On the summit of Borestone Mountain there’s a map highlighting the area's peaks, ponds, and lakes. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)
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Hikers who regularly go into the woods already know the positive influence a crowd of trees can have on our psyches.

Or how cool we feel when a dragonfly deigns to rest on our arm (it chose us because we’re special).

Or the triumph that arrives with every summit reached, every scenic outlook savored.

But to be able to name the trees, know the life cycle of that dragonfly, the history of the land, and maybe even the source of that scat you spotted on the trail?

The Borestone Mountain nature center isn’t big, but it’s packed with interesting things relating to the area’s flora and fauna. This is also where you’ll pay your admission fee. Visitors are also asked to sign in and out. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

Well, that just makes you feel at one with the wilderness. Or at least kind of marvelous and smart.

That’s why I totally dig Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary in Elliotsville Township. There’s a pretty rockin’ hike up Borestone Mountain and a small nature center chock full of outdoor education, from animal ID to insect life cycles, rocks and leaves and skulls, and a selection of scat common to the area. (It’s fake but so wonderfully lifelike.)

You’ll enjoy some splendid time on the trail and hike away with a renewed appreciation for the life cycle of a dragonfly. 

Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary comprises more than 1,600 acres in the southern end of Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness. It features what Maine Audubon calls “a spectacular array of natural features, including rare older forest, three crystalline ponds, exposed granite crags, and sweeping, panoramic views” (and I can attest to the description’s accuracy).

Shade from trees on the Borestone Mountain Base Trail. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

When you depart from the parking lot off Mountain Road, you can choose whether to hike the Base Trail or the access road up to the nature center. The access road might not sound as appealing right out of the gate, but I recommend taking it on the way down (your knees will appreciate it, plus there’s easy access to a nice overlook of Greenwood Pond).

The 0.8-mile Base Trail includes stone steps and tall trees, as well as a steady uphill that’s also super pretty. You’ll also spot a side trail to the aforementioned overlook, but it’s steep from here, so save it for later.

The Base Trail eventually connects with the access road not far from the nature center. There are a couple of pretty nice outhouses here, too. And while you might want to charge straight up to the summit, pop into the nature center. Do it. There are many intriguing wonders inside. 

I particularly enjoyed the animal identification tips, the faux poo, and the dragonfly exhibit. There’s also a lot of information about the land’s history along with stuff you can buy, like field guides, patches, T-shirts, and snacks.

After getting your fill of insects and skulls, you’ll continue your journey on the Summit Trail.

Stone steps lead the way: There are 130 stone steps on this Borestone Mountain trail, placed by the Maine Conservation Corps. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

The Summit Trail first follows the shore of Sunrise Pond, one of the three ponds here. In short order the trail transitions from mostly flat to not-flat-whatsoever.

There are 130 stone steps on this trail, placed with love and likely a few drops of sweat by the Maine Conservation Corps. And they go right on up and up and up.

The Summit Trail is one mile (0.7 to the West Peak and another 0.3 to the East Peak) and fairly steep much of the way. Tall trees shade the way and roots reach like tentacles over boulders and across the trail.

Closer to the summit, the trail gets more exposed as you clamber over rock. The scrambles make for fun climbing. As someone who gets nervous on exposed ledges, I find Borestone’s rocky facade to be just the right amount of “whoa!” without being terrifying, plus there are a few iron rungs and railings to help in spots.

The views along the way are excellent, and once you reach West Peak, you’ll savor 360 degrees of trees, lakes, and ponds, and mountains in the distance. Add on the 0.3 miles to East Peak, too. 

This is a popular hike for very good reasons: the views are stupendous, the nature center will learn you good, and the trail is a gem the whole way through. 

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.

Entry sign at Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary in Elliotsville Township. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary, Mountain Road, Elliotsville Township. Parking outside gate; admission is $5 for nonmember adults, $3 for nonmember students and seniors; Maine Audubon members and children under 6 hike free. Pay at the nature center. There are port-a-potties near the parking lot just inside the gate as well as additional outhouses on the access road not far from the nature center.

Base Trail: This 0.8-mile trail begins from the shale-covered access road, at the first kiosk to the left.

Summit Trail: One-mile trail follows Sunrise Pond’s shore before climbing steeply through spruce and, in its final stage, over exposed rock.

Check out the Lodges at Borestone for overnight group stays.

FMI: www.maineaudubon.org/visit/borestone.