OverviewThe mountains of Maine are often overshadowed by nearby ranges such as the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and the Adirondacks of New York. This is due primarily to the discontinuous nature of the many isolated and clustered small ranges and ridges that make up the range.
The Longfellows stretch northeast from the New Hampshire border for approximately 140 miles and are part of the much larger Appalachian Mountain Range. Much of the land comprising the Longfellows is privately owned by timber companies but hikers can pretty much come and go as they please. Many of the high summits have been conserved through purchase by the state or various conservation organizations. The combination of conservation and large, undeveloped tracts of timberland give much of the Longfellows a remote and wild character. Views from the many open, often alpine summits take in vast woodlands, distant mountains, and numerous lakes and ponds.
The Appalachian Trail winds through the Longfellows for 281 scenic miles ending atop the highest point in Maine, Katahdin.
RegionsGrafton and Evans Notch
Grafton Notch forms the heart of this region and lies between Old Speck and Baldpate Mountain. The area is best characterized as remote and the peaks are rugged. The wild Mahoosuc Range, often considered part of the White Mountains, runs from Old Speck southeast into New Hampshire. Numerous lesser known low peaks (some with excellent views) are located throughout the region. The Appalachian Trail passes through Grafton Notch and the ups and downs synonymous with the trail in Maine begin. Approximately 20 miles south of Grafton Notch is Evans Notch, located in the 49,000 acres of White Mountain National Forest that spill over into Maine. Mountains in the Evans Notch area are relatively low (2,800 to 3,000 feet) but afford excellent views towards the Baldfaces and the higher summits of the northern Whites.
The Rangeley-Stratton Area, bound by the communities of Rangeley, Kingfield, Stratton, and Phillips, contains nearly 21,000 acres of land above 2,700 feet and ten peaks reach elevations greater than 4,000 feet. It is the highest concentration of high peaks in the Longfellow Mountains. Extensive alpine tundra zones are found on Saddleback Mountain and The Horn, Mount Abraham, Sugarloaf, and Bigelow Mountain. Slightly less spectacular but still of interest to the peakbagger or AT enthusiast are the wooded 4,000-foot peaks of Crocker Mountain and Spaulding Mountain. Numerous lakes and ponds (some very large) add to the region’s beauty. The area is largely held by private owners but public lands are mixed throughout, including the 36,000 acre Bigelow Public Reserved Land. The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust recently conducted an Ecological Study of the High Peaks Region, which is available for download at the link listed above and is a must read for anyone interested in northeastern mountain ecology.
Located northeast of Grafton Notch and south of the Rangeley-Stratton area, Weld Village lies on the shores of Webb Lake and is nearly completely encircled by mountains. The impressive Tumbledown massif, with its picturesque sub-alpine pond and three rocky peaks, rises from the woodlands northwest of Webb Lake and is the most popular peak in the area. The alpine summit of Little Jackson Mountain forms the northern side of the Tumbledown Pond basin and offers excellent 360 degree views thanks to an extensive area above treeline. The nearly perfect pyramid of Mount Blue, located in 5,000 acre Mount Blue State Park, lies on the eastern edge of the region and is easily recognizable based on the shape alone. To the south lies the open summit of Bald Mountain. Views from this small peak are excellent. Much of the land in this area is privately held and managed for timber harvesting but public land is mixed throughout. For information about conservation efforts, both past and future, visit the Tumbledown Conservation Alliance website.
The Boundary Range, located primarily northwest of the Rangeley-Stratton area, is a remote section of the Longfellow Mountains trending northeast-southwest along the Quebec/US border to a point west of Moosehead Lake. A number of 3,000 foot peaks are found throughout the region and the highest peaks range in elevation from 3,700 feet to 3,900 feet. The Boundary Peaks are predominately heavily forested though some peaks rise above treeline. A unique feature of the range is the US/Canadian boundary swath; an area of cleared land along the ridge that defines the border between the two countries. This thin clearing allows unique views and hiking opportunities and provides access to the highest elevation along the US/Canadian border east of Montana atop an unnamed peak. The beautiful Chain of Ponds Public Reserved Land is located in the range adjacent to 3,960 foot Snow Mountain.
