Difficulty: Easy. The trails in the network together make up about 1.25 miles and explore a hill known as Cox Pinnacle. Expect a gradual but steady climb to the top of the hill, and watch your step — the surface of the trail can be uneven with exposed tree roots and rock waterbars, lines of rocks constructed diagonally across the trail to steer water off trail and prevent erosion.
How to get there: From the intersection of Maine Street and Pleasant Street in downtown Brunswick, drive south on Maine Street 0.5 mile, then turn right onto McKeen Street. Drive 1.6 miles, then turn left onto Church Road. Drive 0.1 mile, then turn right onto Greenwood Road. Drive 1 mile, then turn right onto Durham Road. Drive 3 miles, (crossing straight through a four-way intersection early on), then turn right onto Hacker Road. Drive approximately 0.3 mile and the large gravel parking lot for Cox Pinnacle will be on your left, clearly marked with a large green sign. The trail leaves right from the parking lot.
Information: Cox Pinnacle, reaching about 350 above sea level, is Brunswick’s highest point and is located in a town-owned, forested park that covers 103 acres. This park features a simple trail network, which forms a loop around Cox Pinnacle, with a side trail leading to the hill’s summit, which is a patch of bare bedrock adorned by a large pile of rocks.
There are no views from the top of the Cox Pinnacle nowadays, but about a century ago, when the hill was farmland, its top offered an open view all the way to Katahdin on a clear day. This information is provided at the trailhead kiosk, where an excerpt about Cox Pinnacle is posted from the book “Best Nature Sites: Midcoast Maine” by Tony Oppersdorff and Kyrill Schabert.
As you hike the trails in the park, you’ll pass through a break in an impressive rock wall that is clear evidence that the land was indeed used for farming. Rock walls were used to pen in livestock and can be found in the woods throughout New England.
According to the book “Best Nature Sites: Midcoast Maine,” which I happen to own, Cox Pinnacle is named after the Cox Pinnacle Moraine, a part of a glacial till pushed up by glaciers more than 13,000 years ago. As you near the top of the hill, you’ll notice patches of exposed granite bedrock, and near the summit is a small granite ledge.
From the parking lot, the hike starts out on a wide wooden boardwalk that spans Simpson Brook and some soggy terrain. This boardwalk is a great place to pause and look for birds in the shrubs near the water.
The trail splits into a loop shortly after the boardwalk. Marked with blue blazes, the loop circles Cox Pinnacle, climbing up a bit before a side trail breaks off to travel up to the top of the hill. There are no especially steep areas, but the climb should be challenging enough to get your heart pumping.
This easy hike takes visitors through a mixed forest that features stands of different tree species, including large hemlocks, straight red pines and an abundance of red oaks. The trail network also travels by a small wetland, where you’ll likely find some frog activity during the spring and summer.
The trails in the park are open to foot traffic only, and this includes cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Dogs are permitted if kept on leash at all times.
For information, visit the town website at www.brunswickme.org or call the Brunswick Parks and Recreation Department at 725-6656.
Personal note: After a two-hour drive to Brunswick last Monday (April 17), I stretched my legs by walking to the top of Cox Pinnacle, which I learned about by visiting the town website. I was in Brunswick to visit the Teens to Trail office to write a story about the organization — which works hard to get teens in Maine outdoors by supporting high school outing clubs — so I didn’t have much time to spend outdoors. Cox Pinnacle turned out to be the perfect spot for a short walk, and I imagine it is an even nicer place to visit in about a few weeks, when the forest is filled with pink ladies slippers and other delicate flowers that pop up in Maine’s forests in the spring. I also bet it’s a great spot to visit during the fall, when the many different deciduous trees in the park put on their autumn colors.
I was the only visitor enjoying the trail network that morning, but the residents across the street waved to me from their garage, and while on the trail, I noticed plenty of boot prints pressed into patches of mud here and there.
As I walked, I paused to check out a few particularly tall hemlock trees, and I couldn’t help but turn over the needled branches of a few young hemlocks to see if there was any evidence of the hemlock wooly adelgid, an invasive insect that is decimating stands of hemlocks throughout the state. Fortunately, the wooly adelgid — which resembles tiny cotton balls — was nowhere to be found on the branches I examined, not that I could have done anything to save the tree if they had been present. The tiny insect essentially saps the moisture out of the tree, and entomologists are still working on how they can best minimize their damage and spread. In fact, a couple years ago, I accompanied a group of state entomologists and foresters in Woolwich (which is just a town over from Brunswick) to watch how they were attempting to combat an infestation of hemlock wooly adelgid in a woodlot by releasing predatory beetles (called Sasajiscymnus tsugae and related to lady bugs) to feast on the adelgids.
Atop Cox Pinnacle, there was indeed no view, but the walk was a pleasant one, regardless. I suggest the hike to anyone looking to introduce children to uphill walking. Though the summit is a bit anticlimactic, I imagine kids would find the large rock pile atop the hill plenty interesting.