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Gorham area hikes

by Jeffrey Ryan

Mill Brook Preserve Trail is 2.1 to 5.0 miles with a rating of Moderate to Difficult. The property is managed by Presumpscot Regional Land Trust. For more information, visit www.PRLT.org.

Just over a 20-minute drive from Gorham Center, you’ll find a simply beautiful hike along a woodland stream where you can also witness one of nature’s yearly miracles — one that had been interrupted for more than 250 years.

Until the 1730s, more than 10 species of fish migrated from Casco Bay to Highland Lake via the Presumpscot River and Mill Brook to spawn. In 2003, the Smelt Hill Dam near the mouth of the Presumpscot in Falmouth, was removed. Accompanying efforts to restore the historic migration (primarily replacing culverts with “fish friendly” designs and installing fish ladders) have resulted in the return of the largest fish migration from Casco Bay. 

While it’s still a little early to witness the migration this year (adult alewives make their way up Mill Brook in late May, juveniles then adults return to the ocean starting about a week later), now is a wonderful time to hike along the crystal-clear waters of the brook as it wends through beech and hemlock stands on its way toward Casco Bay.

There are four access points to the 5-mile trail including two from Route 302. The Northern Trailhead, located at the junction of Rt. 302 and Methodist Road, has room for several cars. The MAGAN Trailhead is across from Willow Drive on Rt. 302 (Parking for the trail is on Willow Drive and requires you to cross Rt. 302 — use caution.) Other access points are next to 789 Methodist Road and on Perry Court (the southern terminus, where there is room for two cars to park).

On a recent weekday, I explored both ends of the trail and walked several miles in between. Within a few steps of leaving busy Route 302, it was hard to believe such a serene woodland walk was my reward. And I didn’t have to walk far to find a place to sit to enjoy it — two well-placed benches in the first half-mile made it easy to justify slowing down to watch the stream flow by.

Also, early on is a fairly steep hill and a warning to keep an eye on little ones, as the trail traverses a steep embankment. After descending the other side, the trail settles down again for the most part until the most difficult stretch between the Magan Trailhead and the Methodist Trailhead. 

If you want to avoid the steepest part of the trail, the 2.1-mile (one way) hike between the Magan Trailhead and the Northern Trailhead is the way to go. It also leads past the Northern Fish Viewing Pool, a prime spot for viewing the annual Alewives migration later this spring.

The Presumpscot River Land Trust map of the 130-acre Mill Brook Preserve is color-coded to designate easier and more difficult sections of trail and includes distances for section hikes. You’ll also find more complete information about the Alewife life cycle and a scavenger hunt to take with you for the kids.

Jeffrey Ryan is a Maine-based hiker, photographer, public speaker and author of several books about the outdoors. Learn more at www.JeffRyanAuthor.com.  

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