QUICK TRAIL FACTS
- Preserve Size: >15,000 acres
- Trail Mileage: ~14 miles one way
- Pets: yes
- Difficulty: challenging
- Sights: views, thru-hikers, Carrabassett River
Trail up North/South Crocker in blue; Mt. Redington loop trail in red; Sugarloaf Mountain trail in purple; Mt. Abraham and Spaulding Mountain trail in yellow
If you’re doing this loop, bring plenty of water and be prepared for a long, hard day. It’s about 14 miles from the trailhead of North Crocker to the base lodge of Sugarloaf, and the cumulative elevation gained is over 5,000 feet. Sugarloaf is the second highest mountain in Maine after Katahdin’s two peaks — Baxter and Hamlin. You’ll need two cars, or you can hire a local taxi service. All Points Transportation provides shuttle services and can be reserved ahead of time. Highly recommended.
North and South Crocker often get a bit maligned (along with nearby Mt. Redington, not shown on my map) for being anticlimactic 4,000-footers. Peak baggers feel as if they have to do them to complete their quest to hike every mountain in Maine and New Hampshire over 4,000 feet, but grumble about it because their views aren’t extraordinary like so many of the tall peaks around here.
I’m glad they do grumble, though, because my expectations were so low that I found the long, gradual hike through mossy forest up and over North and South Crocker really satisfying. And beautiful in its own right! Lots of overheard warbler songs. The mountains are located within a large protected area— 15,000 acres at least and maybe growing?
Starting at the parking lot off Route 27, where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road, it’s 5.2 miles up North Crocker. The trail begins climbing right away, but levels off in the middle for at least two miles, making the hike sort of a slog but fairly easy. It starts climbing again around 3,000 feet. Once you get closer to 4,000 feet, the fir trees get stumpy and short, and while you’re not on an open ridge with stunning vistas, you definitely feel that otherworldly sensation of being high in an Alpine-like ecosystem. Hikers have scratched out a little path at the 4,228-foot summit to the west, where you can get some views.
The trail dips steeply down and then turns up slightly less steeply to the 4,050-foot summit of South Crocker — 1 mile farther one. The summit, with a view, is 50 yards off the main Appalachian Trail — there is a prominent sign at this intersection. The small ledge at the opening offers nice views of Sugarloaf, Spaulding, and Mt. Abraham. If you happen to simultaneously arrive with a peak bagger, they might have some tales to tell about hiking all three of these peaks in one day.
Some people at this point head over to Mt. Redington because it’s over 4,000 feet. There’s more than one way to summit Redington, but the fastest route is from the summit of South Crocker. It’s 1.2 mile one way from this point.
Going down the AT from South Crocker to Caribou Valley Road (or Caribou Pond Road) is quite steep and rocky in parts. The distance is 2.1 miles. If you want to check out the Crocker Cirque about halfway down, and the adjacent camping site, it’s 0.2 miles off the main path. The cirque is a little bowl with a tiny pond nestled among the Crockers, carved out eons ago by glaciers. I saw moose tracks in the mud.
From the cirque, it’s a relatively easy 1 mile down to the Caribou Valley Road. (Many people drive the 3.8 miles down the road to the gate, a half-mile from the Appalachian Trail. The condition of the road can be unpredictable; it’s best to have a high-clearance vehicle.)
Directions: To start at the North Crocker trailhead: From the junction of Route 27 and the access road to Sugarloaf resort, continue 2.6 miles north on Route 27 toward Eustis. There’s a large parking area on the left (or south) side of the road—signs for the Appalachian Trail crossing will warn you when you’re coming up on it. The trailhead for North Crocker is closer to the northern end of the parking lot.