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Grafton Loop Trail: 39 Miles of Scenic Backpacking in Western Maine

Grafton Loop Trail: 39 Miles of Scenic Backpacking in Western Maine

The Grafton Loop Path presents a terrific style of backpacking in Maine’s rugged mountains.  In comparison with the venerable trails simply over the border in New Hampshire, the Grafton Loop is comparatively new.  The complete loop didn’t open till 2007 after a serious collaboration between personal land house owners, the state of Maine, and a number of other conservation teams together with the Appalachian Mountain Membership (AMC) and the Maine Appalachian Path Convention (MATC.)  The brand new sections of path are related on the northern finish by almost eight miles of the AT between East Baldpate Mountain and Previous Speck, creating one of New England’s greatest backpacking loops.

Grafton Loop Path Fast Details

Size: 38.6 miles

Location: Western Maine on the ridges and peaks surrounding the Bear River Valley, Grafton Notch, and Maine Route 26

Path Sort: Loop

Surroundings:  Forests and brooks with small waterfalls give approach to quite a few open summits with views throughout western Maine’s rugged mountains, particularly the Mahoosuc Vary, and into New Hampshire to the Presidential Vary

Approximate Time to Hike: Most can comfortably end the loop in Three-5 days

Terrain

The path traverses strenuous terrain with substantial elevation modifications. Elevations vary from round 700 ft close to the southern finish of the path, to four,170 ft on the summit of Previous Speck.  The path traverses over eight summits together with a number of which are open and uncovered. Sections of ladders, rungs, uncovered rock, stairs, and boardwalks add to the already troublesome terrain.

Information and Map

The AMC web site presents a primary path description with tenting info right here and a map right here. The MATC additionally has primary path info right here. For detailed path mileage and a map, the newest version of the Maine Mountain Information by Carey Kish is a superb useful resource that covers your complete path. There are a number of aspect trails that may be added to the loop and the Maine Mountain Information covers these trails in element as nicely. Most of the route options blue blazes. The AT portion makes use of white blazes. Cairns mark the route over open summits.  Use warning on the east aspect of the loop between Puzzle and Lengthy Mountains the place vegetation obscures the path in the neighborhood of previous logging operations.

Getting There

There are two trailheads that entry the Grafton Loop Path, one close to the north finish of the loop and one on the southern finish.

North:  From the junction of US 2 and Maine 26 in Newry, head north on 26.  A big parking space is on the left, 12.1 miles from the junction right here.

South: From the junction of US 2 and Maine 26 in Newry, head north on 26.  A big parking space is on the proper, four.7 miles from the junction throughout from Eddy Street, right here.  Take notice that the western portion of the path is accessed .6 miles south of this trailhead by way of a street stroll on 26.

Why Hike This Path

The Grafton Loop Path permits backpackers to expertise a multiday backpacking journey in pretty distant and rugged terrain.  The loop was constructed with backpackers in thoughts.  The path spends most of its time in the forest with a handful of open summits that provide basic Maine mountain views stretching all the best way the Presidential Vary in New Hampshire. Backpackers of all expertise ranges will discover the the loop a worthy vacation spot.  Skilled hikers will respect the surroundings and relative lack of visitors.  Regardless of the difficult terrain, newcomers will respect the obtainable distance and the 9 campsites all through the loop that permit for an off-the-cuff tempo if desired for these not trying to rush.  Whereas the formidable, veteran backpacker might knock the loop out as an in a single day journey, the format of the path permits these in much less of a rush to hike the route comfortably in three to 5 days.

Highlights

Sunday River White Cap:  This Three,335 foot summit is an actual gem that may be simply forgotten if not for the Grafton Loop Path.  The open summit presents 360 diploma views and is arguably one of the best vista on the loop.  Most of the loop’s route could be seen from the summit together with Previous Speck, Grafton Notch, the Baldpates, and almost all of the japanese half of the loop. The path hikes over open rock with picket planks traversing fragile alpine vegetation.  The summit has a viewing space which takes in a lot of the Mahoosuc Vary and stretches towards the Presidential Vary on the horizon.  There’s additionally a direct view of Sunday River Ski Space.

East Baldpate Mountain:  East Baldpate provides Sunday River White Cap a run for its cash as the perfect view on the loop.  Three,812 foot East Baldpate sits close to the northern finish the place the japanese half of the loop intersects the AT.  East Baldpate is one other open summit with incredible views.  The terrain under the summit is simply as spectacular.  Heading south from the summit, metal rungs constructed into the rock are wanted to traverse steep cliffs.  A gorgeous, excessive meadow sits between the East and West Peaks that’s traversed on lavatory bridges.  The path crosses prolonged stretches of open rock marked with cairns.  Ladders help hikers over rocky drops.  As an added bonus, gray jays ceaselessly greet hikers that linger lengthy sufficient close to the summit.

