Hiking Trails

Hiking in Maine: Land trust seeks to preserve popular Fryeburg trails

The source of the Saco River is sparkling Saco Lake atop Crawford Notch in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The river falls from the heights and becomes a broad, meandering, and mostly placid stream as it crosses Maine at Fryeburg. This is where it passes just west of the granite dome of Jockey Cap, on the outskirts of the village proper.

Jockey Cap is one of Maine’s most climbed small mountains, big on value, so to speak, similar in nature to Bradbury Mountain but with a wider and bolder view. Jockey Cap is the latest conservation project of the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust, which in its 22-year history has protected over 13,000 acres in the watershed on both sides of the state line.

Jockey Cap is one of Maine’s most climbed small mountains, big on value, so to speak, similar in nature to Bradbury Mountain, but with a wider and bolder view. Jockey Cap is the latest conservation project of the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust, which in its 22-year history has protected over 13,000 acres in the watershed on both sides of the state line.

As far back as anyone can remember, an informal network of footpaths has existed on the southern slope of Cap Jockey. Climb through the pine woods and in 15 minutes you will emerge onto the wide open bedrock for awe-inspiring views of mountains and hills, forests and fields, and rivers and ponds that will literally make your eyes drop. hiking socks.

The Upper Saco Valley Land Trust is working with the town of Fryeburg and other supporters to permanently protect and preserve access to the 16 acres of Jockey Cap, which includes not only beloved hiking trails, but also habitat rare of stiff pines and steep walls, impossible overhangs and huge boulders popular with technical climbers.

“Once the purchase is complete, the USVLT will then transfer ownership to the city, while we will hold the conservation easement,” said Abby King, USVLT Director of Conservation. “We are still fundraising, but we are 95% there. Then we need to do an environmental survey, assessment and analysis, and develop the easement language that protects the property.

Future plans call for the construction of a new parking lot at the trailhead a quarter mile east of U.S. Route 302. So far, the owners of Quinn’s Jockey Cap Country Store have graciously provided two designated spaces to public use, so the extension of the car park will be welcome. There will be a new kiosk, bike parking and a road sign so people can find the place more easily.

Abby King, director of conservation for the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust, said ‘we’re 95 per cent there’ when it comes to fundraising efforts to preserve access to 16 acres at Jockey Cap in Fryeburg . Photo by Carey Kish

“We also plan to redesign the trail network to make it easier to follow, add new signage and buckling, and rebuild and strengthen trails, some of which are heavily eroded,” King said. “We are also talking about creating a 1 mile loop trail, so there is a lot of work to be done. It’s great that the city can finally invest in the property and enhance its value to the community.

In the meantime, take a trip to Jockey Cap, spend some quality time on its rocky summit, and imagine all the good things to come to this special place. While you’re in the neighborhood, among the many supportive businesses you’ll want to visit is Saco River Brewing, just across from the trailhead. The brewery is donating proceeds from the sale of its limited release Jockey Cap IPA to the land trust effort.

Upper Saco Valley Land Trust has hiking trails on a number of its other properties in the area, including Leita Monroe Lucas Preserve, Pequawket Pond Preserve, Pine Hill Community Forest, and Ware Preserve. The town of Fryeburg is also home to a pleasant 4 mile segment of the Mountain Division Trail that is well worth the trek. So come for a hike, catch some late season foliage and enjoy a good beer for a good cause and more.

Mount Desert Island‘s Carey Kish is an award-winning member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. His latest book, “Beer Hiking New England”, will be out in late winter. Follow Carey’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram @careykish


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