Backpack Trip Report: Grafton Loop Trail, Maine

2:41 p.m. on October 22, 2009 (EDT)
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So it's a few months late, but here is my trip report from the Grafton Loop
backpack. Hope to read some of your own.
Enjoy, debmonster

Despite weather forecasts of the approaching Tropical Storm Danny, 4 stalwart backpackers consisting of Debbie, Ed, Vladimir and George set out on Friday, August 28, 2009 to tackle the new 39-mile Grafton Loop Trail in the Mahoosuc Mountains of Maine.

Day 1 (11.7 mi.) started sunny and warm, despite having temperatures drop to 36 degrees the night before. We traveled the loop in a counter-clockwise
direction, beginning at Grafton Notch State Park and immediately starting with a
climb up Old Speck mountain on the AT, which the GLT shares for 8 miles from
East Baldpate to Old Speck. After 4 miles and 2670 ft. of elevation gain, we
climbed up the tower on the summit and enjoyed the excellent view of the peaks
across the away and the valley below. The trail then gradually descended down the south side of the mountain and the hiking was a pleasure on this new trail, with a luxurious level of dirt to cushion our feet, as it had not yet been worn away by thousands of footsteps, unlike the rocky AT.

We stopped at Slide Campsite for lunch and then continued on to climb up to
Sunday River Whitecap, whose summit lies in the alpine zone and has undergone
extensive trailwork to preserve the fragile ecosystems there. The peak was one
of the highlights of the loop, with 360 degree views of the Mahoosuc Range and
White Mountains to the south and west, Puzzle and Long Mts. to the east and
surrounding lakes and rivers to the north. A short descent brought us to Sargent Brook Camp where we set up our tents to spend the night.


Day 2 (11.2 mi.) started with rain, which began during the night, but we stayed
dry under the large tarp over our kitchen area. After breakfast, we headed south
over rolling hills and the weather improved enough for Vladimir and George to
take a quick swim in a large stream. We crossed Route 26 near Eddy Rd. and turned north to start climbing Puzzle Mountain, the approximate halfway mark of the loop. Unfortunately, the sky was foggy and the viewpoints were totally socked in, so we would not enjoy any of the lovely vistas from Puzzle - a good reason to hike the loop again (perhaps clockwise next time? :). A short distance later we came to Stewart Campsite and set up our tents, though we had to place them carefully since many of the tenting areas were very drenched from the rain. Dinner and a hot beverage under our tarp helped to make the semi-soggy, chilly conditions much more bearable.

Day 3 (10.1 mi.) dawned sunny and getting warmer by the minute. We knew this day covered the easiest terrain, so we decided to take some extra time in camp to allow our gear to dry - definitely time well spent! After 4.5 miles, we lunched at the viewpoint on Long Mountain and then followed a lovely stream past a number of campsites, taking time to enjoy a dip in an excellent swimming hole along the way! We made it to East Baldpate Campsite and set up our tents for our last night on the trail.

Day 4 (6.5 mi.) started early with a pleasant 2 mile walk that led to a climb up
the southern side of East Baldpate mountain. The sky was fairly clear at lower
elevations, but as we neared the 4,000 ft. level the morning fog started to
surround us. At the top, the wind whipped fiercely and we quickly snapped our
photos at the summit marker. We bid goodbye to the blue blazes of the Grafton
Loop and now would follow the familiar white blazes of the AT again for the last
4 miles of the loop. As we approached the northern end of East Baldpate's
massive summit, the sky started to clear and opened up some spectacular views to the north and west, including an up-close-and-personal view over to West
Baldpate. We descended over the open rock face, following cairns and trying not
to be blown off the peak by the strong wind. Our route dipped briefly down for a
short while, then back up to a gradual climb of West Baldpate, only to drop
steeply down the rugged trail over it's west side. By this time, the day was
growing quite sunny and warm with a pleasant breeze, and improving exponentially as we passed into lower levels of elevation.

The last mile of the trail was extremely pleasant, following another stream and
very moderate terrain. Upon reaching the Grafton Notch parking area, after
donating some left-over food to a small group of AT thru-hikers taking a break,
we congratulated each other with much enthusiasm and decided to celebrate at the nearest restaurant. The Grafton Loop trail was a true backpacker's trail, and a welcome addition to the list of backpack trips past and future!

For more information about the Grafton Loop, go to http://www.matc.org/glt1.htm and http://www.outdoors.org/conservation/trails/work/grafton/index.cfm

2:48 p.m. on October 22, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks for posting this report, debmonster. The Grafton Loop is high on my list of trips to do in the near future.

I've been considering doing it as two-day, one-night trip (but only if I do it in spring-fall, not for winter). Any thoughts on that?

5:04 p.m. on October 23, 2009 (EDT)
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Very nice trip report debmonster, welcome to the site.

I'm glad you got to go have a good time with friends.

11:51 a.m. on November 17, 2009 (EST)
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Alicia, I think this is a doable hike as you plan, but your daily average is 18 miles. If I were to try it in two days, I would start at Eddy Road and hike north toward the Baldpates. Plan to reach either Lane Campsite or East Baldpate Campsite for the night.
Keep in mind the AT between the Baldpates is totally exposed.
The hike to Old Speckup from the notch is not too steep. There are several tent platforms and a large shelter at Old Spec, too. and Spec Pond is large with good water at a spring that crosses the AT near the pond, but off of the Grafton Loop.
The Summit of old Spec is only partially open with the view only to the north unless you climb the tower.
Demonster's report above has excellent descriptions and the link he gives has a mileage chart as well as a map.
Be sure your hiking list includes Goose Eye, Success Mt. and Mahoosuc Notch in the general area along the AT south of Old Spec.. There are some good loop hikes there for another time.

PS I have only hiked the AT portion of the Grafton Loop.

8:56 p.m. on November 19, 2009 (EST)
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Thanks for the feedback, rambler. I have hiked Baldpate and Old Speck, among other spots in the area (and done some ice climbing in Grafton Notch), but I've never done this loop and am eager to check it out in full. I'd like to do it next spring or early summer.

I also think it's doable, but it may or may not be worth doing in two versus three days. I've got time to think about it though.

7:06 p.m. on November 20, 2009 (EST)
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190 forum posts

Great review! I Need to get up there next summer.

December 28, 2014
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