Saddleback Mountain, near Rangeley



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 first ridge and over to the second horn is especially beautiful, albeit difficult and exposed to the elements. Be prepared for windy, cold conditions.

  • 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 also suggests starting at 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.
  • You can also start 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 start at the ski lodge and hike the relatively short but steep ~1.7 miles to the summit. I haven’t done this yet, but you can find some info about the trail 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!




Traveler Mountains Loop, Baxter State Park



Map shows trails near South Branch Pond and Trout Brook Farm campgrounds. Traveler Loop in blue.

When we hiked this 10.6-mile loop in mid October, the wind gusts on the exposed ridge almost knocked us off our feet. And the wind chill was hovering around zero, according to the ranger. I guess it’s all part of the adventure. The loop includes two high summits: North Traveler and Traveler mountains, respectively 3,144 ft and 3,541 ft.

The loop that connects them is a very popular hike in the northern part of Baxter State Park: it is rugged, tough, and exhilarating. But be prepared for a long day, anywhere between six and twelve hours, and potentially extreme conditions on the exposed peaks and ridges. When the wind is blowing, it’s nice that the trail dips into patches of scruffy forest every periodically, giving hikers breaks from being buffeted about.

The park recommends hikers do the loop counter clockwise, to get the arduous and steep ascent up Traveler Mountain over first. If you do this, you begin your hike along Upper South Branch Pond, on the Pogy Notch Trail. At 1.5 miles, you take a left onto the Center Ridge Trail to begin your ascent; the change is dramatic from flat path to what feels disconcertingly like a near vertical climb!

Throughout a lot of the hike above tree line, the path crosses rock fields that require nimbly stepping from stone to jagged stone. You need to have pretty good balance—walking sticks might help.

If you don’t want to do the whole loop, you can chug up a steep 0.5 mile from South Branch Pond Campground to a pretty overlook on the way up to North Traveler’s summit (3,152 ft.). The length to N. Traveler summit is about 2.8 miles one way from the campground.

Note: Wikipedia says the Travelers got their names from the loggers who used to drive trees down the East Branch of the Penobscot River, because the peaks could be seen at many points along the river, seemingly moving with the men.

Undercover Hiker has a vivid account of this walk and what to expect. And here’s a great hiking resource to Baxter State Park, with lots of maps.

Directions: The trail begins at the eastern end of the South Branch Pond Campground. You can park in the general lot for the campground if you’re not staying there, and walk down the campground road.




Eyebrow Trail, Grafton Notch State Park



Eyebrow Trail in red (at the north end of the map); Grafton Loop Trail in blue

This is a tough little trail! But the views are lovely from the ridge, as you can look all the way down the notch. We think it’s called the Eyebrow Trail because the trail curves over an exposed cliff with rock grains that are curved like an eye. You can see this pattern in the rock wall when you’re standing below it in the parking lot.

You can pick up the Eyebrow Trail from the parking area for the Old Speck Mountain trail and others. Both trails—for Old Speck and Eyebrow—start out on the Appalachian Trail. In about 0.1 miles, the red-blazed Eyebrow Trail branches off to the right. I recommend taking this and doing the Eyebrow Trail loop counterclockwise, to get the very steep portion out of the way first. Then you can descend on the less steep Appalachian Trail. The Eyebrow Trail has rungs, a steel rope, and a ladder to assist hikers over the steepest section of exposed ledge.

Here’s some good info on the state park.

Directions: The trail starts from the big parking lot at the bottom of Old Speck Mountain, off Route 26 in Grafton Notch Park.




Pine Hill Preserve, Deer Isle



A .1-mile dirt road takes you to an open area in front of the Pine Hill ledge face, impressively jagged and painted with graffiti. Look for the narrow path to your right if you want to scramble up the cliff for a view through tree tops of Deer Isle. Take care with your footing.

The quarry here provided stone for the island causeway in the 1930s. The rock, serpentinized peridotite, is quite rare, as are some of the lichens, mosses, ferns, liverworts and other plants that thrive on its unique chemistry.

Directions: Turn off Route 15 onto Eggmoggin Road. In .2 miles, take a left onto Blastow Cove Road. In .2 miles, you’ll see the trailhead and small parking area for Pine Hill.




Cooper Farm at Caterpillar Hill, Sedgwick



The views from Caterpillar Hill are breathtaking. You do, though, enjoy them right at the start of the walk (and so, of course, at the end, too). In my opinion, a view packs a greater wallop and feels more like a reward if you arrive at it later on in a hike. Nonetheless, the trails here, through blueberry plains and forest, are really nice, regardless of the fact you get the highlight over rather quickly! The trails are well marked, with maps at every junction, thanks to the good work of Blue Hill Heritage Trust. Watch for bobolinks, Eastern meadowlark, and woodcocks.

