This 100 acre wildlife preserve was obtained by the City of Saco in 2007 under the Land for Saco's Future program. The sanctuary comprises a diverse confluence of ecological habitats including upland softwood and hardwood forest, marsh, stream, vernal pools, bog and fields. Due to the fragility of these natural systems, please do not litter or remove any plants or flowers. The preserve is surrounded by private property. Please respect that and stay on the marked trails and other delineated public areas. Beware that porcupines are common throughout the area.
Directions to trail head: From Main Street in Saco travel west on North Street (which becomes Route 112 or Buxton Road). Follow this for 5.9 miles. Turn left onto a dirt driveway at 464 Buxton Road. Turn right into a dirt parking lot and you'll see the trailhead kiosk.
Merritt Gay, the farmer who once owned this land, named the Sylvan Trail. The word "sylvan" is derived from the Latin word for woodland. The trail follows an old logging road through a mixture of deciduous and evergreen trees until reaching a large field. The trail follows the edge of the field and re-enters the woods.
Length (round trip): 1.7 miles
Directions to the trailhead: from downtown Saco, go north for appoximately 4 miles on Main Street which turns into Rt 1 North. Just past the Rt 98/Cascade Road turnoff, turn left on Flag Pond Road. Go 0.7 mile and immediately before the turnpike bridge, turn right into the parking area (approximately 150 Flag Pond Road).
Estmated walking time: 1 hour
This area consists of two parcels of land off Route 1 north of downtown Saco. During much of the 18th century this land was owned by the famous Pepperell Family of Saco, British loyalists who were on the losing side of the Revolutionary War. It was acquired by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts after the war and in the late 1790's sold to Isaac Scammon who with his family established a homestead nearby on the Portland Road. This property passed from the Scammon Family to many others over the years, and in 1935 became the home of the Brandt family.
Directions to the south trailhead: From downtown Saco travel approximately 1.5 miles north on Route 1. Just after going beneath the John Andrews ETA bridge, turn left into a small parking lot where you will see the trailhead kiosk.
Directions to the north trailhead: From Downtown Saco travel approximately 2 miles north on Route 1. Turn left into the parking lot of the Citgo station. Park near the trailhead kiosk on the far right of the parking lot.
Atlantic Way, Plymouth and Vines Trails
These trails lead walkers into the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge from two subdivisions that surround the refuge marshland. The Atlantic Way trail provides a fairly straight parth from the Wildwood Drive subdivision through a portion of the wildlife refuge to Seaside Avenue. The Plymouth and Vines trails connect two different parts of the Plymouth Settlement subdivisions with the Atlantic Way Trail.
Atlantic Way Trail
The Atlantic Way trail passes throught a pleasant mixed growth of young pine and white and gray birch eventually opening into the Goosefare Brook marsh.
Directions to western trailhead (off Wildwood Drive): From downtown Saco go north a few blocks to the traffic light at Beach Street. Turn right on Beach (Route 9) and travel 2.4 miles. Turn left onto Wildwood Drive and turn right onto Atlantic Way. You'll see the trailhead kiosk directly ahead of you. Park on the shoulder.
Directions to the eastern trailhead (Seaside Avenue): Follow the above directions, but instead of turning on Wildwood, continue straight for another .4 miles and turn left on Bayview. Go .7 miles and turn left at the stop sign onto Seaside. Go .2 miles and look for the trailhead kiosk and a wide shoulder for parking on your left.
Estimated walking time (round trip): 40 minutes.
The Plymouth Trail extends from the trailhead on Plymouth Drive , connects with the Vines Trail and terminates at the Atlantic Way Trail about halfway along its length.
Length: 0.45 mile
Directions to the trailhead: From downtown Saco, go north a few blocks to the traffic light at Beach Street. Travel 2.8 miles and turn left onto Bayview Drive.
In 0.3 miles, turn left onto Plymouth Drive. Travel 0.4 mile and look for the parking area and trail head kiosk on your right.
Estimated walking time: 15 minutes
The Vines trail extends from the Vines Road trailhead to the short link trail that connects it with Plymouth Trail.
Length: 0.38 mile
Diretions to the trailhead: Follow the above directions, but travel for 0.4 mile on Bayview before turning left onto Vines Road. In another 0.2 mile you will see the trail sign on your right. Park on the shoulder of Vines Road.
Estimated walking time: 10 minutes
Ferry Landing Trail
This loop starts and ends on Ferry Road a few hundred yards west of Camp Ellis and features three large tupelo trees of the type normally found in southern climates. The trail passes through a mixed hardwood-softwood forest.
There is another short trail called the Walther Pond spur opposite the point where Ferry Landing Trail leaves the woods road. The trail leads to the edge of a small vernal pool where there are 2 granite benches.
