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!