"It’s Worth the Trip: Mount Cutler in Hiram makes for a perfect stop."
Portland Press Herald
Mt Cutler – Small Mountain, Great Views!
Location: Entirely located in the Town of Hiram, Maine, at the easternmost end of a range of foothills of the White Mountains.
Elevation: 1232 ft at the true summit. From Hiram village, what appears to be the summit is really the eastern end of a long ridge with elevation of about 1000 ft at that point.
Elevation gain: Hiram village is at elevation of about 400 ft. Elevation gain of about 600 ft to the ridge-line, and 832 ft elevation gain to the true summit.
Trails: There are about seven miles of hiking trails. See the Trail Guide for detailed trail descriptions and locations of trail heads.
Ownership: Most trails on Mt Cutler are on privately-owned land. You are allowed to visit this land and hike the trails by willing permission of the property owners. Please honor this privilege and respect the rights of the property owners.
Fees and permits: No fees. No special permissions required for hiking, legal hunting or foraging.
1. No fires.
2. No camping except by special permission.
3. Hunters should take special care for the safety of others using these lands, and for homeowners living nearby.
4. Dogs must be under control or on leash.
Precautions: Some trails on Mt Cutler are unusually steep, but none require actual rock-climbing skills. See the Trail Guide for special precautions, and use the less-steep trails if you are unsure of your abilities.
Other features: Merrill Botanical Park (at the start of the Barnes Trail), the “Gold Mine” (see details in the Trail Guide and historical notes), snowmobile trails, geological features including glacial polish, evidence of the catastrophic 1947 forest fire.
Nearby features: The Saco River, The Great Ossipee Museum (Hiram Historical Society), Soldiers Memorial Library, 4 Corners Store (0.3 mile east on route 117), snowmobile trails connecting across the entire state, lakes and ponds (Ingalls Pond, Clemons Pond, Stanley Pond).
Nearby hiking trails: Burnt Meadow Mountain (6 miles north), Pleasant Mountain (hiking and skiing, 15 miles NE on rt 117), Douglas Hill (7 miles east), Sawyer Mountain (20 miles south).
Driving directions: (1) From Portland, drive west on route 25 to Standish. Two miles beyond Standish village, turn right at the traffic light onto route 113. Continue 22 miles on route 113 to the Saco River Bridge in Hiram village. Turn sharp left at the end of the bridge, and follow directions to trail heads provided in the Trail Guide. (2) From Fryeburg or North Conway, at the monument in Fryeburg, drive south on route 113 to Hiram, 13 miles. One half mile north of Hiram Village, at a small bridge, you will pass the Hiram Hill Road on the right (see Trail Guide). At Hiram village, turn right just before crossing the Saco River Bridge.
Mt Cutler is only about a one-hour drive from Portland and other coastal communities, but this mountain has many miles of hiking trails, great views, and a great variety of interesting terrain.
The front ledges rise immediately above Hiram Village, casting long shadows over the town by late afternoon. A walk of less than a half mile from the trail head brings hikers to an overlook of the entire village – close enough to still see traffic and canoes on the Saco River, but also an expansive eastward panorama. Continuing westward for another third of a mile brings visitors to the South-Facing Ledge, with majestic view down the Saco River Valley. On a very clear day, the view can reach as far as the coastal area south of Portland.
The trail continues as a ridge walk of almost 3/4 of a mile, with alternating views to north… to the White Mountain Range and Mt Washington… and to the south valleys. Other approach trails are available from the north and the south, and several loop trail options are possible. See the detailed Trail Guide for more information.
Best times to visit during each year.
These suggestions apply not only to Mt Cutler, but also to any other nearby mountains, such as Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield, or Pleasant Mountain in Bridgton.
Fall foliage season is a GREAT time to visit. This is usually the first three weeks in October, but this can vary a little depending upon weather each year. At this time bugs are not a problem, weather can be ideal, and the fall foliage colors can be awesome!
Summer in this part of Maine has excellent weather from late June until fall. Depending on the actual weather, any time during summer and early fall can be perfect in the woods. However, mosquitoes can be mean during June or early July… and sometimes for all summer, if weather is wet. Be prepared for mosquitoes with insect repellent (with DEET), head nets, suitable clothes, and willingness to endure some torment.
Winter has plenty of appeal, if you can accommodate the special needs of cold-weather clothing and foot-gear. Maine winters have lots of variety, so snowshoes may be necessary. Be aware that Barnes Trail is too steep for snowshoes in places, so… if snowshoes are needed… use North Trail or Saco Ridge Trail. At other times, weather can deposit a crust so strong that snowshoes are not needed. If you are driving in from the coast, the snow conditions in Hiram can be VERY different from what you find in Kennebunk or Portland, so be prepared for a variety of conditions in winter. In this part of Maine, winter can arrive before Thanksgiving and will probably last until mid-April.
Early spring can also a good time on the trails of Mt Cutler, but it can be difficult to decide when to come and what the conditions will be. The front ledges and high ridges bare of snow and ice long before the valleys and shaded hillsides. You may be able to have a great walk on the mountain when you cannot even drive into the parking area because of deep snow or mud problems.
When you might want to reconsider your plans….
Spring can be a problem. Mud Season can make back roads and trails a quagmire of slime. But that may be the least of your problems. Around mid-May-to-early-June is usually Black Fly Season. These small, black, flying pests stage endless Kamikaze attacks upon ears, eyes, scalp and any exposed flesh… and they even crawl inside clothes. They can form clouds that enclose any warm-blooded, living thing, and can make life totally miserable. Head nets can be effective, but be sure not to leave any cracks or crevices that allow entrance. Most insect repellent is ineffective… DEET works well for mosquitoes, but black flies seem to drink the stuff, if they can’t get to your blood.
