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Grafton Notch Loop Trail

This challenging trail traverses the peaks in the Mahoosuc Region above Grafton Notch and the Bear River Valley. Including a section of the Appalachian Trail, it provides a multi-day loop backpacking experience.
Trail Activity
Length
38.6 miles, Loop
Difficulty
Strenuous
Towns
Andover, Andover West Surplus Twp, Grafton Twp, Newry, Riley Twp
Surface
Dirt/Forest Floor, Rock/Ledge
Pets
Permitted
Fees
Yes

Description

The Grafton Loop Trail is a 38.6 mile, backcountry hiking experience in the Mahoosuc Mountains of Maine. The trail, which connects to the Appalachian Trail at Old Speck and the East Peak of Baldpate Mountain on either side of ME Route 26, highlights the natural features and mountain peaks of the area encircling Bear River Valley. Because of its length and the terrain it traverses, the trail is strenuous and requires appropriate equipment and preparation.

East of ME Route 26 (21.1 miles, strenuous): The eastern half of the trail, coming from the south, leaves ME Route 26 at the southern trailhead and continues to the open summit of Puzzle Mountain after passing several ledges with fine views of the Bear River Valley, the Mahoosuc Range and the Presidential Range beyond. About 0.1 mile before the southwest summit, the Woodsum Spur trail leaves the main trail to the right. After the cairn on the summit the trail follows open ledges to about .2 miles after the summit where the other end of the Woodsum Spur trail branches to the right. The trail then heads down Puzzle, passing the Stewart Campsite on a short spur to the left, to the valley between Puzzle and Long Mountain, where it crosses the headwaters of Chase Hill Brook (reliable water). The trail then ascends Long Mountain, following the Andover-Newry town line north over rugged terrain and mostly private land. A short side trail leads to a good view near the summit. Along the gradual descent there is a campsite to the right. About 1.5 miles from Long Mountain there is reliable water as the trail descends one fork of Wight Brook and the ascends another. There are two campsites on short side trails in this section, about 1.3 miles apart; one has a spectacular waterfall and pool. The trail then ascends Lightning Ledges for several good views. After a .5 mile descent, the East Baldpate campsite is on the right. From here is the 2.1 mile ascent of East Peak of Baldpate, where, after 17.1 miles, the trail connects the Appalachian Trail. From there it is another 4 miles southbound along the A.T. to return to ME Route 26. Camping is allowed only in 5 designated campsites along the trail, and in some sections, it is a long distance between reliable sources of water. No fires are allowed on the trail or at the campsites.

West of ME Route 26 (17.5 miles, strenuous): The western section, leaving from the northern trailhead at the A.T. crossing of ME 26, follows the A.T. southbound along Cascade Brook. The trail crosses many streams then ascends the north shoulder of Old Speck, rising out of the woods and offering frequent views of the Notch. Take the 0.3-mile spur to the left, at approximately 3.5 miles from the trail head, to the summit and observation tower. Old Speck, at 4180 feet, is the third highest mountain in Maine. Here the Grafton Loop trail branches off and heads south. There is a campsite about 2 miles after the summit of Old Speck. The trail then continues descending southward, skirting Slide Mountain, to Miles Notch. From here the trail begins ascending Sunday River Whitecap, passing several open views and then coming out on the open north ridge to finish the climb to the summit where there are views in all directions. The trail across much of the summit is on a unique raised walkway that protects fragile, rare alpine plants from hiker’s boots. From Whitecap the trail descends to a campsite below Sargent Mountain and then to Bald Mountain. After some views to the south and east, the trail descends a long series of rock steps to a campsite and finally down to the Bear River and ME Route 26. The trail emerges on the road a half mile south of the Southern trailhead parking area. There are four campsites that allow camping on this portion of the trail. No fires are allowed on the trail or at the campsites.

Other Information

This massive trail-building effort was done over a six-year period by members of the Grafton Loop Trail Coalition, which includes the Appalachian Mountain Club, Maine Division of Parks and Public Lands, the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Maine Conservation Corps, Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, several timber management companies, Sunday River Ski Resort, and other private landowners. Funding was provided by several private donors and foundations, as well as by the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund and federal Recreational Trails Program funding.

This trail is partially within the 9,993-acre Mahoosuc Ecological Reserve, which, like all Maine State Ecological Reserves, is specifically set aside to protect and monitor natural ecosystems. More information about the reserve can be found at Maine Natural Areas Program's Ecoreserve Fact Sheet for Mahoosuc Unit.

LMF Logo

This trail passes through a property that was acquired in part with funds from the Land for Maine’s Future program. For more information about the LMF program and the places it has helped to protect, please visit the LMF webpage.

Trail Manager

Visit the Maine Bureau of Parks and LandsAppalachian Mountain Club, and Maine Appalachian Trail Club online for more information and a printable map or contact:

Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC)

Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC)
PO Box 283
Augusta, ME 04332-0283
info@matc.org
View website

Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, Western Public Lands Office

Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, Western Public Lands Office
PO Box 327
Farmington, Maine 04938
Phone: (207) 778-8231
Tim.Post@maine.gov

Appalachian Mountain Club, Pinkham Notch Visitor Center

Appalachian Mountain Club, Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
361 Route 16
PO Box 298
Gorham, NH 03581
Phone: (603) 466-2721

Nearby Events

VIEW EVENTS CALENDAR

Trail Tips

Respect Wildlife
Avoid unwanted animal guests: store your food and trash securely and keep your camp clean of crumbs and spills.
Legend
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Trailhead Information

Northern Trailhead: This trailhead also serves as the main trailhead for Grafton Notch State Park. From the intersection of US Route 2 and ME Route 26 in Newry, follow ME Route 26 approximately 12 miles north to where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road. Coming north on ME Route 26, the trailhead and parking area will be on the left with signs indicating the state park.

Southern Trailhead: The southern trailhead is 4.7 miles north on ME Route 26 from the intersection of US Route 2 and ME Route 26 in Newry. Coming north on Route 26, the parking area are will be on the right, directly across from Eddy Road on the left. Access to the eastern half of the trail is from the northern end of the parking area. To access the western section of the trail, walk south along ME Route 26 for 0.5 miles; the trail leaves from the western side of the road.

Click on a parking icon to get custom directions
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Rick Brown
August 13, 2018
I hiked the western half of the loop and found the trail to be difficult to follow at times. I would suggest keeping a GPS handy, because there were several times when I could not see any markers and had to reference my GPS to figure out where the trail was. I get the impression that it does not see a lot of traffic as it is very overgrown, in places it felt like we were bushwhacking because the growth was so thick.

We stayed at the Bull Run campsite, which was great. It has an awesome water source, two tent platforms and a privy. We easily found three pairs of trees to hang our hammocks from. Views from the top of Old Speck were great, unfortunately we were in the clouds at the summit of Whitecap, but I bet the views would have been phenomenal!
EarlGilbert
May 11, 2015
GF and I did the Western half of this loop from 5/8/2015 to 5/10/2015. Lots of blowdowns along the trail. There was still snow on anything above 3000 feet. This potentially has the makings of a great trail, but the only views were on Sunday River Whitecap. The tent site at Slide mountain consisted of privy. The one at Bull Run is non-existant as far as we could tell. Sargent Brook tent site was decent with a bear box and communal cooking area. Bald Mountain tentsite has a privy and tent platforms. I will probably go back up with a saw and clear some of the blowdowns, The trail kind of disappears when a 40 ft tree falls on it.
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