.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.