Pisgah Hill Preserve

This preserve is owned and managed by the Royal River Conservation Trust with two separate trailheads, one at 74 Dougherty Road (“South”), and the other at 159 North Pownal Road (“North”), both in New Gloucester. The preserve includes old quarries, distinct and varied ledges, mixed forests, and beautiful ground cover of lichen and mosses. The ridgeline offers winter-time views, including beautiful sunsets and moonrises. Every winter we invite you to join us on our annual Full Moon Trek. The northern-most section of the preserve near the powerline includes a large wetland complex with several beaver ponds, significant vernal pools, and rich habitat. Most visitors explore this preserve on the trails that begin at the trailhead at 74 Dougherty Road, New Gloucester.

More Information


What does “Pisgah” mean?

Some translators of the Quran and the biblical book of Deuteronomy translate Pisgah (Hebrew: פִּסְגָּה or Arabic جَبَل نِيبُو) as a name of a mountain, usually referring to Mount Nebo, today a Christian holy place within modern Jordan’s boundaries. Other references suggest the entire range of small hilltops. The Hebrew word פִּסְגָּה literally means “summit”. The Pisgah range has sharp-appearing quarried rocks; some sources translate Pisgah and biblical etymology as “quarried rock,” or “divided rock,” or “fragment of hewn rock.”

The region also known as the land Moab lies directly east of the Jordan River and just northeast of the Dead Sea. Mount Nebo is the highest among a handful of Pisgah summits; an arid cluster of hilltops on the western edge of the Trans-Jordanian Plateau. Arabic names for Pisgah include Fasga or Phasga. Mount Nebo in Arabic is جَبَل نِيبُو and in Hebrew is הַר נְבוֹ

From Pisgah in the Quran and the Bible, Moses had a westerly view of the Holy Land, his famed view of the Promised Land, across the Jordan River valley and the West Bank and to the sea. And there Moses died. As told in the Book of Numbers, seven altars were built on the summits of the Pisgah range.

From RRCT’s Pisgah Hill, the trees have largely obscured the views in the summer. In the winter, you can still see across the Royal River valley and its West Bank to Mount Washington, and also toward Casco Bay. RRCT Pisgah Hill’s ledges and quarries are notable on the preserve’s hiking trails. Modern altars built on RRCT’s Pisgah Hill summits include stone cairns and campfires for s’mores.

Trails, Trailheads, and Accessibility

74 Dougherty Road, New Gloucester: A 1.2 mile loop trail begins at a trailhead at 74 Dougherty Road in New Gloucester; the trailhead parking lot is off-road and plowed in winter. This primitive trail with rocks and roots includes one stream crossing and a few short steep ledges that require some agility. The trail is ideal for trekking or snowshoes with minor elevation gain. The trailhead on Dougherty Road (also known as Chadsey Road in Pownal) is 0.5 miles south of Route 231 (Intervale Road) on the left. Or from Allen Road in Pownal, follow Chadsey Road (becomes Dougherty Road) for 0.8 miles, and look for the trailhead and four car parking lot on the right. From North Yarmouth, the West Pownal Road becomes Chadsey Road which becomes Dougherty Road.

159 North Pownal Road, New Gloucester: A short trail spur and trailhead at 159 North Pownal Road is primarily designed to get off-trail enthusiasts including hunters and foragers across the powerline and onto the large undeveloped parcel; it is also a quiet trail for a short on-trail hike, or for convenient access to a mossy picnic ledge, beaver pond, and vernal pools. There is a small parking lot marked only by a kiosk well-away from the road. The primitive narrow trail includes ledges, roots, and rocks. 

Sweetser & Allen Roads, Pownal: Backcountry access to the Pisgah Hill Preserve exists across a Town of Pownal woodlot with frontage on both Sweetser and Allen Roads in Pownal. Please respect neighbors if you explore this undeveloped access point for hunting or other reasons.

Rules, Regulations, and Hunting

  • The preserve is open for hiking, snowshoeing, and backcountry skiing on or off trail. Bikes are not allowed due to trail and bridge construction standards.
  • Tenting, camping, and overnight parking are not allowed.
  • Visitors are prohibited from having fires. (RRCT hosts one winter fire each year at the summit, with full municipal permitting and emergency management protocol.)
  • Equestrian use is by permission only, respecting the capacity and conditions of the land; stream crossings, stream approaches, and parking lots are not built for equestrian use.
  • Dogs are welcome, but on leash or voice control, with strict attention to pet waste removal. Due to deer wintering, we ask that dogs be on leash during periods of deep snow; deer struggle to maintain energy during the winter; dogs and humans cause them to expend this precious energy. When fawns are born in the Spring, we ask to please keep dogs on leash as well.
  • Please respect various postings on private abutting land; many of these postings aim to protect nearby farm animals from dogs or hunters.
  • Safe and responsible hunting on the preserve is encouraged. We promote safe hunting experiences and protect deer by educating users of the hiking trail and their dogs to be respectful of hunters and deer during season, including winter deer yard season. As a courtesy and also noting Maine law, please call RRCT prior to any trapping on the parcel. Hikers should always wear orange during all hunting seasons, on all hikes.
  • Smoking is prohibited at all RRCT preserves.