Depending on the spring conditions, there can be another pest that is also a problem: wood ticks. While these do not carry the Lyme Disease infection of deer ticks, they can be very aggravating, and can necessitate a complete strip and body inspection. If not found, they latch onto skin tenaciously and draw blood to swell up from the original match-head size to look something like a big, puffy watermelon seed. If you encounter wood ticks, be especially sure to check any dogs; they may carry wood ticks for days.
Summer. While summer can be great, bugs can also be a miserable problem, especially during early summer, June and early July. A catalog of the bugs that can plague us…
* Mosquitoes, already mentioned, can develop in clouds. Fortunately, about 90% of the problem can be alleviated by use of insect repellents with DEET. (But this also means putting up with having an oily coating of DEET all over yourself.) Also, the winds on high ridges may help to scatter the pests. Hope for a windy day if there are mosquitoes.
* Deer flies (sometimes called “picked-wings”) develop later in the summer and can be around into August. They fly acrobatics around your head, dive-bomb onto your scalp or exposed flesh and seem to have big teeth.
* Horse flies. Bigger and slower than deer flies, but with a similar bite, and more satisfaction when you manage to nail one of them.
* Midges (Also called “minges” or “no-see-ums”) have a bite way out of size for their appearance. They are no bigger than a grain of pepper, but their bite can leave a nasty welt as bad as that of a mosquito. Nets and window screens are useless’ they go right through screening. DEET is somewhat effective, but if you encounter swarms of midges, the best thing to do is…. leave. Fortunately, these are not usually found on ridges or in open, dry wooded areas. They are commonly found in swampy areas or damp meadows. A grassy meadow may look like a nice place for camping, but evening may bring out clouds of no-see-ums, that can make existence impossible.
* Yellow-jackets. A relative of bees, the “yellow-jack” is bee-sized, not fuzzy, and has a pattern of black/yellow bands encircling the abdomen. They have similar stings to that of bees and wasps, but the problem is that they mount a concerted, organized attack. They usually nest in a home in the ground, and are more likely to be a problem to a farmer rather than a hiker. However, you might happen to step on a nest, and… if you do… just run away fast! You may get a few stings, but this should not be a problem unless you are allergic to bee stings. However, do not approach the nest, since they can be vicious in swarms.
* Bees and wasps. We have them, but these are not usually a problem unless you have an allergy to their stings. If you have an allergy, be sure to have your epi-pen or other remedy. Bees and wasps are usually not aggressive, unlike their yellow-jacket cousins.
* Wood ticks and deer ticks. Wood ticks, mentioned in “Spring” above, are more aggravation and disgusting as a “creepy-crawley” rather than a serious problem. We have never known of deer ticks at Mt Cutler, but they are close to our area, and they do carry a disease that can cause serious harm. Be sure to know the difference: Wood ticks are similar in size to a match head, while deer ticks are much smaller.
If all of these possible forms of pestilence have not discouraged you from visiting the Maine woods of these western foothills, then I am not doing my best to keep you away. But, seriously, just be aware of the possible problems… hopefully, your visit will not encounter any of these bugs, and you will have a great time. If these undesirable neighbors do pay you a visit when you are here, add this as a valuable life experience and come back at a time when conditions are more pleasant.
Winter. Already mentioned above, winter CAN be a great time to visit. But weather in Maine winters can be mean and life-threatening. If you do visit Mt Cutler in winter, be sure to have adequate clothes, suitable foot-gear, and good judgment. See the next section.
The following notices are posted on most trail signs on Mt Cutler.
* Trail distances listed are estimates. Hiking on mountain trails usually requires much more
time than walking by a road. Plan enough time for your visit.
* Although Mt. Cutler is not as large as many in the White Mountain range, trails on this mountain can be steep and challenging. Be sure that you are fit for hiking this trail, and that you have adequate foot gear.
* Weather can change quickly, so be prepared for windy, wet, cold conditions.
* Be sure that somebody knows where you are, and that you have a way to call for help if needed.
These warnings are serious.
We have had a rescue in just the past few years of a broken bone injury from a slip and fall.
In the White Mountains, at tree line on trails, signs have been posted with the following wording:
The area ahead has the worst weather in America.
Many have died here from exposure, even in summer.
Turn back now if the weather is bad.
Mt Cutler is much smaller than Mt Washington or Mt Lafayette, but weather can still turn bad and accidents can happen. Plan well, be careful, and use good judgment.
Respect private property
Most trails on Mount Cutler are on private property.
The owners of this property agree to allow you to hike these trails, explore the mountain, and enjoy the views.
Legal hunting and foraging is also permitted, but hunters should take special care for the safety of others using these lands, and for homeowners living nearby.
Camping is not allowed, except by specific permission of the owners.
No campfires are allowed, and wood-gathering is allowed only by owner permission.
Other than the permissions already described,
“Leave nothing but footprints; take nothing but pictures.”
Please respect the land and honor the rights of the property owners.
We hope that you have had a great experience hiking the trails, enjoying the views, and exploring the forests and hills of Mt Cutler.
You can help yourself and others to better enjoy this experience through efforts that will also be helpful to me.
* Not only take care of your own trash, but also… if possible… pick up any other trash that you find along the trails.
* If you see damage to trails, trail signs, or places along the trail, do the best to fix things to keep from having more damage, and report what you have found.
* Some trails have switchbacks to reduce erosion of the trails. Please stay on trails and encourage others to stay on trails. Short-cutting switchbacks makes paths for rainwater to follow, and washes out trails.
* Join a group like the Appalachian Mountain Club to encourage conservation of wild lands, and improve out-of-doors recreation opportunities.
* If you have questions or suggestions, get in touch or leave a note at the trail head.