My favorite hike on the island is the Parkman Mountain to Bald Peak loop. I don’t know why it’s my favorite. I guess it has the moderate level of difficulty that I enjoy, and I definitely prefer natural loops, which bring you back to where you started without going over the same terrain. This loop is like that, and even better, one can decide to add on or take off loops, thus making it either shorter or longer depending on one’s needs.
I always park at the Parkman Mountain lot (or across the street), which is on the road into Northeast Harbor (Rt. 198). The lot is at the crest of a hill if going toward Northeast Harbor, but if that’s full then there are lots farther down the road on the other side of the hill. These other lots are just a bit farther away from the trailheads, so just be aware of your whereabouts.
Now, it is much easier to do this loop with a good trail map. This is because the Around Mountain carriage trail winds across the trails of both peaks, and it’s easy to get a bit disoriented. One common theme I hear from guests who didn’t have a trail map is that they ended up at a different parking lot from whence they came. This really isn’t a problem except that walking back up to your car on Rt. 198 is not as nice as walking the same direction on the carriage trails.
This is how I do it:
- From the Parkman Mtn. parking lot, take a right at the first sign post on the carriage trail. This will bring you to sign post #13. Take a left here and walk up the carriage trail a few minutes until you come to the Parkman Mtn. Trailhead.
- Head up Parkman Mtn, taking a left near the top to the summit at the trail marker that splits Parkman from Bald Peak. Remember this trail marker for the way down. Enjoy the views of Somes Sound from the summit.
- Head back down to the trail marker where you turned left and go left again toward Bald Peak. Follow that path no more than 10-20 minutes to the top of Bald Peak. Now enjoy views of the Hadlock Ponds and the bay beyond Northeast Harbor.
- Head down the other side of Bald Peak until you get to the carriage trail.
- At the carriage trail, you have two options:
- Continue across the carriage trail on the hiking trail. If you do this, you’ll hit another carriage trail down further. This is where folks most often end up at the wrong parking lot. At this carriage trail, head right back up to sign post #13, and then turn left to get back to the parking lot.
- Instead of going straight across, turn right on the carriage trail and walk until you get to sign post #12. At that intersection, go left and – surprise! – in a minute or so you’ll walk right past the Parkman Mtn. trailhead that you went up to start your hike. Follow the carriage trail down to sign post #13 and take a right to get back to the lot.
All told, this is a 2-4 hour hike round trip. Don’t be afraid if there are a lot of cars parked at Parkman Mtn. Not everyone is doing this loop or even these mountains. It’s a great place for cyclists to get on the carriage trails and do some more difficult riding.
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