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.