Searsmont’s Ridge to River Trail

I’ve teamed with my friend Steve to explore some lesser-known trails in this southwest corner of Waldo County this past couple of Covid-19 weeks.

On this windy, stellar May weekday, we spotted a car at both ends of the Ridge to River Trail in Searsmont, ME. The trail is a 4-mile footpath that includes travel along the banks of the St. George River before it goes up and over Appleton Ridge. It is an up and down experience with varied habitats and is a segment of the Georges Highland Path, a 50-mile network of footpaths in the Midcoast region that is maintained by the Georges River Land Trust.

Download  printable trail map

The GRLT publishes this:
“The Ridge to River Trail in Searsmont connects our Gibson Preserve to the Canal Path via a five-mile footpath with significant stretches along the Georges River and fantastic views of the river valley as seen from the top of Appleton Ridge. This trail does have some strenuous sections, particularly the ascent of Appleton Ridge, but the extra effort is well worth it.   If hiked together, the Ridge to River Trail, Canal Path, and the trails on the Gibson and Appleton Preserves offer 11 miles of hiking for those interested in longer outdoor adventures”.

If you decide to walk from the lower end from the Ghent Road parking lot on the Georges River up and over Appleton Ridge ( which is the opposite of what we did), then read Aislinn Sarnacki’s ONE MINUTE HIKE report of her adventure. It is well worth a read and has a video clip as well.

Blue blazes mark the trail -approaching Appleton Ridge

After studying the map we decided that we wanted to end our hike with a descent from Appleton Ridge, ending at the Ghent Road parking lot. We reached the west trailhead by starting at the Fraternity Village Store in Searsmont to drive west on Route 173 (Woodmans Mill Road) for about 2 miles and stopped at the left on Ripley Corner Road (which appears as Riley Corner Road on Google Maps).  We parked on the shoulder of the side road and walked down the gravel road to cross a wooden snowmobile bridge.

We found the start of the trail confusing, flooded in parts, and not marked.

Careful!

My GPS helped orient us toward the river. Things immediately got confusing with no signage at the first fork.   Looking back, I bet that the right we missed was the 1.2-mile bypass that would have kept us out of the wide expanses of overflow that punctuated the main road. Nevertheless, we skirted the flooded areas without submerging our boots and passed along the main muddy road with GPS in hand and eventually went left where blue taped branches identified the actual trail….

..which was excellent!

A spot to sit

The following photos may convey our excitement at traveling along this historic waterway. Both Steve and I talked about coming back and canoeing this portion of the river and doing a little fishing as well.

One of the open places along the Georges River

 

Getting through

 

Large pool

 

Wild walking ahead
descending through tree farm approaching Ghent Rd. parking lot

Next, we will explore the GRLT’s Canal Path.

NOTE: The following update was via an added comment by a volunteer from GRLT: The Ridge to River trail begins at the Gibson Preserve accessed from Cedar Lane off of West Appleton Road. Follow the blue blazes through the Gibson Preserve. The Preserve ends at the old discontinued road(the one you walked in on from Ripley Bridge which is no longer used as an access). Directly across the road is the beginning of the R2R trail which ends at Ghent Road near Robbins Mill. The map on on website needs to be updated. And apologies for the blowdowns – we’re still in the process of cleaning up from winter. It’s next on the list.