Tip Toe Mountain Preserve, Vinalhaven
This is my friend’s favorite Vinalhaven Land Trust preserve. It definitely has the best name! There are three little tip toe summits within the 40-acre preserve: Little, Middle, and Big Toes. There are views from each one. Conveniently, the most dramatic peak is right by the parking area. A little path allows you to scramble up a big rock mass to fabulous views over Crockett Cove in mere seconds.
But if you’re here to hike, head over to the trail system, which offers both high points with views and a beautiful shoreline. Middle Tip Toe offers several outlooks from a craggy ridge trail (with some high cliffs, so be careful). Big Toe involves scrambling up a rock for views.
Vinalhaven Land Trust says the Middle loop is half a mile; the big loop trail is 0.6 miles. When the tide is in, crossing the stone dam might be challenging.
Directions: (From the land trust) Turn left from the ferry terminal, go 0.4 mi., then right on Old Harbor Rd. for 0.3 miles. Bear left onto North Haven Road for about 6.5 miles to where Tip Toe Mountain Road (gravel) will be a left turn. Drive about 1.2 miles down this road; the gravel parking lot at the base of Little Tip Toe Mountain Town Park will be on your left.
Savage Mountain, Temple
The wide forested route to the open ledge and beautiful views consists of a fairly easy uphill for most of its 0.75 miles. There is, however, one steep section mid-way with loose, eroded rock.
The trail, which follows ATV roads, is unmarked and unmanaged, but easy to follow. After starting out on the main track, look for a discontinued trail to your right in just about an eighth of a mile or so in. From here, you’ll head up a moderate incline until you reach your first views from open ledge. Follow a small side path to even wider and more dramatic ledges and great sightseeing to the west.
(Thank you to land conservationist and public-access defender Brent West, of High Peaks Alliance, for showing us this amazing spot! Brent calls hikes like Savage Mountain “cheating,” since you can get an incredible view for relatively little effort.)
Directions: From Intervale Road, turn onto Day Mountain Road and follow it for about 3.5 miles. You continue on this road after the pavement ends. At roughly 3.5 miles, look for ATV/snowmobile signs pointing to your right and a sign marking a dead-end road. (On Google maps, this is where Day Mountain Road turns into Jackson Mountain Road.) Turn right onto the dead-end road and look for a small open area, big enough for two vehicle, on your right in about 550 feet. Park here and walk up the ATV trail.
Table Rock, Grafton Notch State Park
This Grafton Notch hike offers extraordinary views after a relatively easy, short climb. That is, the hiking is moderately easy if you go up the Appalachian Trail for 0.9 miles and then take the 0.5-mile trail that cuts straight over to Table Rock. There’s just a bit of a clamber up rocks and rungs to the flat rock ledge at the end. Table Rock sticks out of the side of Baldpate Mountain 900 feet above the valley road, offering great views of Old Speck Mountain and down the notch.
Be careful, though, because the cliffs plummet straight down!
For those who want more of a challenge, you can take the Table Rock Trail up, blazed in orange. This 0.8-mile trail is very steep, with lots of climbing over boulders and huffing up stone steps. I’d advise not going down it, but rather returning on the AT. But it’s an interesting trail because you pass under the cliffs that make up Table Rock, and squeeze around huge fallen boulders. You can explore the slab caves here, although we didn’t.
The total loop is about 2.7 miles according to my GPS.
Directions: You can leave from the huge parking area for Old Speck Mountain, off of Route 26. Cross the road on the AT, and you’ll reach the junction with Table Rock Trail in about 0.1 mile, heading off to your right.
Goose Eye Mountain, Grafton Notch State Park
There are several ways to reach the top of this fantastic mountain with two peaks (the taller is 3,974 feet). I’ve just hiked the 4.6-mile Wright Trail so far, which leaves from Bull Branch Road, a dirt road that is maintained well enough for low-clearance vehicles.
The Wright Trail in Grafton Notch State Park and Mahoosuc Public Lands initially lulls you into a peaceful state of calm for the first 2.5 miles, before startling you wide awake when the trail begins to ascend steeply. The first half of the trail follows Goose Eye Brook, which has lovely cascades and pools all along this stretch. Those who don’t want to summit the mountain can meander alongside the brook, possibly swimming in one of its deeper pools if it’s hot enough. (You can see on my map where we left the main trail to check out pretty spots in the brook. You’ll start to see nice stuff around 0.6 miles in.) The trail ascends gradually, offering a gentle walk through the woods. You’ll have to cross a few streams, though, jumping from rock to rock.
