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22 September 2013

A Terrific Trek in the Tumbledown Mountain Region of Maine

In mid-September 2013, I did a hike in the Tumbledown Mountain region of Maine.  This might sound like an exaggeration, but I will say that this was the most enjoyable hike I've done to date!

However, as pleasurable as this adventure was, it got off to a very rocky start!  Coming from the east, Byron Road is used to access the trailheads for the Tumbledown Trail system.  Upon arriving at Byron Road I was shocked to see that the road was closed!!
Byron Road closed on day of my hike! 
Being unfamiliar with the back roads in this area, it required some scrambling to determine if there was any alternative routes that could be used.  After receiving some misinformation and misdirection, an alternative route was found thanks to Jerry, the owner of the Weld General Store.  He indicated that I could bypass the closed section of road by taking West Side Road to Westbrook Brook which intersected Byron Road beyond the section that was closed.  For any reader who might need this alternative routing, it is shown in the map below.
Alternative route to Tumbledown Trail System from the vicinity of Weld, ME
Even before the road-closure issue, I was already running short on time.  So, after having lost over an hour of valuable hiking time, I needed to reassess and quickly improvise a shorter route than originally planned.  And so, I ended up doing a loop by using the Brook Trail for both the ascent and descent.  The middle part of the route involved hiking the Tumbledown Ridge Trail to West Peak, then hiking an unofficial trail to North Peak, and continuing on that trail to the junction of the Pond Link and Parker Ridge Trail.

For the remainder of this report, I'll mostly let the photos tell the story of this marvelous hike.

From the West Side Road, I took a snapshot of the Tumbledown/Jackson Mountain grouping (next photo).
Tumbledown/Jackson Mountains as viewed from West Side Road near Weld, ME
Once I finally got on the trail, it took just a little over an hour to reach Tumbledown Pond.  Along the way to the pond, there wasn't much of interest to see until I neared the junction with the Parker Ridge Trail where I got the picturesque view shown in the next photo.
Vista seen from Brook Trail near the junction with the Parker Ridge Trail
At the junction of the Brook Trail and Parker Ridge Trail, I was greeted with my first view of a portion of Tumbledown Pond.
Approaching Tumbledown Pond from junction of Brook Trail and Parker Ridge Trail
The views from the shoreline of the pond were stunning.  The next photo is just one of the many eye-catching scenes.
One of many eye-catching scenes from shoreline of Tumbledown Pond
Eventually I had to pull myself away to head up the Tumbledown Ridge Trail. The trail begins its ascent via the rocky slabs seen in the next photo at center-left.
Tumbledown Ridge Trail begins ascent at rocky slabs seen at center-left
As I climbed higher along the Tumbledown Ridge Trail, I began to get an overview of the entire Tumbledown Pond.
Overview of Tumbledown Pond as seen while climbing Tumbledown Ridge Trail
Besides the views of Tumbledown Pond, there were other views along the route, such as a view of Webb Lake.
View of Webb Lake from Tumbledown Ridge Trail
While approaching Tumbledown's West Peak, there was a nice westward view of many mountain peaks, including the Presidential Range in New Hampshire.
Tumbledown's West Peak on right, peaks in Presidential Range on distant horizon
After visiting Tumbledown's West Peak, I backtracked a few hundred feet to pick up the unofficial trail that leads over to Tumbledown's North Peak.  Unless someone decides to remove the signage currently painted on the rock slab shown below, it would be difficult to miss the starting point for this trail.  However, beyond the starting point, this unofficial trail can be challenging to follow in some spots.  It should probably be attempted only by experienced hikers. 
Start of the unofficial trail to North Peak from West Peak
From the ridgeline of North Peak, there is a very nice view looking over at West Peak.
View of West Peak from ridgeline leading to North Peak
Also along North Peak's ridgeline was a view toward Webb Lake which was slightly different from the one seen earlier from West Peak's ridgeline.
View of Webb Lake from North Peak's ridgeline
From Tumbledown's North Peak I experienced the most dramatic view of the day.  From a nearby ledge, I was able to look straight down at Tumbledown Pond.  The next photo shows this view.
Tumbledown Pond as viewed from a ledge near top of North Peak
Upon seeing this stunning view, I moved a bit further down the ledge to a very comfortable spot to eat my lunch.  It was so wonderfully weird to be the only person on the planet on this particular who was having their lunch at this incredibly extraordinary spot.
Perched high above Tumbledown Pond eating my lunch
Shown in the next photo is a close-up zoomed view of Tumbledown Pond
Close-up zoomed view of Tumbledown Pond
In addition to the outstanding distant views, and the nearby views of Tumbledown Pond, there were many dazzling views of trailside features along the ridgelines of West Peak and North Peak.  Some of these scenes are shown in the next 4 photos.  There are no captions. I'm sort of left speechless as to how to label them! 

