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Summit, skulls + scat: Hike and learn at Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary

Summit, skulls + scat: Hike and learn at Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary

If you’re the kind of person who regularly goes into the woods on purpose, then you probably already know the positive influence a crowd of trees can have on your psyche. Or how cool you feel when a dragonfly deigns to rest on your arm (it chose YOU because you’re special). Or the triumph that arrives with every summit reached, every scenic outlook savored.

But to be able to name the trees, know the life cycle of that dragonfly, the history of the land, (and maybe even the source of that scat you spotted on the trail)? Well, that just makes you feel at one with the wilderness. Or at least kinda marvelous and smart.

That’s why I totally dig Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary in Elliotsville Township. There’s a pretty rockin’ hike up Borestone Mountain AND a small Nature Center chock full of outdoor education – from animal ID to insect life cycles, rocks and leaves and skulls and a selection of scat common to the area. (It’s fake, but so wonderfully lifelike.)

The Nature Center at Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary, with Borestone Mountain in the background. Shannon Bryan photo

Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary is comprised of more that 1,600 acres in the southern end of Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness and features “a spectacular array of natural features, including rare older forest, three crystalline ponds, exposed granite crags, and sweeping, panoramic views.” (via www.maineaudubon.org, and I can attest to that description’s accuracy.)

From the parking lot off Mountain Road, you enter the sanctuary through a gate. There you can choose whether to hike the Base Trail or the access road up to the nature center.

The start of the access road leading up to the nature center at the Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary. The 0.8-mile Base Trail begins on the left just beyond the gates, or hikers can walk up the 1.3-mile access road. Shannon Bryan photo

The 0.8-mile Base Trail includes stone steps and tall trees – a steady uphill that’s also super pretty.

The Base Trail at Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary. Shannon Bryan photo

There’s a side trail leading to an overlook of Greenwood Pond. (I followed it, and it’s a short out-and-back that crosses over the access road, but it’s steep. Way easier to check it out on the way down – take the access road back to the parking lot and hit the overlook then.)

Overlook onto Greenwood Pond at Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary. Shannon Bryan photo

The Base Trail eventually connects with the access road not far from the nature center – and the toilets are pretty nice. (There are porta-potties by the trailhead not far from the parking lot, too, but these are lovely.)

The toilets are mighty fine!

The access road leads the rest of the way to the nature center and the start of the summit trail that goes up to the top of Borestone Mountain. There are a few other trail options there as well.

The nature center isn’t big, but it’s packed with interesting things relating to the area’s flora and fauna. This is also where you’ll pay your admission fee ($5 for adults) and they ask people to sign in/out here as well. Shannon Bryan photo

I particularly enjoyed the animal ID, the faux poo, and the dragonfly exhibit. There’s also a lot of information about the land’s history along with stuff you can buy, like field guides, patches, T-shirts, and snacks.

The wonders inside the nature center at Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary! Shannon Bryan photo

But I came to hike Borestone. So after getting my fill of insects and skulls, I headed off on the Summit Trail.

The Summit Trail first follows the short of Sunrise Pond – one of the three pond here.

The Summit Trail first follows the short of Sunrise Pond. Shannon Bryan photo
Sunrise Pond from the Summit Trail. Shannon Bryan photos

In short order, it goes from mostly flat to not-flat-whatsoever.

There are 130 stone steps on this trail, placed (with love, I’m sure) by the Maine Conservation Corps. And they go right on up, up, up.

The stone staircase on the summit trail leading up Borestone Mountain. Shannon Bryan photo

The Summit Trail is one mile (0.7 to the West Peak and another 0.3 to the East Peak) and fairly steep much of the way, with tall trees shading the way and roots reaching like tentacles over boulders and across the trail.

Closer to the summit, the trail gets more exposed as you clamor over rock.

There are a few iron rungs and railings near the top to help you navigate the terrain. Shannon Bryan photo

There’s some rock scrambling as you near the summit – fun climbing, really. I sometimes get nervous on exposed ledges, but this trail offers enough scrambling with a view to be exciting but not scary. There are a few iron rungs and railings to help in spots, but again, I didn’t find it daunting.

Looking out over the ponds from West Peak on Borestone Mountain. Shannon Bryan photo

The views along the way are excellent, and once you reach West Peak, it’s 360-degrees of trees, lakes and ponds, and mountains in the distance.

I decided to do to extra 0.3 miles to East Peak, too.

The trail between West Peak and East Peak. Follow the green blazes. Shannon Bryan photo
East Peak. Shannon Bryan photo
A mounted map at the summit of Borestone Mountain (East Peak) shows landmarks of the area. Shannon Bryan photo
Boretone Mountain’s East Peak and summit map. Shannon Bryan photo

This is a popular hike for very good reason – the views are stupendous, the nature center interesting, and the trail is gem the whole way through. Even so, I had the mountain to myself on the Fourth of July this year. I’m told that the place is usually busy all summer, but the heat and the biting insects may have kept many people away this year.

I hiked out with a few new bites on my neck, which itched for a few days after. If that was the trade-off for hanging at Borestone for a few hours, well, that’s a trade I’d make again in a heartbeat.

The access road from the nature center down to the parking area. This is an easier way down than the Base Trail. Shannon Bryan photo

Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary

Mountain Road, Elliotsville Township | Directions
Parking outside gate, admission is $5 nonmember adults, $3 nonmember students, seniors. Maine Audubon member and children under 6 hike free. Pay at the Nature Center.
There are porta-potties near parking lot, just inside gate. Additional outhouses on the access road not far from Nature Center.
Base Trail: This 0.8-mile trail begins from the shale-covered access road, at the first kiosk to the left.
Summit Trail: One-mile trail follows Sunrise Pond’s shore before climbing steeply through spruce and, in its final stage, over exposed rock.

Also check out the Lodges at Borestone for overnight group stays.

FMI: www.maineaudubon.org/visit/borestone

Shannon Bryan

Shannon Bryan

I don't like "exercise" any more than you do. But you know what I do like? Paddleboarding with a friend all afternoon (and then sitting in the grass to drink chardonnay). Bike rides and nachos, hikes, yoga classes held in breweries, group paddles to Fort Gorges, you get the idea. Because Maine is my gym.