We work hard for spring. And we get excited when it gets here. Don’t get me wrong — winter is great, but when your shirts barely fit because of over-developed shoveling shoulders, you need a break to smell the flowers. Calendar spring starts March 21st: we start preparing the garden a couple weeks later, and the magnolias begin blooming in late April. We’re still placing bets on when the 30 foot snow pile next to Gile’s Family Farm will finally melt but rest assured it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Spring is arguably the best time of year to hike in Maine. Longer days and warmer nights mean more trail and less gear. I start to feel like I packed to go on an enjoyable trip instead of feeling like I’ve prepared for a doomsday scenario, with everything but the kitchen sink stuffed in my pack. Seasonal mom and pop shops en route to mountain towns are opening up for the summer and I stop worrying about the condition of access roads compared to the worn tread on my tires. British Soldiers, my favorite lichen (yes, I have a favorite), start springing up in droves on mossy logs and decaying tree trunks. Leaves are still budding, especially at higher elevations, so your view isn’t shrouded in foliage. Most importantly, our state bird, the Black Fly, is still in its larval stage. And, if you’re one of those “early bird catches the worm” types — early spring hiking means that you avoid the bulk of the summer foot traffic.
We usually stick to lower elevation day hikes in the spring to cut down on gear (higher elevation hikes could have grass at the bottom but covered in ice at the top) and take advantage of places that see a lot of visitors in the peak of summer. Our list of top five hikes include: Tumbledown Mountain and Blueberry Mountain (both in the Weld Region), Bradbury Mountain (Pownal), Mount Agamenticus (York), and Pleasant Mountain (Bridgton/Denmark).
Tumbledown Mountain is a well-known 3,000-footer located near Mount Blue State Park and down the road from Coos Canyon, which is a popular place for gold panners to sift through sand/gravel on the shores of the Swift River. Unique to Tumbledown is the large lake (Beaver or Crater Lake) that sits just below the summit and the cliff face on the southern side, making it popular for rock climbers in summer. There are multiple trails to the summit and pond — some which are definitely more challenging than others. Unfortunately for the dog, our favorite has always been the Loop Trail. A steep section of this trail brings hikers to an opening in a cave with iron rungs, lovingly called “Fat Man’s Misery.” You can’t fit through with your backpack on— and if you’re “with dog” a harness is needed to hoist the pup through cave. The summit ridge views are beautiful. And if spring hiking isn’t your thing, wait for blueberry season for a mountain-top snack. Tumbledown is covered in blueberry bushes at the summit … which brings us to a lesser-known mountain down the road from Tumbledown: Blueberry Mountain.
Blueberry Mountain is also located in Weld, but doesn’t get nearly as much foot traffic. Blueberry Mountain’s elevation is just shy of 3,000 feet (2,942”), and the trail head actually leaves from an obscure 1.8 mile bible-camp maintained access road, which may explain why it’s not as well visited as Tumbledown — because it’s certainly not the views or hike that deters folks. The top boasts 360 degree views of regional high peak mountains — on clear days you can see the Bigelows and Mt. Washington. The hike is steep in spots with birch stands lining the lower sections to the trail. And, yes — blueberry bushes at the top in July/August.
Bradbury Mountain is a great low elevation, easy access spot to visit for a variety of recreational uses — offering shared use trails for hikers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, and snowmobilers. In an effort to keep the trails healthy with as little erosion/wear as possible, the park is often closed to bikers and horseback riders in the Spring … which makes it great for anyone looking for an easy day hike. Similar to Bradbury, Mount Agamenticus located in York, is a great day-hike spot, with lots of trail network of varying difficultly and use open to all types of recreation. The Mount Agamenticus Conservation Region consists of more than 10,000 acres and is located within an additional 30,000 acre expanse of conservation land in Southern
Maine. For a brief stitch of time in the 1960s, the mountain dubbed “Big A” opened as a small ski
area. I usually hike sections of the seasonal dirt access road entering via “Cedar Trail,” which
brings me past the defunct ski lift and trails, now used primarily for hiking. Folks also have the
option of driving up the main access road to the summit lodge and exploring the trails from the top
The Maine woods come alive with painted trilliums almost as soon as the snow melts, their 6-to-
8-inch blossom of three upturned white petals with pink or purple streaks creating a distinctive
swath through the pines. To learn more about spring wildflowers in Maine, click here.
Each spring in Maine, foragers and foodies alike rejoice at the first sighting of the delicate ostrich
fern’s coiled leaves unfurling. Going “fiddleheadin,’” is a rite of passage for many Mainers, as the
edible fern heads are not only delicious, but represent the first sign of green growth to resurface
after a long New England winter.
Look for the following when identifying a Maine ostrich fern:
The coils are about an inch in diameter.
A brown papery sheath is peeling off the coils.
A deep “U”-shaped groove is on the inside of the fern stem.
The fern stem is smooth (without fuzz).
Fiddleheads usually emerge in clusters of three to 12 on the banks of rivers, streams and brooks
in April and May. It’s important to fully cook your fiddlehead harvest, and Maine Insiders Malcolm
and Jillian have the perfect simple fiddlehead recipe on their Maine food blog here.
Maine’s abundant and varied wildlife begin to emerge from a long winter of hibernation during the
springtime months of April and May. Moose can be seen throughout the state, and are out in
abundance at dawn and dusk from mid-May through July. You can even schedule a Moose Safari
and leave the guesswork to Registered Maine Guides. To learn more about sighting Maine’s
majestic moose, click here.