Difficulty: Moderate. The hike to the top is mostly gradual, but there are a couple steep sections of trail on the south side of the mountain, between the overlooks and the summit. The hike is 2.2 miles round trip.
How to get there: From the intersection of Route 9 and Route 181 in Amherst, drive west on Route 9 for 1.5 miles and turn right (north) onto Ducktail Pond Road, which is also known as Ducktail Pond Lane. (This turn is on the left approximately 22 miles from the traffic light at the intersection of Route 9 and State Street in Brewer.) Drive 5.9 miles on the gravel Ducktail Pond Road to the parking area for Bald Bluff Mountain, which is a small turnout that can fit two or three cars. The trailhead, marked with a sign that reads “trailhead,” is just before (south of) the parking area.
In the winter, snowmobiles and skiers use Ducktail Pond Road, which is not plowed.
Information: With granite outcroppings that provide stunning views of the region, Bald Bluff Mountain in Amherst rises 1,011 feet above sea level and features a 2.2-mile hike. The mountain is one of three hiking destinations in Amherst Mountains Community Forest, a state-owned preserve that covers nearly 5,000 acres and contains six remote ponds.
The blue-blazed hiking trail on Bald Bluff Mountain has been moved and expanded in recent years. While the trail used to start right at the parking area, it was moved a few years ago to begin just south of the parking area and the first part of the trail was relocated so that it no longer borders land that’s being actively forested. The old trail used to follow the rocky remains of an old woods road up the gentle west slope of the mountain, while the new trail parallels that old route but is a more narrow, traditional hiking trail, traveling over unimproved forest floor through a forest composed of young deciduous trees.
About 0.4 mile into the hike, the old and new trail meet. There you’ll turn right onto the old woods road and you’ll soon come to a trail intersection marked with a sign that points right to “Overlook.” This is the beginning of a 1.4-mile loop that visits two overlooks and travels over the mountain’s forested summit. This loop trail was completed in 2017. Prior to that, the overlook trail was a side trail that you had to hike out and back.
If you turn right at this intersection, traveling the loop counterclockwise, you’ll climb gradually on a wide trail to the first overlook about 0.6 mile from the trailhead. A flat expanse of exposed granite, this overlook offers a nice view of the forest to the southwest.
Continuing past this overlook, a narrow, blue-blazed trail travels gradually downhill as it proceeds east along the south side of the mountain. In some areas, the trail has been carved into the slope. About 0.8 from the trailhead, the trail starts to climb once more, steeply, through a rocky evergreen forest to emerge at a second overlook about 1.1 mile from the trailhead. This overlook is more spectacular than the first, with a wider vista. This is another spot where you catch stretch out on the granite for a rest, however, exercise caution near the cliff’s edge.
From the second overlook, the trail heads northwest, climbing steeply to the summit of the mountain, which is fairly flat and is a combination of exposed granite, patches of pale lichen, clusters of pine and spruce trees, and low-lying plants. While the trail travels directly over the mountaintop, there’s no sign marking the summit.
Past the summit, the trail gradually descends the mountain, traveling northwest through an evergreen forest filled with thick beds of lichen and moss. At lower elevations, this forest quickly transitions into a mostly hardwood forest, filled with birch, beech and maple trees.
After closing the loop, you’ll simply retrace your steps back to the parking area.
Amherst Mountains Community Forest was purchased by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands in June 2009, with funding from the federal Forest Legacy Program and the Land for Maine’s Future Program. The property is managed jointly by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and Town of Amherst. About 1.8 mile into the hike, you’ll come back to the beginning of the loop. From there it’s just 0.4 mile back to the trailhead on the trail you walked in on.
The Amherst Mountains Community Forest is an important component of a conservation initiative known as the Lower Penobscot Forest Project. This initiative is a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, the Forest Society of Maine and the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and will ultimately conserve over 42,000 acres. The Lower Penobscot Forest spans a long ridge of scenic, largely undeveloped hills stretching from the headwaters of Sunkhaze Stream in the north toward Ellsworth, Orland, and the coast to the south.
Dogs are permitted in Amherst Mountains Community Forest if under their owner’s control at all times, and they must be leashed at campsites.
For more information, call the Eastern Public Lands Office at 207-941-4412. The AMCF management plan can be found at www.maine.gov.
Personal note: The first time I hiked Bald Bluff Mountain it was a drizzly day in July, and my hiking companion and I were attacked by dozens of biting deer flies. To top it off, the views were blocked by clouds. So when I recently returned to the mountain on a sunny day in mid-October with my dog, Oreo, it was like I was hiking it for the first time. That day, the views from both overlooks were wide open, amplified by colorful fall foliage. And the deer flies were nowhere to be found.
I actually hiked up the old trail on the old rocky road without realizing there was another trail until I met where they intersected 0.4 mile into the hike. So on the way down, I hiked the new trail to compare them and see where the new trailhead was — just south of the parking area. I had missed the sign.
I mapped the hike using the mobile app AllTrails to find the total distance of the hike and the total elevation gain: 568 feet. I hope you find the resulting map useful.
I found the new trail to be well marked and easy to follow, and I always enjoy a good loop. So thank you, all who put in the effort to improve this hike recently.
While I was successful in using the phone app to map the hike, other technology failed me that day. I was using a new microphone on my camera to shoot video, and I didn’t realize that the battery had died. So when I returned back to the office on Monday, all of my video footage had no sound. Not even a whisper.
Unexpectedly, my readers/viewers had already presented me with a solution. Weeks ago, when I reached 2,000 “follows” on Facebook, I asked readers what special video they’d like for me to create in celebration of the small milestone. One of my readers came up with the idea for me to have Oreo narrate a “1-minute hike.” I thought that was an odd suggestion, and I wasn’t sure how I’d accomplish it. But with no audio for the recent video, I decided to give it a shot. I did my best to look at the hike through the eyes of Oreo, while throwing in some important facts about the hike, and I did a voice over as if I were him. I’m no voice actor, but I hope it’s somewhat entertaining.