Tumbledown Mountain (3,068 ft) in Weld, Maine, is a beloved hike to many Mainers, due to its accessibility and the unique nature of Tumbledown Pond near the summit (this pond is a geological feature called a “tarn”). Normally, taking a break to swim or fly fish at the top of a mountain is just a daydream. We first hiked this in April 2017 during our 100-Mile Wilderness training, and again more recently in May 2020, so neither of these warm weather activities were available at elevation.
The Loop Trail ascends to the Tumbledown Ridge Trail from a trailhead on Byron Road, and by descending on the Brook Trail you can make a loop with Byron Road that is about 5.6 miles. In good conditions, this is a moderate to difficult hike, but winter/spring trail conditions can push the meter toward or past strenuous. Do not attempt to summit Tumbledown before June without checking trail conditions, unless you have gear (and the experience) to deal with snow and ice.
An easier out-and-back ascent (4.7 miles) can be accomplished from the Brook Trail trailhead on Byron Road, the route we took more recently. Trail maps and info are available via the Tumbledown Conservation Alliance and our go-to guide, the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, which has a detailed trail map inside.
The Loop Trail ascends through a lovely pine forest, then a steady uphill climb past some truly massive boulders. At the time of year we went, the beginning of the trail was very boggy. We started to see signs of winter’s staying power as we gained elevation, with large slabs of ice under rocks, and snow in shaded areas. The snow became deeper as we moved up, and the trail was difficult to follow.
We crossed and re-crossed a torrent of ice and water as we climbed, until we couldn’t find a way around it, and puzzled over the trail for a few minutes. Thankfully, daughter located the small opening in the boulders we needed to climb through, complete with iron rungs to hold on to. Daughter made it through with her pack, but dad had to remove his, as it was a tight fit through a frozen waterfall (aptly named “Fat Man’s Misery”). The Maine Mountain Guide notes that this part of the trail makes it unsuitable for dogs, and we would definitely agree (the aforementioned Brook Trail is an alternative ascent for those with canine companions). It was a short scramble from there to the west peak, with breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
The Tumbledown Ridge trail, a pleasant downhill ridge hike with more views of the valley, brought us to Tumbledown Pond, which was frozen on both occasions. The tarn is a great place to stop and enjoy a meal and a break. In May 2020, the wind was too powerful to allow much of a stay, but we found a spot in the lee of a large boulder to crouch and have a snack.
The descent is down the Brook Trail to Byron Road. Humans and animals use the same trails, and there can be a surprisingly high amount (read: tonnage) of moose droppings on the Brook Trail, but we did not see any moose on the way down. We agreed that we would have to come back to Tumbledown in the summer, as this was one of our favorite hikes.
Oh, and one bonus feature…
We saw this billboard on the way through Canton, Maine, in 2017 and could not resist taking a picture.
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