Difficulty: Easy-moderate. The trails travel over fairly even terrain, though the east side of the North Loop travels up a steep hill.
How to get there: From Route 177 (Hinckley Ridge Road) in Blue Hill, turn onto Kingdom Road and drive about 1.5 miles to a small parking area on the left. The trail starts from the parking area and provides access to the North Loop and South Loop trails, starting at the North Loop. A third, smaller loop trail can be accessed by a parking area 0.2 mile farther down the Kingdom Road. And a small pull-off across the Mines Road from 40-15 Tennis provides access to the North and South Loop trails, starting at the South Loop.
Information:The 800-acre Kingdom Woods Conservation Area includes the undeveloped 50-acre Fourth Pond, the upper watershed of Carleton Stream, and a variety of freshwater wetland and upland habitats of spruce, fir, red maple, red oak and white pine. The land can be explored by 3.25 miles of trails maintained by the Blue Hill Heritage Trust.
The trust purchased Fourth Pond and 320 surrounding acres in 1998. Since then, the trust has acquired additional properties with donations and volunteer efforts so that Kingdom Woods now equals 800 acres.
“The purpose of this conservation effort is to protect wildlife habitat while providing an educational resource and opportunities for low-impact recreation,” the trust states on their website.
Visitors can walk the trails for free during daylight hours. Dogs on a leash are welcome, but owners must clean up after them. Hikers should stay on marked trails and leave natural features as they find them. Parties of 10 or more should call the trust at 374-5118 for permission to visit.
The North Loop and South Loop are about 1 mile of trail each and are connected by a 0.5-mile connector trail. The west side of the North Loop travels close to Fourth Pond, and a short side trail leads to an area to sit by the shore; while the east side of the North Loop climbs a hill to a forest of white pine and other evergreen trees. The South Loop travels over much more even terrain. To the west of the North Loop and South Loop is a separate 0.6-mile loop trail that is accessible from a parking area on the Kingdom Road.
Hunting is among the activities allowed in Kingdom Woods, though hunters are required to request permission to hunt. Hikers should wear plenty of blaze orange during hunting seasons. To learn about hunting on the trust’s land, visit bluehillheritagetrust.org/hunting-on-bhht-lands/.
The Blue Hill Heritage Trust owns several other pieces of land on which they maintain hiking trails for public use. For information, visit bluehillheritagetrust.org.
Personal note: While hiking through Kingdom Woods on a warm February afternoon, I took time to soak up the sun and search for wildlife. So you can imagine I was a little disappointed when I failed to see any animals during the 3-mile hike. I blame it on my loud ice cleats.
I had turned off the North Loop to hike back to the parking area when I heard a loud, high pitched bird call that I didn’t recognize, though I’m sure many birders would. It sounded like the bird was near Fourth Pond, so I turned around and hiked back to the pond, imagining the bird must be a fairly large to make such a ruckus. Upon reaching the pond, I spied a flash of red high up in a dead tree. It was a pileated woodpecker.
It was a special experience for me to observe Maine’s largest woodpecker (about the size of a crow) calling out in the late afternoon. Throughout the winter, I’ve seen my share of downy woodpeckers and hairy woodpeckers, but I’ve never seen a pileated woodpecker. After some research, I’ve concluded the bird was a male because he sported a red whisker stripe on the side of his face (which females don’t have). The large bird, with the setting sun illuminating his tall red crown, was an impressive sight. But I don’t think he was as happy to see me. I was able to snap just a few photos before he flew into the woods.
To hear a variety of pileated woodpecker calls, visit www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/pileated_woodpecker/sounds.