QUICK TRAIL FACTS
- Preserve Size: N/A, but the Ski resort is ~400 acres
- Trail Mileage: Varies
- Pets: yes
- Difficulty: challenging
- Sights: views, remote ponds, streams, open ridgeline
Map Note: I have hiked the trail marked in blue on my map, and drawn the trails I haven’t hiked in light blue, so I can’t vouch for their accuracy.
There are several ways to get up this impressive mountain, one of the handful mountains in Maine over 4,000 feet. A good stretch of this hike is above tree line, on fragile alpine habitat, with breathtaking views in all directions. The ridge up to the summit and over to the horn is especially beautiful, albeit difficult and exposed to the elements. Be prepared for windy, cold conditions. One of the nice aspects of this popular mountain is that you have a variety of routes to the summit. Once you’re on the summit, you can also choose to extend your walk along the dramatic, open ridge by hiking to the Horn (1.7 miles from the summit), or continuing on to the glorious, albeit smaller Saddleback Junior, 1.9 miles beyond the Horn. While you’ll descend into woods in between the three summit points, all three peaks are treeless and open, with fantastic views. If you go as far as Junior, you’ll leave a lot of the day trippers behind.
- You can hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) north from Route 4, where there is a large parking lot about 10 miles east of the town of Rangeley. From this lot, you’ll hike 1.8 miles to the massive Piazza Rock, 3.9 miles to Eddy Pond (go for a swim!) and the intersection of the long-distance Fly Rod Crosby Trail, 5.7 miles hike to the 4,120-foot Saddleback summit, and 7.3 miles to the second summit, the 4,041-foot The Horn. You could make a very long day of it and keep going 9.3 miles one way to the third peak, Saddleback Junior. Each peak has a saddle in between, so be prepared for climbs and descents on repeat.
- Additionally, you could start at the end of Rock Pond Road, one of the ski resort’s side roads with condos, and hike by two remote ponds (Rock and Midway ponds) on the Fly Rod Crosby Trail to the AT, and then follow the AT 1.8 miles to the first summit.
- Or…you could start at the AT on Route 4 and walk 3.9 miles to the long-distance Fly Rod Crosby Trail (a multi-use trail), take a right and go just under three miles to the 1.7-mile Berry Picker’s Trail, which goes up the back of the mountain to the saddle between Saddleback summit and The Horn. This trail is steep but more protected from the elements (wind, mostly, but also ice) than on the AT trail, and at .9 miles, hits some open ledges with views. It also crosses a mountain stream with small pools close to the bottom. Then you could descend the AT for a loop!
- The AT’s Maine Mountain Guide suggests setting off on the long-distance, multi-use Fly Rod Crosby Trail in Madrid, from the trail head off Reeds Mill Road. This would entail a 12.3-mile one way hike to the AT and summit. (Shorter to Berry Picker’s Trail.) I haven’t done this yet.
- Or begin at the Cascade Stream Gorge preserve, hike up the falls and then continue 5 or so miles to Appalachian Trail. From this intersection, it is 1.7 miles to the Saddleback summit.
- Finally, you could take off from the Saddleback ski lodge and hike the relatively short but steep ~1.7 miles to the summit. Essentially, the footpath follows the ski slopes Grey Ghost to Tri-Color. Tri-Color goes all the way to the top of the highest chairlift. If you make it this far (you will!), you’ll find the footpath to the right of the chairlift, if you’re facing the top of the mountain. Follow it a couple hundred yards to the open ridge and the AT.
- Here are more specific directions for the path up the ski slopes (distances are rough estimates): At the base lodge, the unmarked footpath begins right behind the lodge — you’ll see a narrow path that snakes through the meadow. Follow this for four hundred or so feet, and you’ll come out on a gravel road. Go right here and look for the footpath on your left, in 500 feet or so. Again, you’ll see a narrow footpath carved out in the wildflowers and grass growing on the ski slope. Turn left, steeply up hill. Continue 800 or so feet, where you’ll cross a track, and keep going up! Hike for 0.6 mile (an estimate) and you’ll come out to an open area. From here, you’ll be hiking up a gravel road rather than on the wildflower-filled grassy ski slope. Take the road heading steeply up hill, which is will be slightly to your right. In a quarter-mile, the road takes a sharp right, and becomes sharply steeper, too. In about 600 feet you’ll come to the top of the chairlift, and you’ll see the footpath straight ahead, to the right of the lift. It’s not far to the open ridge from this point. More info here.
On our hike, in October, 2020, we started at the AT parking area on Route 4, and walked it all way to the first and second peak. Then we turned around and headed down Berry Picker’s Trail to the Fly Rod Crosby Trail and back to the AT. The Fly Rod Crosby Trail does go steadily up for about a mile after you turn onto it, which can be daunting after a tiring hike. But it also passes the very pretty Moose and Deer Pond. Go for a swim if it’s not too cold!
Directions to the base lodge: The address is 976 Saddleback Mountain Road. From Route 4/Main Street in Rangeley, turn onto Dallas Hill Road. Follow it 2.5 miles, where you’ll bear right at an intersection onto Saddleback Mountain Road. Follow this almost five miles or so to the lodge.