Particularly prominent on North Peak were ledges with unusual striations, as seen in the next photo  Perhaps a reader of this Blog can provide some geologic details as to how they were formed, etc?
[ADDENDUM: Subsequent to writing this report, a State of Maine website was located which discusses the geology of Tumbledown Mountain (click HERE).
Unusual striations seen on ledges of Tumbledown's North Peak
After descending North Peak and arriving at the junction of the Pond Link and Parker Ridge Trail, I still had about 30 minutes before I reached my turnaround time.  This small amount of time was spent exploring a short segment of the Parker Ridge Trail in order to get some different viewing perspectives from the east side of Tumbledown Pond.  I'm so glad that I took this extra half-hour.  The views were excellent!

The next photo shows Tumbledown Pond as viewed from the edge of a small tarn along the Parker Ridge Trail.
Tumbledown Pond as viewed from edge of a small tarn along the Parker Ridge Trail
Another outstanding view from the Parker Ridge Trail included a vista looking up at Little Jackson Mountain.
Little Jackson Mountain as viewed from a point along the Parker Ridge Trail
To sum it up, despite the rather shaky start to this hike, and the impromptu route change, I will state what was said at the beginning of the report.  This was the most enjoyable hike I've done to date!


  1. Great report John. Funny with the timing on this one. A couple friends did Tumbledown 2 weeks ago. I opted for something else that day. :( Almost went there this past Saturday but ended up in a totally socked in Grafton Notch. So I'm glad I didn't do the extra mileage. Your photos are fantastic. Has to be one of the most beautiful mountains I've seen.

    Don't quote me but I asked about that scouring. It was caused by scouring from boulders imbedded beneath an advancing glacier.

    Thanks for sharing,

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Joe!

      Haven't experienced any other spot in New England quite like the Tumbledowns. Was totally blown-away!

      Regarding the "striation photo" in my report, I've seen straight-line striation/scouring, but haven't seen wavy-line striation. But regardless of whether the lines are 'straight' or 'wavy', it's probably the result of glacial scouring.


  2. Hi, John. I'm not a geologist, but the striations on those rocks look to me like the results of a lava flow that cooled, which would make the rock igneous. Or they could be folding as a result of pressure. Judging from the photo, I vote against glacial scratching, because such scratches typically do not show curves.

    /Steve Bjerklie

    1. Aha! Excellent thoughts Steve about those striations! Thanks!

      In my simple-minded way, I can envision how rock/debris embedded in a glacier could gouge straight lines as the glacier moved across a rocky surface. However, I was having difficulty imagining how a glacier could 'wobble' and etch a wavy line!


    2. Just located a website which discusses the geology of Tumbledown Mountain. Looks like the striations were in fact not due to glacial action. This website can be accessed by cutting and pasting the link below into your Internet browser.

  3. Wow, John! I've heard and read about Tumbledown, but your photos bring it vividly to life. What a spectacular place! Thanks for sharing your trip. Amazing.


