Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Training Run - Pleasant Mountain Maine trail review 9/21/13

My wife, kids, and I have been going up to the Western shore of Sebago Lake area of Maine for the past two summers, staying at and helping to renovate her parents' cabin. Each time we go up, I try to explore more of the area's trails or head over to the White Mountains for a run. Thinking this might  be the last time we go up this summer, I decided to check out a local mountain that is about half an hour away in Bridgton.
Trail map, courtesy Loon Echo Land Trust (

Pleasant Mountain (link to trail map here), which is home to Shawnee Peak Ski Area on it's Northern flank, is 2,006' above sea level and is the tallest mountain in the area. Planning my trip I saw that the climbs from trailheads were about 1,600-1,800' to the summit, so I planned on doing four summits which I thought would take around 3.5-4 hours. This is similar to my typical hill repeat sessions at Mt. Wachusett, but with the lower trailhead elevations there would be almost double the elevation gain per summit climb. It turned out that there are four main trails up the mountain, one from roughly each compass point, so the logical choice would be to try to do a climb from each.

I parked on Mountain Road to head up the Ledges Trail first, which presumably gets it's name from the ledges a person encounters about 1.25 miles in, offering views to the south. The first pass I made by this area occurred while the sun was rising and I was able to get some good photos of the undercast clouds, which ended up sticking around all day. I was able to catch some interesting colors as I ran by some of the overlooks as the sun rose. I was delighted that this trail had the characteristics of a White Mountain trail with many rocky obstructions and general terrain that kept my eyes looking down to pick my lines through the dark. Reaching the summit in just under half an hour, I wandered around and took some photos of the early morning views as the sun was beginning to light up the surroundings with a purple hue.

Sun beginning to rise above the clouds
Heading down towards the Southwest flank of the mountain is the Southwest Ridge Trail. This trail turned out to be a good mix of extended rock slab running through trees and grassy sections and had a decidedly different feel than the Ledges Trail. Thankfully the slabs were dry and allowed me to quickly descend to the base of the trail at Denmark Trail with no incidents. It was fun running through these sections as the sunlight came up and rays lit up the trail from the East.

Rocky slabs

Running down Southwest Ridge Trail on the rock slabs

I reached the base of the Southwest Ridge Trail and took a breather for a minute before the climb back up to the summit. I was trying to keep my pace and effort level steady enough to have this run pass as good training as I made my way back up through the rocky slabs and grassy sections.

Base signage at the Southwest Ridge Trailhead

Coming back up the Southwest Ridge Trail

Nice sunlight through a grassy section of the Southwest Ridge Trail

Slab sections, great to run on

Loon Echo Trek sign
Arriving at the summit, I took even more photos of the clouds with taller mountains peeking up through them - I couldn't get enough of them. I headed out on the Bald Peak Trail that would direct me towards the ski area side of the mountain. I planned on bypassing the trail that took me to the ski area though because of the time and wanting to get back to my family at a decent hour.
Looking towards the Presidential Range in New Hampshire at the summit

Sea of Clouds
The Bald Peak Trail offered a different type of terrain and tree cover. This trail had a coastal type feel with open rock slabs, sandy soil and scrub pine trees. The sun was starting to warm up the morning, but the breeze kept the running comfortable. I made my way down the Bald Peak Trail which was easy running until I arrived at the point where Sue's Way cuts off to the left and Bald Peak continues down to it's trailhead. The next .3 of a mile became extra steep and reached grades of around 45% in some areas. This is where I took a fall on some of the wet rocks and roots and got a small scrape on my hand that started to bleed a bit. I became a little more cautious as I slowed to a crawl on this section. After a while the trail improved and I started jogging again down to the base.

Coming down the through the scrub pine ridge

The "Needles Eye", a small river canyon with approximately 60 foot high walls
Climbing back up took a long time, as I was starting to feel some of the climbing I had already done in my legs. The summit push was uneventful, back up the same trail. I headed back down the Ledges Trail and called it a day at the car.
Terrain diversity

One of the runnable sections of the Bald Peak Trail

GPS track image
Elevation profile, there were some sections of 45% grade on Bald Peak Trail. Note the super slow pace on the last climb in that section.
Totals for the day: 14.3 miles, 5,760' climb, 3hrs. 2 minutes, avg. pace at 12:43/mile


  1. Great report Jesse. Felt like I was there. Pics were solid as well. Keep em coming!

    1. Thanks, Justin. I'm trying to keep you in the loop, might be heading up there for another try - maybe 4 summits this time.