Directions: From Blue Hill, take Route 15, toward Sedgewick. At the intersection with Route 176, turn left, continuing on Route 15. After 4.3 miles, you’ll come to the expansive vista on top of Caterpillar Hill and Cooper Farm. Take a right after the scenic turnout onto Cooper Farm Road and park alongside the road.




Witherle Woods, Castine



This 185-acre Maine Coast Heritage Trust preserve has one of the best views you can walk to in this area, in my opinion! Most of the trails at this historic preserve are wide and easy to walk, with a couple of minor ups and downs. They are groomed for skiing in the winter.

The most pathy of paths is the narrow Indian Trail, which despite its questionable name for 2019, is great. It’s steep, though, heading sharply down to the sea, with some good ocean views along the way.

The highlight of the walk is Blockhouse Point, with wide vistas over Penobscot Bay. The second highlight is the lookout, reachable via a short spur from the perimeter trail. The views are slightly less spectacular here.

The site is loaded with history. Blockhouse Point once was the site of a British military building and the lookout helped British troops in the War of 1812 spy enemies approaching by ship.

Directions: From the junction of Routes 166 and 166A in Castine follow Route 166 south .9 mile to the top of a hill. Continue right at a sharp bend in the road and drive .8 mile along Battle Avenue to the preserve on the right. Parking is available along the fence line.




Cranberry Peak, Eustis

Map shows Bigelow Preserve. Cranberry Peak trail is in light green.

This 3,194-foot peak is the smallest of the seven that range across the magnificent 36,000-acre Bigelow Preserve Public Land. If you start from Eustis (which has a smaller parking area than the trailhead from Stratton Pond Brook Road), the 3.2-mile Range Trail to Cranberry’s peak begins fairly gradually, before hitting a steeper section and then easing up for the final mile. The elevation gain is a bit over 2,000 feet.

You’ll see a few mediocre views along the way, which makes the summit, a dramatic rocky point, so splendid. There are views all around, of Sugarloaf, the next Bigelow peak, Flagstaff Lake, and mountains.

In the winter, you’ll probably have to park a little farther away from the trailhead, adding just .2 miles to your walk. Also, for the first 1.5 miles or so, you’ll likely hear, and occasionally see, the nearby Stratton mill. It was producing a sweet odor the day we were there.

I think many people also begin their hike from Stratton Brook Pond Road. It is easy to access, closer to Sugarloaf, and larger. Here you can catch the Appalachian Trail and hike up 2.3 miles to the Range Trail. From the parking area on Stratton Brook Pond Road, you can follow a dirt road leading north away from the lot. Take a quick right on Cranberry Peak Road (a dirt road) and go about 100 yards to where the Appalachian Trail crosses the track (there will be a big sign for the Bigelow Preserve). Turn left onto the AT and start your hike. The first mile is relatively flat before it starts climbing. The trail can be quite muddy in spots.

At 2.3 miles, take a left toward Cranberry Pond (we didn’t swim because signs warning of Giardia contamination.) The summit is 1.5 miles from the pond—the last .3 are quite difficult, steep and filled with boulders. But the view is spectacular.

Directions: If you start in Stratton, the parking area is at the end of Curry Road, a dead-end road in Stratton, off of Route 16. Or, you can start on the Appalachian Trail, which you can access via Stratton Brook Pond Road. After turning off Route 27 to Stratton Brook Pond Road, go about .85 miles to the first large clearing for cars. Start your walk on the dirt road headed toward the mountain—soon you’ll see a sign for the dirt Cranberry Peak Road. Follow this a short distance to where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road. There will be a large sign for the Bigelow Preserve.




Puzzle Mountain, Newry

This is a beautiful and well-hiked mountain with spectacular views from its 3,133-foot summit. The 3-mile trail to the top is fairly gradual and easy for the first 1.5 miles, before getting quite a bit steeper for the second half, with some scrambling up ledges. Views start to pop up after the second mile. At the summit, the trail continues north, along the long-distance Grafton Loop trail. The elevation gained is about 2,330 feet, according to my GPS.

There is an alternative, and longer, route to the top, the Woodsum Spur Trail. Though I saw the first trail intersection, half a mile from the summit, I couldn’t see where it met up with the main path close to the summit. The AMC and Mahoosuc Land Trust recommend hikers follow it down rather than up. I’ll try to find it again when there is no snow on the ground.

Directions: From the intersection of  Route 2 and  Route 26 in Newry, follow Route 26 4.7 miles north. You will see the Grafton Loop Trail sign and the parking area are will be on the right,  across from Eddy Road on the left. 

