1-minute hike: Hedgehog Mountain in Freeport

Difficulty: Easy-moderate. The hiking and biking trails on and around Hedgehog Mountain are fairly wide and smooth. The footpath that climbs to the top of the mountain is a bit more challenging, with some rocks and roots and a steady incline for a short distance.

How to get there: The trailhead to the Hedgehog Mountain trail network is located on Hedgehog Mountain Road (also known as Landfill Road on Google Map and some GPS), which is off Pownal Road in Freeport. To help visitors find the trails, a sign that reads “Hedgehog Mountain” has been placed where Hedgehog Mountain Road meets Pownal Road, as well as a kiosk and sign that reads “Hedgehog Mountain Parking” at the parking area.

If you don’t have a GPS to find these roads, take Interstate 295 to Exit 22. If driving from the north, turn left off the exit onto Mallet Drive; and if driving from the south, turn right off the exit onto Mallet Drive. At the end of Mallet Drive, turn left onto Durham Road. At the end of Durham Road, turn right onto Pownal Road. Drive about 1 mile and turn left onto Hedgehog Mountain Road. Drive until you reach the recycle center gate. The parking area to the trailhead is before the gate on the left.

Information: Hedgehog Mountain is the highest point in Freeport, but it’s really more of a hill, climbing less than 300 feet above sea level.It’s  located on the northern portion of a 196-acre parcel of forest owned by the Town of Freeport and maintained for recreation. The property is home to more than 5 miles of trails, including a footpath that leads to the top of Hedgehog Mountain, which is wooded. While there aren’t any views to be had in the summer and fall, visitors can enjoy partial views of Freeport in the winter, when the trees are bare of leaves.

Hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are allowed on all trails, while mountain biking and snowmobiling are allowed on designated trails. Dogs are permitted but must be on a leash or under voice command at all times; and pet waste must be collected and carried out.

The property is open to the public year round, from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Camping and fires are prohibited, as well as alcoholic beverages. All garbage must be carried out of the property. Hunting is allowed for shotgun and bow hunting only.

From the trailhead off Hedgehog Mountain Road, you can enter the forest by the kiosk via Hedgehog Mountain Trail or you can cross the road and enter the forest on a trail that travels around the Pownal Road Recreation Field.

Hedgehog Mountain Trail leads to an extensive trail network. Each trail juncture includes signs, but visitors who are unfamiliar with the trails should bring a trail map, which can be downloaded at freeportconservationtrust.org. (If you’re unable to print a map, you can either take a photo of the map at the trailhead kiosk or take the time to trace it and label the trails, something I’ve done before.)

Many of the bird species that you’ll see while visiting the Hedgehog Mountain property are migratory, such as warblers, vireos and thrushes, according to information about the property displayed on the trailhead kiosk. Resident bird species include forest songbirds, raptors and upland game birds, and resident mammals include white-tailed deer, moose, raccoon, porcupine, skunk, fisher, mink, gray squirrel, red squirrel, chipmunk, voles, moles, shrews and bats. To date, no effort has been made to document reptile, amphibian or invertebrates on the property, and no rare or endangered wildlife species are known to use the property.

A 1995 study conducted for Freeport Conservation Commission by Woodlot Alternatives, Inc., states that the Hedgehog Mountain property supports several forest communities with a broad range of age, size and species. Hemlock, white pine, red oak, beech, sugar maple, white birch and white ash can be found throughout the property, and near the summit of Hedgehog Mountain grows a shrub called Leatherwood, which is uncommon in Maine. Also, Black’s Sedge — a species listed as critically imperiled by the Maine Natural Areas Program — was identified near the Summit Trail in 2000.

Historically, the land was used for its pastured and forest resources, according to a property management plan drafted by the Freeport Conservation Commission in 2004. Prior to being purchased by the Town of Freeport (100 acres in 1989 and 96 additional acres in 2001), the property was owned by the Soule and Keith families. Many people viewed the 1932 eclipse from the Hedgehog Mountain summit.

Keep an eye out for some beautiful old stone walls that run through the property, especially along Stonewall Trail and Wentworth Trail. Keep an eye out for some beautiful old stone walls that run through the property, especially along Stonewall Trail and Wentworth Trail. And along the Soule Road (a trail) are the foundation remains of a house and barn that existed until about 1930, according to the management plan. Near the remains are two stone-lined wells.

For information, visit freeportconservationtrust.org.

Personal note: My friend Melony and her husband Jon live near Hedgehog Mountain and often bring their chocolate lab Lexie on walks on the trails. It was their description of the trail network that led me to visit on Sunday, Sept. 29, during the fourth Great Maine Outdoor Weekend. After attending three outdoor events the previous day, it was relaxing to explore Hedgehog Mountain at my own leisure, kept company only by a gaggle of chipmunks. (Because of my weekend of travel, my dog Oreo wasn’t with me.)

The forest of Hedgehog Mountain is beautiful and full of variation, and in my opinion, it’s an excellent place to walk with your family. (I could imagine bringing my 2-year-old niece, Willa, there.) With so many deciduous trees, it’s a great place to view colorful foliage in the fall. And since the trails are flat, fairly wide and well-marked with blazes, I imagine it’s an excellent place for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.