Difficulty: Moderate. The entire hike is 2.5 miles, with a total elevation gain of about 770 feet. There are steep, rocky sections on both the Harvard and Perham trails, with the steepest, rockiest sections being on the Perham Trail.
How to get there: The parking lot is on Richardson Hollow Road in Greenwood, just west of where it intersects with Upton Brothers Road. To get there from where Route 219 intersects with Greenwood Road near Hicks Pond, drive south of Greenwood Road passing along the edge of Hicks Pond and Mud Pond. At 2.6 miles, turn left onto Richardson Hollow Road. Drive 0.8 mile and the park area is on the left. The trail starts at the parking area. It traces the edge of a small field before heading into the forest.
Information: Rising 1,503 feet above sea level, Noyes Mountain features a 2.5-mile hike that visits the mountain’s wooded summit and ends at a wide open view southwest of the summit at a cliff above Harvard Mine, a site where rich green tourmaline and other iconic Maine gems have been found.
The mountain and surrounding land make up the 286-acre Noyes Mountain Preserve, which was created in 2017 when the land was purchased by the Western Foothills Land Trust for $270,000. In addition to hiking on the preserve’s well-marked trails, visitors are allowed to go “rock hounding” — or searching for rocks — at Harvard Mine, which is located at the end of the preserve’s Harvard Trail.
The hiking trails on the property are well marked and easy to follow, with signs and maps posted at trail intersections.
At the parking lot, hikers approach the mountain on the Noyes Trail, crossing through a field before plunging into the forest and climbing gradually up the mountain’s eastern slope. About half a mile into the hike, the trail splits and you can travel right onto the Harvard Trail or left onto the Perham Trail.
The Harvard Trail travels up over the top of the mountain, visiting the wooded summit before descending to meet back up with the Perham Trail not far from Harvard Mine and the overlook. And the shorter Perham Trail travels up a steeper section of the mountain for a more direct (and a tad bit rockier) route to Harvard Mine that does not include the summit of the mountain. The two trails meet up southwest of the summit and the Harvard Trail continues a short distance to the overlook and Harvard Mine, where hikers are rewarded with views of Norway Lake and North Pond, and several nearby hills and peaks, including McIntire Ridge and Patch Mountain.
A narrow trail leads from the overlook down to the mine, where a jumble of rocks are piled up at the base of excavated cliffs.
Noyes Mountain is named after the Noyes family, which purchased the property in 1869 and owned it for many years. As you travel the property, you may notice old stone walls and the occasional barbed wire fence, reminders that the land was once part of a farm and used for grazing, as well as apple and wood production.
Harvard Quarry was opened in the late 1800s by George Lorenzo “Shavey” Noyes and Tim Heath. Harvard Museum became involved with the land in the early 1900s. The museum collected minerals found at the site and leased the property, and in the 1920s, the Harvard Mineralogical Department quarried on the property.
Currently, Western Foothills Land Trust has a purchase agreement on the one-acre quarry, which is owned by Frank Perham, one of Maine’s experts on pegmatites, which are the igneous rocks in Maine in which gems such as tourmaline are found. While “rock hounding” is permitted at the mine, blasting — using any sort of explosive to break up the rock — is not permitted.
The trust plans to maintain existing trails on the property and potentially add trails for hiking, skiing and mountain biking in the future. Hunting is permitted in accordance to state laws, and dogs are permitted off leash if under strict voice control at all times. Access is free, and there are no restrooms on the property, so plan accordingly. Camping and campfires are not permitted.
For more information, visit wfltmaine.org or call 207-739-2124.
Personal note: I traveled to western Maine last weekend to lead a hiking workshop at the Becoming a Maine Outdoors-woman (BOW) in Maine spring series at the 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond, and since it was such a long drive from my home, I decided to arrive a day early and do a little exploring in the region.
I chose to visit Noyes Mountain Preserve for several reasons. First of all, it was recently conserved, so it was new to me and many of my readers. Also, the hike ended with a nice view of the region, according to all I’d read about it online. And lastly, I like sparkly rocks and the concept of recreational mining.
The hike took me just under two hours, and that includes plenty of stops to smell the violets and listen to the birds. Along the way I watched dark-eyed juncos jumping about on the cliffs near Perham Trail, and I stopped to photograph a tiny toad hopping across Noyes Trail. I also enjoyed the haunting song of a hermit thrush, and examined the intricate unfurling leaves of a variety of ferns.
Early on in the hike, I noticed glittering flakes of mica, a mineral that looks like shimmery glass, scattered in the pine needles and dead leafs surfacing the trail. And I came across several interesting rocks, some white with red bleeding throughout, and other speckled with green that I imagined to be a similar hue as the tourmaline that’s been found on the property. Then later, in the mine, I raked through rocks with my hands for a little while to find big chunks of quartz and a number of other pretty crystals that I didn’t have the knowledge to identify.
Though the sky was overcast, the view from the overlook was truly spectacular, and the steady wind that day saved me from the black flies that inevitably come with spring. I only wish I could have stayed and combed through the rocks longer, then visited a couple other nearby mines that are open to the public. But I had to get going, grab some dinner in Bethel and make my way over to Bryant Pond. But before ordering a BBQ chicken sandwich Rooster’s Roadhouse — which I highly recommend for both the atmosphere and yummy pub style food — I stopped by the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum, which opened a couple years ago and features some amazing displays of all the valuable minerals found in western Maine, plus a few amazing meteorites. There, as a gift to myself, I purchased a T-shirt that reads “Dig Maine,” because I did, and I do.