Caribou Mountain: Via the northern terminus of the Caribou Trail (Bog Road, FR 6)
Located in the unorganized territories of Oxford County, Maine; Caribou Mountain is a gorgeous and lesser hiked peak. Nestled in the 14,000 acres of the Caribou- Speckeled Wilderness, the trails are not well marked or signed. Per, wilderness designation. Unlike the trails in other parts of the White Mountain National Forest, this makes it a more challenging path to follow. Caribou’s bare summit offers fine panoramic views of the Mahoosuc Range, Evan’s Notch and further north to the Presidential Range. There are several ways to hike it, depending on what time of year and distance you desire.
More popular is the approach from Evan’s Notch on Rt 113, there are lots of hikes located along this road. The trailhead for Caribou is located approximately 5.8 miles from the Maine Border entering 113 from the south, from the north it is approximately 4.7 miles from the junction with route 2. There is a fee collected at the trailhead in Evan’s Notch for day use of the trails. A lesser used way to approach the mountain is the Northern terminus of the Caribou Trail, located at the end of Bog Road (FR 6). Follow Rt. 2 west toward Gorham, New Hampshire and once over the Gilead town line turn left onto Bog Road. At the intersection is a sign for Pooh Corner Farm. Follow the road as it turns from pavement to dirt and ends at a gated National Forest Road. This is seasonally maintained, so expect it to be unplowed during winter months. If snowshoeing is something that you enjoy, I suggest taking the trail less traveled and approaching from the north. This was what we did on Easter morning (I should note that this trailhead is at the end of my road, so it was a convenient place to scope out).
Navigating a car down the end of Bog Road was impossible, as there were several feet of snow on the ground. We parked in a little plowed out pull over next to Pooh Corner Farm. Being careful not to block the driveway or any of their operations. From here it was about a half mile walk to the gate where the Caribou Trail begins.
Once beyond the gate the trail continues on the road for a distance. Beyond the gate there is a fork in the road that is unsigned. Stay to the left and do not cross the bridge to the right. Eventually the trail branches to the left into the woods. This junction was signed, by a pink ribbon and a small sign with a yellow arrow. From here the ascent is gradual at first and follows the brook with several crossings. In spring these can be challenging in high water. While we were out I had to pick up my dog at several of these because the water was running fast and high. As we continued up the trail, the snow got deeper and in spots I post holed, even with snowshoes on. It was difficult to follow the trail because of it’s wilderness designation, and the ground coverage. At many points we were off trail, both intentionally and not. Upon reaching the junction with the Mud Brook Trail at the hight of the land we headed south to the Caribou Mountain summit. Here we got completely off trail and bushwhacked our way to the top of a knob. There were some decent views, but I am not sure if it was the true summit or not. After the spring thaw I plan to return and complete this trail again. Just out of curiosity, as to where we ended up versus the actual trail and summit. Descending we retraced our steps in the snow (significantly easier to do in the winter) and ended up back at the trail junction. Following the brook down, I am pretty sure we were on trail at least most of the time. Again, the conditions for this hike were not optimal. It was a warm day and there was enough melt to cause several of the crossings to swell during the time we were going up. This made negotiating the water crossing challenging and complicated.
During the early spring I would recommend this hike only to experienced people and dogs. That being said, it is easy to become disoriented and lost. Be prepared with extra food, clothing, and water. If at any time you feel uncomfortable, turn around. Hiking is only fun when you get home safe to talk about it later.