QUICK TRAIL FACTS
- Preserve Size: 209,644 acres
- Trail Mileage: Varies
- Pets: no
- Difficulty: moderate (easy for Baxter)
- Sights: Views, Billfish Pond
Map shows trails near South Branch Pond and Trout Brook Farm campgrounds. Horse Mountain trail in purple.
Some might say there are no easy hikes in Baxter State Park, but this one I think proves the exception to the rule! (That and Burnt Mountain, Barrel Ridge Mountain, and Sentinel Mountain….so maybe the rule is void.)
From the Park Tote Road, you hike up an old fire tower trail for 1.2 miles to a 0.4-mile side trail to the East Spur Overlook, the only view from the mountain. And it is glorious!
If you want to continue to the nearby albeit treeless 1,589-foot peak, return to the main trail and continue another 0.1 miles to a second side trail to your right that leads you up, in 0.3 miles, to the top. You’ll see the concrete feet of the former tower.
You can also access Horse Mountain from Trout Brook Farm Campground by taking the Five Ponds Trail. This is a much longer (it’s about 4.3 miles one way to the intersection with the spur trail) but still relatively easy hike, and you get to pass the beautiful Billfish Pond. For the first 3.3 miles, it’s mostly flat (albeit rocky!), and even the final 1.0 mile push to the top is not very steep.
Note: There is a very steep side trail off the Horse Mountain Trail to what is known as the Billfish Pond Gorge. If you’re too tired to hike down and back up, feel free to skip it; it isn’t the most impressive site I’ve seen. But the trail does take you close to the pond’s edge, which is nice. The gorge is marked with a sign on the top of a rocky ledge, letting you know when you’ve reached the end of the trail.)
Directions: To hike up the shortest route, 1.6 miles, start at the parking area and trail head about 0.5 miles from Matagamon Gate on your left. If you opt to go the longer way, you pick up the trail from the parking area and trail head near Trout Brook Farm Campground, 2.5 miles from the Gate on the left.