Previous Speck Mountain:  At four,170 ft, Previous Speck is the very best summit on the Grafton Loop and the fifth highest peak in Maine.  The summit by itself isn’t too spectacular. Nevertheless, an statement tower stands on its summit.  For these not deterred by heights, the tower might be climbed.  People who make the climb are greeted with beautiful 360 diploma views from the lofty perch.  The vantage level gives an fascinating look towards the Mahoosuc Notch, a brief distance from the summit. The views stretch down the Mahoosuc Vary into the Presidentials.  Infinite peaks may be seen in each course.

Puzzle Mountain:  Puzzle Mountain, sitting close to the southern finish at Three,142 ft, is one other peak that may in all probability be forgotten if not for the Grafton Loop. The path passes by the summit of Puzzle Mountain and follows quite a few open sections with nice views.  For these trying to broaden on their Grafton Loop expertise, the 1.Eight-mile Woodsum Spur Path follows the open ledges of Puzzle Mountain earlier than rejoining the loop.

Wildlife: The Grafton Loop Path travels by means of moose nation. The perfect alternatives for moose appears to be on the personal land between Puzzle Mountain and Lengthy Mountain the place longing has occurred. I noticed a big bull in this part and different smaller cow.  Gray jays additionally frequent the world.  I skilled them on East Baldpate and slightly below Previous Speck. For people who haven’t skilled grey jays, they may linger close to hikers and take meals out of your hand. Bears additionally make this space house. A number of of the campsites supply bear packing containers for meals.  Whereas I by no means noticed a bear in this space, they don’t seem to be unusual.

Course

So far as clockwise or counterclockwise, the path might be hiked in both course and there doesn’t appear to be any actual benefit a method or one other. Beginning on the southern trailhead does appear to have a number of benefits.  The southern trailhead sees much less visitors and is much less more likely to refill throughout crowded durations. The northern trailhead additionally entry the AT and a number of other different trails together with the path to Previous Speck, which is widespread with peakbaggers, inflicting this trailhead to be rather more crowded and probably fill.

Beginning on the southern finish will even start and finish your journey close to the low level of the loop.  Regardless of the decrease elevation, the climbing is considerably extra gradual in both course from the southern trailhead.

Local weather and Climate

One of the best climate for mountaineering the Grafton Loop is between late Might and mid-October.  Mud and biting bugs might trigger issues early in the season.  By October, freezing temperatures can happen on the greater elevation campsites.  By late October snow isn’t uncommon.

Typical temperatures in the course of the summer time will probably be in the 70s and 80s through the day and 50s at night time with humid circumstances.  The world averages round 40 inches of rain a yr and moist climate isn’t unusual.  The temperatures begins to chill in September with much less humidity and haze.

Tenting

The Grafton Loop Path traverses sections of personal land.  In consequence, tenting is restricted to designated websites and the Baldpate Lean-to on the AT portion of the loop. Luckily there are eight campsites in addition to the lean-to so discovering an applicable spot to camp isn’t a problem.  The longest stretch and not using a campsite is on the northern finish of the loop between Baldpate Lean-to and Bull Run Tentsite south of Previous Speck, approaching eight miles between websites.  The southern finish of the loop between Bald Mountain and Stewart Tentsites travels simply over seven miles between designated websites, so plan accordingly.  Deliver a shelter to be used on the tentsites.  The AMC describes the tenting areas alongside the path right here.

I personally advocate the Lane Tentsite on the japanese part of the path.  This might be a pleasant spot to finish the day early to benefit from the brook with waterfalls that make good swimming holes on scorching days.

Whereas rodents aren’t uncommon at backcountry websites and lean-tos, notably on the AT, I’ve a phrase of warning on the Baldpate Lean-to. Whereas staying there on a backpacking journey of the Grafton Loop over July 4th weekend a couple of years again, we camped in the world by lean-to.  The world was overrun with mice at night time.  You would right here them strolling and leaping by means of the vegetation, which is shocking loud and disturbing for such a small animal. When shining a headlamp outdoors the tent, quite a few mice might typically be seen. We often needed to smack them off of our tents via the night time.

Water Sources

All of the designated tenting areas have a water supply.  In line with the AMC, the brook by Stewart Tentsite could be unreliable.  In a dry yr, later in the season, plan accordingly in the occasion that the brook is just not flowing.  North of Stewart Tentsite the path crosses and follows a number of brook enroute to East Baldpate.  The AT travels close to ample water between Grafton Notch and Previous Speck.  On the western half of the path, anticipate to make use of the brooks by tentsites for water apart from the southern two miles between Bald Mountain Tentsite and the southern trailhead the place the path follows a small brook.

Remaining Ideas

Whether or not new to backpacking or a seasoned veteran, the Grafton Loop Path gives one thing for everybody.  The loop options wonderful surroundings with difficult, but enjoyable terrain. After dwelling in Maine for eight years, the hike simply ranks as one of my favourite hikes in the state.

All pictures are from the writer with the exception of the waterfall and banner which have been taken by Josh Rosenthal.

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