A classic Maine adventure on the Appalachian Trail which climbs Maine's 8th highest peak. Saddleback Mountain also has an extensive alpine zone with views all the way to Katahdin and Mt Washington.
|Saddleback Mountain, Maine|
The second stop on my little Western Maine road trip was Saddleback Mountain! I stayed the night in Rangeley and ate at a nice little bar with a bunch of Appalachian Trail hikers. Rangeley has been profoundly shaped by the AT. In fact, nearly everyone there was either hiking the trail or on a multi-day fishing trip. It seemed like Alaska.
The trailhead for Saddleback Mountain is near the height of the land on Route 4 and is well marked. From here, I crossed the road and followed the Appalachian Trail for a relatively gentle first 1.4 miles.
I soon came upon Piazza Rock campsite which was not far from the actual rock. Piazza Rock was not to be missed- this massive outcropping looked somewhat like a turret and provided enough of an overhang to shelter an entire troop of campers. You can also climb to the top of it and look over the precipitous overhang. It was a nice little break in the action along the steep trail to Saddleback.
Continuing onward from Piazza Rock, the trail stays pretty flat for a while until it begins its steep ascent to Eddy Pond. There were a few picturesque lakes which made the brutal ascent worthwhile and Eddy Pond was absolutely stunning. Just a small, clear blue alpine lake reminding northbound AT hikers that the most beautiful section is coming up. It seemed like I was the only person out on a day hike- I saw several Southbound AT hikers from all across the country. Hiking this trail is always such a social affair!
|Piazza Rock, Rangeley, ME|
Eddy Pond is a great place for lunch or a snack before heading up the murderous trail up Saddleback. This trail is pretty brutal but eventually it gets above treeline and has epic views. Don't assume you're close to the summit though! There are a half dozen false-summits before the true one. Some folks who chose to hike from the ski resort on the mountain will also start to crowd the trail. Nevertheless the summit is every bit as wonderful as Katahdin with the Rangeley lakes below!
From here you can head back down the way you came or go on to the Horn which is a 500ft nubble that qualifies as one of Maine's fourteen 4,000-footers. Most people who hike the Horn are, of course, trying to complete all the 4,000-footers but the views from the top make it a worthy destination in its own right. The annoying descent and re-ascent of the Horn trail may discourage some, but it is a full 1.5 miles of uninterrupted vistas which rival those of the Presidential Traverse. I'd recommend it whether or not you care about 4,000-footers.
|Just above Treeline on Saddleback|
|Trail from Saddleback to the Horn|
|Overlooking the Rangeley Lakes on the AT|
The total distance is just over 14 miles and well worth the distance and elevation gain. Its impressively large alpine zone and prominence offer one of the best vistas in Maine. I probably say that about everything I climb these days but this was outstanding. Can't wait to do this again in the winter.
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