Monday, January 6, 2014

Hiking Coburn Mountain Maine: New England 50 Finest

Biking and hiking through the Maine North Woods to another lost summit with panoramic views.
Coburn Mountain in Northern Maine
This post is a *little* overdue but I liked this summit so much I decided to post about it in January. Over the summer and fall, I sure had a great taste of everything North Woods when I was hiking up in the Jackman and Forks areas! I got to run the Kennebec River Gorge with Magic Falls Rafting and I was able to hike a couple summits in the area. The Maine North Woods are so much different from the rest of New England with their lonely summits and hiking trails. While the White Mountains are full of hikers, I hardly ever run into another soul when hiking up here. Its a different experience. On this occasion, I wanted to hike Coburn Mountain which is the highest summit between Sugarloaf and Katahdin in Maine.

Here's a general map of the area with the multiple options for summiting:

View Hiking Coburn Mountain, Maine in a larger map

As you might be able to tell, Mt Coburn is way the heck out there, even by Maine standards. The "trailhead" is enchanted mountain road and you can either park here or drive up to the old ski area parking lot. (at some point in time, this area was a ski resort). Given its remoteness, it is surprising to know that the area is well-maintained by the Coburn Summit Riders who keep a snowmobile trail open in the winter. Its also maintained for ATV riders. By their reports and my observations, it is the highest mountain legally accessible to snowmobilers and ATVers in the Northeast. Not bad for a mountain out in the middle of nowhere!

As for us hikers, the summit has excellent views and is certainly worth the drive. 
Much of the trail is on old ATV roads
Classic view of the North Woods
Like all hikes in the North Woods, the Maine Gazetteer is an essential because much of the hike is along the endless network of unmarked logging roads. The Gazetteer is usually up to date in new roads and the removal of old roads but its good to keep a compass and perhaps even a USGS topo-map as well. Be aware that many of these logging roads are still active so if you see a truck coming, pull over and given them PLENTY OF ROOM! 

Oh did I mention I saw a bear and two moose on this hike? Its as Maine as it gets.

You can either park off to the side of Enchanted Mountain Road or drive all the way to the old ski area parking lot. Its actually quite substantial and surprisingly bare considering there hasn't been a ski resort here for over 50 years. Unless you have an ATV or a serious 4x4, I'd recommend traveling no further in your vehicle. 

At the obvious parking area, head on to the unmarked logging road to the right and in less than 2/10ths of a mile you'll see an ATV road veer off to the left. This is a shorter method of getting to the top. Continue up this road for about 1 mile until you come to the "top" of the ski resort.

A clear area which used to the be the "summit" of the ski area
At the "ski area summit" you can see the true summit of Mt Coburn which is a little misleading. There's a gated road just past the clearing which was gated in the summer but may not be in the winter. This is the snowmobile/ATV trail to the summit. While you can certainly take this to the top, there's a shorter, more direct hiking option as well. It is just a few hundred yards past the gate and I tried marking it with a larger cairn. This is a herd path, not really a trail so be aware.
I'm no experienced cairn-maker but this was as good as I could do
Here's the little gate- the hiking trail is just beyond on the right.
Getting to the summit from here is not exactly a long trek but it involves quite a bit of meandering through scrub and following an occasional trail. It was not difficult to follow but it wasn't clear either. Eventually you just pop right out on the summit and have views for 50 miles. 

There's a little viewing platform at the summit which is open all year.
Views from the top!
A bit of fog made for some serenity on the summit

The summit of Coburn from the ski area summit
It was a great hike! Easily accomplished in a 1/2 day with a moderate amount of navigational skills. Coburn certainly deserves its place among New England's 50 Finest!

Read. Plan. Get Out There!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Winter Hike of Red Hill, New Hampshire Lakes Region

Red Hill is another Lakes Region classic and a family friendly hike. Even in the winter, it can be easily done in a 1/2 day with a minimal amount of experience.
View from the Summit of Red Hill, New Hampshire
Continuing with my hikes and exploration of the Lakes Region, I turned north and headed to Center Harbor, New Hampshire. Red Hill is a small monadnock at the northwestern end of Lake Winnipesaukee. It rises almost like a small volcano. This little mountain has intrigued me as I've driven by it on my way to several other adventures and after hiking Mt Belknap, I had time to spare. As it turns out, the hike is only 3 miles, roundtrip. Although it is a steep hike, it is another great 1/2 day option and I imagine its great during any time of year. 

Here is an excellent map of the hike.
Great fire tower lookout at the summit!
Well there's not much more to say about hiking directions other than park at the parking lot and hike a steep 1.5 miles to the summit! The trail was well cut in the winter when I did it and it appears that many people love to hike this summit all year. It is an attractive location for a first winter hike and considering its only 3 miles total, that's a good bang for your buck

Although there were no views along the way, the summit was great-
Frozen Lake Winne!
Another great view from the Fire Tower
I'm impressed! I've been spending so much time in the Whites and Greens that I forget there are other mountains in New England that are worthy of a day trip or extended weekend. I'm glad I got the chance to hike this great little summit!

Read. Plan. Get Out There!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Winter Hike of Mt Belknap, New Hampshire: New England's 50 Finest

Mt Belknap is an easily accessible hike for all seasons. Its prominent summit and active fire tower offer views of the entire New Hampshire Lakes Region. 
Mt Belknap, New Hampshire
Just south of the White Mountains is the Lakes Region of New Hampshire which offers its own set of great hikes. I've been inadvertently drawn to this region as of late, probably as a result of hiking nearly all the major summits in the Whites. The Lakes Region summits are comparatively shorter but tend to have some great views none-the-less. After doing some hikes in the Ossipee Range and the southern Sandwich Range, I turned my attention further south to the Belknap Range and Red Hill. These are two half-day hikes which offer some of the better views of the famous Lake Winnipesaukee which is the crown jewel of the Lakes Region. 

Mt Belknap is the highest summit of the small Belknap Range which includes 12 summits which can be hiked as well as a ski resort. There are plenty of options for snowmobiling as well. As for me, I was on foot and I wanted to make it to the fire tower which sits atop the summit. Here's my map:

As you can see from the map, the winter parking lot is significantly lower than the summer parking lot which adds about 2.2 miles (round trip total) to the hike. Its not too bad of a walk up the road and there are cut-off trails which were easy to find to avoid taking the switchbacks.

In the summer, if you have a 4x4 or just a good car, you can make it up the dirt road all the way to the upper parking lot which cuts off that mileage. There's a wonderful spot for lunch at the top with views of Mt Kearsarge and Ragged Mountain to the west. 
View of Lake Winnipesaukee from the Fire Tower on Belknap
From the upper parking lot, the hike is pretty straightforward. Its 0.8 miles to the summit from the parking lot on the Green Trail which is relatively well marked by green blazes. It was ice though! Bring some micro spikes! I was on the summit in no time at all. 

The summit has one of the few remaining active fire towers in New Hampshire which is great for hikers. The top room was locked when I hiked it but I think it may be open in the summer. Regardless, you can climb to the upper level and take pictures. While mine didn't turn out well that day, the views were epic!

Many people end up hiking Gunstock Mountain as well through the blue trail. There's also the red trail which takes you back to the parking lot in a more round-about way. Here is a good map outlining those options.
Nice place for lunch at the upper parking lot
Well that was a nice little winter hike! Short, sweet and direct. Its a great place if you're looking for an easy way to get into winter hikes!

Read. Plan. Get Out There!