A giant rock marks the summit of Howe Hill. Ron Chase photos

The Camden Hills are a wonderful place to hike. I began trekking in the scenic, coastal mountain range with friends and family when I first moved to the Midcoast area almost 50 years ago.

Like most hiking enthusiasts, we started out climbing Mounts Megunticook and Battie in Camden Hills State Park. Outings to Bald Rock, Ragged, Spruce, Pleasant and Bald Mountains soon followed. Although my wife, Nancy, and I now live more than an hour away, returning to the hills several times each year is a regular part of our outdoor routine. The phenomenal views they offer of the surrounding peaks and nearby Penobscot Bay never get old.

After years exploring them, I thought I knew all the trails and summits in the Camden Hills. When friends, Diane and John Stokinger, invited me to join them for a trek on Rheault and Hodson Trails, I had never heard of either. I was also unfamiliar with Howe Hill, a small summit situated at the top of Rheault Trail in the approximate center of the Camden Hills. Intrigued with the prospect of a new hike with the company of good friends, I enthusiastically accepted their invitation.

The trailhead is located on Molyneaux Road in Camden just a few miles from the downtown area. We met at a small parking area on the north side of Molyneaux Road on a cool, cloudy day. A large Coastal Land Trust sign next to the parking area marks the beginning of the trail network and a kiosk with a map of the Hodson Preserve and Rheault Trail is a short distance away.

Rheault Trail passes through a blueberry barren nearing the top of Howe Hill.

We began hiking on Rheault Trail, marked with blue blazes, in a mature, predominantly hardwood forest. Soon, the path joins Sucker Brook immediately below a scenic waterfall. The turbulent whitewater freshet is the site of a former historic mill.

Proceeding adjacent to the brook in an easterly direction, we soon crossed a rugged wooden bridge. Shortly after, we passed over another well-built bridge and began climbing steadily up a narrow serpentine path to the junction with Hodson Loop Trail on the left.


A thin blanket of snow covered much of the surrounding terrain as we continued northwesterly on Rheault Trail in a sparsely wooded area. Several interconnecting stone walls in this sector of the preserve are evidence of working farms in centuries past.

Persisting diagonally upward along a southwest-facing slope, we emerged onto a steep open field on the south shoulder of Howe Hill. The remainder of the ascent continues through a managed blueberry barren where the trail transitions to a wide path that appears to be the remnants of an old farm road. Signs in the area warn hikers to remain on the trail.

The road turns left and we progressed easily uphill while enjoying a view of distinctive Bald Mountain in the west. Angling right, the path led more steeply to the top where a giant rock engraved with the Howe family name marks the summit. This is a remarkable location situated between Mounts Megunticook and Battie in the east, Hatchet Mountain north, and Bald Mountain west. Glimpses of Penobscot Bay could be seen south. The three of us agree this is one of the most scenic locations in the Camden Hills.

Following a pause to embrace the wonderful views, we gradually descended to Hodson Loop Trail junction on the right. We decided to explore the loop traveling clockwise. The lower level passes an ancient apple orchard that was likely part of the erstwhile Hodson farm. Soon after, the path curves right and rises moderately before continuing adjacent to a venerable stone wall in a stand of tall hardwoods.

After finishing the half-mile loop, we returned on Rheault Trail to the Molyneaux Road trailhead. Hikers in search of an easier trek than climbing the taller Camden Hills or looking for a less time-consuming, shorter outing should consider this excellent hike. John measured the distance of our trip to be about 3.5 miles on his GPS, a little longer than the signage indicates. We completed the picturesque journey in about two hours traveling at a moderate pace.

My book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine,” narrates nine hiking expeditions around the state, many in winter.

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.

Hikers cross a rugged bridge on Rheault Trail.

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