[Note: On April 1, 2020, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Trail Maintaining Clubs formally requested the official closure of the 2,193-mile Appalachian Trail due to the growing risk of spreading COVID-19. This includes closure by the National Park Service of all overnight shelters and privies on land administered by the Appalachian National Scenic Trail Park Office, including those in Maine (22 shelters, 29 privies). The most recent update for day and overnight hikers was posted by ATC on May 20, 2020, and can be read here.]
Sometimes hikes are listed as “Strenuous” simply because of their length or isolation. Often, it is because of rapid elevation gain, water crossings or the chance of inclement weather at altitude. Mount Abraham (4,049 ft) in Mt. Abram Twp., one of Maine’s fourteen 4,000 footers, combines all these factors, but still remains an attainable challenge of a day hike, approximately 8.2 miles round-trip out from trailhead to summit and back. This was about four hours total time on the recent July Saturday I hiked it (I moved quickly because of weather – allow up to six hours or so, based upon your own hiking level), and I used the Maine Mountain Guide and Maine Trailfinder to research the hike.
The mountain itself is in the Mt. Abraham Public Reserved Lands Unit, and contains the second-largest (to Katahdin) alpine zone in Maine. As of July 2019, the roads were passable all the way to the trailhead, which is at the T-intersection at approximately latitude 44.96817, longitude -70.26049.
From Kingfield, head north from “downtown,” and take a left on West Kingfield Road from Route 27. Continue straight about six miles (road turns to dirt, and becomes Rapid Stream Road enroute), and take a left at the fork. After crossing two bridges, take the right fork for about a mile. At the T-intersection, the trail will be slightly to your right (trailhead sign is set slightly back in the woods), and parking will be by a sign to your left.
The path, marked with blue blazes, showed signs of recent trail work (thanks, trail crew), and had been re-routed out of lower-lying areas. Recent moose tracks and droppings were frequent, but I did not see the elusive animal on this day.
The Fire Warden’s Trail is pleasantly rugged, a steady, grinding uphill climb across a number of mountain streams, requiring a quick dance across wet, mossy rocks in some spots. The deciduous forest was thick and humid, an almost jungle-like green tunnel, dense with mosquitoes. The forest thinned out gradually with elevation, and evergreens substituted in for leafy greenery during the ascent, with a campsite and privy available at about 2.6 miles.
The breezes and open air of the alpine zone were a brief reprieve from the muggy forest before the steep, rocky climb to the top. On the summer day I hiked past the cairns lining the ascent, I was racing afternoon thunderstorms, and could see dark clouds rapidly moving, so did not waste time in the mostly unprotected half-mile between the treeline and the summit.
I did, however, enjoy the smaller evergreens crowding the narrow trail, the flowering alpine plants across the ridge, and the views of the surrounding mountains and the Carrabassett Valley. The fire tower and shelter at the summit were knocked over and caved in, and a line of cairns marked the connector trail to the Appalachian Trail.
After a quick snack and an obligatory change of socks at the windswept summit, I headed downhill, for a much easier descent back to the trailhead. The trail was lightly traveled- I saw nobody else on the way up, and only six to eight hikers headed up while I was on my way down (pleasantly light for a sunny Saturday in July).
Where to eat in Kingfield? In addition to beating the storms, my early-morning start allowed me to lunch at the incomparable Rolling Fatties. I opted for the delicious Falafel Fatty Bowl, packed with fresh greens and crispy falafel, enjoying it with a Maine Beer Company Woods and Waters IPA at an outdoor table in the sunlight.
Mount Abraham is a pleasantly demanding hike, close to the attractions of the Carrabassett Valley, and paying off with commanding views from Maine’s tenth-highest Mountain.
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