Updated: May 19
Located in Central Maine, Dorothea Dix Park in Hampden is the perfect spot for some easy trails that are fairly well marked. This is a local spot that I have driven by quite a few times throughout my lifetime and had no idea there were multiple trail options once you get into the tree line side of the park.
The park is the birthplace site of Dorothea Lynde Dix and was purchased by the Dorothea Dix Memorial Association in 1899. The park was deeded to the state of Maine in 1953 to be used as a picnic area. The town of Hampden took over the maintainace of the park in 1980 and continues to own and maintain it to this day.
Dorothea Dix was known for the great strides she made in creating equality for people with mental illness, those incarcerated in jails as well as soliders who were wounded in battles of the Civil War. Her main focus was on those who were mentally ill, in which she tried to reform systems not only in the United States but abroad as well. If you have done any driving around the central Maine region, you have probably seen her name on a building or two.
The town of Hampden has done a great job with the upkeep of this park. You can also tell that there has been a lot of effort put into making more trails from the park to different locations as well as the nice signs that are displayed at intersections. I can't believe I have been by this park so many times in my lifetime and never knew there were trails out behind the picnic area!
During our visit at the park, Brock and I started on the Black Locust trail. We continued on to make a loop out of this trail as many others have done. The trails are fairly well marked and bring you out behind some houses but these trails look to be moderately traveled. Once you reach an opening with some benches and multiple signs there are multiple directions you can go in. One way looks like it leads to a roadway which I think many locals access the trails from that point.
This loop skirts you near the Penobscot River. Most of it is fairly flat and suitable for most anyone. The trails are dog friendly (as long as you are a courteous dog owner) and are nice and wide. The only section that may get a little confusing is after the large open area that you head down towards the water, there are no signs after this point. I also did not see any trail maps at the beginning of trail at the tree line close to where you park. I do have the map downloaded and attached that you can use with ease to know where you are going.
I really enjoyed walking down over the bank and having the wide open view of the Penobscot River. There was a nice little run off section that Brock and I crossed to get down to this area and it was worth it. The sun came out and was shining not long after we made it to this point. This is definitely the hidden gem portion of this trail system.
Overall, this loop took just shy of an hour and was 1.7 miles. (We did take some time to enjoy the view at the river and take a lot of photos and video). I thought there were going to be sections that had a lot more water, however, it was fairly dry for early spring. If balance is an issue for you, you might not like this trail only because it is heavily wooded and the only "view" per say would be after you go down hill over some roots and cross a small water section. I highly recommend this for a fairly flat, season opener for those who are newer to enjoying central Maine trail systems.
-Amanda & Brock