 




Old Blue Mountain, near Andover

The 3,600-foot summit of Old Blue is part of the Appalachian Trail. Because the summit is not clear of trees and shrubs, it is not quite as popular as some other nearby mountains.

That being said, if you want a quiet, moderate 2.6-mile hike to an interesting summit with views over scrubby bush and stunted spruce trees, this mountain is perfectly fine.

The first half mile is the steepest; then the trail levels out until the last half mile, when it gets steep again. The elevation gain is roughly 2,236 ft.

Directions: The trail head on South Arm Road is easy to miss because the trail information is set in a few feet from the road. If you are driving east on Route 120 out of Andover, take a left on South Arm Road approximately a half mile outside of town. Go 7.7 miles north on South Arm Road to reach the Appalachian Trail crossing. You will see a road sign (a silhouette of two hikers) alerting you to the trailhead just ahead. Look closely for the trail on your right. There is a small pullover area on the right side of the road that has parking for a few cars.




Jay Recreational Trails, Jay

The best part of this town-owned trail system is the vista at the trailhead and parking area at the end of Watertower Lane. You begin your walk here at the top of a field, with views of the western mountains, and descend along the gently sloping meadow into the woods. The rest of the system is wooded, but includes an old apple orchard being lost to the forest. Many of the trails are well signed, and appear to be frequently used by student sports teams. There are a few peripheral trails that are not maintained during the summer; they’re for winter use only.

Just a quick note: the middle trail that connects the trail system’s two sides, the one that extends beyond an area that is used for adventure challenges by the students, is also grown over surprisingly. After you go over the bridge, head up the short hill to your right and you’ll eventually come out to the Apple Blossom trail again.

Directions: Park at the end of Watertower Lane, in the lot near the cell phone tower. To reach this lane, head east on Jewell Street, turn left onto Belleview Drive, follow it to the end and turn right onto Watertower Lane, which becomes a dirt access road.




Saint Joseph’s College trails, Standish

The cross-country trails around campus are well taken care of, and smooth and wide enough for wheelchairs (if you can handle an occasional rock, root, and minor incline). The highlight of a walk is the view from the college’s Sebago Lake beach. On a clear day, Mt. Washington is visible, floating like a cloud above the lake and distant forested shore.

The perimeter trail is about two miles. All told, there are roughly three miles of trails here, according to my GPS. And…I believe you can park anywhere on campus, at least on evenings, weekends, and holidays. I visited on a Sunday, when things were sleepy and there was plenty of room. That might change mid-week.

Directions: St. Joseph’s College campus is on the left, off of White Bridges Road. Turn onto White Bridges Road from Route 35, across from Patch’s convenience store.




Mt. Abraham ‘Abram,’ Mt. Abram Township

Climbing this mountain via the 3.9-mile Fire Warden’s Trail, the most popular way to summit, will take a good chunk of the day (at least five hours). Nonetheless, it is a hike I feel confident many people can do. The day I did it, there were many hikers (it’s quite popular) of all ages and speeds. What makes the high mountain (4,049 feet) accessible in my mind is that the first 2.6 miles is easy going, offering a gradual uphill walk through forest. At 2.6 miles, which is also where you’ll see a rustic camping spot, the trail gets quite a bit steeper. This continues for .7 miles before entering the last open stretch to the summit.

Then, the final .5 miles of the hike, up what is called a talus field, is perhaps the hardest part because you’re walking on broken rock fragments. The path has been well made, however, and it feels stable and is easy to follow.

Be warned: I have never hiked this trail without there being an icy gale at the exposed summit. Hikers have created wind blocks, and other interesting sculptures, with the loose stone, so it is possible to enjoy a sandwich without freezing. Mt. Abraham’s alpine zone is 350 acres, which is the second-largest in Maine after Katahdin, according to the AMC Maine Mountain Guide.

There is also a trail that comes up the northern side of the mountain, over from Spaulding and Sugarloaf mountains and the Appalachian Trail. I may attempt that hike one day.

Elevation gained: 3,050 feet

Directions: From Route 27 in Kingfield, turn onto West Kingfield Road. At 3.3 miles, the road turns to dirt. At 3.5 miles, continue straight onto Rapid Stream Road.  At 6 miles, take a left at the big intersection and cross two bridges. After the second bright, take a sharp right onto what can be a rough road for .5 mile to the trail head, which is marked with a sign.




Bald Mountain-Saddleback Traverse, Washington Township

This hike has rocketed to my favorite in Maine, so far. It’s probably heavenly in any season, but hiking it at peak foliage is an extraordinary and uplifting experience!

