QUICK TRAIL FACTS
- Preserve Size: N/A
- Trail Mileage: 3.4 miles one way
- Pets: yes
- Difficulty: strenuous
- Sights: Views, river
Trail up Sugarloaf Mountain in purple; North and South Crocker is in blue; Mt. Redington loop trail in red; Mt. Abraham and Spaulding Mountain trail in yellow.
This is a stunning mountain, 4,250 feet tall, with panoramic views extending for miles around. It is the second highest mountain in Maine after Katahdin. The only problem is it is tough! You can ascend it via the Appalachian Trail (recommended) or charge up the ski slopes or tote road. One of the two purple lines on my Google map is the tote road. But it is a terrible way to go down! It is steep and its gravel surface is loose, making it very easy to slip.
Perhaps a better way down, or up, is taking the Designated Uphill Skin Route from the base to the beginner Horseshoe Trail and then to Timberline. Or you can make your way up to the summit zigzagging up different work roads and ski slopes. It doesn’t appear that hikers have settled on one route to take.
I think it is much better to take the 3.4-mile footpath that leaves from Caribou Valley Road. While there is a really tough section in the middle—steep and boulder-strewn—much of it is more gradual, making this a doable day hike for families.
From the trailhead on Caribou Valley Road, you’ll walk 0.5 miles up the dirt road until you reach the intersection with the Appalachian Trail. Turn left, southbound on the trail, and enjoy the crossing of the deliciously cool Carrabassett River’s South Branch at the lowest point between the two big mountains. The trail starts to climb soon after that, getting very steep in sections, with some scrambling and clambering over rocks.
Once you conquer the steep section on Sugarloaf’s side (it lasts about 0.5 miles, I’d say) the trail levels out some with great views of the Crockers, Spaulding, and Abraham. Eventually you’ll reach the intersection with the side trail to Sugarloaf’s 4,250-foot summit. Turn left here and hike the final 0.5 mile to one of the best panoramic views in Maine. I think a lot of people get up here and never want to leave. Or hurry away because the beauty is overwhelming! (Or they’re cold.)
Directions: From Route 27, turn onto the unpaved Caribou Valley Road, about a mile beyond the junction with the Access Road to Sugarloaf ski lodge. Drive 3.8 miles up Caribou Valley Road, which can be rough — a high-clearance car is best. At 3.8 miles, you’ll reach a big parking area and a yellow gate blocking the road.