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13 September 2014

Terrific Hiking in the Bigelow Mountain Range (Maine)

The author and motivational speaker named Jim Rohn is credited with the quote: “Finding is reserved for those that search.

The above quote came to mind when my wife and I recently searched for a place to stay in Maine.  We wanted to be situated on a lake.  This would provide my wife with the opportunity to enjoy leisurely nature walks and to read novels while sitting along the lakefront. The venue we sought would also need to provide easy access to hikes that I wanted to do.

As a result of our diligent search, we found lakeside lodging in Rangeley, Maine where we enjoyed three magnificent days.  Upon arrival, we familiarized ourselves with the area by driving around and stopping at roadside pull offs to admire the abundance of lake and mountain vistas that this area has to offer.

One of many roadside vista of lakes and mountains in vicinity of Rangeley, Maine
Also on our first day there, we did a joint hike along the Cascade Stream Gorge Trail.  Here we were treated to many picturesque cascades, one of which is shown in the next photo.
Photo taken while hiking along the Cascade Stream Gorge Trail
It also so happened that on our first night, there was a full moon which was shining brightly even before sunset!
Full moon at late evening, as viewed from our lakeside lodging at Rangeley, Maine
Each  morning, it was a treat to awaken to the sounds of a variety of water birds, including the haunting call of loons.
Early morning vista from our lakeside lodging at Rangeley, Maine
Although it was definitely delightful to spend a few hours each morning and each evening at this lovely lakeside location, it was equally pleasurable to head out each day for hikes in the surrounding mountains.

Bigelow Mountain Range (Avery Peak and West Peak):

My primary hiking destination for this trip was the Bigelow Mountain Range which consists of a long ridgeline with several named peaks (Cranberry Peak; The Horns; West Peak; Avery Peak; Little Bigelow Mountain).  The Appalachian Trail traverses nearly the entire Bigelow Range, other than a segment at the western end where Cranberry Peak is located.

I hiked to the two highest summits in the Bigelow Range, i.e. Avery Peak (4,088 ft) and West Peak (4,145 ft).  This adventure was an 'out and back' hike via the Safford Brook Trail and Appalachian Trail.  The round trip distance was 9.8 miles, and it took about 6 hours at a leisurely pace.  For anyone who has never hiked the Safford Brook Trail, I would highly recommend it.  It's a well maintained trail with good footing and is never overly steep.  However, be advised that reaching this trailhead entails many miles of driving on gravel roads with intermittent rough spots that can really slow you down.

And so, presented below are just a few of the many photos taken during my trek to Avery Peak and West Peak.
Approaching the summit of Avery Peak 
The rock outcropping at right of photo is actual summit of Avery Peak.  My next destination (West Peak) is seen rising in the distance at center of photo.
Between Avery Peak and West Peak you pass through Avery Col where there is a shelter, plus tent sites, and abundant signage!
Upon arrival at West Peak, I snapped this photo looking back at Avery Peak.
This photo is similar to the one shown above, but it includes the summit sign for West Peak.
Looking westward from West Peak are "The Horns".  (This will be my hiking destination on the next visit to this area!)
Along the ridgeline, there are many awesome vistas overlooking Flagstaff Lake, such as the NE view shown here
On my way back home to our lakeside lodging, I made a short side trip by driving to the northwest corner of Flagstaff Lake to take a look at the Bigelow Range as viewed over this beautiful body of water.
Bigelow Mountain Range as viewed over Flagstaff Lake
Burnt Mountain:

