Difficulty: Moderate. The loop trail gradually climbs and descends Scopan Mountain, traveling over unimproved forest floor that includes plenty of roots and some rocks. Stone staircases help hikers gain purchase and climb (or descend) the few steep sections of the trail. The hike is 3.7 miles total.
How to get there: From the intersection of State Street and Route 163 in downtown Presque Isle, drive west 7 miles on Route 163 (which starts out as Mechanic Street, then turns into Industrial Street, then Mapleton Road) to Mapleton, then turn left onto W Chapman Road. Reset your odometer. In 5.9 miles, W Chapman Road turns from pavement to gravel. Continue on the gravel road. In 8.6 miles, turn right. Reset your odometer. At 0.4 mile, veer right at the fork. At 1.3 mile, there will be a road on your left-hand side; stay straight and the parking lot is on the left at the 1.9-mile mark.
Information: Located within the state-owned Scopan Public Reserved Land just west of Presque Isle, the 1,400-foot-high Scopan Mountain features a beautiful 3.7-mile loop hike that leads to the edge of a marsh, then gradually climbs the slope of the mountain to a few partial outlooks of the farmlands, forests and lakes of the area. Marked with blue blazes, the trail is easy to follow and travels through a magnificent old growth forest filled with big hemlocks, maples, balsam firs and birches.
Starting at the trail’s fairly large, gravel parking area, the Scopan Mountain Trail enters the woods to the right side of a trailhead kiosk that displays a trail map and a couple signs reminding visitors not to litter or kindle fires on the property. At the beginning of the trail is a small wooden bench, and just a short distance into the woods, the trail splits into a loop that can be hiked in either direction.
If you veer right and hike the trail counterclockwise, you’ll have a good stretch of fairly even terrain where you can warm up and stretch your legs as you hike along the base of the mountain on its east side. About 0.5 mile into the hike, you’ll come to a partial view of a beautiful wetland where you’ll likely spot some wildlife. In fact, moose are commonly spotted in this area, munching on aquatic plants.
After the outlook, the trail turns east, away from the wetland, and starts climbing gradually up the east side of the mountain. A little over a mile into the hike, you’ll come to a long stone staircase that helps you up a steep section of the trail. And at about 1.8 mile, you’ll come to a gap in the trees that offers a view to the east of Alder Lake and nearby farmland. And about 0.1 mile beyond that, you’ll come to a second partial view, also of Alder Lake. At this viewpoint is a small wooden bench.
Just a few hundred feet past this view you’ll hit the highpoint of the trail at approximately 1,400 feet above sea level. This is exactly 2 miles into the hike. The actual summit of the mountain is just a bit higher, to the north, but the trail doesn’t cross it. Instead, the trail turns and starts to head very gradually down the mountain’s south side, where you’ll soon come to a view of the forestland west of the mountain.
After the view, the trail continues down the mountain, then climb up over a small hump before continuing the gradual descent. At 3.6 miles, you’ll return to the beginning of the loop, where you’ll turn right to hike the final 0.1 mile to the trailhead parking lot.
The hiking trail on the mountain is for foot traffic only, and it is open for the public to use for free year round. Also of note, there is an outhouse at the trailhead parking area.
In addition to a hiking trail, the 16,700-acre Scopan Unit contains water-access campsites on the shores of Scopan Lake, where fishing and motorized boating are permitted, and there are additional trails that are open to snowmobiles, ATVs and cross-country skiing. Hunting is permitted on the property in accordance to state laws. And dogs are permitted if kept under control at all times.
For more information, visit www.maine.gov/scopan or call the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands northern office in Ashland at 207-435-7963.
Personal note: The sun shone bright on the beautiful Saturday in September when my husband and I hiked Scopan Mountain with our dog, Oreo. At the base of the mountain, some of the leaves were just starting to show their fall colors. Following fresh painted blazes we hiked the loop counterclockwise, visiting the marsh and then heading up the mountain.
It’s difficult to put a finger on what makes a landscape especially beautiful to me. It’s often the combination of things. When it comes to the forest on Scopan Mountain, it was the old hemlock trees towering overhead, their big trunks lined up along the trail. It was the clumps of ferns and young balsam firs, the dead leaves crunching under our boots and the moose maple leaves fading into yellows so pale they appeared white — big white leaves shining in the sun.
The drumming of a hairy woodpecker drew my attention to where it hopped along the branch of a tree, pausing every now and then to thrust its sharp beak into the bark in search for bugs. Continuing on the trail, I skirted around a pile of moose droppings, then knelt down to inspect an interesting group of tree mushrooms called red-banded polypores for the red-orange band that decorates its half-moon shelf.
Atop the mountain, the views were a nice addition to the adventure, but I would have been happy with the hike even if there had been no views at all. This particular hike was less about any single destination and more about the overall journey, which was lovely every step of the way.