The West Gardiner Nature Trail provides access to a parcel of land owned by the town of West Gardiner. The trail was built as part of an Eagle Scout project in 1995 by Boy Scout Troop 615. The scouts continue to enhance and maintain the trails.
From Gardiner, take High Street/Highland Avenue 5.3 miles. Turn left onto Spears Corner Road (across from Townhouse Road). The trail begins on the right side of the road 0.2 miles down, just beyond the West Gardiner Town Office, across from the playground of the Helen Thompson School. A large sign marking the trailhead is visible from the road. There is room to park along side the road. Maps of the area are available in the town office.
Total time needed: 1-2 hours
Distance: 0.6 miles (one-way)
From the sign, the trail heads into a forest of pine, fir on a wide dirt path. It crosses a small stream over a length of blue pipe, traveling through a wet area a short distance before rising uphill to drier ground through a pine and fir forest. A right fork leads to Camp Dirt, an open area with a fire pit. Staying to the left, the Eagle trail climbs uphill gradually through a pine and poplar forest, crossing planks trhough a wet area. The trail crosses a stone wall, angles left and comes to a T intersection with a wider, more road-like trail. A right turn leads to the West Gardiner Transfer Station, while a left continues on the Eagle Trail, across a powerline corridor and into a dark forest of mixed hardwood, fir and pine. The trail is fairly level, though it passes through some wet areas that appear quite well-used by ATVs. The trail comes to a left fork leading to the ATV trailhead, while straight continues on the Eagle Trail. Another left fork leads to Cat Camp, a fire ring with a log bench tucked into the woods. A little farther along Eagle Trail ends at a four-way intersection. A right turn leads to Porcupine Trail, a left to Snake hill, topped with a covered shelter 100 or so paces into the woods, and a privy just downhill, and straight ahead is the Bog Trail.
Distance: 0.7 miles
From the four-way intersection at the terminus of Eagle Trail, the Bog Trail heads downhill toward the Beaver Bog at the southwest corner of the property. As the trail approaches the bog, a left fork leads a short distance along the bog's edge in the woods before dead-ending. Turning right at the fork the Bog Trail crosses a wooden bridge, climbs uphill through the dark pine woods and out onto the pipeline corridor. The trail follows the corridor about 100 yards to the intersection with the Porcupine Trail on the right.
Distance: 0.2 miles
The Porcupine Trail connects the two ends of the Bog Trail, forming a loop. From the far end of the Bog Trail, along the pipeline corridor, the Porcupine Trail goes right into the woods, traveling downhill though a hemlock grove, across a small stream on a wooden bridge, then uphill again to the four-way intersection with Bog Trail, Eagle Trail and the spur to Snake Hill.
The deep dark woods along the West Gardiner Nature Trail as well as the various side spurs to points of interest can make this trail a thrilling adventure for older kids, and the full distance should be easily managed by the eight and older crowd. The trails are wide and level, with plenty of room for walking side-by-side with little ones, and not a lot of up-and-down climbing. Though not difficult, the trail does not offer options for looping back to the trailhead if smaller legs grow tired partway through.