Day trips and overnight hikes are fun, but to really break away from the routine of the work-a-day grind, you’ve got to get out into the woods and mountains for an extended period. Here are a few suggestions for better-part-of-a-week summer backpacking escapes that will help you refresh the body, mind and spirit.
Combine the four peaks of the White Cap Range with three mountains of the Barren-Chairback Range for a challenging trek that follows the Appalachian Trail for much of the way. Start from the Gulf Hagas trailhead on K-I Road in the unorganized township of Bowdoin College Grant East.
Ford the West Branch of the Pleasant River, pass beneath the tall pines of The Hermitage, then take a side trip through Gulf Hagas for a wonderful waterfalls tour. Beyond, tackle the summits of Gulf Hagas Mountain, West Peak and Hay and White Cap mountains before returning to the river via the White Brook Trail and logging roads.
Recross the Pleasant River, then climb over Chairback, Columbus and Third mountains, passing by the lovely East and West Chairback ponds. Return to your car via Third Mountain and Henderson Brook trails. En route, take a snack break at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Gorman Chairback Lodge on Long Pond.
Campsites include the Carl Newhall Lean-to, and Sidney Tappan and Hay Brook campsites on the White Cap side, and the Chairback Gap Lean-to on the Barren side. Bonus: Drop down off the backside of Third Mountain for a night on Indian Pond.
International Appalachian Trail
Trek the 35 miles from Katahdin Lake in Baxter State Park to Grand Lake Matagamon on the IAT for a serious dose of wilderness solitude. Start from the Katahdin Lake trailhead on the Park Tote Road just south of Roaring Brook Campground.
Hike east to a campsite on the south shore of magnificent Katahdin Lake, then continue the next day to the official start of the 1,900-mile IAT at the park boundary. Ford Wassataquoik Stream and spend the next few glorious days rambling over the peaks of Deasey and Lunksoos mountains with grand Katahdin vistas, and on northward through the valley of the East Branch of the Penobscot River, which Henry David Thoreau famously paddled in 1857.
Emerge on Grand Lake Road at Matagamon Wilderness Campground, then snag a campsite and enjoy a hot shower and good meal at the restaurant. You can park your car nearby and the nice campground folks will shuttle you into the park to start your hike, should you choose.
Three lean-tos (at Wassataquoik, Lunksoos and Grand Pitch), two primitive tent sites on the Penobscot and a campground at Bowlin Camps are available on this segment.
Nahmakanta Public Reserved Land
Meander through the wilds on the Debsconeag Backcountry Trail past six remote ponds and beautiful Nahmakanta Lake. Wind around the north end of the big lake to intersect the AT, then climb over Nesuntabunt Mountain for Katahdin views. Close the loop at the south end of the lake, then continue on Tumbledown Dick Trail, a 5-mile connector to the Turtle Ridge Trails. Here, an 8-mile figure-8 loops past several ponds and over the neighboring ridges.
There’s official camping at Wadleigh Stream Lean-to on the AT, at the south end of Nahmakanta Lake and along Tumbledown Dick Trail. Otherwise you’re on your own for Leave No Trace camping.
Other great backpacking options include the 42-mile Grafton Loop Trail; the 55-mile Sentiers Frontaliers route along the border of Quebec, New Hampshire and Maine; the backcountry trails of Baxter State Park; and the many other fine stretches of Maine’s AT.
Carey Kish of Bowdoin is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Send comments and hike suggestions to: