For as long as my late father, brother and I have been sharing space in this “Worth the Trip” column, we’ve applauded the many land trusts in Maine.

A result of partnerships between public and private entities, Maine’s 90-plus land trusts combine ownership and easements on land for such purposes as conservation, public access and recreation.

The holdings of land trusts in Maine are significant. In 2015, the Maine Land Trust Census reported nearly a half-million acres owned by land trusts, with over 2 million additional acres held under easement.

Hiking near my home in Yarmouth, I’ve spent most of my time in two trusts.

The Loon Echo Land Trust, based in Bridgton, protects nearly 6,700 acres of land north of Sebago Lake and manages more than 30 miles of trails.

The Harpswell Heritage Land Trust conserves about 1,600 acres of land in Harpswell, about a third of which is in preserves wholly owned by the HHLT. On these lands, about 20 miles of trails wind through the woods and along the coast.

Founded 30 years ago, the LELT preserves land in Bridgton, Casco, Denmark, Naples, Harrison, Sebago and Raymond. Blame it on my ski-centrism, but I tend to think of Pleasant Mountain (and the neighboring Shawnee Peak) as its crown jewel. More than 2,000 acres of land on and around Pleasant are owned by Loon Echo, and the peak – the highest in southern Maine – draws crowds from far and wide.

However, the trust also protects a number of other peaks, among them Bald Pate, Mayberry Hill, Hacker’s Hill, and Pismire Mountain. On a recent trip, I explored Pismere, located in the Raymond Community Forest.

Access to the Raymond Community Forest trails is available from a parking lot and trailhead off of Conesca Road, just north of the intersection with Raymond Hill Road. From the parking lot, the mile-long Spiller Homestead Loop trail meanders through the forest on the shores of Crescent Pond. The trail also brushes against Conesca Road – here, you can cross the road and climb the blue-blazed Pismire Bluff Trail. After running south parallel to the road for a few hundred yards, the trail veers left and climbs steeply up the 300 feet to a scenic viewpoint with a stunning eastward view of Crescent Pond and Rattlesnake Mountain.

There’s a second loop in the Raymond Community Forest, accessed near the summit of Pismire. An orange-blazed trail, the Highlands Loop breaks off from the Bluff Trail just shy of the scenic overlook. The flat, easy trail is seven-tenths of a mile and weaves through forest and wildflowers on the “highlands” of Pismire Mountain. Doing the loop trails and the bluff trail covers about two and a half miles and all three can be tackled in about an hour.

Since its founding in 1983 by the Harpswell Historical Society, the HHLT has moved to “protect Harpswell’s natural open spaces, islands, shoreline, and cultural heritage for current and future generations through education, conservation and landowner assistance.” Spread across the fingers of land that reach from Brunswick to the Atlantic Ocean, the acres preserved are among the most scenic in the state. About a half-dozen of the spaces – Whaleboat, Birch, White, Crow and Doughty islands, as well as The Goslings and the Helen and Walter Norton Preserve – are only available via water access.

Even if you’re not headed to one of the islands, nearly every space preserved by the HHLT touches the shores of Harpswell. The trust is also moving forward with new development, and plans to open trails in the Otter Brook Preserve, on the west side of Otter Brook, once a parking lot is built and trail construction is complete.

Of the many options for hiking in Harpswell, my favorite jaunt is the Cliff Trail. Leaving from a trailhead behind the Harpswell Town Office on Mountain Road, the 2.3-mile trail climbs gently to 150-foot cliffs overlooking Long Reach and the Long Reach Preserve.

Heading north from the parking lot, the trail spans flat ground – decorated colorfully with fairy houses, added in memory and celebration of Lindsey Perkins. After about a half-mile the trail splits – a right- turn that follows yellow blazes spans the Old Town Road before climbing to the cliffs, while a left follows white blazes to an overview of Henry Creek and a longer stretch alongside Long Reach. The trails meet just south of a spectacular piece of open bedrock, with a view north and south of Long Reach atop a sheer cliff face. There’s also an unnamed island, visible in the center of the reach.

From the cliff, the trail leads south through another fairy house zone. After again running briefly along Old Town Road and crossing the spur road to the town transfer station, the trail ends back at the Harpswell Town Office. It’s one of the longer trails in the HHLT lands, but it’s well maintained with a gentle grade, so the loop can easily be finished in about an hour.

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

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