By Adrienne Perron
From our May 2023 issue
A town known primarily for its retail scene, Freeport has an abundance of protected land and trails that surprises some visitors. “People don’t realize that there is such a wealth of natural resources here,” says Daniel Piltch, the Freeport Conservation Commission’s council liaison. The commission, the Freeport Conservation Trust, and other organizations together maintain more than 1,000 acres of protected land. From riversides and marshes to knolls and fields, Freeport’s hikeable terrain is unique and varied — and most trails are only a few miles outside the downtown.
Of late, the town’s conservation commission is putting more energy into developing maps and guides, in the hopes of making trails more accessible for both visitors and locals. The maps, downloadable from the town’s website, unpack levels of hiking difficulty at each property, as well as a bit of their human and natural history. The commission is also working on maps that highlight Freeport trails accessible to hikers who use wheelchairs or other assistive devices. Providing more access and information about trails and open spaces is also a priority of the Connect Freeport initiative, which aims to provide more public transportation to trailheads and install walking paths that lead to them from downtown.
Freeport’s trails are a unique and beautiful asset, Piltch says — and he and others want to see more people using them. “We have miles of varied coastline and diverse ecosystems in Freeport,” he says. “There are trails along marshes and rivers, there are foothills you can hike and look out from onto Casco Bay. Not a lot of other towns have those benefits.”
Favorite Freeport Footpaths
The views, wildlife sightings, and history at these family-friendly parks and trails make them well worth exploring.
Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park
Visitors come to take in the rocky coastline, salt-marsh estuary, and neighboring Googins Island, where ospreys nest each year. There’s a wheelchair- and stroller-accessible path and picnic areas by the shore. 5 miles of trails from the parking lot at the end of Wolfe’s Neck Rd.
Freeport’s highest point is its 308-foot summit. Trails wind through pine and hemlock forest, and from up top, hikers can make out New Hampshire’s White Mountain skyline on a clear day. 5 miles of trails from the trailhead on Hedgehog Mountain Rd.
Shady paths pass by vernal pools, parts of an ancient landslide, and the historic E.B. Mallett Quarry, which operated in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Blocks and rock-waste piles can still be seen along the trail. 1½ miles of trails from the trailhead on Lower Mast Landing Rd.
The wooded walk at this Freeport Historical Society property leads to an orchard and meadow, an abandoned 1800 Saltbox farmhouse, and further short trails to the edge of the Harraseeket estuary. A mile out and back from the trailhead at the end of Pettengill Rd., off Flying Point Rd.
Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary
Trails at this wildlife refuge wind through coniferous forests, open fields, and orchards. The riparian area along the lovely Harraseeket River provides habitat not only for shorebirds and songbirds but also woodland mammals like mink, porcupine, and snowshoe hare. 2.8 miles of trails from the trailhead on Upper Mast Landing Rd.