The nature of the hike changes when you reach the campsite, at 2.5 miles. Here you’ll make a crossing over Goose Eye Brook, which can be difficult. Then the trail starts to head steeply up. You’ll get a bit of a reprieve after a half mile or so of climbing, when the trail flattens a bit before climbing again. Shortly, at 3.1 miles, you’ll emerge over tree line on a spectacular but very exposed ridge. The wind can come gusting at you without many nearby peaks to blunt its force!
After walking along the ridge a short ways, you’ll dip back into the forest again before reaching the Appalachian Trail. Turn left and you’ll arrive at the lovely summit of Goose Eye in 0.3 miles (passing southbound the At to Mt. Carlo on your right at 0.2 miles). Views abound all around. If you had turned right at the AT back when it intersected with the Wright Trail, you could climb steeply for 0.1 mile to the summit of North Peak, which has great views of Goose Eye.
When we hiked this trail in September, 2021, it was very muddy, especially at the top along the ridge.
Swimming: After your hike, you can plunge into the popular Frenchman’s Hole, which is on Bull Branch Road about 1.1 miles before the parking area for Wright Trail. Kids like to jump off the rocks into the deep pool underneath the waterfall. You can also cool off in one of the pools you’ll pass alongside Wright Trail.
Directions: Follow Sunday River Road for 7.8 miles; it’ll switch to gravel at around 6.5 miles. When it take a sharp left to cross Bull Branch river, you’ll come to a fork in the road. Go right onto Bull Branch Road. You’ll pass Frenchman’s Hole in a little under a mile on your right. On hot days, it’ll be mobbed here! Continue another 1.1 miles or so to the end of the road, blocked by a gate. There’ll be a large parking area here. Walk back along the road a short ways to see the trailhead kiosk (on your right if you’re walking away from the parking area).
Spaulding Mountain, near Carrabassett Valley
Mt. Abraham and Spaulding Mountain trail in yellow; North/South Crocker and Sugarloaf Mountain in blue; Mt. Redington trail in red
Spaulding Mountain, at 4,010 feet, is on many Mainers’ bucket list since it’s higher than 4,000 feet. As a destination of its own merits, it’s not that inspiring! Although I do hate to denigrate mountains. Anyway, it can be tackled from several directions. The shortest way up is leaving from Caribou Pond Road (also called Caribou Valley Road, or just Caribou Road, I think!) on the Appalachian Trail, a five-mile ascent.
If you leave from Caribou Pond Road, you’ll head north along a dirt road for a half mile before reaching the intersection with the Appalachian Trail. Take a left on the AT, and you’ll soon cross a river before starting a very steep, rough path up Sugarloaf. Thankfully, the steep stretch does come to an end after a half mile or so! The rest of the way to the junction with the side trail to Sugarloaf’s summit is less difficult. From the junction with Sugarloaf’s side trail, it’s another 2.1 miles to the 0.1-mile side trail to the summit of Spaulding. (Don’t miss the short spur to a view of Mt. Abraham along the way.) While the summit is wooded, there is a short path north to a small spot with a view of Sugarloaf.
The other way up Spaulding is via Mt. Abraham, an 8-mile hike. The first 4.5 miles take you to the stunning summit of Mt. Abraham. The path to the Appalachian Trail and to Spaulding leaves west from the summit, and is marked with cairns. In 1.7 descending miles, you’ll come to the AT. Turning right here, you’ll reach the 0.1-mile spur to Spaulding in another 1.7 miles. On the AT ridge, you’ll have a bit of a respite from climbing for a mile or so, before ascending again to Spaulding’s summit.
If you hike Mt. Abraham to Spaulding Mountain and down to Caribou Pond Road (Caribou Valley Road), it’s about 13 miles.
