Difficulty: Moderate. The trail network is made up of more than 3.5 miles of footpaths that travel through an uneven, rocky upland forest. The trails climb and descend hills that are steep in some areas.
Mileage of our snowshoe: about 2 miles.
How to get there: From the Sullivan side of the Hancock-Sullivan Bridge, drive 3.4 miles north on Route 1 and turn left onto Punkinville Road. Drive 0.6 mile to the parking lot, which will be on the left and marked with a sign that reads “Long Ledges Preserve.”
Information: Not far from the rocky coast of Sullivan, Long Ledges Preserve is 318 acres of mossy upland forest scattered with large boulders. Other interesting natural features of the land include vernal pools, small wetlands, granite outcroppings, the 59-acre Long Pond, the tiny Postage Stamp Pond, and an overgrown historic granite quarry.
Visitors can explore this beautiful forest on a well-marked trail network that consists more than 3.5 miles of footpaths, which are maintained by the Frenchman’s Bay Conservancy. A grant from Land for Maine’s Future helped preserve the property in 2009.
The main trailhead to Long Ledges Preserve is located at the parking area off Punkinville Road. A registration box (which includes paper trail maps and a posted laminated trail map) marks the trailhead. From there, the Eastside Trail leads into the forest and reaches the first trail intersection, Intersection 11, at 0.1 mile.
Each intersection in the preserve is marked with a number. From south to north, the numbers range from 4 to 21. Intersections 1-3 are at the nearby Baker Hill Preserve, which abuts Long Ledges in the south.
The many trails of the preserve provide several different loop hikes. While laminated trail maps and signs are posted in several areas throughout the preserve, I suggest carrying a map with you to help you navigate.
Eastside Trail is the longest trail in the network, spanning 1.21 mile from the main trailhead to the north trailhead (Intersection 21). The trail climbs to the upper ledges along the way.
Other trails are Quarry Trail (0.31 mile), Upper Ledges Loop (0.27 mile), Red Pine Ridge Trail (0.58 mile) and West Loop Trail (0.92 mile). Small Cave Trail (0.32 mile) and Baker Hill Trail (0.26 mile) connect the Long Ledges to Baker Hill Preserve; and the Boundary Trail (0.15 mile) runs along the boundary of the preserves.
Dogs are permitted on trails if kept under control at all times. Keep trail etiquette in mind. Pick up after yourself and your pets. Don’t collect anything from the landscape. Stay on trail and respect wildlife.
Founded in 1987, the Frenchman Bay Conservancy is a nonprofit land trust with the mission “to build lasting relationships and commitments that conserve the distinctive landscapes and natural resources of the Frenchman Bay and Union River watersheds,” according to the land trust’s website. So far, the organization has protected more than 6,300 acres through conservation easements and FBC-owned preserves. In December 2013, it received national accreditation.
A trail map for Long Ledges Preserve is available on the Frenchman Bay Conservancy website at frenchmanbay.org. To ask specific questions about the preserve, call the Frenchman Bay Conservancy at 422-2328 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Personal note: The temperature rose above freezing for the first time in about a month on Sunday, and it almost felt like T-shirt weather. Excited about the “warm” forecast, my boyfriend, Derek, and I decided to go on a snowshoe with our dog, Oreo, at Long Ledges Preserve.
We had never visited Long Ledges, but we’d hiked at its neighboring preserve, Baker Hill, so we knew what to expect in terms of terrain and trail maintenance. We knew the forest would be beautiful, filled with tall evergreens and giant boulders, vibrant green moss and lichen. And as for the trails, I’ve learned that the Frenchman Bay Conservancy doesn’t mess around. They make sure their trails are well marked with blue blazes, signs and maps.
We drove past the preserve parking lot. I noticed the wooden sign at the last minute. It was half buried in snow, so only the top of the letters were visible.
So we turned around and parked in the plowed lot. The first thing I did was add tails to my snowshoes; the extensions make them longer, giving them better floatation in deep snow.
We went up the Eastside Trail, which was packed down by other snowshoers until a certain point, then we had to break our own trail, which was pretty comical given the depth of the fluffy snow. We sunk to our knees and sometimes ran into snowdrifts that buried us to our waists. Using our poles, we struggled through it, Oreo following behind, wise enough to know he needed us to pack down the snow.
Wildlife was scarce on the hike, though I did notice a few small tracks in the snow — probably squirrels. Every once in a while, Oreo stopped and buried his head in the snow. One of the times, we heard and squeak and realized that Oreo was sniffing out rodents. So we tried to keep him moving. I didn’t want a mouse’s death on my hands.
I heard a few birds, but for the most part, the forest was silent. Fresh snow that had fallen the day before clung to everything, making the landscape almost entirely white. It clung to tree branches, weighing them to the ground. On occasion, those branches barred the trail, so we struck out with our poles; as soon as the snow was knocked off, the branches would spring back up into their original position, clearing the way.
While we were bummed out a bit to discover there weren’t any wide open views from the ledges, we did enjoy some partial views, then trekked to Long Pond via Red Pine Ridge Trail and West Loop Trail to enjoy the view from the shore. The snowshoe ended up being about 2 miles long, which was plenty long in such deep snow.