Moosehead Lake Region
With an area of 74,980 acres, Moosehead Lake is the largest lake in Maine. A number of impressive and unique mountains dot the large irregular coastline and include Big Moose Mountain, Little and Big Spencer, and the dramatic Mount Kineo. Smaller lakes and bogs are the dominant features filling the heavily forested valleys. East of Moosehead, the Barren-Chairback Range rises rather abruptly from the 100-mile wilderness along with the highest point between Bigelow and Katahdin on the Appalachian Trail, the alpine summit of Whitecap Mountain.
Laura and Guy Waterman may have said it best in their book Forest and Crag (AMC Books, 2003), “…Due east from Moosehead after the final bulwarks of Jo-Mary (2,904 feet) and the Spencers, the land drops into low woods. But 25 miles further east, Maine erupts in one final display of mountaincraft: Katahdin.” The single most impressive peak in the east rises out of the north Maine woods and is the highest of a compact group of rugged mountains. Katahdin and the surrounding peaks lie in 200,000 acre Baxter State Park, cradled between the east and west branches of the Penobscot River. There are 46 peaks within the park and 18 exceed 3,500 feet.
WeatherThe seasons in Maine are as follows: Winter…Still Winter…Mud…Almost Winter
While not as high as the neighboring White Mountains, weather in the Longfellow Mountains can be severe, particularly in the winter. Permafrost (permanently frozen ground) was discovered on Sugarloaf indicating that the higher peaks experience mean annual temperatures that are below freezing. That’s not to say that summer is without heat… warm temps are common, especially in the valleys. Autumn is, in my opinion, the best time to visit. The foliage is unbelievable and temperatures are crisp and cool. Hikers should come prepared though as heavy snow at elevation is not uncommon by mid-autumn. Spring brings mud, bugs (lots of them), and often deep, rotten snow. It’s important to point out that heavy, fresh snow in April is also not uncommon.
Public vs. Private LandMuch of the Longfellow Mountains are private land. Access to many of the more remote peaks are via logging roads, which can be very rough. Hikers can pretty much come and go as they please as many of the timberlands are managed as mixed use forests (timber resources and recreation) and even those that aren’t are usually open for recreation. Be sure to yield to logging trucks as they always have the right of way.
Public land in Maine is lacking compared to some neighboring states, but the Maine Bureau of Parks and Public Land manage over 1 million acres of public lands in the form of state parks, public reserved lands, and conservation easements. State lands often abut lands managed under private conservation easements and the amount of conserved land increases to over 3 million acres. Much of this patchwork of conserved lands are located in and around the Longfellow Mountains. Baxter State Park is comprised of an additional 200,000+ acres and managed by the Baxter State Park Authority. Additionally, approximately 49,000 acres of the White Mountain National Forest are located in the Evans Notch Region.
Maine SkiingFrom the heights of Sugarloaf to sprawling Sunday River, from windswept Saddleback to Big Squaw, some of the finest downhill skiing in New England can be found in the Longfellows. For all things skiing in Maine, visit Ski Maine.
Wildlife[img:173522:alignleft:thumb:Moose!]When one thinks of Maine wildlife, it is hard not to immediately think of the Moose. It is estimated that somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 moose roam the Maine Woods; many of them wander the Longfellow Mountains. The eastern Black Bear is also fairly common (35,000) but very elusive. Loons sing campers to sleep from the cold waters of the many lakes that dot the landscape and nearly 700 bald eagles call Maine home. A rare species of butterfly, the Katahdin Arctic Butterfly, is not known to live anywhere but the slopes of Maine’s highest mountain. The list could go on…
For more information on wildlife in the Longfellow Mountains, see the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website.
External LinksMaine Office of Tourism
Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust
Maine Bureau of Parks and Public Land
Baxter State Park Authority
Tumbledown Conservation Alliance
Maine Appalachian Trail Club