Difficulty: Easy. The trails are wide and travel over a fairly even forest floor, which includes some exposed tree roots and rocks. Hills in the forest are gentle. During springtime, expect an abundance of water and mud on the trails. Wear tall, waterproof boots to prevent your feet from getting wet.
How to get there: From the intersection of Route 202 (Main Road) and Route 139, drive southwest on Route 202 for 0.3 mile, then turn right onto Quaker Hill Road. Drive 0.3 mile and turn left onto Loop Road, which leads into the Unity College campus. A large sign for Unity College is posted by the road. Slowly drive uphill on Loop Road for about 0.2 mile and you’ll see an athletic field on your right. Park in one of the nearby parking lots and walk to the south end of the athletic field to reach one of several trailheads for Unity College Forest. This trailhead is marked with a kiosk that displays a trail map and trail rules. Hubbard’s Walk starts to the left of the kiosk and leads to all other trails in the network.
There are several other access points to the woodland trail network throughout the Unity College campus, including one near the Wellness Center and one at the SonnenHaus Village, a cluster of solar-powered, energy efficient residence buildings for students.
Information: Bordering the south side of the school’s campus, Unity College Forest features a network of trails that together total about 3 miles and are open to the general public year round. The forest also includes an outdoor classroom, a small disc-golf course, a maple syrup operation and a high-line ropes course.
The easy forest trails are used for hiking and wildlife watching, and in the winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Dogs are permitted if under control at all times, and owners are asked to pick up and dispose of dog waste properly. The Unity College community asks that visitors practice Leave No Trace ethics, which are posted at the Hubbard’s Walk trailhead at the south edge of the athletic field.
Hubbard’s Walk is the most traveled trail in the network and leads to almost all the other trails in the forest. Blazed in yellow (and occasionally blue) paint, it’s a 1.1-mile loop trail that begins and ends at the athletic field, entering the field in two different locations (south and west edge). The trail is wide and fairly flat but can be muddy and wet, especially during the springtime. Not far from the athletic field, the trail passes by a high-line ropes course, which is open only to authorized personnel.
Hubbard’s Walk is also a part of the Hills to Sea Trails, a collection of public footpaths currently being pieced together by nine local partners (including Unity College), which have come together to form the Waldo County Trails Coalition. Working with private landowners and volunteers, these partners are building the Hills to Sea Trails from Unity to Belfast. When complete, the public footpath will be about 40 miles long. Sections of it are already open for the public to explore. Maps and information can be found at www.waldotrails.org.
Marked with small yellow trail signs and larger wooden signs, the Hills to Sea Trails begins on the Main Road in Unity and crosses through Unity College campus then follows Hubbard’s Walk to the edge of the college property, where it crosses over onto the property of the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust.
Back in the Unity College Forest, each trail in the network is blazed with a different color and marked with wooden signs. An ideal place for nature watching, the trails pass by a variety of trees. Tall hemlock trees and spruce trees can be found on the 0.4-mile Hemlock Trail and 0.3-mile Spruce Trail, and a large ash tree is found on the 0.2-mile Big Ash Trail.
White cedars are found along the 0.3-mile Nature Trail, which was constructed by Gary Zane, the college’s dean of student affairs, and is used often by the college’s dendrology (study of trees) lab class.
While much of the forest is shaded by evergreens, the 0.5-mile Sugarbush Trail travels through a mix of hardwoods, including a stand of white birch and a group of large sugar maples trees, which are tapped in the spring for their sap, which is then turned into syrup in the college’s sugarhouse. This trail would be a particularly beautiful walk in the fall, when the leaves are changing color.
The trails are maintained by the Unity Trail Crew club and volunteers, which are in the process of replacing bog bridges.
Personal note: I came home from work the other night and noticed my dog, Oreo, was limping when came to greet me. It figures that the dog that travels around the state to tackle some of the rockiest trails would manage to get hurt while waiting around inside his house. He probably jumped off the couch and landed wrong. My husband is trying to pin the injury on our two house cats somehow. But all we really know is that Oreo hurt his front right leg so badly that it kept waking him up that night. By morning, he was only using three legs to get around, so I brought him to the veterinary clinic.
Fortunately, it looks like there’s nothing broken. The veterinarian thinks he just sprained his wrist and gave us some anti-inflammatories to help him with the pain. He’s also taking a short break from hiking, so on Friday, I explored the Unity College Forest on my lonesome.
I missed by normal hiking buddy, but I probably wouldn’t have noticed my first butterflies of the season that day if he’d been along. Resting on leaf litter on the Sugarbush Trail, the three orange butterflies took me by surprise on April 15, when the black flies had yet to emerge and the trees were just starting to bud. But I don’t know much about butterflies, so maybe it isn’t that strange to see them in mid April.
Walking slowly, I also spotted a hairy woodpecker, goldfinch, blue jay, red-breasted nuthatch and several chickadees. I listened to crows make a variety of strange noises nearby, and I paused many times to inspect large, colorful tree mushrooms.
While in the forest, I came across a man walking his dog and a pair of walkers that looked to be father and son. Other than that, the forest was quiet on that sunny, windy Friday afternoon.
More photos from the walk: