Difficulty: Moderate. The hike is along a rough road, which is about 1.3 mile from the parking area to the top of Chick Hill. The road is wide, surfaced with rocks and gravel, and steep in some areas, especially as it nears the hill’s top of exposed granite.
How to get there: From the intersection of Route 180 and Route 9 in Clifton, drive east on Route 9 for 3.3 miles, then take a sharp left onto Chick Hill Road. Drive 0.3 and veer right at the fork, remaining on Chick Hill Road. Drive another 0.3 mile to where Chick Road ends at a rough, gravel parking area, which will be to your left. This parking area may look more like a plow turnaround or cul-de-sac. When you park, be sure not to block any roads or driveways.
Information: Rising 1,160 feet above sea level in the town of Clifton is a small mountain that local residents call Chick Hill, but on any official map, it’s labeled Peaked Mountain. For many years, the public has explored the mountain on gravel roads, old woods roads and unofficial trails that cross through privately owned property.
Atop Chick Hill are open granite ledges that provide wide views of the area, including the mountains of Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island to the south. Also visible from the top of the hill is the nearby Little Peaked Mountain (or what locals know as Little Chick Hill) and Eagle Bluff, both located in Clifton, and a cluster of mountains to the southeast including Schoodic, Black, Caribou and Tunk mountains.
Currently, the most popular way to the top of Chick Hill is by hiking up a rough gravel road that is filled with potholes and rocks and is called Fire Road 32 on Google Maps. The road is about 1.3 miles long from the parking area at the base of the
mountain to a fenced-in communications tower at the top. Along the way, you’ll pass private side trails and smaller woods roads, which can be confusing. When in doubt, follow the widest road.
At the communications tower, hikers can walk around it to the left or the right to access granite ledges with stunning views.
To the right of the communications tower, you’ll get views of Little Chick Hill. And to the left of the communications tower, you’ll come to a site where an observation tower once stood. Today, only the rusted base remains. Continuing past that site, you’ll find exposed granite running southeast. This is a popular spot to sit and enjoy views of Mount Desert Island and other nearby mountains.
There are no official rules posted anywhere about this hike, but it’s important to know that people often walk their dogs up the hill, and often not on leash.
Some local residents use an unofficial trail (marked with orange blazes) to hike Little Chick and Chick Hill. This trail leaves on the south end of the parking area, according to a 2013 BDN story, and crosses private property. Therefore, hikers should seek permission before using it. Also, beware that this trail can be difficult to follow because of active forestry in the area.
Personal note: Chick Hill is beloved by many residents of the greater Bangor area. It offers some of the nicest views in the area, and the hike up the gravel road to the top of the mountain is fairly family friendly — a fact I discovered on the morning of Saturday, March 5, when I hiked up Chick Hill with my husband, two friends and their 5-year-old daughter, Ally.
“Rocks are different shapes — and different kinds of colors,” observed Ally, a rather quiet girl, a few minutes into the hike. As she walked, she pointed out purple rocks and heart-shaped rocks that her adult companions overlooked. The rough, icy road seemed to fascinate her, while most adults would consider it an ugly hiking route.
It was a sunny morning, but the temperature couldn’t quite make it above 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter was hanging on, and the fire road was extremely icy, so much so that we were forced to pick our way along its edges at times, stepping on patches of gravel and rocks so not to slip. We all slipped at least once, but no one received more than a small bruise.
Just over halfway up Chick Hill, Ally stopped hiking and stared into the woods quietly.
“Do you see a bird?” I asked, hearing the distinctive song of Maine’s state bird.
“I don’t see a bird, but I hear a bird,” she replied.
“That’s a chickadee,” I told her. “Listen, it goes: chickadee-dee-dee!”
Later, upon seeing some showy green lichen attached to a tree trunk beside the trail, I broke off a piece and brought it to Ally so she could see it up close. For some reason, I felt compelled to teach her something new about the natural world. We weren’t hiking through a majestic forest on a narrow footpath, we were on a rocky road. Yet we were still out in the woods, and there were beautiful things to see.
Ally’s father, Chris, and his fiancée, Kim, often spend time with Ally outdoors, and I could tell. She seemed in her element, moving her arms back and forth as she confidently climbed the mountain. We had to continuously remind her to take care on the ice.
Atop the mountain, we took time to enjoy the views, though the bitter wind threatened to chill us to the bone. For Chris and Kim, the top was an especially special place. It’s where they became engaged last year.
After the hike, the five of us headed to Eagles Nest Restaurant, a tiny establishment perched on the banks of the Penobscot River in Brewer. Known for its all-you-can-eat fish fry Friday, Eagle’s Nest is 100 percent Maine, from its bright red hotdogs to the paintings of local wildlife hung crookedly on the walls — or is it the walls that are crooked? I get the feeling the building is slowly sinking toward the river. But if it ever makes it down there, the owners will surely set anchor and continue to serve their fried fish while afloat.