Difficulty: Easy to moderate. The trail network is made up of over 2 miles of trails that travel over small hills and across several footbridges.
How to get there: The preserve has two parking lots. The largest parking lot is on Route 1, about 100 yards south of the Belfast-Northport town line. If driving from Belfast, it will be on your right. The other parking lot, which only fits about two vehicles, is on Herrick Road, about 0.6 miles from where Herrick Road begins at the intersection of Perkins Road and Lower Congress Street. Driving away from that intersection, the parking lot will be on your left. Both parking lots are marked with signs.
Information: Pieced together from donations of land by Hugh McLellan Russell, Elizabeth Wolfe and Michael Cunning, the 66-acre McLellan-Poor Preserve is owned and maintained by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust. The property features mature forestland, two large brooks flowing through distinct ravines, an abandoned field and overlooks on Belfast Reservoir Number One, a 37-acre pond maintained by the Belfast Water District.
A network of four hiking trails explore the preserve. Altogether, these trails total just over 2 miles and have two trailheads, which have small parking lots and kiosks.
From the west trailhead on Herrick Road, the blue-blazed Peggity Path starts to the right of the kiosk and passes along the edge of an abandoned field to a granite bench. On the bench is a dedication plaque to Margaret Conway Wolfe (1924-2013) and a quote: “We’re not lost, we’re exploring.” Beside the bench is a display of walking sticks for visitors to use (and return). There’s also a slate sign for Peggity Path, which enters the woods to cross Brewster’s Brook on a wide wooden footbridge.
Weaving through a mature forest, Peggity Path travels over somewhat hilly terrain, then crosses Ramsey Brook on a long metal footbridge. Soon after the bridge, about 0.4 mile into the hike, the trail splits into a 0.6-mile loop that travels away from the water and through a quiet forest.
If you hike the loop clockwise, then you’ll reach an intersection with the orange-blazed Reservoir Trail in just 0.04 mile. This trail travels over a couple hills and widens as it heads east. At 0.5 mile, the trail ends at the 0.3-mile Overlook Loop, also blazed in orange. The Overlook Trail travels through a mature evergreen forest to two viewpoints on Belfast Reservoir Number One, which used to serve as a drinking water supply for the town and continues to be maintained by the water district for recreational purposes. The first overlook is reached by a short side trail that travels downhill to the water, and the second overlook is on a tiny peninsula.
Just 0.05 mile before the loop closes, it intersects with the red-blazed Route 1 Trail, which is 0.3 miles long and leads to the trailhead parking area on Route 1. This short trail travels close to the shore of the reservoir for a short distance, then weaves through a young forest and across a small field that is being managed to control invasive Asiatic Bittersweet. This little field is a great place to find a variety of songbirds.
The preserve is open for low-impact recreation year round during daylight hours. Wheeled vehicles, horses, camping and fires are not permitted. Dogs are permitted but must be leashed at all times. For more information, visit coastalmountains.org or call 207-236-7091.
Personal note: I got to know McLellan-Poor Preserve extremely well on April 13 — better than I would have liked, to be honest. I hiked the trail network three times that day to search for my cell phone. The adventure was long and soggy, but on a positive note, I can very accurately describe the entire trail network now.
Also that day, I made the mistake of being a little too excited for spring. The temperature was nearing 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the sun was shining, and so I decided to wear sneakers. While the snow had melted from the lawns and roadways, deep in the forest of Northport, winter was holding on just a bit longer. Ill prepared, I slipped and fell on the ice twice, and by the end of the day, my feet were soaked.
All frustrations aside, I did find the forest to be especially beautiful, with a wide variety of old trees, including a particularly large yellow birch (my favorite tree) and some mature ash and hemlock trees. One reason I chose to visit the preserve in early spring was to see the brooks in their full glory, roaring with spring run-off, and that’s precisely what I found. The rushing water was soothing and mesmerizing.
My dog, Oreo, accompanied me, though he only completed two of the three hikes. I let him rest in the car on the third search for my phone. During our adventure, he went for a dip in a part of the reservoir where the ice had melted. I can only imagine how cold it was.
The sun had nearly set when I decided to call it a day and return home without my phone. I thought it was gone for good, but upon arriving home, I was told by my husband that another hiker had found my phone in the snow. The person had then tracked down my husband from a message that had flashed on my screen from my sister-in-law. The next day, I drove to retrieve it and thank the person.