Bald Mountain in Oquossoc should be at the very top of every hiker’s summer must-do list. That’s the Bald Mountain that sits on a relatively narrow piece of land in a prime location, with Rangeley Lake to the east and Moose-lookmeguntic to the west.

Lost to history is a short-lived ski area that was built on its north side before the halcyon days of winter recreation development in the 1960s in Maine and beyond.

On Jan. 31, 1960, Governor John Reed cut the ribbon inaugurating the loading of the first rider of the 800-foot rope tow following a three-day opening celebration. Shelton Noyes, a local entrepreneur turned real estate agent, bank president, attorney and judge of probate for Franklin County, was the moving force behind the project.

Local lore also has it that Noyes wanted to get ahead of the rumored plans of some other locals to develop a ski area on nearby Saddleback Mountain. It was no coincidence that he also owned and was planning to develop a big chunk of adjacent property on the lake.

The summer of 1960 saw the construction of a T-bar lift to the summit, giving the area over a thousand feet of vertical drop. Three additional trails, novice to expert, were cut. Other supporting facilities were built and Gauthier Thibodeau became the full-time manager.

But a ski area soon started on Saddleback, Sugarloaf expanded substantially, and the competition of those two destinations combined with the remote location of Bald Mountain Skiway, as it was called, sounded the death knell for the Skiway within about a decade of its auspicious opening.

But the bad news for skiers turned out to be good news for hikers, as now the ski trails are no longer evident, and the classic north woods experience is there to be enjoyed by all.

Bald Mountain has earned its rightful place on every list of Maine’s best and most popular hikes for a variety of reasons. First, the exertion to reward ratio equals such delightful climbs as Borestone, the Camden Hills, and many of the trails in Acadia. In a hike of less than an hour, over moderately difficult terrain at worst, you’re rewarded with one of Maine’s great scenic vistas.

To the west, Mooselookmeguntic, Richardson, Cupsuptic and Umbagog Lakes shimmer in the summer sun, and peaks stretching from Mt. Washington to Old Speck and Sunday River and northward to Elephant, Bemis, Aziscoos and the West Kennebago Mountains loom.

Looking north and east from the sturdy fire tower platform on the summit, your eye takes in East Kennebago, Bigelow, Sugarloaf, Crocker, Spaulding, Abraham and Saddleback, as well as dozens of lesser peaks. And every vista is framed with blue water in the foreground, provided by the area’s legendary Rangeley Lakes.

That’s the reward. As far as the exertion goes, the trail, which originates at a well-marked parking lot about a mile to the left from Haines Landing at the northern terminus of Route 4, can also be accessed from a parking lot just before you reach the landing, but that route results in a slightly longer hike. I’d suggest you pick the shorter. You’ll want to get quickly to the top so you’ll have plenty of time to taste the area’s other delightful diversions. For example, you might want to pop your canoe or kayak into the nearby Cupsuptic River at a public boat launch just a few miles west of Oquossoc on Route 16.

The hiking trail is about 1.3 miles long and features three distinct sections. The first third is a stroll through mixed hardwood with only a slight elevation gain, followed by a section of moderate pitch but an easy climb. The final third is more of a scramble over some rocks (keep your eye out for the blue blazes so you can be sure to stay on the trail), ending at the fire tower on the exposed summit.

Combining a Bald Mountain hike with any of the other reasons to visit the Rangeley area makes for the perfect summer getaway.

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

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