Directions: From Village Street in Jefferson, take North Mountain Road two miles, turn right onto Rocky Mountain Road and go .2 miles. The gate to Rocky Mountain Park will be on the left (Katie Way). Park near the gate, but do not block access, or park in the parking area located on the right off North Mountain Road before the intersection with Rocky Mountain Road, located about 100 yards after North Mountain Road turns to dirt.
The Damariscotta Lake Watershed Association acquired the 230-acre West Branch Preserve in Somerville in 2006. The parcel connects with West Branch, Jefferson to form the 470-acre West Branch Preserve.
The former game park (Rocky Mountain Park) has recovered nicely with grass fields and young fir trees springing up. The new growth is mixed with stands of older hardwoods and softwoods making for ideal habitat for a number of wildlife and bird species. Seen on a recent hike were two white tail deer, a garter snake, a flock of turkeys, and a golden eagle.
The 470-acre West Branch Preserve borders 5000 feet of the West Branch Stream, which flows into Damariscotta Lake, by way of the Davis Stream. Some land on the east side of Davis Stream has been put into conservation easement to further protect the watershed. The preserve is divided into three sections, two located in Jefferson, on the east and west side of North Mountain Road, and the third section in Somerville.
There is a network of trails linking the three sections of the preserve. The trail hub connecting the sections is located at the small parking area off North Mountain Road, just before the Mountain Road intersection.
West Branch Somerville has some unique features. It borders the West Branch stream, and has three brooks that run through it. The largest is Clifford Brook, which has the remains of an old mill site along its banks. The mill site is located to the left off a new wooden bridge. Will Jones Brook also crosses the property, as does an unnamed brook.
From the parking area on North Mountain Road, enter the woods at a rock blazed with blue and follow the path about 50 feet and turn right onto the blue blazed trail. This narrow trail meets up with a wider mowed trail. Take the wider trail to the left (blue blazed goes right) and follow until come to a pile of small branches on the trail. Look left for an orange plastic streamer. The trail to West Branch Somerville is blazed in orange.
The trail goes over a set of bog bridges, past a large rock outcropping and down over a set of steps to the Rocky Mountain Road. Across the road is a gap in the fence and a narrow trail that connects to the main trail, or turn right on Rocky Mountain Road and walk about 50 yards to the main gate. Hikers can also walk from the parking area along North Mountain Road and Rocky Mountain Road to the main gate.
To enter the preserve, undo the clip on the gate, being sure to re-clip after entering the fence. Hike along the gravel road about 100 yards, past a small covered bridge and look to the right to see buffalo grazing in a pasture. Also in the pasture is a white building with a motel sign on top.
Although there are numerous trails on the property, they have not been marked or cut this summer because of wet weather, and are difficult to follow. The main trail has seen recent vehicle traffic so is relatively easy to follow. From the fence by the buffalo, follow the main trail (follow tire tracks) into the woods. Shortly, walkers will come to a field filled with ledge.
The main trail stays to the right along the tree line and up over the hill past a small manmade pond. It then enters the woods. The grass on the trail is relatively high and it can be slow going in places. Watch out for ruts from tire tracks.
A former hunting blind can be seen on a hill to the right. The trail then crosses a boggy area and comes to an old wooden bridge at an unnamed brook. From the bridge look back and a second hunting blind can be seen.
The main trail re-enters the woods and comes to a fence that runs up over a hill to the left (un-marked side trail). Hike straight ahead about 100 yards to a new bridge. From the bridge, look left to the old mill site.
The mill site consists of two sets of large rocks piled up on both sides of the brook in square formation, and gives a glimpse of life of an earlier era.
To hike through to the second gate, cross the bridge and hike straight ahead past a small gravel pit on the left and up over a small hill. The main trail comes to a ‘T ‘at a tall metal fence, with a stonewall on the other side. Turn right and follow the trail along the fence to the corner of the property and the Cabin Road gate, located off Jones Road. Return along the same path, or walk a small loop back to the gravel pit.
To hike the small loop, from the Cabin Road gate, take a trail that cuts sharply back toward the path hikers came in on (do not follow the fence).
Go right at the ‘Y’ in the trail. Stay right at the next junction, and hike until you see the fence and a fence post straight ahead. Before you get to the fence, there is a trail to the right (small tree down across). Take this right and follow until it joins the main trail at the gravel pit. Turn left and return to the main gate on the same route.
Allow about two hours to hike out to the Cabin Road gate and back using the loop trail. This is a perfect hike for families with children, with buffalo watching, butterfly and frog catching and brooks with enough current to race small sticks on.