The trail has been extended, all the way from the trail head on Route 156 to the Saddleback Ridge Wind facility, off of Winter Hill Road. If you have two cars, you can leave one at the Saddleback Wind parking lot. It will save you from a rather arduous return back over Bald Mountain. From the top of Saddleback, you’ll see a trail headed down toward the wind farm. Then I believe you walk back along the wind farm road. Saddleback Ridge Wind prefers that you call them (they have a number on a sign in their parking lot) to let them know you will be walking along their road, which is a winding 3.5 mile or so trek.

From the trail head on Route 156, it is a pretty steep climb through woods to the beginning of Bald Mountain’s open ridge. The views at this point are breathtaking. You can stop at the top of Bald mountain (2,370 ft.), a roughly 1.1-mile hike one way, or continue another 1.8 miles to Saddleback’s summit (2,590 ft.). If you have the energy to do this, I highly recommend it. The views are even better from Saddleback, and it’s interesting to look out over the nearby wind turbines.

Doing the traverse does require summiting two not insubstantial mountains, with a fairly deep col between them, so be prepared for a tiring hike.

Close to the summit of Saddleback, you’ll come to an intersection, with the trail to the summit heading right and a trail heading left to the mountain’s eastern ridge. The trail to the east ridge ends roughly .8 miles away at another view. I am wondering whether this trail might be extended one day to form a satisfying loop back to the parking area?

As it is now (Fall 2018), if you complete the traverse from Bald Mountain to Saddleback Wind Mountain, you either have to return the way you came or head down from the summit to the wind farm access road. While I saw this trail from the Saddleback summit, I was too tired to explore it, so I didn’t mark exactly where it came out, unfortunately. I’ll do that next time I’m there.

In every description I read of this hike, it is mentioned that the trail crosses private property, and continued public access requires users respecting the land.

Directions: The trail head is on the west side of Rt. 156, approximately 9 miles from Wilton, and 5.3 miles from the junction of Routes 142 and 156 in Weld. Parking is on the road’s side, along its wide shoulder. 




Sunday River Hiking Trails, Newry

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.




Williams Town Park, Shapleigh

I wasn’t expecting so much charm packed into a relatively small area. You start your walk at this 300-acre town park in fields — they are large and golden and lovely. Someone had mowed the edges, so you could just spend a morning wandering around the field edges, taking a rest at the bench perched at a high point. But, really, don’t deny yourself the rest of the park. If you follow the track straight into the woods from the parking area, at roughly .3 miles you’ll come to a signed intersection; left to Norton and Williams Ponds, right to the fire tower. I headed left first, and soon came upon Norton Pond and another advantageously situated bench. Close to the bench is an odd footpath that heads into the woods, crosses a bridge, and then appears to peter out (unless I just lost the scent).

After Norton Pond, you continue up the gravel road, reaching another intersection at .2 miles. If you head left, you’ll go down a long, rather steep hill for roughly half a mile to another park entrance off Nason Road.

But back to that intersection. After turning right, you’ll soon reach the very picturesque Williams Pond, which you can walk around. Then, if you return to the gravel road and keep hiking up, you’ll soon come to a high, open area with views. From there, it’s just a few more minutes to the fire tower, which you’re not allowed to climb. Behind the tower is a roughly .2-mile track downhill that takes you to another view! Return to the tower, and head down. Don’t miss the small footpath off to your left that takes you to a scenic view. There is a fair amount of hill walking here — some of it steep.

The park’s smooth gravel roads are probably passable for wheelchairs and strollers. At the trailhead, there is a signpost with distances: .6 miles to Norton Pond; .6 miles to the fire tower; .8 miles to Williams Pond; 1.3 miles to Nason Road gate.

Directions: From Back Road, travel approximately 3/4 mile down County Road. Look for the sign on the left. Once you make the left turn, park close to the metal gate.




Province Mountain, Newfield

The views from this easy-to-climb, 1,176-foot mountain are gorgeous! And you only have to hike uphill for 15 or so minutes to reach the open summit and bench. I hiked up from one trail that began at the end of Butterfield/Wilkinson Road, but I heard from fellow hikers there is another path departing from Newfield Road in New Hampshire. You’ll pass this alternative path close to the summit.

After parking at a gate on Butterfield Road, you head up a private drive for a few hundred feet before coming to the start of the footpath on your right (which was marked with a wooden “trail” sign when I visited.) The path is not blazed, but is easy to follow. Eventually you’ll come to a clear-cut area. The path continues just ahead of you and ever so slightly to the left. Keep climbing up. You’ll pass the path that heads down to Newfield Road on your right before circling around the summit and up to the grand finale, with lovely views over Province Lake and mountains behind.

The elevation gain is approximately 551 feet.

Directions: From Province Lake Road, turn onto Butterfield Road, which becomes Wilkinson Road). You’ll drive past little cottages until you get to a gate. Park here and continue up the road. When rounding a second curve, you’ll see the trail head on the right.