OverviewNot to be confused with Maine's other Elephant Mountain near Moosehead Lake in West Piscataquis County, this 3,772-foot peak ranks as the 27th highest peak in Maine as comes in at #98 on the popular New England Highest Hundred list of peaks. It is located in the South Arm area of Oxford County near the Franklin County line. There is no trail to the summit and the peak is generally reached by following logging roads, herd paths and bushwhacking. This mountain is located close to the Appalachian Trail with the 3,600-foot Old Blue visible to the southeast as a major landmark throughout the hike. Notably, Elephant Mountain has two main summits separated by a 170' col and about half of a mile. According to the most recent USGS data, the southwest summit comes in just two feet higher than the northeast summit. The author of this page visited only the true summit. Elephant Mountain also ranks as a P2K peak, boasting 2,052 feet of prominence.
Getting ThereOfficially located in Township C, this peak looms above the tiny hamlet of South Arm, Maine in Oxford County. Coming from the south, follow State Route 5 to its northern terminus in Andover and turn right (east) onto State Route 120. One will quickly cross a bridge over the Ellis River and turn left (north) onto South Arm Road about 6/10ths of a mile from the intersection of Routes 5 and 120. Proceed north on South Arm Road for nearly 10 miles, passing the Appalachian Trail around the 7.5-mile mark. Immediately after crossing the signed Clearwater Brook, turn right onto an unmarked gravel road. The author's Garmin GPS indicated Elephant Mountain Road upon making the turn. If one wants to add a 3-mile one-way road walk to the day's agenda, park here on the shoulder of South Arm Road. Most, however, continue driving along the rocky, washed-out road. A higher clearance vehicle is helpful but not necessary to navigate this final stretch. Bear left 4/10ths of a mile from South Arm Road and then right at 1.1 miles. Three miles from South Arm Road, the road will enter a dip at nearly 2,700 feet in elevation. Park here on the right.
RouteStarting from the small parking area on the right, cross the road and begin walking along a wide overgrown former logging road. Depending on the time of year, you may see some matted down grass indicating passage by fellow peakbaggers. After gaining about 200 feet in elevation on this road, you will come to a clearing. Look to your left at the back of the clearing and a cairn is visible. From the cairn, continue uphill along a narrow but plainly visible herd path. Just after starting up this herd path during the author's visit in September 2013, there was a bit of orange and blue flagging seeming to indicate a route to the right along a minor stream. This is not the route to Elephant's main summit and one should continue straight uphill on the herd path.
For nearly 400 feet of elevation gain, the herd path remains obvious before hitting a wall of young spruce. After pushing through this spruce, the author picked up the herd path once again but then it entered a marsh. Again, the herd path was visible on the opposite side of the marsh, but faded quickly from there.
Above 3,300-feet, the route is essentially a bushwhack although there are areas where you may or may not pick up a feint herd path or two. The going gets a little thick above 3,500 feet but there is little in the way of significant blowdown. The author noticed a definite change in the "age" of the forest above 3,500 feet, indicative of the fact that the very upper part of the mountain does not appear to have been cut for logging purposes. After the marsh, it becomes important to keep a southwest heading as one may wind up climbing the lower northeast summit if one drifts too far off course. Just keep heading uphill and you will eventually hit a well-trodden herd path along the summit ridge. If one does everything right, the summit can be reached within two hours of the start of the hike.
As is often the case with bushwhacking, the descent can be trickier than the ascent. The author of this page used Northeast Elephant and Old Blue as the two major landmarks during the downclimb and reached the marshy area at 3,300 feet without difficulty. However, after this I wound up drifting to the right onto a different logging road with its own herd path. This took me back to the gravel road near the parking area about 1/10th of a mile below where I had begun my trek.
Red TapeNo red tape, just the occasional bit of orange flagging and cairns to let you know you're heading the right way. But seriously, the peak is open to the public year-round without restriction.
When to ClimbYear-round access although one should remember that the final three miles along the gravel road are not maintained or plowed during the winter months.
External LinksPeakbagger Data on Elephant Mountain
Peakbagger Data on Northeast Elephant