My Journey Through the Maine 4,000 Footer List
The State of Maine has 14 peaks that make up the 4,000 Footer list. These peaks sit amongst four different mountain ranges such as: Baxter State Park, High Peaks, Bigeolow Range and the Eastern White Mountains. Most of these have you set foot on the Appalachian Trail or you are very close to the trail while hiking! Did you know that Maine is the home of over 280 miles of the Appalachian Trail?! Pretty neat!
In the spring of this year, I became obsessed with wanting to hike Mount Katahdin for the first time. One of my friends had done it a few times and said she would love to go again so we started to put a plan into motion! I decided that I kind of wanted to train for the tallest peak in Maine so that I could actually enjoy it, and that's when I really started researching the ME 14/14 list.
Hike #1 - Saddleback and The Horn, Rangeley Strarted the Maine 4K list with some of the best weather and company! We took the Berry Picker's trail (which does require a truck/high clearance vehicle to make it to the trailhead. The road is rough with good sized rocks in spots and does get narrow at times-I had to fold in my tow mirrors for some of it). Using the Maine Mountain Guide for directions makes the trip in a breeze. Buy one here if you don't have one already!
We ending up logging just about 11 miles for this trail (we did have about a half mile of oops because we missed the original turn off from the dirt road hiking because we were too busy gossipping 🙈😂)
Overall, this trail is beautiful. You get to enjoy most of it with little foot traffic because most don't dare to drive into the Berry Picker's trailhead. Talking with other hikers, coming up the ski mountain side also leaves you with a A LOT of false summits--which I would think would be boring! I think one of the coolest parts about the trail is that you can see the horn laid out in front of you when crossing over to the peak and it is so beautiful! This is really a great hike to start your list with!
Hike #2-The Brothers in Baxter State Park
This was my first trip into Baxter State Park and I fell in love. If you haven't been in the park before.. I highly reccommend! You do not need parking reservations to acces the trailhead for the Brothers in BSP which is a plus! The roads are very well maintained and the staff at the gates are top notch! However, you will need to plan on being in Airplane mode on your phone during your time in Baxter. You may catch some signal at the top of a peak but other than that.. there is no reception. Dogs are also not allowed in Baxter State Park at all.
This hike was logged at just over 11 miles total. You can add Mount. Coe to this and make a little loop out of some of the trail but we just focused on doing the brothers during this trip. We took Marston up and you get to the intersection where the trail "T's". We made our way to North Brother which was phenomenal. We then crossed crossed back over to South Brother. If you do not continue back towards Coe for the loop, you will then back track to the intersection to head down the mountain on Marston Trail. If you decide to do Mount Coe, do your research and try to refrain if the trails are slippery. There is a large rockface that can be dangerous when slippery.
Hike #3- Old Speck, Grafton Notch State Park
After setting up my computer like I was an employee of the National Weather service, we decided to pull the trigger and knock out our 4th Maine 4K mountain! We hit blue skies on the way to Grafton Notch but ran into fog most of the way up. The trailhead is easy to find as the park is well marked, however, there is a lack of reception here. There aren’t a ton of views on this mountain so it wasn’t too much of a disappointment. It was really nice to meet and talk with a few section hikers and one through hiker!
Lauren and I decided to take the Eyebrow trail up which was straight up! It was neat to use the ropes set up to climb up part of Eyebrow trail. The trail then gets techinal at a crossing and there are some metal rungs embedded into the rock to help you make it across, laterally to the small ladder that puts you back onto the trail.
Once you hit the AT, you follow the trail to an old tower. I am sure there are great views on a clear day from the top, however, if you are afraid of heights you may pass on this one. Coming back down from the tower can be slightly intimidating for some.
The AT is rough on the knees coming down this mountain but the falls you get to see (water and me physically falling 🤦♀️😂) are totally worth it! Overall, it was a great day on the trail and is probably one of my favorite 4K's just because of some of the techinal challenges you face during the climb. ⛰ 🥾 Make sure you check out Puzzle Mountain Bakery after for a good snack! They offer full pies, whoopie pies, jams etc! They offer the honor system with a cash jar and they also take funds via the Venmo app!
Puzzle Mountain Bakery stand after we raided it
Hike #4-Katahdin!! 🎉 Baxter & Hamlin Peak- Baxter State Park
This hike was certainly one for the books! I got to cross off a bucket list item, we hiked 12+ miles and for 10+ hours, we saw Thru Hikers actually FINISH their north bound trips, swore most of the way down Hamlin Ridge, hiked our last 4 miles in the rain, and finished the day walking around, looking like we had bambi legs 🦌🤣
If you are looking to hike Katahdin, please plan ahead as the trails to access Baxter Peak can only be accessed with reservations (unless you want to risk the fact that people will not fill their parking permits and be delayed an hour). You will have to plan which trail/trails you have your heart set on so you can choose which parking lot you would like to reserve a parking pass for. You can grab a pass from the Baxter State Park website here And PLEASE be prepared with plenty of snacks, a meal, and water! A few different layers is receommended as well because, let's be honest, we are in Maine and the weather is unpredictable enough!
