Tucked away in Elliotsville Plantation, some 10 miles northeast of Monson, a special treasure awaits nature lovers and hikers.

The Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary, developed, owned and operated by Maine Audubon, comprises more than 1,600 acres of northern hardwood and boreal forest that has been uncut for more than a century, three small ponds and two craggy summits just south of the Appalachian Trail and Maine’s northern forest.

Originally operated as a fox farm in the early 1900s, the property was bequeathed to the National Audubon Society by its owner, ornithologist Robert T. Moore. Gifts by his son and daughter, as well as other generous donors, enlarged the original to its present size.

I discovered the sanctuary several years ago on a trip to climb Barren Mountain on the AT as part of my now-completed effort to summit every Maine mountain over, or near, 3,000 feet. Barren is the highest, at nearly 2,700 feet, and most accessible mountain of the Barren-Chairback range.

It happens that the access road to the Barren trail head passes the parking area for Borestone, and I learned about it for the first time on an information board at the sanctuary gate, which opens at 8 a.m. daily from Memorial Day through Oct. 31.

My summer hiking schedule has been fine-tuned over the years to annually include some undiscovered mountain or two, which now requires a bushwhack, as I don’t think there’s a mountain of any size in Maine with a trail I haven’t bagged.

Another tradition is to revisit my favorite hikes, whether in the mountains or Down East, where the Cobscook Trails and the Bold Coast beckon irresistibly.

Borestone falls in the latter category, and I’ll often climb it early in the summer and then again in early October to enjoy the foliage gaudily displayed in the mixed forest there.

The trail head is at about the 800-foot contour, so the entire 3-mile hike to the 2,000-foot East Peak involves an ascent of only about 1,200 feet.

The first 1 1/3-mile climbs about 500 feet to a seasonally staffed visitors center perched on the shore of tiny Sunrise Pond. Don’t haul your fly rod, as I made the mistake of doing my first time up, as there’s no fishing allowed. In fact, I’m told there are no fish in any of the three connected ponds which include, east to west, Sunrise, Midday and Sunset.

Not only is fishing not allowed, neither are pets, fires, hunting, firearms, trapping, collecting, off-road vehicles, camping or alcoholic beverages. It’s the pristine Maine woods at its best.

At the visitors center you’ll find wildlife and natural exhibits, helpful staff — and even a composting toilet. A modest fee is collected there from non-Audubon members (adults $4, seniors/students/school and nonprofit groups $2, children under 6 free).

From the center, you’ll proceed around the southeastern end of Sunrise Pond, cross the outlet and ascend rather steeply for about a mile to the open rocks of West Peak. There you’ll drink in the vista to the north, including Barren Mountain and pristine Onawa Lake, and Sebec Lake to the south. A short hike down through a saddle will take you to West Peak, another open summit with unobstructed 360-degree views.

I’m continually amazed when I talk with lots of fellow explorers of Maine’s outdoor treasures how many of them have yet to get to Borestone. As I think you can tell by now, it’s on my short list of must-see destinations. And I’d suggest that it should be on yours.

As if Borestone isn’t enough of a reason to head off the beaten path in Monson, a special treat awaits you on a trail that starts a short distance up Little Wilson Stream, which you cross just before the Borestone parking lot. It’s Little Wilson Falls, a 57-foot waterfall gouged by the stream through slate, a prevalent local mineral.

It’s a hike of about a mile and a half, and you’ll find the falls a short distance after you’ve connected with the AT just before a small pond.

Check the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Maine Mountain Guide, my hiking bible, for definitive directions, not only for this hike but virtually any mountain ascent in Maine.

John Christie is an author and a lifelong, year-round explorer of the Maine outdoors. He and his son, Josh, will share this space this summer to highlight some of state’s lesser-known places to go and enjoy the beauty only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at:

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