Friday, August 15, 2014

Hike – Four Summits, Bald Peak, Parkman Mountain, Gilmore Peak, and Sargent Mountain via Hadlock Brook Trail, Bald Peak Trail, Bald-Parkman Connector, Parkman Mountain Trail, Grandgent Trail, Sargent South Ridge Trail, Maple Spring Trail

The first three peaks summited (all in foreground)
This post describes a loop hike that summits four of the mountains west of Jordan Pond, including Sargent Mountain (the second highest peak in Acadia National Park), and then ends with a beautiful walk alongside a stream.

Directions: Take Routes 3 and 198 north out of Northeast Harbor.  Just after passing the end of Upper Hadlock Pond, which will be on the right, there will be a small parking area on the left off the side of the road.  Since this is the trailhead for several trails to Parkman Mountain, Bald Peak, Norumbega Mountain, and others, there may be cars also lined up along the side of the road.  The trailhead for this hike is across the highway from the north end of the lot.  Take care crossing since traffic will be going fast.

The hike starts on the Hadlock Brook Trail.  The sign at the trailhead lists just about every mountain west of Jordan Pond and it’s not an exaggeration.  With a large number of interconnecting trails you can get to all of them, and most of them in multiple ways.  This means paying attention to every trail sign you come to (and there will be a bunch of them on this hike.)

Almost immediately after starting on Hadlock Brook Trail you will come to the trailhead for the Parkman Mountain Trail on the left.  Continue on the Hadlock Brook Trail.  In another few minutes the Bald Peak Trail will head off to the left.  Take it.  You will quickly cross a carriage road, climb easily, then cross another carriage road.  At this point the trail rises moderately to steeply as it gains most of the elevation to the top of Bald Peak, which is just short of 1,000 feet high.  There are a couple of false summits on the trail – places where it looks like it opens up above you onto the summit only to have you discover that the hike continues upward on a section that was blocked from view.

I hiked this on a day where there was fog all around, but I could tell that there would have been great views back towards Upper Hadlock Pond.  With no views I didn’t hang around the summit long.  I followed the signs to get to Parkman Mountain.

Upper Hadlock Pond through the fog surrounding Bald Peak
It’s only .3 miles from one peak to the other, but there is a very steep drop in the first tenth coming down off Bald Peak.  The trail then flattens and then rises moderately the rest of the way up Parkman Mountain.  Just before the summit this connector trail will end when it meets the Parkman Mountain Trail (the one bypassed at the very start of the hike.)  Turn right at this junction and ascend the last tenth a mile to the top of Parkman Mountain, also just under 1,000 feet high.

Once again the summit here was socked in with fog, so I did not have views.  However, I did see something unique in all the times I have been hiking: there was a deer at the summit.  I tried to get a picture of it, but it bounded away before I could.

If you want to turn back at this point then all you have to do is head back down the Parkman Mountain Trail to where you started.  I chose to continue on to the summit of Gilmore Peak.

From the summit of Parkman follow the sign pointing to the Grandgent Trail.  This will drop steeply off of Parkman as once again you rapidly lose some of the elevation gained before.  You will come to an intersection with the Giant Slide Trail.  Stay on the Grandgent Trail.  (For whatever reason none of the signs on Parkman or here mention Gilmore Peak at all, but the Grandgent Trail does go over the summit of it.)  From this intersection the trail rises steeply up the west side of Gilmore.

When I reached the summit, which is just over 1,000 feet high, the fog had finally broken and I had views back to the west of the peaks I had already traversed, as well as other features.  To the east the view is dominated by Sargent Mountain.  I decided to push on to the summit of Sargent – the second highest peak in Acadia.

View to the southwest from Gilmore Peak
Sargent Mountain as seen from Gilmore Peak
From the summit of Gilmore Peak continue on the Grandgent Trail.  It drops, you guessed it, steeply down off the east side of Gilmore.  It quickly comes to a small stream and just on the other side is another trail junction.  At this point the hike will make a mini-loop up to the summit of Sargent and back down to here.  I chose to stay on the Grandgent Trail (left at this junction) since it directly summited Sargent.

The trail is actually level for a little bit then rises the last 400 feet in about .4 miles.  After already doing three peaks and dropping down off them this last push up to the summit of Sargent was a little tougher than if I had just been starting out.  The trail flattens out as it nears the top.  I had been on the summit of Sargent once before (you can read about that hike here), so I remembered that because of the flatness at the top views were somewhat blocked by the mountain itself.  I made sure to take plenty of pictures on the way up.

The upper end of Somes Sound as seen from the Grandgent Trail on Sargent Mountain's west side
L-R: Lower and Upper Hadlock Ponds, Gilmore Peak, Bald Peak, and Norumbega Mountain behind them
There were a couple of groups already on the almost 1,400 foot high summit of Sargent (although none of the three people I had met on the hike that were also headed to Sargent.)  I rested and had a snack.  In that time a few more sets of people also came up Sargent.  I found it interesting that it wasn’t one direction everyone was coming from, but pretty much every way Sargent could be hiked.

View of Frenchman Bay from the summit of Sargent Mountain
With the “congestion” here I didn’t stick around long.  It had taken me a little less than three hours to do the four summits, and that includes about 15 minutes of talking with another hiker on Gilmore.  While on Gilmore another hiker just came up and blew right by us, jogging down off towards Sargent.  He didn’t even bother to look at the view and didn’t respond when I said “Hi”.  He was either just out for some exercise or was trying to beat an elapsed time to wherever he was eventually going to end up. 

(Gets up on soapbox.)  To me that’s not hiking.  Sure, one of the benefits of hiking is the exercise, but for me that is almost irrelevant.  I hike first and foremost for the views, and secondly for the sense of personal accomplishment.  The fact that I happen to get a little bit of exercise while doing it is a nice bonus.  I don’t understand the people for whom exercise is the be all and end all of hiking.  If you aren’t going to pause and take in the views then you might as well just be on a stair machine in a gym.  (Gets down off soapbox.)

I left Sargent by heading down the South Ridge Trail.  It was almost flat all the way to the first trail junction.  At this point turn right onto the Maple Spring Trail.  This descends easily until it drops below the treeline, then there are places where it drops a little more steeply.  The views coming down this trail are excellent and that includes when it rises slightly to come to a secondary, open section on the side of Sargent.

Fog still over the ocean and islands as seen from Sargent Mountain's South Ridge Trail

This trail takes you back to the same intersection where I mentioned a mini-loop would be made.  You have now completed that.  Now turn left to stay on the Maple Spring Trail.  When I took this it was simply going to be a way to get back to where I started, while taking a different trail so that I could experience as many of them as I could.  It turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.

This section of the trail descends easily and parallels a brook.  Because it had rained the morning before the volume of water running down it created a series of at least a couple dozen small little waterfalls.  The trail zigs and zags back and forth over this brook.  Eventually it comes to a gorge with mossy rock faces on both sides.  It was really quite something.

Mossy boulder and tree roots alongside the Maple Spring Trail

Small waterfall alongside the Maple Spring Trail
This trail ultimately drops down to the Hemlock Bridge on a carriage road that passes overhead.  There are paths to walk up to either side of the bridge, which allow easy access from trail to road and vice versa.  After getting some photos here I continued on the trail downward.

Hemlock Bridge as you see it coming down the Maple Spring Trail
The western side of the Hemlock Bridge from just south of it on the Maple Spring Trail
The Maple Spring Trail finally comes to an end when it meets up with the Hadlock Brook Trail.  Turn right onto this new trail.  In just a little bit there is another trail intersection, but it is marked differently.  There are signs nailed to a tree, including one that says “Notch Road”.  Stay on the trail you are on.

About a tenth of a mile after that you come to a carriage road.  Cross over it and in a few feet there is another trail junction.  This is the one where you left at the beginning of the hike to go up Bald Peak.  The larger loop is now complete.  Stay on this trail (watch out for a misleading trail sign that shows an arrow pointing away at an angle for where the trail goes; it continues straight ahead of you.)

Pass by the trailhead for the Parkman Mountain Trail and then come back up to the highway where you started.  Cross over to the parking area, once again making sure to watch for fast moving traffic.

A special note about footing: pretty much this entire hike is over roots and rocks, with the rest being ledge hiking.  I did it on a day where the moisture was quite heavy.  Avoiding roots and mossy rocks is a must in these conditions, especially coming down off the various summits.  Sometimes this was quite difficult to do and this added to the time it took for the hike.  (It took me more than an hour and a half to descend the two miles of trails from Sargent’s summit to the parking area.)  On a dry day better time will probably be made.

One example of the footing.  This is the Grandgent Trail.  Note the partially mossy rock on the right.
Cumulative distance:            4.4 miles
Cumulative elevation gain:  1,700 feet
Cumulative duration:            4 – 5 hours (including time for photos)


  1. I did this trail on the weekend but went down the Hemlock Trail at the end. This was a great hike with many beautiful views. The false summits on Bald Peak were quite maddening, but I was happy I had some forewarning. Thanks for your post!

  2. Sorry, went down the Hadlock at the end. Similar name :)

  3. @justamck - I'm glad you found this useful. It's a great hike, isn't it? Yes, the false summits on Bald Peak were a big tease.