Hiking in Maine: Here’s your guide to so many hikes and climbs in and around Augusta

Just 6 miles separate the hubbub of downtown Augusta from the relative peace and quiet around Shed Pond, an undeveloped 37-acre pond straddling the Manchester-Readfield town boundary. Monks Hill rises 750 feet above the western shore of the pond, its wooded summit marked by a simple sign amid a park-like grove of white pines.

Shed Pond and Monks Hill are part of Gannett Woods and Wyman Memorial Forest, two properties owned and managed by the Kennebec Land Trust. Head up the hill and meander around the pond, then exit through the New England Forestry Foundation’s Allen Whitney Memorial Forest and along Scribner Road for a lovely 4-mile hike.

The Kennebec Land Trust’s second edition of its hiking guide covers 32 reserves and 54 miles of hiking. Visit tklt.org/merchandise to order a copy for $18, plus tax. Photo by Carey Kish

This hiker wouldn’t have known about Shed Pond and Monks Hill without a copy of KLT’s hiking guide, a beautiful guide to 32 reserves and 54 miles of trails in the trust’s working region, which stretches from Chesterfield to Litchfield and from Leeds to Sydney. Since 1988, KLT has protected some 7,000 acres on over 70 properties.

The Kennebec Land Trust released its first hiking guide in 2014, a bounty of 20 reserves and 36 miles of hiking. I remember walking there, guidebook in hand, exploring nice new places: Curtis Homestead in Leeds, Parker Pond in Fayette, Jamies Pond in Hallowell and Small-Burnham Conservation Area in Litchfield. What a difference six years make.

The second edition of the KLT Hiking Guide, released last year, is something of a work of art. The full-color booklet contains 40 sturdy, water-resistant pages and is bound with a key ring so you can pull out a page and take it with you on the trail. You can also add future hikes pages as they become available, because you just know KLT will be adding more hikes.

Each hike includes a photo and overview of the property, a map with an inset legend and location, a detailed trail description, and driving directions. The front of the guide features an introduction and displays the generous sponsors who contributed to its production. On the back there is a property summary (name, owner and if dogs, hunting and snowmobiles are allowed), a fold-out map of the area and a checklist to keep track of your completed hikes .

KLT’s signature properties are Mount Pisgah Conservation Area in Wayne and Winthrop, and Vaughan Woods in Hallowell. Three trails – Tower, Blueberry, and Ledges – climb to the 809-foot summit of Mount Pisgah, which is adorned with a 60-foot fire tower that offers incredible 360-degree panoramic views. Vaughan Woods, protected by an easement owned by KLT, offers delightful walks along ancient horse-drawn carriage trails, fabulous stone bridges and a pretty pond.

With the KLT hiking guide in your possession, you will be able to explore these wonderful and beloved lands and many more, like these beautiful places I checked off the list this spring.

Gott Pasture Preserve in Wayne protects 75 acres on the western shore of Wilson Pond. The scenic drive to the trailhead on Morrison Heights Road with its beautiful views of Lake Androscoggin is a real treat in itself. Then there’s the Shore Loop and Hemlock Woods Connector, which combine for a 1.5-mile loop that includes time along the lightly developed pond, an old foundation, and a rock hill.

The view from the Pinnacle of the Kennebec Land Trust Vienna Wood Preserve in Vienna looks east over the Kennebec Highlands. Photo by Carey Kish

The 164-acre Howard Hill Historic Park is an urban oasis on Augusta’s west side that includes a network of trails on the namesake Howard Hill, which rises nearly 500 feet. The upper slopes to the east offer sweeping views of the Capitol Dome, downtown Augusta, and the Kennebec River.

There are the aforementioned trails at Shed Pond and Monks Hill in Gannett Woods, and a few miles north of the Vienna Woods Conservation Area there is the Pinnacle to climb. From the granite bench at the top of the small hump, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Kennebec Highlands.

KLT is fortunate to have around 60 volunteer stewards to help look after their wealth of trails. If you have time to spare, consider lending a hand. Volunteers are like gold to every land trust. To start your own hiking adventures in central Maine, visit tklt.org/merchandise to order a copy of the KLT Hiking Guide ($18 plus tax).

Mount Desert Island’s Carey Kish is an outdoor writer and two-time Appalachian Trail hiker. Follow Carey’s adventures on Facebook @Carey Kish.

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