce and his children donated Tunk Mountain to the state of Maine for preservation in 1994, a generous act that is commemorated on a plaque near the mountain’s summit. The mountain and several surrounding ponds are now managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Land, which in 2011 built a new parking lot for the Tunk Mountain trailhead, including a vault toilet and information kiosk. MBPL has also made recent changes to the trail, including the removal of old rope, new signage and the relocation of trail sections. Sections of rock steps and bog bridges now help hikers along their way. Changes to the trails are still in progress. For updated information, call the MBPL Eastern Public Lands Office at 941-4412.
From the trailhead, one trail leads into the forest. After a few hundred feet, you reach a fork. Stay to the right, where a sign will direct you onward to Tunk Mountain Trail. Hike about 0.5 mile and reach another fork (without a sign as of August 2012). Here is where the 1-mile loop to the hidden ponds begins. Turn right to hike the loop counterclockwise, around the eastern side of Salmon Pond and north to the southern side of Little Long Pond, and then back down to the western side of Salmon Pond. Here, a trail will veer off to the right (easily missed coming from this direction) and leads to the ridge of Tunk Mountain.
If you do not want to hike the pond loop, simply turn left at the fork. You will walk a short distance along the western edge of Salmon Pond until you see a sign and a trail leading away from the pond to your left. Veer left on the trail and hike to the ridge of Tunk Mountain. From the trailhead, it is about 1.5 mile to the ridge of Tunk Mountain. The trail becomes rockier and steeper near the top, and sometimes the trail’s blue blazes are replaced by cairns. Pay close attention to both types of trail markers. From the first big lookout, continue on to a sign that will direct you onward 0.2 mile to the Northern Overlook or right to Monument Vista, where there is a plaque in honor of Harold Pierce.
Personal note: I suggest hiking all trails possible on this land. The loop trail to the hidden ponds travels through beautiful woodland, and the rock ledges along Little Long Pond are not to be missed. Though the hike becomes more strenuous toward to top of Tunk Mountain, the views are well worth it. Hikers can rest at several outlooks, my favorite being the Northern Outlook, which faces an impressive line of wind turbines.