Going walking: Beech Hill Preserve in Rockport

Posted:  Sunday, November 6, 2016 - 9:45am

Taking in the view at the summit of the Beech Hill Preserve in Rockport for the first time is awe-inspiring. 

The preserve is a part of the Coastal Mountains Land Trust. Visiting it makes for a nice morning or afternoon day trip. From the Wiscasset-Boothbay Region it’s about a 50-minute drive north. The easiest way to get there is to follow Route 1 through downtown Rockland to Rockport.

Once you’re in Rockport, you’ll want to make a left turn onto South Street across from the entrance to Glen Cove Inn. Where South Street forks, bear right and continue until you come to Beech Hill Road. Turn right here. You’ll soon see a small wooden sign on the right marking the preserve’s entrance.

The “Summit Road Trail” begins as a narrow path winding through the woods alongside a tumbling stone wall. After a short walk, it ends at a gravel road that takes you to the top of the hill.

It’s an easy trek up, rising gradually through a vast blueberry field. Along the way, we saw clusters of wild northern bayberry bushes. Their tiny, blue-gray "berries" have a waxy feel and are used to make fragrant bayberry candles and scented soap.

It’s a short walk to the summit, 3/4-mile according the preserve’s brochure. Just before the trail winds its way to the top, you’ll catch sight of a stone cottage, “Beech Nut,” as it’s called with its very unique sod roof. From its veranda, you can admire the scenery for miles around and learn some of the building’s history from an informational sign.

The small building was made to resemble a Norwegian mountain house. The Gribbel family of Rockport constructed it over a century ago and used it mostly as a summer retreat. The family had the stones used to construct it hauled to the summit by horse and wagon.

Peeking through the windows, you can see a large single room with an open-beam cathedral ceiling and stone fireplace. Beech Nut was built between 1913 and 1915, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The “Maine Atlas and Gazetteer” reveals Beech Hill rises 533 feet and offers beautiful views of Rockport Harbor, Mount Battie, the Camden Hills and Penobscot Bay. Across the open water we could see Vinalhaven and looking southward a towering structure belonging to Dragon Products in Thomaston. On a clear day, you can see Owls Head in Rockland and far behind it Matinicus Island on the horizon. If you think of it, carry along a set of binoculars.

There’s a second path to explore called the “Woods Loop Trail.” It can be accessed on Rockville Road, which can also be reached by South Street.

The preserve is open year-round, seven days a week during daylight hours. Dogs are permitted but must be leashed at all times. Motorized vehicles and mountain biking are prohibited.

Because deer hunting season has begun, visitors are encouraged to wear blaze orange when hiking the preserve. You may also choose to visit on Sunday when hunting is prohibited in Maine.

The preserve was acquired in 2003 by Coastal Mountains Land Trust with assistance from Maine Coast Heritage Trust along with the Land for Maine’s Future Program.

For more on the preserve or Coastal Mountains Land Trust, visit www.coastalmountains.org.