Hikers descend Mt. Abraham on a beautiful fall day. In the distance, from left to right, are Mt. Redington, South Crocker Mountain, Spaulding Mountain and Sugarloaf. Carey Kish photo

Traveling north on Route 16, there’s a fabulous view over the rooftops of Kingfield to the imposing, multi-summited ridgeline of Mt. Abraham, some 10 miles to the west. The main peak of the mountain, known locally as Mt. Abram, rises to 4,049 feet, the 10th highest in the state and one of just 14 that exceed 4,000 feet in elevation.

I almost always pull the car over to take a long look at Mt. Abraham, one of my all-time favorite hikes in Maine, as well as consider what I’m going to grab for eats at Anni’s Market in Kingfield village before continuing on to the trailhead. Passing through town, Longfellow’s Restaurant gets a nod, as I know I’ll be in there after the hike to tuck into a burger and beer.

The Fire Warden Trail climbs Mt. Abraham from the east, starting from a gravel logging road a half-mile above Rapid Stream and about seven miles from Kingfield. The 4-mile hike to the top is strenuous, to be sure, gaining 3,050 feet of elevation en route. But the rewards of the open summit and the grand 360-degree view of mountains and valleys makes every ounce of sweat and toil to get there worthwhile.

The bulk of Mt. Abraham is located in Mount Abram Township, with the remainder in Salem Township. Rising prominently in the midst of a neighborhood of lofty summits, the mountain is the primary feature of the 6,214-acre Mt. Abraham Public Lands unit owned and managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.

Conservation protection for Mt. Abraham was achieved in 2004 through the laudable efforts of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the State of Maine, Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, the Land for Maine’s Future Program, The Nature Conservancy, the Open Space Institute and Norcross Wildlife Foundation.

The Fire Warden Trail follows Norton Brook for a short while before breaking away and climbing over the lower slopes on the north side of Mt. Abraham. After crossing three brooks, the trail reaches a small campsite with a privy. Soon after, the fun begins in earnest, a steep ascent for nearly a mile through the thick, fragrant woods to treeline.

Mt. Abraham’s old fire tower rests on its side near the summit, with the peaks of Saddleback in view in the distance. Carey Kish photo

Breaking out into the open air at 3,300 feet, the trail rises steadily over an enormous talus field, passing through pockets of krummolz, the gnarled growth of spruce, fir and birch stunted by constant exposure to the harsh elements. The views along this stretch are incredible, taking in Spaulding, Sugarloaf and Burnt Hill, the Bigelows, Redington and the Crockers, to name only the big peaks.

Marked by cairns, the angle of the path finally eases and soon arrives at the large rock pile and sign on the windswept top of Mt. Abraham. A few rusted pieces of the old firetower lay nearby, as does the roof of the tower’s cab, which offers some shelter from the weather if you’re up for wiggling in under it. The rusted hulk of the steel firetower, which stood on this spot from 1924 until in blew over in the fall of 2014, lies on its side in the scrub a few yards down the backside of the summit.

The rocky ridge to the north leads 1.7 miles to the Appalachian Trail; this make a fine ascent route of Abraham for hikers on a multi-day backpack trip through the region. Looking northwest, Saddleback and The Horn, Saddleback Junior and Poplar Ridge are now in full view. To the south, Mt. Abraham extends for another couple glorious miles over two additional peaks.

The remarkable mountaintop vistas aside, what truly makes Mt. Abraham so special is the huge amount of alpine terrain it supports, some 350 acres, the largest area of this fragile habitat in Maine except for that on Katahdin. Alpine Blueberry, Lapland Diapensia and Bigelow’s Sedge are some of the rare plants found among the exemplary natural communities of the alpine zone here.

It’s little wonder, then, that 5,285 acres, or 85 percent of the Mt. Abraham property, from the treeless ridge tops to the northern and eastern slopes and including a stand of 300-year old spruce and the state’s largest mountain ash, are designated as an ecological reserve.

Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island is the author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast and author/editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow Carey’s adventures on Facebook @CareyKish.


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