For the one cloudy day that we experienced during our stay, I opted to do a 5.6 mile (round-trip) hike to the 3,595 ft peak named Burnt Mountain (also called Burnt Hill on some maps).  With a bit of searching, you can find a few legal spots to park near the hotel located at the Sugarloaf Ski and Golf Resort.  You'll then need to walk a short distance to the trailhead which is located at the end of a private road.  Oddly enough, the name of this private road is Bigelow Mountain Road, even though there is a road just to south of it named Burnt Mountain Road.  Go figure!
The hiking trail quickly leaves the urbanized resort environment and leads through some very attractive woods, including one segment that passes through a picturesque birch glade.
As you'll see from the next two photos, the mountaintop sort of lives up to its name, i.e. it appears 'burnt'!  Nonetheless, the 360 degree views from there are very nice, and likely would be stunning on a bright sunny day!
Looking NORTH across the 'burnt' tundra of Burnt Mountain toward the Bigelow Mountain Range
Looking SOUTH across the 'burnt' tundra of Burnt Mountain toward Spaulding Mountain, and Mt. Abraham
Of course, upon descending the mountain, the overcast conditions began to diminish (as you'll see in the next two photos)!  I suppose we've all had this experience, at one time or another!
Photo taken during my descent, as overcast conditions begin to diminish.  Vista includes Sugarloaf Mountain (foreground), and Crocker Mountain in the background to right of Sugarloaf.
Looking back at Burnt Mountain during my descent, as overcast conditions begin to diminish
To sum it up, both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our stay in this area of Maine and will likely be making return visits to seek out other treasures awaiting our discovery.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I highly recommend Horns Pond and the spetacular overlook between the pond and Cranberry pond.

Steve Smith said...

Great report, John! Glad you had a fine day on the Bigelows. I think they are second only to the peaks of Baxter as summit destinations in Maine. Was it clear enough to see Katahdin? Burnt Hill looks like a gem. And nice find on the lakeside lodging!


1HappyHiker said...

Thanks Josh for the compliment about my posting, and also thanks for the recommendations for future hikes in the Bigelow Range. Quoting the catchphrase from the 1980s Terminator movie: "I'll be back!" :-)


1HappyHiker said...

Steve, thanks for your kind words! And regarding your question about visibility on the day I hiked the Bigelows, there wasn't much you couldn't see! It was a marvelous day for viewing. Katahdin was visible, but of course being over 80 miles away (as the crow flies), it was little more than a 'blip' on the horizon. :-)


Rita Wechter said...

John, it looks like your search resulted in a fantastic "find"!
Your pictures from both the lake and the hikes are stunning!
Years ago, on our way home from Baxter State Park, Tim and I found a little motel on an unnamed lake in Maine and it was just gorgeous. We took the motel's canoe for a spin around the lake and were rewarded with the sight and sound of loons—one of the best things about the north woods.
And, as your pictures and descriptions attest, the hiking in Maine is not bad either! Definitely a place to go back to.
Great post!

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Rita,

Thanks for the kind words about the photos, and also thanks for sharing your personal experience about your travels in the scenic State of Maine. Cheri and I look forward to making many more trips over there.


Ryan Linn said...

Absolutely gorgeous, John! Bigelow is one of my favorite places in the world, and I think you can imagine why. I'm glad you decided to put up the pics from this trip :-)

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Ryan!

Yes, I can definitely understand why the Bigelow Range is one of your favorite places in the world! And, something that you might not realize is that it’s because of you that it has been a long standing yearning of mine to visit this gorgeous spot. When I saw photos that you had posted for one of your treks to the Bigelow Range, I was awestruck, and a personal visit to these mountains became inevitable!

Thanks for your comments, and a special thanks for introducing me to the Bigelow Range via your blog (!


JustJoe said...

Magnificent John! Stunning photos. I'll repeat what others have said, doing your homework really paid off.

Thanks for sharing this wonderful report,

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Joe,

Thanks for stopping by to take a look at my report, and for taking time to post such generous comments.

For sure, there was a bit of homework involved with finding a picturesque place to stay for a few days, as well as which hikes to do, etc. But totally unplanned was the near perfect weather on the day I hiked in the Bigelow Range. Being a hiker yourself, you know that weather in the mountains is so unpredictable. Days that are forecasted to be nice, often are not, and vice-versa! :-)


Summerset said...

Might have just lost my comment, sorry, just delete one of these!

You certainly did have some awesome hiking in the Bigelows! The pictures are fantastic and bring back a lot of memories from our trip out there in August. Looks like you had similar weather to what we had on our trip up there. The Bigelows are definitely some place I go back to.

1HappyHiker said...

Thanks for taking a moment to view my blog posting, and also thanks for the kind words about the photos.

I vividly recall your excellent posting about your trek to the Bigelows this summer (link below).

And yes, I totally agree that the Bigelows are definitely worthy of a repeat visit!