Difficulty: Moderate. The 1.75-mile Becton Trail gradually climbs Blue Hill Mountain, which rises 934 feet above sea level. The trail is well marked, narrow in some places and filled with exposed roots and rocks. A few bog bridges span the soggiest sections, but you may encounter a little mud.
How to get there: The parking area for the Becton Trail is on Turkey Farm Road in Blue Hill, about 0.6 mile from where Turkey Farm Road meets Route 172. The parking area only fits two vehicles and will be on your left if you’re driving from Route 172.
Information: The Becton Trail first opened during the summer of 2013 as a new route to the top of Blue Hill Mountain, which has long been a local landmark and outdoor destination for blueberry pickers, dog walkers and day hikers. The new trail, measuring 1.75 miles from trailhead to where it ends not far from the mountain’s summit, is the longest trail on Blue Hill Mountain, but it is also the trail with the most gradual incline.
From the parking area on Turkey Farm Road, the Becton Trail descends into a mixed forest filled with boulders and crosses several bog bridges that span stagnant water. (Watch out for the mosquitoes!) Though new, the trail is well-packed, blazed and easy to follow. A few sections are filled with rocks and roots, making footing a bit tricky.
The Becton Trail first strikes west, then turns south to approach Blue Hill Mountain.
Rising 934 feet above sea level, Blue Hill Mountain isn’t particularly tall, as far as Maine mountains go, but because it’s a monadnock (an isolated mountain in an essentially level area), it stands out. The Abenaki Indians in Penobscot Bay called it “Awanadjo,” the Abenaki word for “small, misty mountain.”
Looking at the mountain today, it’s difficult to imagine that in 1840, it was almost completely deforested by settlers who had converted the land for agriculture and harvested the lumber.
In the late 1800s, the mountain was host to mining operations. Rhodonite was taken from the top of the mountain and shipped to Bangor, then transported by oxcart to Katahdin Iron Works near Brownville, where it was used to enhance the durability of iron, according to the Blue Hill Heritage Trust. The mine roadway to the summit of the mountain soon became a route enjoyed by recreationists (at the time, people in horse-drawn carriages) who wanted to take in the views of Blue Hill Bay, Great Pond Mountain and Mount Desert Island.
In 1975, the property on the southern slopes of the mountain was left to the Town of Blue Hill by Ruth Hayes “for conservation purposes.” And in 1989, adjoining land was given to the Blue Hill Heritage Trust by Louise Frederick. Today, the conservation land on the mountain totals nearly 500 acres, according to the Blue Hill Heritage Trust website.
As the Becton Trail approaches the mountain, it climbs gradually through a forest that includes birch, maple, oak, cedar, spruce and pine trees. The trail then ascends the northwest slope of the mountain (with only a few short sections of steep incline) and ends at an intersection with the Osgood Trail. At the intersection, turn left and hike the remaining 0.25 mile to the mountain’s summit of exposed bedrock, stunted trees and blueberry bushes.
The summit may or may not be marked with a sign. To find the summit, look for a cairn (rock pile) beside a small metal U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey marker in the bedrock. Just a short distance off trail from the cairn are a few benches where you can rest and take in the view. To the right of the benches, if you’re facing the view, is the concrete foundation for a fire tower that was constructed atop the mountain in 1947 and removed in 2005.
It may get confusing at the top of the mountain because the blue-blazed trail continues past the summit and plunges into the forest to lead to a communications tower, which was built in 1981 and reconstructed in 2005 to serve cellphone users. A sign beside the trail warns that hikers are not allowed near the communications tower.
The trail continues past the communications tower and descends the mountain to meet up with the Tower Service Trail and Hayes Trail. If you descend on either of those trails, you’ll end your hike at a trailhead on Mountain Road and will need to catch a ride back to the start of the Becton Trail on Turkey Farm Road.
Hayes Trail and Osgood Trail, both about 1 mile in length, both start on Mountain Road and lead to the summit. The South Face Trail (or Connector Trail) connects the Osgood and Hayes Trail partway up the mountain. The Tower Service Trail spurs off Hayes Trail and is a more gradual approach to the summit. All intersections are marked with signs, and maps are posted at trailheads.
Also at trailheads are the following guidelines for visitors: Stay on marked trails; carry out what you carry in; fires are not permitted; dogs must be leashed; foot traffic only; and stay clear of the communication tower.
Blue Hill Heritage Trust is a nonprofit land conservation organization that was founded in 1985 by residents of Blue Hill Peninsula. To date, the organization protects more than 6,916 acres of land, according to the BHHT website.
To learn more, visit bluehillheritagetrust.org or call 374-5118.
Personal note: I decided to check out the new Becton Trail on June 29, hoping that it would be a bit cooler on the coast. The fact that the trail doesn’t pass any significant body of water was a bit of an oversight on my part. By the end of the hike, everyone wanted to go swimming, both to cool down and sooth their bug bites.
Nevertheless, we did — for the most part — enjoy our hike up Blue Hill Mountain on the recently constructed trail. Derek remarked at how packed the trail was after just one year. It has clearly gotten a lot of traffic, though we had the trail all to ourselves that day. (That may have had something to do with the 80-degree weather.)
Atop the mountain, I checked out the mountain’s letterbox, which is a lot like a geocache. Letterboxes are weatherproof boxes that contain a notebook and a rubber stamp and are placed in public areas for people to find. Upon finding the letterbox, people imprint the stamp in their personal notebook and leave a message or signature in the logbook. Since I don’t have a personal notebook for letterboxing (yet), I decided to simply leave a message that Derek, Oreo and I enjoyed the Becton Trail. I also had fun reading messages left by other hikers. It gave me a good idea of just how many people visit the top of the mountain — a lot!
One note of caution: look out for broken glass, especially near the summit. Unfortunately, not all trail users are responsible. It’s especially a problem for dogs, which can cut their feet easily on the shards. Fortunately, Oreo avoided the harmful litter. On the way down the mountain, he decided to cool off in a few muddy pools near the trail. Thank goodness I have a waterproof cover for the backseat of my Subaru.