Located behind a ball field parking lot in a small Maine town is a hiking trail offering something special for hikers of all ages. The Haystack Mountain Trail is perfect for beginner hikers, weaving through forest habitats, by blueberry fields and the summit of Haystack Mountain, which on a clear day, offers a bird’s eye view of Maine hills that goes on for miles. For young children, a special story will accompany you on your journey.
Haystack Mountain Hiking Trail
The trailhead for the Haystack Mountain hiking trail is hidden behind the Vena M. Roberts Memorial Ball Field parking lot in the tiny town of Liberty, Maine. Made for hiking and snowshoeing, the trailhead is known to those in the area but outsiders could easily drive past with no idea of its existence. But once found at the back of the field, the one-mile looping trail is well-marked. As you enter the trail surrounded by wildflowers, you’re quickly greeted by fresh raspberry bushes growing wild in the field and ripe for the picking during the summer months.
Also shortly after the trailhead, you’ll encounter the first of a number of signposts along the trail. These signposts contain the cover and following pages of a children’s book that’s been chosen for posting along the route. The current book is “The Salamander Room” by Anne Mazer. Previous choices have included books with themes including nature and the American Indians. As you step further into the forest you’ll find yourself (no matter how old you are) looking to find out what happens on the next page.
Into the Woods We Go
Heading into the forest, you’ll move from bright, open field to dark, quiet, cool growth on trees that include large hemlocks, white pines and oaks among others. Beds of pine needles will keep your feet well-cushioned in spots and in other areas, you’ll experience slightly steeper sections or narrow boards that will allow you to cross over muddy or heavily root-covered trail.
Old growth and new-growth are intertwined as you step over moss-covered rocks. Trees take on the shapes of craggy, old men or have openings that appear as if they’re caves you can walk into. The trail offers different types of mushrooms, mosses, groundcovers, flowers and leaves, barks, bushes and trees in various states of life or afterlife. If you believe in forest fairies, you’ll soon start to see the perfect homes for them nestled within the decomposing logs and budding saplings surrounding your walk.
Once at the top of the trail, you’ll want to step off it just a bit to make your way onto the summit of Haystack Mountain. It’s surrounded by commercial blueberry fields but along the edges, you can often find spots where the blueberries remain unpicked. Take a sampling of the tiny but sweet Maine berries growing there. You’ll likely see multiple cairns — man-made piles or stacks of stones on the summit — and you may want to add your own rock to one of them. What you probably won’t see much of on the trail, however, is other people. It’s fairly common to be able to hike the Haystack Mountain hiking trail without seeing anyone else but those in your party.
Don’t Forget the View
Assuming the weather is clear, you’ll also be able to see a view for miles. Bodies of water, other mountain peaks, roads and plenty of nature will be apparent in your bird’s eye view. And speaking of birds, you may encounter birds on the summit that could include hawks, falcons and even bald eagles. If it’s a sunny day, you may want to pack a picnic to eat at the top. Whenever we go, my daughter always returns with a handful of things she’s found along the way that she hopes to use in various art projects. This year, she’s hoping to make some nature mobiles using sticks that she’s found that will feature dangling pebbles, feathers, young pine cones, snail shells and anything else she scavenges that may work.
The trail is actually completely on privately owned lands, but generous area landowners, along with the grassroots non-profit land trust the Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance (SWLA) and a local land steward, keep the trail clearly marked, easily accessible and a protected spot for wildlife in the area. The SWLA also maintains a 28-mile network of other trails that it describes as “one of the largest footpath networks in mid-coast Maine.” Although dogs are allowed on the trail, it’s requested that hikers keep them under control (ideally leashed)—especially from April to August, when ground nesting birds are most vulnerable. This is also a carry-in/carry-out spot. This hike is as good for grandparents as it is for the grandchildren, so happy trails to the entire family!