RRCT & You: Updates, Alerts, and Cautions

  • RRCT & You: RRCT relies heavily on volunteers and help from trail users like you. You may know more recent information about trail and Preserve conditions than we do – Please consider filling out a Conditions Report. We invite you to be a thoughtful steward by acting as a respectful visitor, adhering to posted rules, and following Leave No Trace practices. RRCT’s small staff and volunteer Trail Crew is able to inspect and maintain RRCT preserves infrequently; we ask you to report to us any issues you observe that you cannot address yourself, and especially to update us on any safety or public safety issues. Please help us on your visits with litter, pet waste, and minor trail issues. We also invite any information on needed or suggested updates to this webpage. Reach out in any way, most simply with an email to steward@rrct.org
  • SAFE HUNTING: Safe and responsible hunting on the preserve is encouraged. We promote safe hunting experiences and protect deer by educating users of the hiking trail and their dogs to be respectful of hunters and deer during season, including winter deer yard season. Hikers should always wear orange during all hunting seasons, on all hikes.
  • RESPONSIBLE PET OWNERSHIP: Our preserves provide valuable access for pets and pet owners. We are always concerned by pet waste left behind, and by dogs not controlled by their owners. Please help us create a culture of respect and responsibility.
  • NEIGHBORS’ POSTINGS: Please respect various postings on private abutting land; many of these postings aim to protect nearby farm animals from dogs or hunters.

Conservation History and Ownership

RRCT is the landowner of the preserve, while abutting parcels are owned by private landowners who donated conservation easements to RRCT, and by the Town of Pownal.

With the support of many donors and funding sources RRCT acquired or placed conservation easements on 200 acres between 2010 and 2023. Combined with an adjacent 94-acre parcel owned by the Town of Pownal, the preserve is part of a public landscape of nearly 300 acres. More additions are in the works for later years. This project sets the stage for even more trail links and loops and the potential to protect a larger block of undeveloped habitat, possibly connecting to the Bradbury-Pineland Corridor in the future.

Stewardship of the preserve includes annual monitoring of conservation easements, trail construction and maintenance, winter plowing, habitat enhancements including wood duck boxes, and more. The preserve frequently hosts group trips and school trips for hiking, nature walks, vernal pool observations, and more. Contact RRCT staff if you’d like help organizing a group or school trip.

Funding for acquisition and capital improvements has come from RRCT members, private donors, the Land for Maine’s Future program, the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, the Recreational Trails Program (Maine BPL), the Maine Natural Resources Conservation Program (Maine DEP), charitable donations of land, and more.

Natural Resources, Habitat, and Historic Interpretation

Large resilient unfragmented habitat block: While the preserve’s public landscape is nearly 300 acres, Pisgah Hill falls in the context of one of Cumberland County’s larger unfragmented habitat blocks. The Pisgah Hill forested block is connected across a few rural roads and conserved farms to even larger conservation priorities areas including Runaround Pond, the New Gloucester Intervale, Bradbury Mountain, and Pineland. All together, this area is identified by The Nature Conservancy and others as a priority for conservation due to predicted climate resilience (large undeveloped forests with varied geography) and wildlife. At the center of the triangle between Portland, Lewiston, and Brunswick, this green forested corner of New Gloucester, Pownal, and Durham remains rural due to strong conservation partnerships and private landowner stewardship.

Ledges and forests: The preserve was assembled from more than six (so far) wood lots and separate ownerships. Generally, the southern part of the preserve has older forests with poor soils and rocky ledges, and the northern part of the preserve was harvested early in the 21st century, with good soils and many old logging roads supporting resilient forests. The preserve has surprisingly few invasive plants, due to its healthy native forests. One small pine plantation next to the Dougherty Road parking lot is the exception, with a monoculture that invites invasive plants.

Quarry Brook & beavers: Quarry Brook is the small tributary stream that begins near North Pownal Road, feeds beaver ponds and wetland complexes, and then continues through the Preserve to Dougherty Road toward Chandler Brook — the so-called Middle Branch of the Royal River. In the preserve, Quarry Brook has a widely changing size from rainstorm to rainstorm, season to season, or depending upon beaver activity. As the preserve grows with new acquisitions, the preserve protects an increasing percentage of the subwatershed of the upper reaches of Quarry Brook.

Deer travel corridor and other habitat: The eastern banks of Quarry Brook are the rough location of forested corridor; the lower elevations are more popular for deer than the rocky ridge line. Notable ledge outcrops and other slopes and old trees provide dens or good habitat for other mammals especially fox and porcupines. Beavers regularly dam Quarry Brook. Bear and moose occasionally pass through the forests on some years. Turkey, wood ducks, turtles, and many other species are regular residents of the Preserve. RRCT installed wood duck boxes in the beaver flowage in 2017 with the help of Ducks Unlimited, supporting productive nests in 2018 and beyond.

Old quarries: Various small quarries on the Pisgah Hill Preserve helped build farm foundations and other structures in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In 1867 deeds, the Town of New Gloucester had quarrying rights while the landowner reserved enough granite for his own new barn. In many cases, the quarries were merely good places to harvest ledge outcrops. The loop trail off Dougherty Road crosses one of the quarries — look for numerous scattered granite blocks left behind under ledges.

Lichens and mosses: The ledges along the Dougherty Road loop trail are covered with fragile but beautiful lichens, mosses, lady slippers, and ferns. Please stay on the trail to help protect these sensitive plants.

Significant Vernal Pools: In 2014, Maine DEP issued a determination that vernal pools near the beaver ponds off North Pownal Road are significant and critical terrestrial habitat. (Pool ID #2200). These vernal pools are identified breeding ground for Wood Frogs and Spotted Salamanders.