Length (round trip): 0.7 mile
Directions to trailhead: From downtown Saco, go a few blocks north on Main Street to the traffic light and turn right onto Beach Street. Travel for 3.8 miles. Turn left into the parking area just past Landing Road.
Estimated walking time: 30 minutes
Ted Wells Memorial Trail
This trail leads through a forest of white pines, red maples and cinnamon ferns and transitions through an area of mixed shrubs and pitch pines. Several varieties of birds live within the varied habitat this oasis provides. The boardwalk and viewing platform have been permanently removed, but the trail is open.
Length (roundtrip): 0.5 mile
Directions to trailhead: From downtown Saco, go north on Route 1 and then right on Ocean Park Road (Route 5). Pass throught the "Halfway Intersection" in Old Orchard Beach and continue on Temple Avenue toward Ocean Park. Cross the railroad tracks and turn right on Royal Street. Drive to the end where you'll find parking in front of the Oceanwood Camp office. Walk to the right of the camp's main building and look for the swimming pool in back. The trailhead kiosk is to the left of the pool at the edge of the woods.
Estimated walking time: 30 minutes
NOTICE: Boardwalk and platform have been permanently removed, but a rerouted trail is now open.
This historic area has been popular since the late 1800's for picnicking, fishing, hiking and viewing the falls. When the area containing the falls was sold by the Aube family who owned and operated the Cascade Restaurant and Cabins to Elliot Chamberlain in 2005, Mr. Chamberlain generously donated 14 acres of land surrounding the falls to the City of Saco.
The Trout Pond Trail is a gently sloping trail (about .25 mile) surfaced with stone dust that allows easy access for wheelchairs, elderly and children.
If you follow the trail from the parking lot and turn right, you will come to a large clearing. At the far right the trail to the falls begins. This section was greatly improved in the summer of 2014 by a group from the Rotary Club of Biddeford-Saco. When you reach the bottom, you'll be rewarded with a spectacular view of the falls. This area masqueraded as the Alaskan Yukon to film an old silent movie back in the 1930's.
If you are visiting in the summer or fall you can usually cross the brook here to the other side. Once there you'll find a trail that leads to the top of the falls where you can look for the old bear cage from a tourist amusement area in the 1950's as well as the the old dam that created Trout Pond.
Directions to trailhead: from downtown Saco, take Route 1 north to Cascade Road (Route 98). Take a right onto Cascade Road and go about 1/4 mile and turn left into the parking lot.
Estimated walking time: 15 minutes for the Trout Pond Loop and up to an hour for for all trails.
The Mary Merrill Trail is our first new trail in nine years and our first on the Saco River. This short trail on the grounds of The Ecology School leads to a scenic overlook with a beautiful river view. A side entrance on Simpson Road connects with Stone Bridge Trail and Horton Woods, so you can now hike all the way from Buxton Road to the river. For this trail, we built three short bridges and a 70-foot safety fence, to prevent accidents on the steep bluffs overlooking the Saco River and Stackpole Creek. Many thanks go to The Ecology School, Saco Parks & Recreation and The Saco Conservation Commission, which is also working on some interpretive signage.
Directions to trailhead: From Main Street in Saco travel west on North Street (which becomes Route 112 or Buxton Road). After 4.9 miles turn left onto Simpson Road and follow for 1.7 miles to the Ecology School driveway at 184 Simpson Road. Turn left into the driveway and after 450ft turn right and follow the side road to the dirt parking lot where you'll see the trailhead kiosk.
Estimated walking time: 15 minutes for the Mary Merril Trail and up to an hour for all trails leading to Horton Woods parking lot.
Wildwood & Branch Brook
This trail leads walkers into the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge between two subdivisions that surround the refuge marshland. Saco Bay Trails started rehabilitating Wildwood Trail, an abandoned logging road in Rachel Carson, in 2020 with the first of two truss bridges. Last year, a second bridge was built and a kiosk at the Wildwood Drive trailhead was added. This trail is 0.85 miles one way and terminates at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge border near Ocean Greens Drive. (Please note, there is no public trailhead at Ocean Greens Drive. Please respect private property)
Branch Brook Loop (Opening Spring 2022)
In the fall of 2021, Saco Bay Trails received permission from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to upgrade this informal side trail with a spectacular view of Goosefare Brook Marsh. Improvements have begun on this trail and it will be finished in the Spring of 2023 with the new trail signage and additional bog bridging.
Directions to trailhead: From downtown Saco go north a few blocks to the traffic light at Beach Street. Turn right on Beach (Route 9) and travel 2.4 miles. Turn left onto Wildwood Drive and turn right onto Atlantic Way. You'll see the trailhead kiosk directly ahead of you. Park on the shoulder.
Estimated walking time (round trip): 45 minutes.