This hasn’t been a great summer for hiking, at least for me. I suffered a broken ankle in February, and the recovery has been longer and slower than I’d like. On top of that, the weather hasn’t been ideal for hiking, with a never-ending mix of thunderstorms and soupy humidity.

But last weekend, I was eager to get out on the trail, with a few conditions: I wanted to go somewhere relatively close to southern Maine, in case it started to rain and I had to turn around; I wanted a few relatively shorter hikes, without any rugged bouldering or quad-burning steeps; and I wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t hiked before.

Sabattus Mountain and the Greater Lovell Land Trusts in Lovell checked all these boxes. Furthermore, they exceeded all expectations.

Nestled in the foothills of western Maine, the small town of Lovell is less than two hours from Portland, between Bethel and Fryeburg. I’d been to Lovell before to enjoy a number of outdoor activities – paddling on Kezar Lake and sipping Belgian beers at the tables outside a brewpub – but I’d never hiked there before, probably because it’s so close to the larger peaks in the White Mountains National Forest.

I was happy to discover there’s a bounty of hiking in the area. The Greater Lovell Land Trust protects and maintains more than 5,000 acres across 17 properties, with more than 2,500 acres that feature developed public access. GLLT also cooperates with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands to provide public access to the summit of Sabattus Mountain, the highest point in Lovell.

Sabattus Mountain alone is worth the trip to Lovell – an easy, family-friendly hike with incredible views of the White Mountains to the west and the Lakes Region of Maine to the south. To reach the trailhead, take Route 5 just under 5 miles north from the intersection of Routes 5 and 93 in Lovell, where you’ll also find the Greater Lovell Land Trust office. Turn onto Sabattus Road and follow it for 1.5 miles, then bear right onto Sabattus Trail Road; the well-marked trailhead parking is a half-mile ahead on the right.


The loop trail over the summit of Sabattus is 1.4 miles long and can be taken in either direction. I recommend taking it clockwise for a slightly more gradual climb. While the trail rises consistently, it never gets steep, and the wide, packed-dirt path makes for easy going. The mixed-growth forest at lower elevations gives way to hemlock and pine as you climb, with a variety of flowers and other flora as you make your way up. GLLT recently placed a number of signs identifying these local plants; the self-guided tour will be in place until Labor Day.

Upon reaching the 1,253-foot summit of Sabattus, you’ll be treated to open views from the southern ledges. To the south, Sweden, Fryeburg and Bridgton stretch out before you, punctuated with small hills and mountains like Popple Hill, Woodbury Hill, Plummer Mountain and Pleasant Mountain in the distance.

Need a bench for a lunch that’s a reward for a hike well done? Presto, there’s one at the top of Sabbatus Mountain.

To the west, Kezar Lake sits in front of the mountains of Evans Notch and the towering Presidentials beyond. These ledges are the perfect place to have a picnic; there are even two benches right on the rocks that encourage you to stay and soak in the view for a while.

While Sabattus is the biggest mountain in Lovell, there are a few other small peaks in GLLT’s Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve that are worth a visit. Just a few miles north of Sabattus Mountain, this 800-acre property features more than a mile of shoreline on Heald and Bradley ponds, and an extensive trail network with almost 10 miles of hiking trails. The property contains three peaks with varying views of the surrounding area: 955-foot Amos Mountain at the northern end of the reserve; 801-foot Whiting Hill at the southern end; and 891-foot Flat Hill over Bradley Pond in the east.

Amos Mountain can be reached from the northernmost parking lot on Route 5, referred to on trail signage as the Cemetery Parking Lot. The trail can be a bit hard to follow underfoot but is thankfully well marked with blazes and signs. There are a number of routes to the top of Amos with varying degrees of difficulty; El Pulpito (which passes a number of large stone formations) is quite steep, as is the aptly named Devil’s Staircase. For an easier trek, keep an eye out for the bypass trails. There’s a large cairn with a bench at the summit of Amos, but no view; the marked southwest viewpoint near El Pulpito, however, has a nice view of Kezar Lake.

Flat Hill and Whiting Hill have summits that are more open, with better views of the White Mountains and Bradley and Heald ponds. The easiest way up Flat Hill is from the parking lot at the end of Heald Pond Road, but you can also make it your destination at the end of an interesting hike across the entire property. Park at the Homestead Lot near Palmer Lane, where you can enjoy the .7-mile handicap-accessible Homestead Trail before following snowmobile trails to Perkey’s Path and the Flat Hill Trail. To reach the summit of the slightly shorter Whiting Hill, park at the southernmost parking lot near Westways Road, take the short Westways Spur into the reserve, then bear left onto the Blue Loop Trail.

Less than two hours from Portland and less than an hour from the White Mountains, Lovell offers an amazing variety of outdoor opportunities. With so much to walk, hike, paddle and explore, make the time to take a drive on Route 5. You might just discover something new right nearby.

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:

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