Difficulty: Easy. The 0.3-mile trail climbs gradually up Mount Percival, which rises just over 500 feet above sea level. The surface of the trail is forest floor, but it’s not particularly root-filled or rocky.
How to get there: From Route 1 in Northport, turn onto Shore Road and drive 0.5 mile, then veer left onto Bluff Road. Drive 0.5 mile, then turn right at the fork onto Upper Bluff Road, which becomes gravel. Drive 0.5 mile and the preserve entrance is on the left, marked with a large sign. Park along the road, leaving room for traffic.
Information: One of the most distinctive landmarks in Northport, Mount Percival rises 502 feet above sea level and features the remains of an old tower near its wooded summit.
The Hildreth family donated 73 acres of the mountain, including its summit, in 2003 for conservation. The property is now owned by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust, which maintains the 0.3-mile hiking trail that leads to its summit and the old tower.
Starting at Upper Bluff Road, the trail begins as a series of stone steps that climb up from the road to enter a fern-filled forest. Under the shelter of trees, a trailhead kiosk displays a laminated trail map and preserve guidelines. The kiosk and the preserve sign was created by Matt Schleicher of Northport as a part of his Eagle Scout project.
Bordered by thick beds of ferns, the trail weaves through the trees and gradually climbs to the summit of the mountain. For much of the way the trail follows the bed of an old road, which is straight and lined by an old rock wall on one side.
The forest is mostly deciduous, with a few tall pine trees scattered throughout. Some of the most impressive trees seen along the trail are large white ash, oak and maple trees, all of which are known to have brilliant fall foliage. This leads me to believe that the preserve would be a very colorful place to walk in the fall.
The summit of the mountain is entirely forested, and unless you have a GPS with you, you might miss it.
Just northeast of the summit, the trail ends at the ruins of the observation tower, which has an old cistern attached to it. According to the Coastal Mountains Land Trust, the tower was built by an early rusticator, and in the early 1900s, the summit was clear of trees, providing open views of the nearby Penobscot Bay and Camden Hills.
Since then, the forest has grown up and blocked the view. All that remains of the building is the foundation, but unlike many old building foundations found throughout the woods of New England, this one is above ground, reaching well over 6 feet tall. Old photos reveal that these stone walls were once topped by a two-story building and a large deck made of wood.
Visitors are free to walk around the foundation and even enter it through a doorway in the east wall. Inside, are clusters of ferns and grass, dead leaves and some exposed rock.
In the doorway, a plaque reads: “Mount Percival, Given in memory of Katherine Wing Hildreth whose family loved Saturday Cove through four generations 1903-2003.”
Open year round during daylight hours, the trail is for foot traffic only. Camping and fires are not permitted. Most forms of hunting are permitted on the property, however, hunting of predators (foxes, bobcats, coyotes, etc.) is not permitted. Trapping is also prohibited. Dogs are permitted but must be leashed at all times.
For more information, call Coastal Mountains Land Trust at 207-236-7091 or visit coastalmountains.org.
Personal note: My goal was to escape the crowds on Friday, July 5, and I had my work cut out for me. The weather was spectacular, and many people — Mainers and tourists alike — were out embracing an especially long Fourth of July weekend.
So I took the opportunity to visit a few smaller, lesser known preserves. And it was a success. At Mount Percival Preserve, we were the only visitors, despite it being the ideal day to spend outside.
Delicate white moths fluttered about in the ferns. A hairy woodpecker soared across the trail in front of us to land on the trunk of a nearby tree. And as we hiked up the mountain, I paused now and again to photograph nature’s small wonders: an orange mushroom, bright wildflowers called devil’s paintbrush and the tiny skull of some woodland creature, displayed on top of a log.
Also, to my surprise, I spotted one of the most colorful moths in Maine. Dryocampa rubicunda, commonly known as a rosy maple moth, has pink and yellow wings, a fuzzy, yellow body, and pink legs. Though it’s quite small, it stood out as it clung to the bark of a tree beside the trail. I’ve seen the moth at my house, attracted to my porch light at night, but this is the first time I’ve spotted it in the wild, away from artificial lighting.
At the top of the mountain, Oreo and I thoroughly explored the stone foundation, though we had to be careful in one spot where I noticed some broken glass littering the ground. While the glass wasn’t a problem for me, it could have easily cut Oreo’s paws.
After our short hike up and down Mount Percival, we visited the nearby Newman Preserve, where we completed a 2.2-mile hike, to the shore of Pitcher Pond and back. There Oreo could cool off with a swim and get a little more of his energy out before we returned home.