Have you felt it?

The rush of hot air when you open your car door. The cool breeze as you dig your toes into the sand. Warm butter dripping off corn on the cob. And of course the slight gravitational shift as thousands of cars make their way up Route 1 and I-95 to our little corner of paradise.

Yes, summer has truly arrived in Maine.

I’m not immune to occasional frustration at the annual influx of “summer people” – these friends and strangers who slow our traffic and pronounce all of their R’s. But I’m always quick to remember how special Maine is, and how lucky I am to share it with so many people who have heard the call of our beautiful stretch of mountains and coastline.

I do allow myself to be a little selfish in the summer because the crowds provide the perfect excuse to seek out less-known spots – and I get a rush of joy out of discovering these new-to-me places, where I can experience a different part of Maine for the first time. That’s exactly where I found myself on the lovely rock ledges of Bald Pate Mountain in Bridgton last weekend.

Bridgton’s Bald Pate – not to be confused with the much larger Baldpate Mountain in Grafton Notch – has been a part of Loon Echo Land Trust since 1996, when 450 acres of land were purchased to prevent construction of a television tower on the summit.

While that 1,150-foot summit is small potatoes compared to the nearby Pleasant and Burnt Meadow Mountains – not to mention the towering peaks in western Maine and along the Appalachian Trail – it still offers many magnificent views, and a variety of terrain and well-maintained trails makes it a perfect hike for families.

The preserve’s trailhead is located on Route 107, approximately six miles south of Bridgton – look for the sign just past Five Fields Farm. The large parking lot provides access to almost seven miles of trails, and you can choose how to approach the mountain depending on the abilities – and ambitions – of your party.

The best, quickest route to the summit is the blue-blazed Bob Chase Scenic Loop, which starts on a wide old dirt road at easy grades. After bearing right at a well-marked intersection, the trail narrows and turns into more traditional western Maine hiking: the deep groove of a trail, the low canopy of leaves, and the occasional stretch of stones and ledge.

In terms of balancing effort and reward, this approach is light on the former and heavy on the latter. In less than half a mile, you’ll reach the first of several viewpoints marked on the free trail map, looking out over nearby Foster and Peabody Ponds. From there it’s an easy stroll out of the trees and onto the bare ledges that give Bald Pate its name.

Despite its low elevation, the views from the top of Bald Pate are almost unrestricted – it’s easy to pick out Pleasant Mountain and the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the northwest, and Sebago Lake stretches out massively in the other direction. Peabody Pond, closer than Sebago, is beautiful in its own right, ringed by close trees, with very few houses dotting the shore.

To extend your hike from the short scenic loop, you can continue clockwise onto the orange-blazed South Face Loop Trail, which drops you quickly down Bald Pate’s eastern ledges and offers an interesting trek through the woods at the southern base of the ledge.

Here you have another chance to choose from a variety of trails: the loop trail swings back up to the summit, with another very nice western lookout; the short, green-blazed Pate Trail climbs straight back up the face of the mountain for a leg-burning workout; and the relatively flat, yellow-marked Moose Trail winds through the woods back to the parking lot, allowing you to rest your muscles or escape bad weather.

It’s easy to traverse the entire network of trails at Bald Pate in a few hours – the perfect way to spend a quiet morning away from Sebago and Bridgton, or to catch the sunset over the western mountains.

I only saw one other person the morning I was hiking, and I was reminded of how lucky our summer visitors are – that they get to experience Maine during this all-too-short season. Now that I’ve had my moment of selfishness to soak up the beauty of a new place, I’m excited to share it. If you’re visiting the Lakes Region – or if, like me, you’re a local looking for new spots to explore – Bald Pate in Bridgton is well worth the trip.

Jake Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Josh, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Jake can be reached at:

[email protected]