In 2019, our friends at Mahoosuc Pathways purchased a 3,500-acre parcel of land to create the Bethel Community Forest with a goal of managing the land for conservation, recreation, and wildlife on behalf of the town. The Community Forest backs up to Sunday River closest to White Cap and Locke Mountain. As neighbors go, we really lucked out, because the Community Forest offers hiking, mountain biking, and snowmobile access currently, with plans to expand in the future. This summer, Mahoosuc Pathways has opened the Summit Ridge Trail, thanks to the hard work of its volunteer trail building squad. This short, yet rewarding hike is a must-do in the Western Maine mountains.
The Bethel Community Forest is located off of North Road in Bethel, which can be accessed from Route 2 across from Bethel Outdoor Adventure. There is an entrance to the Community Forest next to Coleman Concrete about 1.2 miles down the road, but you’ll want to continue on about 1 mile further to Daisy Bryant Road. If you reach the Angevine Park swimming hole, you’ve gone too far. After you’ve turned onto Daisy Bryant Road, take a right onto Locke Mountain Road, and continue until you reach the parking area (which also offers panoramic views of Mt. Abram and a nice picnic area).
The Summit Ridge Trail is a 1.6-mile out-and-back hike (for a total of 3.2 miles plus a little extra for the walk from the parking lot to the trailhead) that features dirt, ledge, and some pretty stunning views. There are four main milestones along the way: Picnic Knoll, West Ledge, Village View, and Bingham View. If you’re a hiker that likes to pack in as many scenic views as possible into a short hike, this one is for you.
A friend and I wrangled our three dogs and hit the trail at 5:30AM. We wanted to ensure that we wouldn’t bother anyone with our rambunctious pack, and to beat the hot weather coming in later in the day. We were glad to see how much of the trail was shaded given the rising temperature, but if you are hiking with dogs, be sure to pack plenty of water. Unless it’s a particularly rainy summer, you won’t see many streams for them to cool off in. (If you’re looking for dog-friendly hikes or hikes to swim spots, we have details on those too.)
The beginning of our ascent from the trailhead to Picnic Knoll offered a mild slope, a dirt trail with some rocks, and lots of shade from deciduous trees. As you pass Picnic Knoll, you’ll begin to climb at a steeper grade, but it’s still quite manageable for kids and dogs.
When we reached the West Ledge, we assumed we had made it to the top before noticing the blue blazes leading further into the conifers. We took a quick break there for water and some photos, and then continued on towards the Village View overlook and Bingham View.
The trip from the West Ledge to Bingham View is short but steeper than the rest of the trail. For smaller children, it may be worth making your return trip from the West Ledge instead of continuing on. The view of Bingham is certainly interesting for Sunday River skiers and snowboarders, as you get a different perspective of the tower at the top of Locke Mountain.
So, will I be hiking the Summit Ridge Trail again? Absolutely. With two of us, plus three dogs, we were able to complete the hike in less than 2 hours with a quick break at the top. This would make for the perfect escape into the mountains when you first arrive in town for a weekend trip, or as a quick activity before you head home. For locals, it’s another great option for the pre- or post-work hike with just enough pitch to make you sweat.