We decided early on that we were going to take the Chimney Brook trail and then head up the mountain on the Saddle trail. So we got a parking reservation for the Roaring Brook Campground which is heavily trafficked. Our start on the Chimney Brook trail was almost magical. You have the falls to your right and it is filled with roots and rocks. One of the most amazing parts of the trip was honestly when we stopped at Chimney Pond. This is A MUST if you end up on this side of "Mama K". Pictures do this spot no justice, I was absolutely blown away.
Our trip up Saddle Trail was decent. You do get to some bouldering but nowhere near what you have to endure when you climb Cathedral. We were running on little sleep but my adrenaline was pumping so I was flying through the trail trying to take everything in and document every speck of the trail that I could! I started to slow down on our way to Baxter peak because the small rocks that shift make the walk a little more strenuous.
Once we got to Baxter Peak, we got to see actual Thru Hikers finish their 2,000+ mile journeys and it was incredible! We had PERFECT weather to sit at the summit and eat our lunches and watch other hikers travel over Knife's Edge towards us. The views are so incredibe and I couldn't believe how amazing the feeling was to be up there!
To get our second 4K peak of the day, we then crossed back over to the Hamlin Ridge trail to snag Hamlin Peak (which was not very exciting). It also took us about 2 hours to do a mile section down the Hamlin Ridge. This trail was fairly technical but interesting! If you want a peek of what Knife's edge is all about, I would say try this trail. However, we did meet some hikers that finished just after us that day who said they would have rather gone back over Knife's edge again than come down Hamlin? HAHA!
We lucked out and the rain didn't really start until we got just below the tree line on the Hamilin Ridge trail. We then walked around 4 miles in the rain. It made for a slightly sour ending to our day but once we were back at the vehicle (barely moving) our eyes started to light up again and we refocused on what our next meal was going to be and talking about how great of a day it really was!! This was Another amazing day spent on a mountain with friends in the great State of Maine! If you have not hiked Katahdin yet, I recommed that you do so! We started talking about making reservations for next year on our ride home, it was THAT good!!
Hike #5- Crocker, South Crocker and Redington Loop, Kingfield
The Caribou Valley road into the trailhead is somewhat rough, however depending on the time of year, a car would be okay. I used this same spot to access the AT side of Sugarloaf. You park at a gate and walk about a half of a mile to the Appalachian trail access point. We are definitely not considered “fair weather hikers” after 11+ miles in rain and wind during this hike! This is where we are going to use the hashtag; #mountainforecastlied hahaha The only traffic we saw on the trails were the #ATthruhikers and one little chihuahua who is hiking the AT in it’s entirety😯 what a badass with a “ ferocious” little bark 😂
Thankfully, Crocker, South Crocker, and Redington are now crossed off of our Maine 4K list! If you haven’t started your list yet, don’t start with these.. you probably won’t finish the list… 😴 🥱 There are very little views while you hike this trio of mountains (even if it is a clear day from what we have been told) I am also not a fan of major backtracking which is what you do with this trail, When you get to South Crocker, you extend out to Crocker, come back over to South and then make your way to Redington. Getting to Reddington, a lot of people have mentioned you are buschwhacking which isn't really true. The trail gets a little tight but you can always tell it is an obvious path. Nothing to worry about! The roadway at the end is very nice on the knees but makes you feel like the hike will never end as I believe it is 4 miles of what seems like the land of nothingness.
Hike #6- The Bigelows! Avery and West Peak - Bigelow Public Reserved Land, Carrabassett Valley
Little did we know that behind put behind schedule because of missing shoes would help us dodge the rain storm completely and catch a rainbow on the way back to Avery Peak from the West Peak.
We hiked in Safford Brook trail which was so pretty and then hooked onto the #appalachiantrail the rest of the way. We caught a glimpse of blue sky periodically the whole climb up to the first summit but once we got closer we knew we would be socked in. The wind was so crazy it felt like it was going to blow you over. (At one point I did a slow motion fall to the side while I was videotaping 🙊 🤣)
Overall, the misfortunate events that morning led to a perfect day for hiking the Bigelows! We hiked 10+ miles, crossed two peaks off of our Maine #4000footer list with only 3 left and ended up getting great views our second time at Avery Peak. We were going to make our final hike a traverse. However, with the lack of daylight we are running into this late in the season, (October) we figure it is best to split our hikes up into two more trips. It’s crunch time and hopefully we don’t run into too much snow ❄️ 🤪
Hike #7- Sugarloaf and Spaulding, Carrabassett Valley
Logged my first big solo hike with this one! Started at Sunrise and 25° and ended hours later at 32° and it was perfect 👌Usually when I’m out solo, I’m not really solo as I typically have Brock. I haven’t felt comfortable with bringing him on a 4K hike as the mileage is typically too long or there are obstacles that I don’t feel comfortable in putting him in the position to get through. My 4K partner couldn’t make it however, I have a goal and I really intend on accomplishing it this year!🤞 Lucky for her, I would definitely do this hike again and intend on helping her finish her 4Ks when the time is right for her! ♥️
I went down the Caribou Valley Road, which is rough when you first turn onto the road but completely fine after. It is car friendly. You drive about 4 miles where you park at a gate and walk around half a mile to access the trails. I hit the AT on the left to head towards Sugarloaf (yes, the ski mountain everyone knows about 😉)
Not far in you cross the Carrabassett River which is absolutely beautiful 😍 There is a board set up to walk across so you won’t get wet unless your balance is terrible 🙊
At about 1.2 miles you really start to climb. There is some decent size rock scrambling but nothing too crazy. However, this is the section Brock would not have been able to make it over.
