Tuesday, March 11, 2014
My family really enjoys hiking in the mountains during the cool days of fall. The trouble with the mountains is that they tend to be far from where we live. And at this time of year, carving out time with two busy teenagers isn’t always possible. But Pleasant Mountain in Bridgton, home of Shawnee Peak in the winter, is a great half-day hike that offers wonderful mountain views.
The signs at trail intersections, as well as the blue trail markers and blazes, make the Ledges Trail an easy trail to navigate.
The summit of Pleasant Mountain offers great views of the White Mountains to the west. Picking out mountains previously climbed is a great way to teach geography to kids.
Wendy Almeida photos
TRAIL NAME: Ledges Trail
DISTANCE: 1.8 miles one way
ELEVATION GAIN: about 1,600 feet
TRAILHEAD COORDS: 44.0246, -70.7976; There is a small parking area across the street from the trailhead.
TRAIL MAP: Download at trail map at www.loonecholandtrust.org
DOG-FRIENDLY: Yes, on a leash.
OTHER: It’s hunting season so be sure to wear your orange.
My teens and I spent a lot of time this summer hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. And although it’s been a few weeks since our last hike, our recent experiences with higher elevations made hiking up the Ledges Trail on Pleasant Mountain a comfortable effort.
The Maine Mountain Guide rates this mountain trail as “moderate” and I would agree ... for people who have recent hiking under their belt and a good fitness level overall. If this is the first hike you’ve done in years and/or you don’t exercise much, then you’ll find it more challenging. It’s a steady climb with an elevation gain of about 1,600 feet to the summit.
The Ledges Trail, on the southeast side of the mountain (the downhill ski area is a few miles north of this trailhead) is well-marked with blue trail markers and a few painted blazes. The trail intersections we enountered were also clearly marked with signs. Overall we found this trail easy to follow.
One of the things I like about mountain trails is the option to find a nice view that’s not at the summit. Sometimes we just don’t have the time (or energy) to tackle a full mountain climb. This is why we have visited Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield so many times. There’s a nice vista point with plenty of space for a picnic that requires less than a mile of climbing. The same is true for Pleasant Mountain. It takes a bit more effort to get to the ledges than our go-to Brownfield spot, but there are more places to hang out and enjoy the view while eating our lunch.
If you’ve hiked in the White Mountain National Forest in the summer, you know it’s a popular place. Some of the summits are not very spacious and after a tough climb, we found we had to share the view in close quarters to others. The views were great over there. But the people, not so much. This is not the case on Pleasant Mountain in the fall. The ledges offer plenty of options to find a quiet spot to soak in the rays and feel like you have some space to be comfortably anti-social.
One of the girls noticed the cell tower on the top of the mountain to the left while we were hiking along the ledges. She initially thought that was the summit. It turned out where we were actually headed was to the right side of the trail and much closer than that tower was.
At the summit we found an old fire tower and wonderful views to the west that included Mount Washington and other peaks we have climbed. We reminisced about former adventures and enjoyed, as we always do, trying to identify mountains we have hiked previously. This summit activity really is a great way to teach kids about geography, not to mention meaningful compass and map reading skills, while at the same time inspiring more outdoor adventures.
Pleasant Mountain offers a good balance of fun and exercise for an active family with a good fitness level. And the half-day experience can be appealing for busy families living west of Portland.
Wendy Almeida can be contacted at:
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The fire tower at the summit of Pleasant Mountain in Bridgton. The Ledges Trail is 1.8 miles from the trailhead to the summit, one-way, with about 1,600 foot elevation gain.
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The Ledges Outlook, 1.1 miles from the start of the Ledges Trail on Pleasant Mountain, is a nice spot to stop for lunch or a final destination if you're not up to climbing to the summit.