Puzzle Mountain, Newry

This is a beautiful and well-hiked mountain with spectacular views from its 3,133-foot summit. The 3-mile trail to the top is fairly gradual and easy for the first 1.5 miles, before getting quite a bit steeper for the second half, with some scrambling up ledges. Views start to pop up after the second mile. At the summit, the trail continues north, along the long-distance Grafton Loop trail. The elevation gained is about 2,330 feet, according to my GPS.

There is an alternative, and longer, route to the top, the Woodsum Spur Trail. Though I saw the first trail intersection, half a mile from the summit, I couldn’t see where it met up with the main path close to the summit. The AMC and Mahoosuc Land Trust recommend hikers follow it down rather than up. I’ll try to find it again when there is no snow on the ground.

Directions: From the intersection of  Route 2 and  Route 26 in Newry, follow Route 26 4.7 miles north. You will see the Grafton Loop Trail sign and the parking area are will be on the right,  across from Eddy Road on the left. 


Sunday River Hiking Trails, Newry

Sunday River ski resort has created a system of well-marked hiking and mountain biking trails across its vast ski area. The trails encompass its eight peaks. For those who don’t want to hike from the mountain bottom, you can take a chairlift half way up, to Peak Lodge. I recommend you bring a print-out of the official map because it can be a bit difficult  at times to follow the right way, considering you’re navigating a labyrinth of downhill ski trails.

While many of the hiking trails following gravel roads up and down the ski trails, there is a great forested foot path on the east side of the mountain, departing from the parking lot of the Grand Summit Hotel. From the trail head, you start off on Trail I (all the hiking paths all lettered), which takes you to Trail J, the best trail on the mountain. J is steep and rooty, but takes hikers through lovely forest on the side of the ridge. At roughly 1.6 miles from the trail head, you’ll reach White Cap (2,484 ft.), which is an open summit with excellent views.

Then you can walk along the ridge traverse, along jeep tracks and just a bit of single-track, to take in the views from Locke (2,562 ft.) and Barker mountains (2,581 ft.). After Barker Mountain, you’ll begin heading down on the gravel road, eventually coming to Peak Lodge, which runs a chairlift runs in the summer. If you continue down from here, you have a couple of options of marked routes to return to where you started.

On the other side of the mountain, you can hike up to 3,093-foot Jordan Bowl, which is a beautiful spot to take in north and western views. Your options for ascending to this point are to take the steep 1.2-mile B Trail along a ski run, or the slightly more gradual but still arduous K Trail along the Western Traverse. I chose to get the steep bit out of the way first. At least it’s short.

All in all, if you start from the bottom and choose to do one of the two loops along the western or eastern side of the mountain, anticipate doing a five- to six-mile round trip.

Directions: From Route 2 in Bethel, take Sunday River Road to the ski resort. You can pick up the hiking trails at any of the lodges or hotels. I began at Barker Lodge and Jordan Hotel, for instance, on two different days. All the trails are marked with a little hikers sign and their letter. Perhaps the easiest place to begin is at the Grant Summit Hotel, since the trail starts at the far end of the parking lot.

Mount Will, Newry

This is a doable hike for little kids, with nice views on the south and north ledges. The loop is roughly three miles. Close to the south cliffs, you’ll see a sign for the Gray Memorial, a plaque remembering a couple who died in a plane crash here. To reach the plaque, walk a quarter mile along the old road or snowmobile path.

More info can be found on Maine Trail Finder.

Directions: The trailhead is roughly five miles from Bethel. Take Route 2 north. The Mount Will parking lot is just under two miles past the Sunday River Brewing Company on the left. It is directly opposite the Bethel Recycling and Transfer Station.

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Step Falls Preserve, Newry and near Grafton Notch State Park

Along Route 26, you can make several stops to check out pretty glorious falls. The first one, Step Falls, might be the nicest, with the stream running over smooth, wide rocks into deep pools for at least half the length of .5-mile trail. I bet this place is a zoo on a hot summer day. 

Although there is a place for handicap parking here, the trail is not too, too easy. It’s short, though. It ends at a private property line.

Farther west along Route 26, you can also take a short walk (1/4-mile) at Screw Augur Falls and at Moose Cove. Mother Walker Falls is in between the two — and is not quite as impressive as the other spots. At Moose Cove, the trail is wide and easy, with steps, boardwalks, and overlooks.

Directions: Going west on Route 26 toward the state park, you’ll see the preserve parking lot on the right, just before Wight Brook, about eight miles from Route 2. It’l the second preserve you’ll pass — the first is for Stewart Family Preserve and Grafton Loop Trail. The preserve is ten miles from the New Hampshire border, 14 miles northwest of Bethel and one-half mile southeast of Grafton Notch State Park.
My pics include some shots from Screw Augur and Moose Cove.
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