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Beginner’s Guide to Adventures on Maine’s Highest Peaks – Maine 4000 Footers

Maine 4000 Footers – Some of the best hikes in Maine

Over the last several years, I have been having a love affair with the high peaks of New England – some of the best hikes in Maine.  It certainly took me a long time to realize that I loved being in the alpine zone, but once I realized, I was hooked.  After a number of years of taking classes after graduate school, focusing on my career and raising my son, I needed a hobby to keep me busy and being in the mountains was it!  I decided to start hiking Maine’s highest peaks, the Maine 4000 Footers, (4kers) and then expanded that goal to include New England.  This was a decision that changed my life and has helped me strengthen relationships and introduce me to some of my favorite people on this planet.

I finished the tallest 14 peaks in Maine over 4000 feet (Maine 4000 Footers, 4kers) in October of 2015 and while I have turned my attention to New Hampshire and Vermont, there are some hikes that hold a special place in my heart that I’ll keep coming back to again and again.  On Maine’s 4000 footers, you’ll get some quality time on the Appalachian Trail, quiet and solitude, and some gorgeous views! Enjoy my rundown of the best hikes in Maine.

1. Baxter Peak, Katahdin

  • Elevation: 5,268′
  • Trip Dates: 8/17/13, 8/16/14, 9/5/14, 8/16/15, 8/28/15, 8/13/16, 8/12/17, 8/24/17, 10/12/17, 3/11/18, 3/4/18

  • Details: The Greatest Mountain.  I have climbed this mountain more times than any other mountain (well, it is probably up there with Cadillac in Acadia National Park) and there’s a reason- The largest alpine zone in Maine, rocky ridges, steep trails, and some of the most challenging hiking in New England.  If you haven’t climbed Katahdin or spent time in Baxter State Park, we highly recommend it!  You can learn more about Katahdin here.

2 & 3. West & Avery Peaks, Bigelow

  • Elevation: 4,145′ & 4,090′
  • Trip Date: 9/13/14
  • Details: Some of the best views in Maine.  While I haven’t been back to these peaks, it isn’t for my lack of love, perhaps I’m saving the best for last.  There is a lot to enjoy about the steep climb up the Firewarden’s trail to Bigelow Col and the climb up to these two spectacular peaks.  With views of the Moosehead region and Katahdin to the North and Mount Washington and the Whites to the West, you are going to be pleased on a clear day.

4. Old Speck

  • Elevation: 4,170′
  • Trip Dates: 5/23/15 & 1/1/17
  • Details: This is Maine’s most accessible high peak.  Located in Grafton Notch State Park, Old Speck provides some nice hiking on the AT and exceptional views of the White Mountains and Presidential Range from its firetower.  You can read about Old Speck in winter here.

5. Hamlin Peak, Katahdin

  • Elevation: 4,756′
  • Trip Dates: 8/16/15 & 8/13/16
  • Details: The lesser visited peak on Katahdin- enjoy the peace and quiet!  The trip up or down Hamlin Ridge provides exceptional views of Baxter Peak, the Knife Edge and Pamola.  Hamlin peak offers great views of the Brothers and Coe and the peaks on the western side of the park.  Walk the entire ridgeline by taking Hamlin Ridge to Pamola for an excellent day in the alpine zone and the tableland.

6 & 7. Saddleback & The Horn

  • Elevation: 4,120′ & 4,023′
  • Trip Dates: 9/25/15 & 9/4/16
  • Details: This is quite possibly my favorite section of the AT in Maine which I cannot wait to share with others.  Although I’ve only done it twice, I love the interesting features along the route like Piazza Rock, the caves and the many ponds along the way.  Make this a point to point by parking one car at the AT and another at the base of the ski trails.

8. Mount Abraham

  • Elevation: 4,050′
  • Trip Dates: 9/27/15 & 6/25/17
  • Details: This peak features the second largest alpine zone in Maine.  I have been fortunate to summit Abraham from both the east on the Firewarden’s Trail and west from the Mount Abraham trail off the AT.  Abraham was the site of a fire in the summer of 2016, but fortunately, its large summit was not impacted too badly.  Each time I have been on Abraham we had the summit to ourselves.

9. North Brother

  • Elevation: 4,151′
  • Trip Date: 10/12/15
  • Details: This peak offers excellent views of Katahdin and the Klondike.  Take the Mt. Coe Trail up Mt. Coe’s lengthy granite slab (careful, slippery when wet) and over to South Brother for some nice ridge walking and to tag two off of New England’s Hundred highest.  The trail to North Brother is somewhat overgrown and wet, but the views are worth it. This was my only mountain on the Maine 4000 footers that I hiked solo.  I can’t wait to get back to these peaks- I’ve heard they are quite spectacular in winter too if you don’t mind breaking trail!

10 & 11. Sugarloaf & Spaulding

  • Elevation: 4,250′ & 4,010′
  • Trip Dates: 10/24/15 & 6/25/17
  • Details: The first time I bagged these peaks I went with my mom and took the ski trails to summit and connect with the AT.  To do this, take Tote Road and Binder for best results.  I have also taken the AT from the Caribou Valley Road.  This is a steep climb, but features views of  the Sugarloaf Cirque, Crockers and Crocker Cirque.  The ridge to Spaulding on the AT is all in the trees, but pleasant and you can see the spot where the AT was finished in 1937.

12, 13 & 14. North & South Crocker & Redington

  • Elevation: 4,228′, 4,050′ & 4,010′
  • Trip Dates: 10/26/15 & 6/24/17
  • Details: These peaks are probably the least scenic of the highest peaks in Maine, but offer some nice views of the Bigelows and Sugarloaf and Spaulding from a few viewpoints.  While the trail over to Redington is technically a bushwhack, it is well-trodden and occasionally marked by tape and then by small cairns.  Be careful on your way off the summit of Redington if you are headed back to South Crocker as there are two trails off the peak and the one on the right takes you to the logging roads.

If you are interested in bagging Maine’s tallest peak or any of the Maine 4000 Footers or 4kers, pick up the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, study up and get on the trail.  I hope to see you out there!

To purchase the Maine Mountain Guide, use our Amazon link!

– Willow