Not all small towns are created equal and Camden, Maine is far greater than its 26.65 square miles. Located on the water, Camden is a hub for sailing (more here), but also a great destination for hiking.
A big draw to Camden is the Camden Hills State park. Most famously, the park is home to Mount Battie, a scenic lookout point. The mountain (or large hill, I’m unclear what it really is) seemingly guards the little town, as it stands as a tall and imposing protector. While meandering through a few different neighborhoods, I could see Mount Battie peak its stony, green head from beyond the hills. With the ocean to one side and Mount Battie to the other, it is easy to orient one’s self in this little corner of Maine.
Because the mountain is the thing to do, I suggested that we follow the trail to the top. This was easier said than done. While looking up the hike, I found a lot of conflicting information. For one thing, it was unclear how long the hike was. On some sites, it was listed as 1.1 mile, one-hour round-trip hike, while on other sites, it was a grueling 4-hour, 3.1-mile trek. While some reviews spoke about how this was a heavily trafficked, family-friendly hike, others cautioned that this was not for beginners, hard on the knees, and a somewhat difficult path. Concerning the distance discrepancy, I learned that the path has a few different entrances, which influences the distance to the top. The shorter path turns out to start on Megunticook St., which is just a 13-min walk from downtown Camden. Without bringing any hiking gear with us, we decided to take the path of least resistance.
Megunticook St. is a residential neighborhood, but the cul-de-sac is not a dead-end, rather the entrance to the Mount Battie trail. Although the trees were mostly green, the forest floor was naturally bedecked with faded brown leaves. There were several other groups on the trail, some friends, families with school-aged children, and other couples like us. In the beginning, the trail felt like a moderate uphill nature walk, as the path was easy to navigate and the slight elevation came in the form of small stones that acted like a natural staircase. A few minutes in, things went downhill (or rather I should say uphill) fast. The rocks became steeper and steeper and the smooth stone surfaces seemed slippery on my worn-down sneakers. At one point we turned a corner, looked up at the rock wall and just thought “no way.” The path seemed to shoot straight up at a near 90-degree angle and there was no more walking, rather scaling the side of the mountain.
Okaaaaay, so that is a bit of an exaggeration, but seriously, some sections of the path seemed treacherously steep. At this point, my boyfriend and I split up, with him choosing a scenic side path and me choosing the too-steep-for-comfort trail. I carefully travailed my way up, stepping up each rock with hesitation. After rounding another corner, the path was somewhat clear of trees and a smooth rock surface was next. Very gingerly and in a crab-like stance, I crawled up this side of the mountain and rested atop a rock. Without shoes with good traction, I decided that this was as far as I would go. From this flat perch, I could see downtown Camden, the ocean, and the great beyond. The view was stunning and especially on this clear and sunny day.
Climbing back down the mountain took much more time than walking up it. Although I had only been on the trail for a short while, my leg muscles were vibrating with the electrical energy produced from the exertion of dormant muscles shocked into performance. We stopped to take plenty of pictures on the way down and paused at several instances to allow other parties to pass on the narrow parts of the trail. The sun was low in the sky by the time we made it to the bottom.
That was not, I repeat N-O-T (not!) a family-friendly hike. Unless you are a family of mountain goats, your kids will need help on these trails and anyone with knee troubles is going to want to sit this one out.
Luckily, Mount Battie can also be accessed by car via Route 1. Even bypassing the strenuous leg work, I assure you the view from the top is just as sweet.