The Mount Agamenticus Conservation Region encompasses more than 10,000 acres of coastal woods and hills in southern York County, representing the largest intact parcel of coastal forest between Acadia National Park and the Pine Barrens in New Jersey.

Because of its location, the mountain’s environment “is a unique mixing ground for a number of southern and northern species of plant and animal life that are at the limits of their ranges,” said Robin Kerr, conservation coordinator for the region, which is a cooperative of eight public and private landowners.

The location, large area of undeveloped land and abundant wetlands combine to provide habitat for dozens of rare, threatened and endangered species. Nine rare natural communities exist here, including vernal pools, oak-hickory forests and floating kettle-hole bogs.

“Species that require lots of land, like moose, bobcat and bear, also make their home here,” Kerr said. “The place is a really unique resource in southern Maine.”

The region offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities, from hiking and mountain biking to ATV and equestrian use. And if you’re not up for the physical effort, you can drive to the mountain’s summit and enjoy a picnic or a walk.

To get to Mount Agamenticus from the north, take the Maine Turnpike southbound. Just beyond the York toll plaza, take Exit 7 and bear right off the ramp onto Chase Pond Road. Follow it for 3.5 miles to Mountain Road. Go left, and in 2.5 miles reach the trailhead at the base of the auto road.

A series of pleasant hiking trails leads into the preserve from here. You can circle Mount Agamenticus on the Ring Trail and take any of five short side trails to the top of the peak. Note: There are 15 interpretive stations along the Ring Trail, each providing information and photos on the area’s flora, fauna and history.

The mountaintop is a popular place. Across a huge grass field an observation deck affords views west and north to Mount Washington.

The ski lodge is a throwback to the Big A Ski Area, which operated from 1964-74. Remnants of ski trails, lift towers and a trail groomer are reminders of snowier winters. Ocean views can be had from the lodge’s upper deck. “The ‘Learning Lodge’ now serves as a public educational facility and headquarters for our conservation programs,” Kerr said, noting the 24 interpretive displays inside.

An old Maine Forest Service fire tower still stands atop the mountain, as do several communication towers. Below the lodge is the end of the auto road and parking. There’s also an information kiosk, picnic tables and toilets.

On a recent visit my wife and I hiked the Ring Trail and Vulture’s View to the mountain’s 691-foot summit. From there we continued on the Sweet Fern Trail, then switch-backed down the Goosefoot Trail to the base of an old chairlift. Picking up Chick’s Brook Trail, we made an arc around the backside of the hill, passing beautiful stone walls.

On a detour to Second Hill we hoped for a view, but the leafy canopy on the craggy top offered only glimpses of the land beyond. We closed the loop via the Porcupine and Ring Trails. In all it was a pleasant day’s outing, covering some 5 miles. Excepting the summit we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Just right, we thought.

Future plans call for adding to the 40 miles of existing multiuse trails in the region.

“We’re working on marking and opening more trails and old woods roads, including three new hike and bike loops,” said Kerr. “And we’ll publish new, updated maps.”

Such efforts take time, money and volunteers. So be sure to make a donation when you visit (there is no fee, but donation tubes are at the mountain’s base, summit and lodge). You can also help by becoming a “Friend of Mount A,” an advocacy group dedicated to helping “maintain water quality, wildlife habitat and a sustainable trail network.” A series of fun work trips are scheduled through the summer and fall and are open to all.

To plan your visit and get a trail map and brochure, go to www.agamenticus.org or call 361-1102.

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is a freelance writer and avid hiker. Send comments to:

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