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Waterboro Barrens Preserve

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Located in a pitch pine and oak shrub barren, this preserve offers a network of old roads, now designated for non-motorized use, in a truly unique landscape setting not found elsewhere in Maine.
Trail Activity
Snowshoeing Cross-country-skiing Walking Hiking
4.40 miles, Network
Easy, Moderate
Shapleigh, Waterboro
Dirt/Forest Floor
Not Permitted


Just 25 miles southwest of Portland, this serene woodland preserve is home to the state’s best example of a boreal pine barrens. Up to 90 feet of nutrient-poor sandy soils filter water into groundwater aquifers and pristine ponds, streams and bogs. The pitch pine and scrub oak community is adapted to thrive after periodic fires, which keep fire-intolerant trees and woody shrubs from taking over the barrens. The preserve was established in the early 1990’s when the Conservancy purchased the land from a developer who had planned a large recreational-residential complex. Trails are located on old woods roads and range from easy to moderately strenuous. Each trail is marked to indicate allowed uses.

The strange and beautiful forests of this preserve are primarily pitch pine and scrub oak underlain by lowbush blueberry and woodland sedge. As many as 11 species of rare butterflies and moths that feed on the barrens vegetation have been documented on the preserve, including the pine barrens buckmoth. Whip-poor-will and common nighthawk, both ground-nesting birds in decline throughout their range, nest in open areas within the pine barrens.

The topography of Waterboro Barrens originates from glacial outwash and features debris left behind by retreating glacial ice resulting in kettlehole heaths, hillsides covered in towering old-growth pitch pines, and moraines (glacial hills) covered in dense stands of scrub oak. There is also a leatherleaf bog, a small gorge, black spruce swamps, and miles of frontage on three ponds and the Little Ossipee River.

The Nature Conservancy uses controlled burning at Waterboro Barrens as a management and restoration tool. Visitors may encounter recently burned areas that result from our management program. In addition, some areas of forest have recently been thinned to reduce flammable fuels and provide firebreaks between the preserve and neighboring communities.

Other Information

Ticks are common, so please dress accordingly and check yourself after leaving the preserve.

Please adhere to the following policies while using the preserve:

  • Trails are marked for their designated uses at each intersection
  • Please stay on the trails and respect areas marked as private
  • No collecting of plants or animals
  • No pets
  • Carry out all litter
  • No fires, smoking or camping
  • Open Dawn to Dusk

Trail Manager

Visit The Nature Conservancy online for more information or contact:

The Nature Conservancy, Southern Maine Field Office
572 Wire Road
Wells, ME 04090
Phone: (207) 251-2256
View website

Nearby Events


Trail Tips

Dispose of Waste Properly
Pack it in, pack it out. This goes for trash, leftover food, toilet paper, and hygiene products. If you brought it into nature, please bring it out.

Trailhead Information

From Waterboro, take West Road 6 miles north to Ross Corner. Turn right on Newfield Road and continue one mile to Round Pond Road (a dirt road) on the right. Take Round Pond Road 0.8 miles to Buff Brook Road (indicated where the road takes a sharp left). Turn left. The parking lot is 0.7 miles more on the left at the end of Bluff Brook Road.

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