Several years ago, a friend mentioned he was working as a volunteer to help pioneer a route for a bike trail around Ragged Mountain in the Camden Hills. Subsequently, I crossed the beginnings of the new trail while hiking on Ragged Mountain. Each time I returned, progress was being made.
A 5 1/2-mile segment of Round the Mountain Trail (RMT) opened in late 2020. During a winter trek to the summit in early 2021, I noted the path had quickly become a popular venue for hiking and snowshoeing. It appeared that a heavy snowfall would provide for some exhilarating cross-country skiing, and fat tire biking would be another potential winter use. Later, I located the new Thorndike Brook Trailhead in Hope and resolved to bike RMT the following summer.
When I returned in the summer, I found a unique multi-use trail available for hiking, running, and biking during non-winter months. The crushed rock and gravel course averages about six feet in width and travels around about seventy percent of the lower slopes of Ragged and Little Ragged Mountains. Numerous sturdy wooden bridges were constructed along the well-designed path. During my ride, it seemed I was always climbing or descending hills. Maybe it was function of my advancing years, but I found the outing a strenuous workout.
Recently, while discussing possible outdoor adventures with my longtime friend John Stokinger we decided to tackle RMT. Both seniors, we anticipated a challenge.
We began the outing at Thorndike Brook Trailhead, the western entrance to RMT, where there is parking for several vehicles and an information kiosk that includes a trail map. Initially, we experienced easy riding past an impressive stone seating area to a narrow metal bridge over Thorndike Brook. From there, the trail climbed gradually past a junction with the Georges Highland Path (GHP) Little Ragged Mountain Hiking Trail. At about one mile, a spur trail turned left. A sign indicated it continued for 1.1 mile on the western side of Little Ragged Mountain.
We proceeded south on rolling terrain crossing several bridges to the first of three junctions with the GHP Ragged Mountain Hiking Trail. After easier riding for about a mile, Mirror Lake was visible through the trees on our right where the GHP joined RMT for a short distance. GHP quickly turned left to begin a steep 1.1-mile climb to the Ragged Mountain summit. Biking is prohibited on the hiking trails.
RMT began to climb more steeply north to the crest of the saddle between the eastern slope of Ragged Mountain and Spring Mountain. This area is punctuated by precipitous cliffs, a hairpin turn and an exhausting ascent. Our reward was a long, exciting descent with several warning signs recommending gentle braking to a location where the newly constructed RMT ends. Here the pathway connects with Kuller Trail which continues to the northern trailhead at the Camden Snow Bowl Ski Area.
During our partial exploration of Kuller, we encountered a long muddy sector of trail and decided to turn back. Anticipating a formidable climb to the top of the col between Ragged and Spring Mountains factored into the decision.
After reaching the saddle, we enjoyed a thrilling downhill plummet to the Mirror Lake area. Shortly beyond, I accidentally frightened a deer that was also enjoying the trail. Following some additional climbing to Little Ragged Mountain spur junction, the final mile to Thorndike Brook Trailhead was predominantly a delightful circuitous descent.
While relaxing after the ride, John observed that the demanding climbs were worth the stimulating descents. We used hybrid bikes for our ride, but I think mountain or fat tire bikes are better suited for the trail system. John measured our trek to be 8.44 miles on his GPS and the actual moving time was about 1 1/2 hours.
Coastal Mountains Land Trust, partnering with several other entities, envisions extending the RMT until it circumnavigates Ragged and Little Ragged Mountains. I hope they finish the remaining three miles while I’m still able to complete what I expect to be an arduous ride for this elderly cyclist.
My book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” contains narratives about five additional outstanding Maine trail rides and three scenic bike trips on offshore Maine islands.
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.html or in bookstores and through online distributors. 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 ron[email protected].