Directions: One of Spaulding’s trailheads leaves from Caribou Pond Road, which is a rough dirt road best tackled with high-clearance vehicles. From the access road to Sugarloaf, drive 1 mile west on Route 27 to the junction with Caribou Pond Road. Turn left and drive carefully another 3.8 miles down the road to a yellow gate and large parking area (often filled with cars on nice summer days). If you’re leaving from Mt Abraham, check out my directions here. If you don’t want to drive the treacherous road to Mt Abraham’s trailhead, I highly recommend booking a shuttle ride with All Points Transportation.
Little Peaked and Big Peaked Mountains, Clifton
These two small mountains (905 feet and 1,152 feet) offer an enjoyable conjoined hike. Because the views are lovely from both open, ledgy summits, they tend to be popular on nice days.
From the south end of the parking lot, right where the road turns from pavement to gravel, you’ll find the 0.5-mile footpath up Little Peaked (also known as Little Chick Hill) heading off into the forest. I recommend taking this wooded, shady trail, but many people head up the cell tower access road to the summit of Peaked (or Chick Hill), immediately to the left of the footpath. The footpath climbs steadily and steeply up, and is marked with faded blue blazes which, when we visited in June, 2021, were sometimes hard to see.
When you’re closing in on the summit, the trail opens onto ledge. Head straight up on the exposed rocks, enjoying the views. Keep looking for the blue blazes on the rocks. At the summit, the blazes will bring you into the woods, where you’ll shortly arrive at an intersection (roughly 0.6 miles from the parking area).
From this point, I recommend going right, onto a small open ledge. Very faintly on the rocks here is painted the instruction, “To Big Chick,” with a blue arrow. Follow this trail steeply down to where it crosses an old overgrown woods road at approximately 0.3 miles. Continue straight here for the last steepish half mile to the summit of Peaked Mountain. There’s a communications tower up there and the views are great. We returned via the 1.5-mile cell tower access road.
If you were to have taken the left turn at the intersection at the summit, it would bring you steeply down to the old woods road. A blue arrow painted on a tree at this intersection directs you to the right, where you can join up with the footpath to Peaked Mountain’s summit. If you were to go left at the arrow, you’ll end up on an overgrown path that takes you back on the cell tower access road.
Directions: From Route 9, turn north onto Chick Hill Road, and follow it 0.75 mile to where the pavement ends at a large parking area.
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 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.
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.
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.
Grafton Loop Trail (West), Grafton Notch State Park
If you like long hiking days, the 38.6-mile Grafton Loop Trail, in Grafton Notch State Park and Mahoosuc Public Lands, offers a wonderful challenge. You could backpack the trail over two or three days, or you can park two cars at either end of the traverses and split the loop into two (very long!) one-day hikes.
We did the 16.3-mile Grafton Notch Loop on the south side in one day (or some would refer to it as the west side), and have yet to do the other side, unfortunately. We started from the Old Speck Mountain trailhead (north end of the park) and ended at the Grafton Notch trailhead.
The western loop includes several summits, but only two of them—4,180-foot Old Speck and 3,335-foot Sunday River Whitecap—offer views. But holy moly, does Sunday River Whitecap offer glorious views. It’s an amazing mountain, with a beautiful, open summit and raised walkways and stone walls to keep hikers from damaging the fragile alpine habitat. And because it’s so hard to get to — about 10 or 7 miles in either direction — you are not likely to share it with many people. Or at least, we were surprised we had it to ourselves on a sunny Sunday in September.
More details: Western Loop, starting from the north end: The first 3.2 miles of the trail begin along the well-traveled Appalachian Trail, blazed in white. This is the steepest and most popular section of the 16.3 miles. At 3.5 miles, you leave the AT and head left on the Grafton Notch Loop trail. In 0.3 miles, you’ll reach the Old Speck Mountain summit and fire tower. The views are great from the tower—for those brave enough to climb up. The good news is that the hard part of the hike is over; you will not be gaining huge elevations from here on out. In fact, much of the rest of the route is flat or slightly downhill, until you start ascending Sunday River Whitecap, which is much easier than Old Speck. From this high point—metaphorically, that is, since it’s lower than Old Speck but so spectacular—you make the long way down to old farm roads and then out to Route 26.
Directions: Hikers start the Grafton Loop at either the trailhead parking for Old Speck Mountain, or at the Grafton Trailhead. Because you can’t park at the end of the trail coming down Bald Mountain on the western side, you have to walk 0.6 miles to the official parking lot, on the right.
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.
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.