Difficulty: Easy-moderate. Though the loop trail is only about 1 mile in length, exposed tree roots and rocks make footing a bit tricky. Also, the slope of the trail becomes fairly steep in a few areas.
How to get there: From the intersection of Route 3 and Route 220 in Liberty, drive south on Route 220 about 0.8 miles and turn left onto the driveway to the Vena M. Roberts Memorial Ball Field. Park in the large gravel parking area is at the end of the driveway, behind Walker Health Center. The trailhead is at the far corner of the field, behind the backstop.
Information: Rising just over 800 feet above sea level, Haystack Mountain in Liberty has long been a favorite hiking destination for people in the area. Blueberry fields at the top of the mountain offer wide open views of the surrounding forests, farmland and distant hills.
The 1-mile Haystack Mountain Trail is a great trail for families. However, smaller children may have difficulty with the uneven terrain, steep slopes, rocky forest floor and exposed tree roots.
When I visited the trail on Oct. 2, a story walk had been organized on the trail. A story walk is made up of several storyboards, which display laminated pages of a story and are placed along a trail, in order, so you can read the story as you hike.
Starting at the corner of the Vena M. Roberts Memorial Ball Field, the trail travels through a variety of forest habitats, which include some large hemlock trees, white pines and oak trees. Not far from the trailhead, the trail splits into a loop that can be traveled in either direction.
Marked with blue blazes, the trail is fairly narrow and passes near the top of the mountain, where a side trail leads to an outlook at the edge of a blueberry field. The side trail is wide, but it’s not marked with blue blazes. You’ll need to pay attention so as not to miss it. It’s the only outlook of the hike.
It’s important to keep in mind that the trail is entirely on privately owned land. It’s open to the public thanks to cooperation between landowners and the Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance, which maintains the trail with the help of a local trail steward.
Be respectful of the property by picking up litter and staying on trail. At the outlook on the edge of the blueberry fields, stay on the bedrock and don’t wander into the fields.
The trail is open to foot travel only. Cross-country skiing is not recommended due to steep and narrow sections.
Dogs are allowed on the trail, but should be kept under control at all times. Ground nesting birds, eggs and young birds are vulnerable to disturbance from dogs from April to August.
The Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance is a nonprofit land trust working to conserve land and water ecosystems in the upper Sheepscot River watershed through conservation easements and land acquisitions. SWLA currently owns or holds easements on 1,350 acres of land and maintains a 28-mile network of trails in Montville and Knox. Maps are available at a few locations in Liberty: the SWLA office, the Liberty Graphics T-Shirt Outlet store and John’s Ice Cream.
For information about SWLA, including volunteer opportunities, call 589-3230 or visit swlamaine.org.
Personal note: With Oreo the dog as my companion on Oct. 2, I explored two hiking trails. The first was supposedly haunted, and I’ll be writing about it closer to Halloween. The second was Haystack Mountain Trail, which is ghost-free (as far as I know).
Early in the hike, Oreo lunged after a toad but quickly lost track of the camouflage amphibian. From that point on, his nose was to the ground, and he darted after the smallest movement. When I paused to photograph the trail, he whimpered with impatience and thrashed about in the crunchy leaves.
For just a short walk, the views were spectacular. I stood in the sun for a while, enjoying the fall colors, which weren’t quite at their peak.