1-minute hike: Spruce Mountain in Rockport

Difficulty: Moderate. The 2.3-mile trail on Spruce Mountain is a moderately challenging gradual climb to several outlooks near the mountain’s summit, which is approximately 900 feet above sea level.

The trailhead on Pleasant Mtn Street.

The trailhead on Pleasant Mtn Street.

How to get there: Georges Highland Path travels up and over Spruce Mountain, spanning from Route 17 to Mount Pleasant Street; therefore, you can start the hike at either trailhead.

To reach the Route 17 trailhead, start at the intersection of Route 17 and Route 90 in West Rockport and drive a little less than 2 miles north on Route 17. The trailhead will be on the left, but the parking lot, marked with a large wooden sign, is on the right. (If you enter the trail on the right side of the road instead, from the parking lot, you’ll be headed toward Ragged Mountain.

To reach the Mount Pleasant Street trailhead, start at the intersection of Route 17 and Route 90 in West Rockport and drive about 0.3 mile north on Route 17, then turn left on Mount Pleasant Street. Drive about 1.6 and the trailhead is on the left, marked with a small wooden sign that reads “GHP.” (If you enter the trail on the right side of the road instead, you’ll be headed toward Pleasant Mountain.) Park on the side of the road, well out of the way of traffic.

sprucemtn0414-2Information: Rising 900 feet above sea level, Spruce Mountain is one of the many small peaks in Mid Coast Maine that offer great views of the region. Hikers can travel to three outlooks on the mountain via Georges Highland Path, a footpath that covers approximately 40 miles from Thomaston to Montville. Designed and maintained by the Georges River Land Trust, the footpath travels through country owned by more than 50 different private landowners, who had offered the public access to their land.

My general route, guessing about the spur trail heading up to the west peak.

My general route, guessing about the spur trail heading up to the west peak.

Spruce Mountain may not be as popular a hiking destination as some nearby mountains — such as Bald Mountain, Mount Battie and Ragged Mountain — but it is an excellent place for people to enjoy a quiet hike with several great outlooks.

Despite its name, the mountain is covered with mostly deciduous trees, such as paper birch. It’s only along the ridge of Spruce Mountain that you will find actual spruce trees.

The trees were leafless on March 27, when I decided to hike Spruce Mountain with my dog Oreo. We started at the Pleasant Street trailhead because Oreo was full of energy and needed a long walk in the woods. From Pleasant Street, it’s 1.7 miles to the mountain’s east peak outlook; whereas, from Route 17, it’s just 0.6 mile to the outlook. (Something to keep in mind when planning to hike this mountain.)

sprucemtn0414-3From the road, the trail headed steeply downhill and then leveled out and traveled along the edge of a cattail marsh. It then wove through some mossy boulders and crossed a brook, where Oreo stopped for a drink. The forest was skeletal — skinny trunks and bare branches swaying in the cold wind. Sunlight reflected off the hard, thin crust of snow covering the ground.

sprucemtn0414-5Be sure to follow the blue blazes marking the trail, ignoring any side trails. After a relatively easy walk to the base of Spruce Mountain, the trail began to gradually climb to the bridge between the mountain’s east and west peaks. There, you’ll come to a sign that marks a steep 0.33-mile spur trail to the mountain’s west peak outlook, 900 feet above sea level. This spur trail is relatively new and is not on the 2011 trail map on the Georges River Land Trust website. (The trail map also states that the main trail is 2.1 miles, while current trail signs put it at 2.3 miles.) The view from the west peak, where you’ll find some bare bedrock and a stand of spruce trees, is well worth the side trip. To the east, West Penobscot Bay, and to the northwest, 1,300-foot Ragged Mountain, topped by a radio tower.

The view from the west peak.

The view from the west peak.

From the spur trail sign, the main trail (left) dips down and then climbs to the east peak of the mountain, which is shorter at 800 feet above sea level. The east outlook offers an open view of Ragged Mountain and Mirror Lake. The outlook is marked by a sign that directs hikers left, 0.2 mile to the northern outlook and 0.6 mile to the Route 17 Trailhead.

On March 27, Oreo and I hiked the 0.2 mile to the northern outlook, which provides a nice view of Ragged Mountain and the western summit of Spruce Mountain, topped with spruce trees. We then returned to the Pleasant Mountain Street Trailhead by backtracking 1.9 miles, making for a 4.4-mile hike, including the spur trail.

The sign on the east peak.

The sign on the east peak.

The 40-mile Georges Highland Path has five sections. In the Ragged Mountain Area, the GHP travels over Pleasant Mountain, Spruce Mountain and Ragged Mountain, from west to east.

The Georges River Land Trust asks that trail users stay on trail, carry out what you carry in, respect wildlife and fellow hikers, leave plants and rocks undisturbed and keep your group size small. Pets are allowed if kept on leash. For information about the Georges Highland Path and Georges River Land Trust, visit www.georgesriver.org.

A view from the east peak.

A view from the east peak.

Personal note: March, with its dirty snow and freezing rain, certainly isn’t my favorite month for hiking. But the March sun is nice — each day it climbs higher, stays out longer and seems to burn just a little bit brighter, giving us hope that indeed, winter will end.

It was that sun that drew me outdoors on March 27, 2014, to hike Spruce Mountain with my black-and-white canine pal, Oreo. I chose that particular mountain because it’s on the Georges Highland Path, which I’m interested in hiking in its entirety, bit by bit. The blue blazed path is well-marked and maintained by the Georges River Land Trust and it travels through a variety of habitats in the Mid Coast area.

Oreo excited to be outside.

Oreo excited to be outside.

I drove by the trailhead on Pleasant Mountain Street a few times before it caught my eye. The small wooden sign that marks the trailhead (on both sides of the road) was nearly buried in the dirty snowbank, which gave me the impression that not many people hiked the trail in the winter. But once we got going, I noticed that the trail was packed down by snowshoes.

Oreo was especially goofy during this hike for whatever reason. He kept rolling onto his back and eating the snow. He tried to eat a cattail and decided to go swimming in the freezing brook. Even though this winter keeps dragging on — the high temperature that day was 33 degrees Fahrenheit — I think Oreo must sense that spring weather is on its way.

A view from the east peak.

A view from the east peak.

 

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Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.