Difficulty: Moderate. The hike is 3.5 miles out and back, with 2.5 miles of that being on a wide, gravel multi-use trail. The other mile of the hike is on the Bald Mountain Trail, which is a typical New England hiking trail, traveling over exposed tree roots and rocks. Climbing gradually up the mountain, the Bald Mountain Trail also features a long section of stone stairs.
How to get there: Drive into Lincolnville on Route 1 and turn onto Route 173 or Beach Road, driving north (away from the ocean). Drive 2.2 miles and turn left onto Youngtown Road. Drive less than 0.1 mile and the parking lot is on the left, marked by a large wooden sign. At the parking lot, walk around the gate to start your hike on the multi-use trail.
Information: Rising about 1,200 feet above sea level in Camden Hills State Park, Bald Rock Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in Midcoast Maine. With rock outcroppings near the summit that offer breathtaking views of Penobscot Bay, the mountain features a gradual, well-maintained trail that’s great for families and pets.
The hike begins at the northernmost parking area for Camden Hills State Park, which is off Youngtown Road in Lincolnville. This is also the parking area for people hiking the smaller Frohock, Derry and Cameron mountains, and it’s used by people accessing the park’s vast system of multi-use trails.
From the parking lot, you’ll walk along a wide, gravel multi-use trail known as the Ski Lodge Trail for over a mile to reach the Bald Rock Trail. This multi-use trail is open to foot traffic, as well as bicyclists, horseback riders and cross-country skiers. Motorized traffic, however, is not permitted.
Traveling gradually uphill, the multi-use trail is hemmed in by tall trees, including giant white pines and mature oak and maple trees that turn vibrant colors in the fall. About 0.8 mile into the hike, you’ll pass Frohock Mountain Trail on your left. Continue on the multi-use trail and you’ll reach Bald Rock Trail, also on your left, about 1.25 mile from the parking lot.
Climbing the western side of Bald Rock Mountain, Bald Rock Trail travels over an uneven forest floor filled with exposed tree roots and rocks. The climb is fairly gradual, with the occasional rock waterbar and one long section of rock steps.
In about 0.5 mile, Bald Rock Trail reaches the summit, where there are two overlooks with plenty of space on the bare bedrock for visitors to sit down and rest. From both overlooks is an open view of Penobscot Bay and its many islands, including Islesboro, North Haven, Vinalhaven, Deer Isle and many smaller islands. And on an especially clear day, you can see even farther, to the mountains of Mount Desert Island.
Near the top of the mountain are two rustic lean-tos, each with a fire ring and outhouse. These shelters are open for campers, first come, first serve. One of the shelters is right near the summit, within eyesight of the overlooks, while the second shelter is down on the east side of the mountain.
Just beyond the second shelter is a third overlook, which gives a view north to the sandy beaches of Ducktrap Harbor and Spruce Head in Lincolnville. This overlook is usually a lot less crowded than the overlooks at the summit.
You can turn around here, hiking back the same way you came for 3.5-mile hike. Or you can continue past the second shelter and down the mountain on a less-traveled trail that connects to Frohock Mountain Trail about 0.8 mile from the Bald Rock Trailhead. There, you can turn left to hike about 0.25 mile back to the multi-use trail, then turn right and hike 0.8 mile back to the parking lot. This hike is just over 3 miles.
Dogs are permitted on the trails and at the campsites if on leash at all times, and that leash must be no longer than 4 feet.
Camden Hills State Park, formerly federal government property, was donated to the state of Maine in 1947, but many of its trails were developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps before that, during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Parcels have been added to the park over the years so that it’s now comprised of about 6,000 acres in the towns of Camden and Lincolnville.
The park is open year round, from 9 a.m. to sunset daily unless otherwise posted at the gate, and parking areas are plowed. Admission is $4 for Maine residents; $6 for non-residents, $2 for senior non-residents (64 years old and older); $1 for children 5-11 years old; and free for senior Maine residents and children under 5 years old.
For more information, visit www.maine.gov/camdenhills or call (207) 236-3109 or (207) 236-0849.
Personal note: My stomach started to grumble as we drove toward the coast on Sunday to hike Bald Rock Mountain, so we stopped at the Beach Store in Lincolnville for some pizza by the slice before hitting the trail. We then carried our meal across the road, settled on a rock slab at the edge of sandy Lincolnville Beach, and ate while watching a brave young girl snorkel in the cold shallows. Since dogs aren’t permitted on that beach, Oreo remained in the car nearby with the air conditioning on and the windows cracked. And against my better judgement, I saved him a “pizza bone.”
Then it was off to Bald Rock, a mountain I had hiked six years ago, in April of 2012, when my “1-minute hike” column was in its infancy and Oreo had yet to be born. It’s amazing how time flies.
On the hike, we saw at least seven other dogs — two yellow labs, a german shepherd, a golden retriever, some sort of hound mix and two very small dogs I couldn’t identify — and all of them were on leash, as park rules dictate. We also came across several families with young children, including a family that recognized Oreo from the blog. We chatted for a bit, then continued our separate ways, and I whispered to Oreo that he was a “good boy.” I hope the fame doesn’t go to his head.
The sky was blue, decorated by fluffy white clouds, and the temperature was perfect for hiking — not hot or cold, and with a fresh breeze that filtered through the tall trees. As we walked along the multi-use trail, I inspected the trees and commented that it would make a really nice fall foliage walk because of the many oak and maple trees, which have leaves that tend to turn bright orange and red.
Along the multi-use trail and Bald Rock Trail, we paused to check out a few interesting mushrooms, including a large, brown mushroom with a rough texture. Looking at my mushroom ID guides, I think it was a mushroom commonly known as Old Man of the Woods.
At the top of the mountain, we stirred up dozens of flying grasshoppers as we found a place to sit on the warm bedrock. And while we enjoyed the views, Derek got creative, using a multi-tool to slice off the top half of a water bottle so Oreo could have a drink. We’d forgotten his collapsible bowl, and since we hadn’t come across any brooks or streams on the hike, he was pretty thirsty.
While the trail hadn’t seemed crowded, people were starting to pile up at the summit overlooks, so after a short break, we continued on the trail to check out the two lean-tos, one of which had a tent in it. And just past the second lean-to, we found an overlook that we had all to ourselves. We then turned around and headed back the same way we came, though I later realized that if we’d kept going, the trail would have looped around for a shorter return trip.