Difficulty: Moderate. Though this mountain is just 250 feet above sea level, the trail leading its summit is steep for a good stretch. The interconnecting trails on the property total about 1 mile.
How to get there: From the intersection of Route 175 and Route 176 in Brooksville, take Route 176 (Coastal Road) and drive 3.8 miles. Turn left onto Breezemere Road and drive 0.8 mile to the trailhead and a small parking lot, which will be on your right. If the lot is full, there is a larger parking lot about 0.2 mile north on Breezemere Road (back the way you came). These parking lots may not be plowed in the winter.
Information: John B. Mountain is a small mountain, rising just 250 feet above sea level in Brooksville. Yet from its partially open summit and rocky ledges, hikers are rewarded with stunning views of Eggemoggin Reach, Blue Hill Mountain and the Camden Hills.
This small mountain and 38 acres of forest surrounding it were donated to the Blue Hill Heritage Trust by Joel and Ruth Davis in 2009, and the public can now visit it year round on a small network of footpaths that together equal about 1 mile.
The trails in the network go by a few different names. As you can see on the trail map posted at the trailhead the trails make up a big loop, with a few smaller loops along the way, as well as a short spur trail.
At the trailhead, you have two options:
- You can take the School House Road, which is a wide, flat trail that starts to the left of the trailhead and travels along the bottom of the steep west slope of the mountain through a mixed forest. (On the map, it is labeled as “Outer Loop”.) At about 0.3 mile, you’ll come to an intersection marked by signs. Continue straight to walk 0.2 miles to the edge of the property on a dead-end trail. Or turn right to climb up the mountain’s northern slope on a trail referred to as “Around the Mountain Trail.” (The sign will be a wooden arrow with the word “Summit” etched in it.) Near the top of the mountain, the trail splits into two trails, then comes back together before the summit. You can take either trail, however the trail to the right leads to better views along the west ledges of the mountain.
- To the right of the kiosk, you can take a narrower trail (which is unnamed) up the southeast side of the mountain. This is a more direct route to the top and passes by an old cemetery. The trail ends at the Around the Mountain Trail, just north of the summit.
Although the mountain is relatively short, the trails leading to its top are steep and rocky in some places, and the summit of the mountain is home to a fragile community of various shrubs, mosses and lichens. Take extra care to stay on marked trails and leave the beautiful natural landscape as you found it.
The wide School House Road isn’t marked, as the way is evident. The narrower trails, such as the Around the Mountain Trail, is marked with blue flagging tape tied around trees.
The trails are for foot traffic only, according to the Blue Hill Heritage Trust website. Dogs are permitted but must be on leash. The trust also asks that visitors stay on marked trails and carry out what they take in. Fires are not permitted.
For information, visit bluehillheritagetrust.org or call 374-5118.
Personal note: I didn’t plan on hiking John B. Mountain, or any mountain for that matter, when I woke up on the sunny morning of March 4. I was going to go cross-country skiing, but my plans abruptly changed when I sat down on the couch to drink my tea.
As I sat there in the morning sunlight, my dog, Oreo, jumped up on the couch and thoroughly smothered me with his warm little body. It didn’t take long for me to cave in and start to make new plans, ones that would include Oreo. I simply couldn’t leave him behind.
So instead of a ski trip, I chose a snowshoe up the dog-friendly John B. Mountain. I’d never been there before, and from the description on the BHHT website, it looked like it would be a good snowshoe.
The two parking lots for the trail network weren’t plowed, so I parked on the side of the road, leaving room for traffic, and clambered over a monstrous snowbank to reach the trailhead. Oreo followed in my snowshoe tracks. According to the trail register, Oreo and I were the first visitors to the mountain since December, so we had some work cut out ahead of us. Packing down months worth of snow, we made our way down the School House Road.
The snow stuck to my snowshoes as the temperature climbed to nearly 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Oreo and I both shed our coats before turning onto Around the Mountain Trail and starting the steep upward climb through a dark, dense forest where snow melting off branches rained down on our heads.
Atop the ledges on the west side of the mountain, I packed down a spot for Oreo and I to sit and enjoy the view. We then continued on to the Summit Loop Trail, which leads to the best views of the hike, before retracing our steps down the mountain.
We chose that particular route because someone (perhaps a trail maintainer) left a message on the trail register warning hikers that blowdowns were blocking the narrower trail, which passes the old cemetery. I wasn’t too disappointed about that — I’m sure the snow was hiding the tombstones anyway.
After visiting the small mountain, I can see why the Davises would choose to donate the land to BHHT, thus preserving it for future generations to enjoy. When standing on its summit and taking in the views, I felt that the mountain was much taller than 250 feet above sea level. I would suggest this short hike to anyone who doesn’t mind a few steep slopes.
More photos from the snowshoe: