Elevation - 5,384
Posted Distance: 7.2 Miles
Our Time: 7 Hours (with lengthy break)
We made the extended trip to the White Mountains on a weekend get away and decided to take try out hand at our first 5000 footer.
Mount Munroe is accessible from a handful of different access points, all of which are also used to access Mount Washington. So expect people! As we've primarily (exclusively) hiked in Baxter Park we were not accustomed to the foot traffic. It is crazy and not the peaceful natural outing we were used to.
We took the Ammonousuc Ravine Trail, which starts at Marshfield Station and climbs to the Lakes of the Clouds hut. We stayed in North Conway and left our hotel in t-shirt and shorts. The weather in the mountains, however, was drastically different. Mount Washington is well known (albeit no to us) for it's constantly changing weather conditions. I fortunately had a jacket in the car, but Laura went to the gift shop and bought a sweatshirt. Both were worn for the entire hike. It was that cold.
The walk is nothing but inclined. There was no "getting to the trail" portion. You start going up and keep going. There is a ravine that you cross a few times and at one point a waterfall that is quite nice. About 2 miles in, there was a guide turning people around who were under dressed. It was apparently quite a bit colder as you approached the bare rock.
Fortunately we passed the test. There is a challenging portion to this hike where you are rocking on bare rock on an incline, There is a small stream that runs down this rock and, along with the mistyness, that created some really iffy terrain. It was problematic on the way up and more difficult on the way down where we had to be very careful. This section arguably took longer coming back.
It is, however, the start of some very nice views down the mountain, and to the left, of Mt. Washington, the tallest peak in the white mountains (6000+ feet).
Another half mile of steep climb and you reach Lake of the Clouds Hut, an overnight cottage available to anyone who reserves it ahead of time. This hut is the forking point to Mount Washinton, which was the goal for most hikers on the trail. Left to Washington (and other peaks) Right to Munroe (and other peaks). They also serve warm meals, which on a this cold day was something Laura couldn't resist. The wind, by the way, was crazy. It was gusting up to 80 MpH and the guides were strongly suggesting no one continue their climb to Washington. However Munroe was up for grabs. So after a rest we walked on.
The hike to Munroe is totally exposed and the first (false) peak is clearly in view from Lake of the clouds. With the wind almost blowing us off our feat, we slowly made our way up the to the top of Munroe.
The views from Munroe were, in all honesty, not much better than from the hut. The .4 mile ascent was a simple point of pride. Hikers could continue on, 2.4 miles, to Franklin from this point.
But it was too cold and windy for shenanigans. We turned around for our walk down which, included, another stop at the hut. Here, many hikers were told that they could now attempt Washington, which was met with glee for all.
This was a nice hike. The trail starting right at the base of the mountain made the hike shorter and easier than some previous ones, despite the added elevation. It is one of the most popular ways to get to Mt. Washington, so expect a lot of people. There's a decent 9.2 mile loop here that starts and ends at Marshfield Station with Mount Washington as the focal point.
I look forward to returning to the White Mountains, but I will try to stay farther away from Mount Washington and the Appalachian trail on my next visit.
.Elevation: 3795 (Mount Coe), 3970 (South Brother), 4151 (North Brother)
Posted Distance: 10 Miles
Suggested Time: 8 Hours
Our Time: 8 Hours
The Brother's Loop is accessed through the South Park and it can be done either from the Masterson Trail or Mount O.J.I trail with the O.J.I. Link. We took the (relatively) easier path which is the Masterson Trail.
The Masterson trailhead is about 40 minutes from the park gate and has a reasonable amount of parking. The Masterson trail is a 1.3 mile access trail to the main Brother loop and it ascends almost immediately. The grade of the uphill is surprising and while I had my doubts the early elevation gain was permanent.
What every hiker who does the Brother's loop has to ask themselves is this: to walk up the rock slide or down it. The rock slide is a half mile stretch of steep, bare stone. It's intimidating and if it's wet then I'd imagine it would be quite dangerous. Going up it is a real challenge. The sun beats down on you and every step is done on a 45 degree incline (or worse). But I think coming down it would be as challenging as you're forced to really devote attention into every step.
We elected to go up the rock slide. Taking a right at the junction, you walk about .8 mile of mostly flat terrain. There is a bit of grade but it's certainly a break from Masterson.
The rock slide. OH the rock slide. It was 30 Celsius for our walk and the rock slide seemed un-ending. It took us forty minutes to do the .5 miles from OJI link junction to the summit. We'd break, walk, break and look back only to be a good spit away from where we just rested. The combination of incline and terrain make this just an absolute treat.
However the conclusion is Mount Coe, the first peak of the loop. It's the lowest of the three mountains but is generous with it's views. Both Doubletop and Katahdin are well featured, as is the rest of the Baxter Park area. It's a perfect spot for an extended stay to gather strength and motivation for the remaining 7 miles of hike. When you're ready, you can clearly see the South Brother Peak waiting for you in the near distance.
There's a short descent from Coe and the 1 mile trail has some grade to it, but overall the walk from Coe to the South trailhead is uneventful. Itsaddles the ridge of the mountain with a misstep to the left creating an unfortunate misadventure. You have to divert from the main trail and take a .3 mile run at South Brother. This is steep but it's short length makes it quite manageable.
South Brother is another great bare peak with 360 views of the park, including Coe, Double Top and Baxter. With the clear day that it was we were able to see infinitely into the distance. It was stunning, but with the extended break we just had at Coe, we didn't spend too much time.
You now have to obviously make the .3 mile walk back to Masterson Trail, followed by 1,1 miles to the outlet to the North Brother. You again end up losing some elevation but the descent is quite brief, which is fortunate since the next adventure is sizing up the ascent to the 4100 foot North Brother.
Coming in at 400 feet higher than Coe and 200 feet higher than South Brother, North Brother is the tallest peak in the park not in the Katahdin chain. It's a .9 mile hike from the trail to the summit and you have to earn every bit of it. We were already quite tired at this point and as such the slugging was a bit slow. It is quite steep and it ends in a .2 mile 45 degree rock climb.
The North Peak does offer a new view, which is the a view North (previously obstructed) of the South Branch, Blackcat Mountain and the Travellers Massifs. Again, it's a superb view.
The worst part about the Brothers hike is that once you get to the North Peak you have a 4+ mile return slog. The .9 back to the trail followed by a 2.4 mile hike to the Masterson Junction, and then a 1.3 mile back to the carpark. It's easy, with only a small portion of it, about 30 minutes from the North Brother junction, being noticeably steep.
Worth waiting for is a beautiful lake about .8 miles from the Masterson Junction that is a great spot for a final rest. It's very peaceful and sits pleasantly at the base of North Brother.
This is a really fun hike with some of the most consistently good views in the park. We ended up doing it on one of the the hottest days I've hiked in, which lead to running out of water about 1.5 miles from the finish (after spending a lot of time conserving water). Which was an oversight. This hike is definitely for a more experienced hiker. With that said, Mt. Coe and North Brother as a standard out and back would be very good hikes for those who have a bit less experience.
Elevation - 1767
Posted Distance: 3.4 Miles
Suggested Time: 1.5 Hours
Our Time: 2 Hours
Trout Mountain is best accessed by the North Park Entrance. Parking is right across from the Trout Brook Campground.
It's a short loop and from a parking lot adjacent to the trailhead; I don't think it quite matters which direction you go.
The big mistake we made in this hike was going in June. We doused ourselves in bug spray and it only dented the impact of the blackflies at Baxter park in June. Something we surely should have expected. Under prepared for the flies, we nearly sprinted the loop in order to get out of the elements. We even saved our sandwiches for the car in order to shorten the time at the summit.
That said, it's a fine little hike. We went started the loop to the right from the parking lot which lead to a lot of downhill when we should have been going uphill. Which I always find frustrating. The view is half decent for a peak just under 2000 feet. Coming down the otherside of the mountain is a pretty straight shot, all downhill trek.
We were planning on combining this with Horse mountain but with the blackflies we just packed it in and went home.
Worth doing. Probably really good if you have a youngster that want's to take a hike. But the most valuable lesson is delay your start of season in Baxter to mid July.
Elevation - 3225 (Peak of the Ridges), 3541(Traveller Summit), North Traveller (??)
Posted Distance: 10.6 Miles
Suggested Time: 7 Hours
Our Time: 10 Hours
This hike is best accessed from the North Park Entrance. Follow the signs from Patten ME.
Starting from South Branch Pond, walk through the camp ground to the Poggy Notch Trailhead. Pretty early into the walk you'll see a sign for North Traveler's trail, from all accounts I've heard it's best to skip this and loop up the other way. But you, in practice, could start the ascent in this direction, which means you'll do North Travelers - Travelers Ridge - Peak of the Ridges - Travelers.
If you avoid that access, you'll follow Poggy Notch around the South Branch Pond perimeter for 1.4 Miles before leaving the trail and jumping onto Center Ridge Trail. The climb is immediate, steep and constant. The one slimmer of good news is that you're above treeline pretty quick. So nice views can be had while you're gasping for air, as we frequently were.
