QUICK TRAIL FACTS
- Preserve Size: 11,800 acres in Tumbledown Public Lands
- Trail Mileage: ~14 miles in network
- Pets: yes
- Difficulty: challenging
- Sights: views, mountaintop pool
I think Tumbledown Mountain might be the most popular hike in Maine (and it is one of the most beautiful, so it makes sense). So on nice days expect to see crowds of people hanging about at the summit, which has an enchanting pool (or rather tarn) surrounded by towering craggy peaks and flattish ledges.
The fairly sizable trail network at Tumbledown includes trails to the summits of both Little Jackson (3,434 feet) and Big Jackson (taller than Little Jackson). The hike up Little Jackson is harder and longer than to Tumbledown, and it is very exposed, so be careful during inclement weather. The summit of Jackson Mountain is wooded, with no views, although the trail up offers a couple of open ledges with good views back over Little Jackson and beyond.
(It appears that an unmarked trail heads down the backside of Little Jackson and Jackson Mountains, which you’ll see if you head up the trail to the Jackson Mountain summit. I am not sure where it goes!)
To reach the tarn right below the summit of Tumbledown, you have essentially four options: the 1.9-mile Brook Trail, the 2.9-mile Parker Ridge Trail, the 2-mile Loop Trail, and the 3.4-mile trek up the first part of Little Jackson trail over to Pond Link. The 3,068-foot western summit is .8 miles from the pond, along a beautiful open ridge.
In my opinion, the easiest way (but also the longest) up is to start up Little Jackson and then head over the Pond Link Trail. But there are no views along this route until you reach the tarn. However, if you head back down Parker Ridge Trail, you’ll get astounding views near the summit. The next easiest, and quite a bit shorter, is the Brook Trail. The Loop Trail is very strenuous, basically hand over foot over the tumbled-down rocks up a steep pitch. Close to the ridge on the Loop Trail, at around the 1.3-mile mark, is what is called “Fat Man’s Misery,” where you have to crawl through boulders (and yes, fat men can pass through this). Also, it seems that some people have branched off the main Loop Trail at points to do some rock scrambling, and I found it easy, especially at around .8 miles up, to wander off the trail, so keep your eyes out for the blue blazes. The ridge between the western summit of Tumbledown and the tarn is gorgeous. Not to be missed.
Directions: From the intersection of Routes 156 and 142 in Weld, follow Route 142 north 2.3 miles and turn left onto Byron Road. Pretty quickly, Byron Road becomes a dirt road. Continue on Byron Road approximately 4.3 miles to the Brook Trailhead on the right. Parking is on the left. Keep driving another 1.3 miles to reach the Loop trailhead.
My photos include Little Jackson and Tumbledown.