Explore the shoreline in Boothbay: Hike 5 miles of family-friendly trails at Ovens Mouth Preserve

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Well-placed benches encourage visitors to sit and enjoy the views at Ovens Mouth Preserve in Boothbay. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)
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Winter hasn’t been very wintry on the coast of Maine.

This was supposed to be the year that I got really good at skate skiing. Instead I’m getting really good at saying, “Sure, 45 degrees in March is nice, but I wish there was more snow.”

There’s no telling what Mother Nature has is store for us in the coming weeks, as the calendar catches up with the air temperature. This means our outdoor adventures need to accommodate. The most flexible option? Hike something. 

Ovens Mouth Preserve in Boothbay boasts just over five miles of trails on two peninsulas. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

Whether we get a couple feet of snow or not another flake, Maine’s trails are happy to have us. And we’ve certainly got plenty to choose from. But if you’d like a suggestion – something out of town but not too far, something wonderfully scenic and family friendly – check out Ovens Mouth Preserve in Boothbay.

Ovens Mouth Preserve is a splendid place for new hikers, kid hikers, or anyone who wants to get into the woods for a couple hours to sniff some pine-scented air and ogle some shoreline. Dogs are welcome here, too. 

Comprised of two peninsulas connected by a bridge, Ovens Mouth Preserve boasts about five miles of trails. The terrain on the west peninsula is more difficult than on the flatter east side, with more ups and downs and, when there’s no snow, more exposed roots and rocks. No matter, I’ve seen many new hikers of all ages enjoying the trails here.

In the winter, the preserve can make for a wonderful place to snowshoe. In the spring – or when the winter thinks it’s spring – you’re likely to find a mix of leftover snow, ice, mud, and dirt.

I typically park at the west peninsula trailhead off Dover Cross Road and start on the 1.75-mile west peninsula loop, which starts in the woods and then meets up with the Back River for much of the way.

If you follow the west peninsula loop trail going clockwise (following the white blazes along the west side of the west peninsula) you’ll hear the river before you see it. What starts out looking like a creek thin enough to jump over will continue to widen as you go.

A bridge connects the east and west peninsulas at Ovens Mouth Preserve in Boothbay. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

Another handy bonus: there are a handful of well-placed benches along the trail, encouraging us to savor the scenery. One in particular, on the west peninsula not too far from the bridge, has  a spectacular view of the Back River. And the river is the most magical blue-green, which means you will want to sit and stare at it. I recommend enjoying a sandwich at the same time. 

From here you can cross the bridge to the east peninsula. Even if you don’t care to explore that side of the preserve, check out the bridge anyway. At low tide, you can see the remnants of a dam that was built in the 1880s. That dam created a fresh-water pond from which ice was harvested in the winter and shipped to Boston and New York. That pond is now salt marsh. 

If you do cross the bridge, you can hike the easy-going 1.1-mile loop and return via the bridge to the western side, pick up the white blaze trail again and continue on back to the parking lot. 

It’s a welcoming destination if you’re new to outdoor adventure, but avid hikers will appreciate the views and the rolling terrain that still gives your legs a little bit of a workout. And it’s a great excuse to cruise up the coast for an afternoon, whatever the weather.* 

*If you’re listening, Mother Nature, a couple more snows on the coast would be outstanding. 

Freelance writer Shannon Bryan lives in South Portland and is the founder of fitmaine.com, where she writes about the coolest ways to be active and get outdoors in Maine.

In late winter and spring you’re likely to find a mixture of snow, ice, mud and dirt along the Ovens Mouth Preserve trails. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

Getting there

Ovens Mouth Preserve in Boothbay provides five miles of trails on two peninsulas. For more trail information and a downloadable trail map contact the Boothbay Region Land Trust, bbrlt.org.

For the Ovens Mouth East Trailhead: From the monument at Boothbay Center, travel north on Maine Route 27 for 1.6 miles. Take a left onto Adams Pond Road. Proceed 0.1 miles, and turn right onto Dover Road. Continue 2.4 miles to the dead end. Parking is on the left.

For the Ovens Mouth West Trailhead: Follow the directions above to Dover Road. Go only 1.9 miles on Dover Road and bear left onto Dover Cross Road. The parking lot is 0.2 miles on the right.

— Shannon Bryan