Nature Nearby:
A series of tips for enjoying nature close to home

Entry #4: Sebago Region Trail Tips

Have you noticed how much better you feel after you’ve spent some time outside? Numerous studies show getting outdoors is one of the best things you can do for your mental health, so it’s no wonder that many more people have been turning to the trails for solace since the pandemic began. In honor of Earth Day, we’ve prepared this list of outdoor activities matched with appropriate preserves managed by our Sebago Lake watershed partners to help you get acquainted with some less-populated trails in the state that are under an hour’s drive from Greater Portland.

Please follow the Look Out for Me guidelines for respecting the land and keeping safe. Also be aware that early spring in Maine can mean unreliable footing from snow, ice, and mud, so be prepared with appropriate footwear and traction devices at high elevations.

While each activity is paired with a particular preserve, you’ll find multiple recreational opportunities at each of these and the other preserves managed by our Sebago Lake watershed partners Lakes Environmental Association, Loon Echo Land Trust, Portland Water District, and Western Foothills Land Trust. These are just some suggestions to get you started exploring this treasure trove of less-travelled trails. Document your adventure on these conserved lands and tag #keepsebagoclean on Instagram and Facebook so we can see how the forests rejuvenate you and your family!

Holt Pond Preserve is a peaceful spot to observe birds and other wildlife.

Activity: Wildlife viewing

Location: Holt Pond Preserve, Bridgton

Distance from Portland: 34 miles

Land Manager: Lakes Environmental Association

Description: The Holt Pond Preserve in Bridgton contains 5.3 miles of trails on over 450 acres. It adjoins other preserves, such as Loon Echo Land Trust’s Bald Pate Mountain Preserve. As part of a large contiguous tract of protected lands, the preserve boasts an ecosystem where animals, birds, and plants thrive. Among the many creatures you might see while exploring the trails and boardwalk are migrant songbirds and waterfowl, beavers, mink, and, if you’re lucky and quiet, possibly even a moose! The moose travel through the red maple swamp year-round and feed on the trees’ bark when other food sources have been depleted.

Keep an eye out for: Teeth marks, bark shavings, or long scars on the lower part of the tree trunks in the red maple swamp are evidence of “moose browse.”

Please note: In order to protect the wildlife, no dogs are allowed.

Directions, trail maps, field guide, and use guidelines here.

The Otter Ponds parcel of the Sebago Lake Land Reserve offers more than 13 miles of trails along three spring-fed ponds.

Activity: Mountain biking

Location: Sebago Lake Land Reserve, Standish

Distance from Portland: 18 miles

Land Manager: Portland Water District

Description: The Sebago Lake Land Reserve in Standish contains 15 miles of trails on 1,700 acres. The reserve encompasses segments of the Sebago to the Sea Trail and the Mountain Division Trail. It is home to a bounty of unique ecological features and recreational opportunities. The most contiguous trail network is housed within the Otter Ponds parcel, which has 13.5 miles of trails. Here, entry-level mountain bikers will find a pleasing combination of fire roads, and double-track and single-track trails. A handful of trails follow the contours of three spring-fed ponds that are home to brook trout, largemouth bass, and pickerel. Great blue herons and belted kingfishers are also frequent visitors here.

Keep an eye out for: Vernal pools on the Wetland Loop that come alive with amphibians such as spotted salamanders, wood frogs, and fairy shrimp in the spring.

More info, maps (including a mobile option), and use guidelines here. Parking can be found at any of the kiosks indicated on the map, including 1 White Rock Road in Standish, behind the Portland Water District’s Sebago Lake Protection Center.

The Raymond Community Forest has trails suitable for families with children and dogs. Photo by Jerry Monkman,

Activity: Dog walking

Location: Raymond Community Forest, Raymond

Distance from Portland: 28 miles

Land Manager: Loon Echo Land Trust

Description: The Raymond Community Forest contains 4 miles of trails on 356 acres. Four short connecting trails from .7 to 1.1 miles in length offer a combination of loops over varied terrain. Two trails—Grape Expectations and Spiller Homestead Loop—are flat and easy, making them an excellent choice for families with children. The forest’s crown jewel is the exceptional view of Crescent Lake from Pismire Mountain. The summit can be reached by taking the Spiller Homestead Trail to the Pismire Bluff Trail. Out and back on these two trails gives you a 2-mile round-trip hike that provides maximum reward for minimal effort. Take a break to admire the view with your four-legged friend at the top and then tack on the Highlands Loop if you and your pup have some extra energy and time.

Keep an eye out for: Colorful, migratory songbirds such as scarlet tanagers.

Please note: Dogs must be leashed after 9:00 a.m. If you’d like to have your dog with you under voice control at other times of the day, consider visiting Loon Echo Land Trust’s Tiger Hill Community Forest, which has a network of mapped woods roads, but no marked trails yet. 

Directions, trail maps, and use guidelines here.

The new boardwalk at the Witt Swamp Preserve in Norway is part of a pleasant 4-mile loop. Photo by Jerry Monkman,

Activity: Trail running

Location: Shepard’s Farm Family Preserve and Witt Swamp Preserve and Extension, Norway

Distance from Portland: 46 miles

Land Manager: Western Foothills Land Trust

Description: Shepard’s Farm and Witt Swamp are contiguous preserves that contain a total of 4.5 miles of trails, including a ½-mile ADA-accessible trail on 252 acres. Comprised of undulating former pasture and managed woodlands, Shepard’s Farm Family Preserve sits high on a ridge and enjoys views of the surrounding hills, while Witt Swamp is primarily densely forested white-cedar wetlands. Park at the Crockett Ridge Road lot and take the Witt’s End Trail from Shepard’s Farm to Pleasant Street (approximately 2.6 miles). Built with beginner mountain bikers in mind, this is a smooth, wide trail with a few short, gentle ups and downs. Head back the way you came for an out-and-back 5 miler or make a 4-mile loop by taking the 3/4-mile Half Witt Trail, part of which is an artfully constructed wooden boardwalk, back to the Witt’s End Trail.

Keep an eye out for: The six wildlife-themed Bernard Langlais sculptures that dot the Shepard’s Farm pastureland as part of a statewide art trail.

Directions, trail maps, and use guidelines here.

Bald Pate Mountain in Bridgton offers great views of water bodies and the White Mountains. Photo by Jerry Monkman,

Activity: Hiking

Location: Bald Pate Mountain Preserve, South Bridgton

Distance from Portland: 37 miles
Land Manager: Loon Echo Land Trust

Description: The Bald Pate Mountain Preserve contains 6.7 miles of trails on 486 acres. The preserve consists of forest, meadows, and granite-topped scenic vistas. Trails are easy to moderately difficult, making this a great location for a family-friendly hike. Take the Bob Chase Scenic Loop to the South Face Loop Trail for a 3.1-mile round-trip loop that offers several stunning viewpoints of ponds, lakes, and the White Mountains.  For a longer outing, add on the 2-mile Town Farm Brook Trail, which connects to Lakes Environmental Association’s Holt Pond Preserve mentioned above.

Keep an eye out for: The pristine, ancient pitch pine forest atop Bald Pate’s summit. 

Directions, trail maps, and use guidelines here.