Difficulty: Moderate. The 3.7-mile trail travels over hilly terrain. While maintained and marked well, the trail does present a few challenges. Prepare for a few short muddy sections, some steep slopes, exposed roots and a few rocky sections as well.How to get there: The Goose Ridge Trail has two trailheads. To reach the north trailhead, start at the intersection of Route 220 and Route 137 in Freedom and drive south on Route 220 for 1.75 miles, then make a sharp right onto Freedom Pond Road. Drive 1.1 mile and the trailhead is on the left. Park on the side of the road. (Dave Rock Trail is across the road.) To reach the south trailhead, start at the intersection of Route 220 and Route 137 in Freedom and drive south on Route 220 for 1.75 miles, then veer right onto Haledale Road. Drive 2.3 miles and turn right onto Penney Road. Drive about 0.5 mile and the trailhead will be on the right. (Whitten Hill Trailhead is across the road.) Information: Goose Ridge rises 920 feet above sea level in Montville. A 3.7-mile trail runs along the ridge, which is roughly oriented north-south, visiting two fields that provide nice views of the region. The trail is well-maintained and marked with red blazes and plenty of signs. It’s part of the Sheepscot Headwaters Trail Network, 20 miles of woodland trails that are maintained by the Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance in Montville, Freedom, Knox and Liberty. The trails, which are for foot traffic only, are free for the public to enjoy. Dogs are permitted on the trails but must be kept under control. Camping and fires are not allowed. As a rule, carry out what you carry in, and wear protective blaze orange clothing during hunting seasons. While the Goose Ridge Trail doesn’t lead to any stunning views or amazing landmarks, it is a lovely quiet walk in the woods that is hilly enough to provide a workout. It travels through a variety of habitats, making it an excellent trail for wildlife watching and exploring the natural world. It also makes for a great snowshoeing trail. There are a lot of turns in the trail, as well as side trails (possibly for hunters) that can lead you off course. Follow the red blazes and you will stay on trail. The top of the ridge isn’t marked with anything, and since it’s in the woods, it doesn’t provide any views. The best views are from the two fields on the way up the ridge from the north. After walking back and forth on the ridge for a bit, I think the top is near where a side trail leads to a private yurt. The trail is marked with a sign that reads “Yurt” in red paint, as well as a sign that states the land is posted private property. So as much as you may want to see the yurt — which is a circular tent that can be constructed from a number of materials — you should respect the landowner’s wishes and stay on the red-blazed Goose Ridge Trail. The Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance is a non-profit land trust conserving lands and waters of the upper Sheepscot River region in Waldo County. Since 1991, the trust has partnered with landowners to conserve more than 1,500 acres of land, opening it the public for non-motorized recreation, fishing and hunting with permission. The land trust also organizes field trips and programs led by naturalists and local hunters. For information, visit www.swlamaine.org or call 589-3230.
Personal note: I came across Goose Ridge while looking for a nice hike for my dog, Oreo, to enjoy. Dogs aren’t permitted on I’d say about 20-25 percent of the trails in Maine, which I completely understand. Some walking trails travel through delicate habitats and wildlife preserves — places where dogs could really cause a problem. But sometimes I simply have to choose a hiking trail that allows dogs because Oreo needs his exercise and his adventure time. A few things stood out to me about the Goose Ridge, which we visited on Aug. 16. First — it was well maintained and signed. Someone actually went through a lot of effort to carve Goose Ridge Trail on at least 15 wooden signs that direct hikers in what otherwise would be confusing sections of trail. I was also interested in the wide variety of trees, other flora and fungi I saw along the trail. While I’m not great at identifying fungi, I’ll describe a few I saw during the hike. I saw a group of honey-colored mushrooms with rounded caps, a few clusters of bright yellow mushrooms that were shaped like skinny little fingers, and a trumpet-shaped orange mushroom that I think must have been some kind of chanterelle. As for wildlife, we didn’t see much. But we did come across deer droppings and tracks, and Oreo tried to chase a few noisy red squirrels. Extra photos (mushrooms and whatnot):