A day hike I always save for the fall, after the traffic has thinned out on coastal Route 1, involves not one, but two special mountains, easy enough to climb and close enough together that they’re great fun to knock off in the same day.

If you leave home early enough to be on the trail for the first climb by mid-morning, hiking them both is a piece of cake, even in fall’s shortening daylight hours.

I always start on the one closest to my midcoast home by heading to Bucksport and then turning off just six miles east of there on a side road to the north in Orland, a mile and a half after the junction of U.S. 1 and Route 15. It’s identified by a sign directing you to the Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery, about one and a half miles in on a paved, then gravel, road.

You can leave your car parked at the hatchery to climb about 600 vertical feet to the bold summit of Great Pond Mountain, sometimes referred to as Great Hill.

In his column a couple of weeks ago, Carey Kish shared with us his wonderful observations about the Great Pond Wildlands and the trip up this mountain from the opposite side. The trail from the hatchery is a shorter hike that will allow you to combine it with another favorite of mine in a single day.

It’s enough off the beaten path that you’ll seldom encounter another hiker, despite the fact that the round-trip hike of a little over four miles rewards you with a quiet walk in the woods capped by exceptional views from the open summit.

When you get back to your car, a visit to the hatchery, established in 1871, is well worth the time.

There you can see both hatchery raceways and a display pool, and take in interesting displays on the propagation and research work being carried out at America’s oldest salmon hatchery.

Adjacent to the hatchery, a launching area into Alamoosook Lake for your boat will catch your eye, and you may want to file that away for a future, longer visit.

But this is a two-hike day, so you’ll head east again on Route 1, and in less than an hour after passing through Ellsworth and Franklin, you have a choice of two routes up 1,069-foot Schoodic Mountain.

The first is about four miles north of Sullivan on Route 200, leaving the road on the eastern side at the foot of a steep hill in East Franklin, between two bridges. You often can drive another half-mile to a brook crossing. From there, the hike to the summit is about two and a half miles on a blue-blazed trail that takes you to open ledges as you approach the vestiges of the abandoned fire tower.

The second option, which I always take when Schoodic is the second hike of the day, is to continue driving a short distance on Route 1 to East Sullivan, then turn left on Route 183 and proceed about four and a half miles to a gravel road on the left, just after crossing some abandoned railroad tracks where you’ll spot a blue and white Public Lands sign. After about 3/10 of a mile, take a left at a Y and it’s a short distance to the Schoodic Beach parking lot.

I always take a loop that starts with a half-mile walk to the beach and campsites on pristine Donnell Pond. On a trail from the western end of the beach, it’s little more than another half-mile to the summit.

The views of Frenchman Bay and the surrounding countryside from the rocky and exposed summit are among the best you’ll find.

You’ll see neighboring Tunk and Black mountains, both of which are over 1,000 feet, and could be considered for future hikes. Both feature cliffs and steep ledges, and the trail up Tunk has been substantially improved over the past couple of years.

Great Pond and Schoodic are two mountains that confirm you don’t need to scale a 4,000-footer to be rewarded with some spectacular views.

John Christie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son, Josh, write in Outdoors about places to enjoy the beauty only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at:

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