The trail eventually loses it's dirt foundation and becomes very rocky as the first of, I believe, four false peaks shows itself. These false peaks are VICIOUS. They're worse than Double Top's (from the South) and Double Top's were bad. Once past them you are at Peak of the Ridges, your first peak of the day.
From here you can get a great view of the remainder of the Traveler's massive - and what it has in store for you. You also have, for my money, one of the best views in Maine. Take a break because it's not getting any easier.
Actually, this is a great time to ask yourself if you want to go on. In hindsight, we maybe shouldn't have. It took us 3 hours to get this far. Once you get to Traveler's peak you're over halfway through the walk. So if the weather looks iffy, or if you're short on supplies this is the best spot to call it a day. I mean you did a pretty good climb already, right.
No? Still going on? Okay, well the first task is what is called "Little Knife's edge" the smaller, lost brother of the famous feature in the Katahdin Massif. If you don't like heights then don't look down. You're crossing a ledge that's roughly a foot wide and a straight drop if you mess-up. The one bit of good news is that it's not overly long.
It's 1.2 miles to Traveler Summit. My biggest criticism of this walk is, between peaks, how much up and down is required. The difference between Ridges and Travelers is 200 feat in height, but the walk to Traveler takes you way down, I can't say exactly how much but far more than you'd want. And then you have to regain that height and climb back up. From recollection, you deal with fewer false peaks on this ascent. Fewer, not none.
Rest and Fuel up. There is now a 2.5 mile trek to North Traveler, which crosses a landmass called Traveler ridge. Again, don't expect to stay anywhere near the 3500 feet you're at. Although welcomed the long downhill stretch is a constant reminder of how much climbing is left for the day. This briefly goes below tree cover before popping back out for the climb to Traveler Ridge. Traveler Ridge is a small peak, in the 2700 range I believe (which speaks to how much up and down you just did). Move on quickly to North Traveler, which resumes the open, rocky climbing.
We didn't get to enjoy North Traveler, which we got to about 7.5 hours into our day. A bit cranky and quickly losing daylight, we mustered all we had to get a move on.
Mistakenly, we did this in early October and started at about 9 AM. Poor Hiking decisions by us. We would have been fine if it had been the 7.5 hours the book suggested plus a slight change for our slowness. But we were much slower.
The walk down probably offers the best views, as you face Black Cat Mountain and South Branch Pond. We were (un)lucky enough to see the sunset over the mountains and were able to take that in as we reached for our headlamps.
It's a steep decline which makes the 3 Miles from North Traveler to the trail head go by a bit quicker. The campers at the South Branch campground were a welcome site.
I really enjoyed this hike. But it was certainly strenuous and we weren't ready for it. The amount of time spent above treeline is completely worth the amount of effort this hike requires. It's a challenge and a worthwhile one. I am looking forward to doing it again on a day where we won't be so rushed and slightly concerned for our lives.
Elevation: 3434 (OJI), 2502 (West Peak)
Posted Distance: 8.4 Miles
Suggested Time: ???
Our Time: 6 Hours
Here's the fun thing with OJI. In 2016 they closed the main trail an re-opened the old trail. So most of the literature available on the mountain documents the old ascent and not the one that is currently operational.
The new climb brings you up the back end of the mountain and gives you an opportunity to visit West Peak which is marked but without a trail in a lot of maps (although the 2016 edition of the Baxter Park map does have it)
You park at, or near, foster field campground and begin a muddy walk in. The Park helps you for most of it by putting down platforms to cross on but there are certainly some spots where you need to either have good shoes or a creative mind. It's a fairly gradual climb up to the West Peak junction and we were not feeling too challenged yet. We veered off to West peak which was a .2 mile, somewhat steep climb to a good view and break spot. The biggest down play for West Peak is that you can easily see how much of OJI you have remaining. And it's a lot!
.2 Miles back down and we are only 1.3 away from the Summit. The climb steepens significantly from this point on. About .6 miles in you climb above tree cover. There is a tricky spot right before Old Jay Eye rock (.8 M from West Peak Junction) where you have to either climb through a narrow hole (pictured below) or take a narrow ledge around. We accidentally did both and they are both manageable but intimidating to size up.
Old Jay Eye Rock is a gorgeous area with great view (Doubletop towers to the west). A truly phenomenal spot in the park. From there you can see the true Peak .5 miles away. It is not a difficult .5 miles, however the peak is tree covered with no sights to be seen. Now we've set out to do every peak in the park, so we kind of had to go. But I don't think anyone would blame you if you cut off a mile out and back once you got to Old Jay Eye Rock.
I actually really enjoyed OJI. It's certainly a challenging hike but it's within reason. I don't think the views are as good as others we've done so far, actually come to think of it these were probably the worst views (but in a very competitive list). It;s a hike that leaves you exhausted afterwards, but you don't hate everything about it while you're climbing.