    1. Steve . . . thanks for your comments. As always, I'm very appreciative!

      As you say, Tumbledown is indeed a "spectacular place". And to think that due to time constraints, I didn't even get to either Little Jackson Mountain or Jackson!! So, there's still much more to be experienced in that most unique area.


  4. Another great one, John! Too bad I didn't see you when I was there, but I'm glad you had as good a time as I did :) I've been raving about the hike since I was there last week. It's just too gorgeous!

    I also noticed those striations, especially on the Parker Ridge just east of the pond. I'll have to check out that geology website you mentioned. I'm sure that mountain must be a treat for New England geologists.

    1. Ryan, thanks for taking time to reply!

      Wow! Wouldn't that have been some sort of record if we had yet another 'chance' meeting on the trail within a short span of a few weeks!

      Yes, please do take a moment to check out that State of Maine geology website. The info presented there is concise, and not overly technical. I think you'll find it interesting.


  5. Wow John!
    I enjoy reading about and seeing pictures from all of your hikes, but this one was truly amazing! You're really whetting my appetite for a trip to Maine!
    Tumbledown Pond looks like a worthy destination in its own right. Those wonderful rocks along the shoreline are just calling out as a place to relax, soak up some sun, or read a good book! But your hike up the ridge provided a great spot for some rest and lunch as well. The picture from the tarn to the pond is calendar-worthy! Isn't it great to be the only person at one particular time in one particularly spectacular place?
    This wonderful post reminds me that I have to get outside soon—instead of just unpacking mounds of boxes!
    Thanks for providing me with this vicarious getaway to the Tumbledown Mountains!

  6. Not as grand as those nh 4ker's, eh? ;) There's a reason why I've hiked it 20+ times. o.k. many reasons! glad it's only 70 minutes from my house.

    1. Natron . . . the NH 4K peaks are grand in their own way, but the Tumbledowns have an awesome quality about them which simply isn’t there for any peaks I’ve visited in NH or VT. I envy you with your 70 minute drive to the trailhead. For me, it’s nearly double that. But even so, it’s worth every minute of driving time to get there. I’m definitely going to be making return visits to this unique spot on the planet!

      Thanks for posting your comments.


      may I suggest a night out?

    3. Thanks for sharing your overnight camping photo. What a terrific location for a "night out"! :-)


  7. Great pictures,1 Happy Hiker! Question: I'm setting up camp Thursday-Sunday this week up in Milan SP, NH and am debating on two hikes (both of which you've done). Would it be better to do Wright Trail (South) - Gooseneck Mountain or this Parker Ridge Trail? I'm a BIG fan of the alpine ridge hikes so whatever is best. If you could give me a shove in the right direction, that would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    1. It’s easy to understand your dilemma! The Wright Trail to Goose Eye Mountain provides beautiful scenes along the way and super-spectacular views from the top. And, the same can be said for the Parker Ridge Trail in the Tumbledown Mountain region.

      But, if I was forced to choose between the two, then most likely a trek in the Tumbledowns would be the one I’d select. I found the overall experience and views to be awesome and unique.

      Hope this helps!


    2. P.S. Dizk, I think you can rest assured that you can't go wrong regardless of which of these two terrific hikes you choose.

  8. Awesome! Thanks for the recommendation on the Parker Ridge Trail! If you have any other ridge hikes like these within that vicinity, feel free to let me know. I'll be leaving for Milan SP Thursday morning and thinking about doing one of these hikes on Friday. I'll be all around that area up there from Dixville Notch to Grafton Notch exploring as much as I can.I'm coming from New York so any help and other recommendations are much appreciated! :-)

  9. Scattered my father's ashes last year (2014) on Parker Ridge Trail just east of the pond. Back again today for what is sure to become my annual pilgrimage which I call "lunch with Dad." Today I was absolutely the only soul on the mountain. Spectacular!

    1. Katherine . . . thanks so much for sharing the special meaning that this place has for you.