Monday, May 6, 2013


This crystal-clear day cried out for good views. I love the Evans Notch area in spring, and when I saw that Rt. 113 through the notch had just opened, I immediately thought of a climb to Caribou Mountain. This 2850-ft. peak on the north side of the notch has superb views from expanses of open ledge on its broad summit, and is a strong contender for the title of "best sub 3000-ft. peak in the Whites." Getting great views from a potentially (mostly) snow-free hike made this an easy choice.

I made the long drive over through Gorham, across Route 2 into Maine, and down Rt. 113 to the trailhead parking for the two trails - Mud Brook Trail and Caribou Trail - that comprise a stellar 7-mile loop over Caribou. I chose the Mud Brook Trail for the ascent since it faces south and would likely have much less snow and ice than the more north-facing Caribou Trail route.

The lower part of Mud Brook Trail has some scenic stretches along its namesake stream.

At about 0.7 mi. there were some old logging camp relics rusting in the leaf mold near the trail.

The leafless hardwood forest was flooded with strong spring sun. I heard the staccato tappings of Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers, and the songs of early-arriving Black-and-White, Yellow-Rumped and Black-Throated Green Warblers.

After an easy crossing of Mud Brook, I leaned into the small but very interesting Caribou-Speckled Wilderness Area.

I made a short bushwhack down to a pretty cascade on Mud Brook.

There was a nice ledge slab to hang out on for a while in the sun.

There weren't many flowers in bloom yet, but some yellow violets brightened the forest floor.

As the trail climbed more steeply after a second crossing of Mud Brook, it passed this shaggy old maple beside the trail.

When the trail entered a dense dark spruce forest at 2450 ft., a foot or two of tired-looking old snow suddenly appeared. The only hiker I met all day turned back here because of the unstable footing on the rotten snow and intermingled ice. The going was tedious with some postholing (no monorail here, as the trailhead is not accessible in winter), but this section didn't last long.

I soon emerged on a magnificent east-facing ledge perch at 2650 ft.,one of my favorite spots in this area. The views today were crystal-clear and vast.

I especially like the view across the broad hardwood valley east of Haystack Notch, with Butters Mountain (a long, flat crest), Red Rock Mountain and Miles Knob rising beyond.

Haystack Notch can be seen a little more to the right. Kezar Lake and Pleasant Mountain are in the distance.

After a nice sojourn in the sun on the ledge, I continued up to the summit, postholing through more snow in the woods and then climbing up dry, scrubby ledges, with the great perches near the south summit knob coming into view.

I parked myself on a southeastern crag and took in the views for a long time. To the west, Mt. Washington and the Northern Presidentials peered over the long, dark crest of the Carter-Moriah Range.

Looking south to the sprawling mass of Speckled Mountain, with the low, rolling crest of Haystack Mountain in front.

Looking NE to ledgy Tyler Mountain and distant peaks near Rumford, ME.

 Kezar Lake and Pleasant Mountain.

The Baldfaces seen through Evans Notch.

Looking back at my perch. It was clear enough today to see the buildings of Portland beyond Sebago Lake, and the long line of the coastal Camden Hills on the far eastern horizon.

I made my way across expansive ledges to the north summit knob.

The view here includes the long chain of Pliny and Pilot Range peaks.

Looking north beyond Gammon and Peabody Mountains to the Mahoosuc Range.

A USGS benchmark verifies that this is the true summit. I decided not to descend the loop via Caribou Trail, as there would undoubtedly be more snow on the upper north side of the mountain. Instead, I retraced my steps down Mud Brook Trail.

Lots of open rock up here.

I returned to the southeastern perch for more lounging in the sun. It doesn't get much better than this - comfortable temps, light wind, brilliant sunshine, 100-mile visibility, and no bugs!

On the way down I stopped at the lower eastern viewpoint for a few minutes.

Back down in the hardwoods, a few red trilliums were in bloom.

Evening sun near the end of a great day on Caribou Mountain.


  1. What a truly rewarding Springtime trek! And it was made even more special by viewing conditions being so clear as to see the buildings of Portland, ME, and the Camden Hills.

    Last year was the first time that I'd ever hiked in the Camden Hills. I had some clear days, but it never occurred to me to scan the western horizon to see if I could spot any peaks in NH or far western ME. Am I correct in assuming that there are locations in the Camden Hills where views such as those are possible on a clear day?


  2. John,

    I can't say for sure as I've never hiked in the Camden Hills, but I have seen them from Mt. Carrigain on an exceptionally clear day, so I imagine Carrigain and Washington etc. might be visible on the western horizon from the Camden Hills with the right conditions.


  3. Thanks for your report Steve! It solidified my decision to do this as a loop on 5/10. Amazing what 7 days will do, as Mud Brook Trail presented no snow up to the summit, and maybe 20 feet total of snow on the trail just into the trees to the north of the summit. The views were not as clear as the ones you had, but they were spectacular nonetheless!

    1. Thanks, Bill - glad you and your friend enjoyed Caribou. It's one of my favorite hikes. I figured most of the snow would be gone in another week or so. Nice report on your hike!