Elevation - 2630 (South Branch), 2611 (North Peak/Black Cat)
Posted Distance: 6.7 Miles (Slaughter Pond - South Peak)
Suggested Time: 5 Hours
Our Time: 5.5 Hours
This hike is best accessed from the North Park Entrance. Follow the signs from Patten ME.
Starting from South Branch Pond campground we went to the right side of the lake, across a small stream (wet feet) and quickly started away from the lake. The climb starts nearly immediately and is for the most part fairly gradual. Near the summit of South Branch Pond is a great overlook of the area but you're still 15 or so minutes from the true 'peak' which is in the middle of the woods (with a sign identifying it as North Peak) and, as we learned, a subpar lunch spot. Continue on 30 minutes of up and down to Black Cat Mountain which offers a spectacular view of the Travellers Range and, on a good day, Katahdin off in the distance.
It took us 2.5 hours to the summit and there is now the option doubling back the way you can or continuing on and looping the lakes via Poggy trail.
We did the latter. The hike down from Black Cat makes you thankful, on numerous occasions, that you came up the other way. Once at the bottom you contour the lake for about half a mile before diverging slightly for a final mile and finishing back at the campground.
The loop took us 5.5 hours and I'd imagine doing an out and back to Black Cat would be four hours or less.
Ray's thoughts: Loved this hike. Loved it. From the beautiful view of the mountains from across the lake at the campground to the panoramic views at the top, this is a great, easy to moderate climb. My only suggestion is if you're looking for a break at the top, don't wait for South Peak. There is a great overlook about 10 minutes before the peak or push on the extra 15 to Black Cat. If you're trying to limit the challenge, do the route we did as the ascent from North is much trickier - but still not as strenuous as other climbs in the park.
Posted Distance: 5.7 Mile (incl. Loop)
Suggested Time: 3.5 Hours
Our Time: 4 Hours
Sentinel is hands down the best walk in terms of effort put in to views ratio. You park at Kidney Campground and are serenaded by the loons of the Kidney Pond for the first .7 miles in. After you've looped around you come to the Sentinel Junction. The first 3/4 mile of the walk is very up and down, which can be frustrating. When you feel like you're finally making good progress you get sent back down a hill.
However, once the climb begins it isn't a very strenuous task. You loop around the opposite side of the mountain and reach the peak where you have the option of going left or right (or turning around if you hate views).
If you wan a quick look and to get on your bike, then go right for a superb view of Baxter Peak and most of the park. However if you have time to spare then take a left and be in awe at the Mountains and lakes in the site. If you go left and loop around, each look gets better and better until you're finally face to face with Baxter.
Ray's Thoughts: This was our second hike after Double Top and we were definitely both looking to tone it down a bit. We did Sentinel on Saturday and even though we were fatigued at the end we had room for more. If you're a big hiker I'd suggest doing this on a Friday before a big Saturday hike, or a Sunday after a big Saturday hike. If you're a good hiker then it's not worth a solo trip to the park.
Elevation - 3455 (South), 3489 (North)
Posted Distance: 8.4 Miles (Slaughter Pond - South Peak)
Suggested Time: 6 Hours
Our Time: 7 Hours
Doubletop has two peaks and three points of entry - two of which are on the South side of the park at the Kidney Campground turnoff. We took the Slaughter Pond entry which shaves about 20 minutes off of either side of the hike.
There is a flat walk up to the base of Doubletop mountain that starts off with a stream crossing followed by a tremendous if not intimidating view of the climb to come (pictured). It could have been either the time of year or the swampy surroundings, but we found the blackflies particularly bad on this hike.
The trail remains flat for about an hour before meeting up with a stream. Here the ascent begins up the stream for roughly 60 minutes. At the conclusion of the stream the true test of this mountain begins. An increasingly steep incline followed by a near bouldering experience separates you from the South peak of Doubletop where there is a brilliant view of Katahdin and the rest of the park. We unfortunately did not have the energy or desire to continue the .3 miles to the higher North Peak.
Doubletop can also be reached by Nesowadnehunk campground which will bring you diretly to the North Peak. We plan on tackling that route once we recover from the first thrashing we took on Doubletop
Ray's Thoughts: Granted, this was our first hike in a long time - and probably not a good one to start with - but nonetheless it's still a very challenging and often un-enjoyable. The guide at the front sold it to us based on it's views - which certainly were fantastic. However the terribly long stretch of swampy walking combined with an steep climb that was as much of an upper body workout as a lowerbody workout has put Doubletop, from the south, very low on my list of walks to do again.
I have heard that it's a longer but more gradual (less steep) walk from the North.