This trail is typical AT, rock stair cases, beautiful forest scenery, rocks and roots and you do trek through low height water as it flows down through towards you. There was some sign of bits of snow down towards the base.
At 2.3 miles you make it to the intersection where you turn off to head towards Sugarloaf which is .5 miles. Obviously when you get to the top, it is filled with towers, a helicopter pad and cairns that mark the top which in my opinion slightly ruins the 360° views but not too bad.
Hike back towards the intersection and to get to Spaulding is 2.1 miles. The sign that leads you to Spaulding is 150 yards which honestly felt like the longest 150 yards ever. This is fairly uphill the whole way. Spaulding is just a sign attached to a tree but if you keep walking a little ways you will get to a small overlook. However, this small area was beautiful to me as there was some fresh, light snowfall on the tree tops and the ground 😍 ❄️
The great part about most of this trip is that there are a lot of decent flat sections. Yes, you will get to sections that are steep for a bit but they don’t seem like they are never ending in my opinion. This would be a great hike for someone starting their 4Ks and trying to do two in one trip.
If you’ve ever hiked with me, you know I absolutely hate backtracking. I did find a map on All trails that someone had made a loop and came back out on the Caribou valley road. I highly prefer loops and figured the roadway would be easier on my knees. However, there are a lot of trees down, I didn’t see markers and didn’t feel comfortable going further. I’m not a fan of doing any sort of bushwhacking and I was out solo so I had to backtrack anyways (which made me slightly grumpy because I had such good timing otherwise)
This added 2-3 miles onto my overall hike so if you download my map turn back around at Spaulding to head towards Sugarloaf or send me a message and I will get you another map to help guide you. However, the trail is well marked and easy to follow. If you remember these few tips, you should be Golden! ☀️ I only have one 4K left.. eek 😬 🎉
Hike #8- Mount Abraham, Kingfield
What an amazing day! This hike seemed absolutely magical! I haven’t decided if this was actually my favorite Maine 4K or not. The views were absolutely beautiful and just something about walking through the powder covered trees was beautiful! ❄️
The drive in from Kingfield is fairly easy. You head down West Kingfield Street which is in the center of town. Once you get to the Y about 3.5 miles in, you will see Rapid Stream road straight ahead. I had seen information about this road being terrible. I didn't think it was bad at all. Maybe in mud season you would want an AWD with a little higher clearance but the conditions we came across, I would have brought my coupe car with snow tires down there no problem. So I am assuming they have done some work to the road itself. I have read that most of the road is unplowed most of the winter so take that into consideration if you want to winter hike this one!
Once you hit the 6 mile mark you will see two bridges where you will cross Rapid Stream. Stay to the right and about a half of a mile after you cross the bridges, keep an eye out there is a small parking lot for the Fire Warden's trail and is also marked as a snowmobile trail/Mt. Abram trail rider's access point. You will park here and see the small brown sign marking the trail when you pull in. Cross back part of the lot to hit the trail!
The trail was easy to navigate with blue markers and seemed fairly moderate in elevation gain for the first 2.5 miles. We stopped at what would be the second to last water crossing and had a snack. After the last water crossing the trail began to get steep. There were more than a couple of water crossings like I had read previously but if you use just one trekking pole it makes it so much easier to balance across the rocks.
We started to get into some pretty powder sections once we got closer to the top of the tree line. You begin to get to the ridgeline and the views are amazing. It is about a half a mile trek once you come out of the trees and to the summit. We had to follow the cairns where there was snow cover. I am not sure if there are markings on the rocks or not. The tower has been blown down at this point. The base is in one direction and the top in another. I couldn't get over the 360° views.
The overall hike was about 8.4 miles. We started the day at 18° and ended at 30°. Wind at the summit was supposed to make real feel -2° while we were up there and boy did we feel it up there! 🥶Other than that, I had plenty of L.L. Bean layers, even had to shed some and put them back in my Deuter pack. Thankful we didn’t have to wear our spikes (I keep Hillsounds in my pack) and didn’t need snowshoes. We really had some great weather. The skies were perfect and the sun left the snow glistening during our entire hike which was 👌😍 This is the 10th highest mountain in Maine, yet, might be my favorite! I guess we will see how it compares when I do it again next year without snow!