The Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness area inside the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) is an accessible but vastly underrated area to hike in Maine, and we hope it stays that way. Uncrowded, beautiful and wild, but close enough to civilization, it is one of our favorite places. Another option is an overnight hike of the Royce-Speckled Mountain Loop. In October 2018, we hiked Caribou Mountain (2,850 ft) via the Caribou and Mud Brook Trails, a moderate 6.9 mile loop, which took us a bit over four hours. The idea (and map) for this hike again came from the indispensable Maine Mountain Guide’s recommended hikes (see our review of the 11th edition here), and did not disappoint. With fall foliage at its peak, the views were dazzling.
We again had wife/mom along as a guest, and we parked at the west trailhead on Rte 113 (Google Maps), from which both the Caribou Trail and Mud Brook Trail depart. The temperature hovered around 70 by late morning, definitely not an October feel, and we were all in t-shirts for most of the hike.
The Caribou trail weaves over and around Morrison Brook on the way up, and we stopped briefly at Kees Falls, which was impressive, but not running at full volume due to recent drought conditions. Shortly after the falls, we startled a comically fat raccoon, which stopped foraging, and disappeared (slowly, and with effort) up the opposite side of a tree. A steady uphill climb brought us to the Mud Brook Trail intersection, and we turned right for the final push to the summit, where we sat in the sun and enjoyed a snack.
The views from the summit and the ledges below were incredible, highlighting the autumn colors.
Our descent was swift, and made us grateful that we had climbed via Caribou, rather then Mud Brook, which would have been more of a scramble, had we been moving uphill. The dry leaves made for uneasy footing, however, and we could have used some hiking poles to stabilize ourselves. The route from the summit to the treeline on Mud Brook was not well-marked, and there were some twists and turns, but we found our way.
Finished by late afternoon, we extended the outdoor day by enjoying a great meal and cold drinks at the screened-in dining area at Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell, the perfect post-hike location.