Hikers negotiate an icy section on the Ledges Trail. Ron Chase photos

Pleasant Mountain is one of the most popular mountain hikes in Maine. The 2,006-foot peak is the tallest mountain in Southern Maine and certainly one of the busiest in the area. A network of trails offers several hiking alternatives — most include exceptional views of surrounding lakes and distant mountains.

Consisting of a 10-mile trail system managed by Loon Echo Land Trust, four trailheads ultimately lead to the highest summit where there is a closed fire tower and truly phenomenal views from cliffs facing west towards the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The fine folks at Loon Echo do an outstanding job maintaining the trails, posting valuable signage and providing as much parking as possible at the trailheads.

I don’t recommend hiking alone in winter, but if you’re so inclined, Pleasant Mountain is a good choice. On a nice day, you’re almost guaranteed to meet a multitude of fellow mountain travelers. I’ve probably hiked Pleasant over 100 times during the past 40 years. To the best of my recollection (which is suspect at my age), I’ve never been alone on Pleasant Mountain.

After a succession of early February bad-weather days and a seemingly endless succession of old-age medical appointments, I was in need of a mountain fix. An exceptional winter mountain forecast sealed the deal. My attempts to recruit friends or family proved unsuccessful. Unwilling to squander such a beautiful day, I settled on the obvious choice: Pleasant Mountain.

My preferred Pleasant Mountain trails are Ledges and Southwest Ridge. At a distance of 1.8 miles and ascending from the southeast, Ledges offers the shortest route to the summit while Southwest Ridge is the longest. Both are exceptionally scenic. According to my unofficial tally, Ledges receives the heaviest traffic, so that was my selection. My book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine,” narrates an early winter traverse of Pleasant via Southwest Ridge and Ledges Trails.

Clear skies welcome a hiker to the summit of Pleasant Mountain.

Bluebird skies, seasonably warm temperatures, light winds and a nearly full parking lot greeted me when I arrived at the Ledges Trailhead. Fortunately, there were a couple of remaining spaces in the recently enlarged parking area. A quick inspection of the trail confirmed what I suspected: The surface was well-packed so it would be a micro-spikes day for me. I wore spikes throughout the outing that included icy sections and a few exposed spots on the ledges. A large group was doing their best in bare boots and one family was equipped with snowshoes. Everyone else I met was wearing spikes.


After climbing icy stone steps and passing a kiosk, I experienced easy hiking on a gradual incline in a sparse hardwood forest. Winter trekking on a snow-packed trail is easily my favorite hiking surface. The additional cushion is gentler on my aging joints. Early on, I met a trail runner finishing his arduous workout. Once a rarity, trail runners have become more common in recent years.

Following two narrow stream crossings, I began ascending a series of switchbacks where I met a couple who reported stunning conditions on the ledges and at the summit. Others echoed their observations as I continued my climb.

The often-crowded overlook at the lower end of the ledges was devoid of hikers. I stopped to embrace the panoramic view of Moose Pond and the hills beyond. For many years, there was a wooden cross at the overlook erected in memory of a woman who frequented the mountain. It vanished a few years ago. I miss it.

More hikers were encountered as I progressed up the open ledges (for which the trail is named) that offer a continuous view of the south summit. They were carefully negotiating around potentially hazardous icy sections. Several eagerly volunteered more glowing reports of light winds and marvelous vistas at the top.

Leaving the ledges behind, the trail rose steadily to a junction with Southwest Ridge Trail that connected from the west. Just above, a steep icy sector required careful maneuvering. The gradient diminished as I proceeded towards the top where a trio of hikers cheerfully announced that I would have the summit to myself.

Not for long — two parties of hikers soon joined me to enjoy the wonderful views of Mount Washington and the White Mountains and soak up the sun in a wind-free environment. The verdict was unanimous; ours was an extremely rare, truly glorious day on the mountain.

Ron Chase resides in Topsham. His latest book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” is available at northcountrypress.com/maine-al-fresco or in bookstores and through online retailers. His previous books are “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England.” Visit his website at ronchaseoutdoors.com or he can be reached at ronchaseoutdoors@comcast.net.

The top of Pleasant Mountain provides a glorious view of Mount Washington and White Mountains.

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