Approach Via ME 27, Appalachian Trail
These mountains are the northern most of the Crocker-Redington Pond Range. They are located 3.5 miles from Sugarloaf Mountain, and separated by the Caribou Valley, formed by the southern branch of the Carrabasssett River. North Crocker has a heavily wooded summit and offers little in the way of views despite its height. South Crocker, 1 mile from the summit of North Crocker has a defined summit and spectacular views. There are two ways to approach these mountains, via the Appalachian Trail on ME 27, or from the Caribou Valley Road. We did this hike in early spring, and the gate for the Caribou Valley Road was closed. This is a private road used for logging operations in the area, when it is open it should be drive with caution and probably in a vehicle with higher clearance and four or all wheel drive.
For the approach from the north on the Appalachian Trail, drive 2.6 miles north from Sugarloaf ski area’s access road. There is an expanded parking area on the southern side of the highway for trail use. It is easy to find as it is signed, and can hold 15-20 cars. Parking is free and there are no facilities located on site. The trailhead is located at the northern end of the parking lot and climbs at a steady grade through the woods for the first 1.5 miles. A section of spruce trees begins about 1 mile in and continues up the ridge for another mile. Once the western ridge is reached the forest turns into a birch forest, where in early spring, winter or late fall there are some spectacular views through the leafless trees. At mile 4.2 there is a small stream that crosses the trail, this is the last reliable water. After this the trail continues up at a higher grade the last mile to the summit of North Crocker.
From the summit the trail continues down the col immediately, leading to the low point between the peaks. The Appalachian tail then gains the rocky summit cone of South Crocker mountain. The true summit is located off a blue blazed side trail off the AT on the right hand side. After enjoying the views, there are a few options for getting back to the parking area. You can turn around and descend the way you approached the summits, or you can continue on the Appalachian Trail to Caribou Valley Road. The distances of this hike are variable depending on what you choose to do. From the parking area to North Crocker summit it is 5.2 miles, South Crocker is 6.2 miles from the parking area and Caribou Valley Road is 8.3 hours from the parking area. Note that once you reach Caribou Valley Road it is 4.5 miles back to ME 27 and a short road walk back to the parking area.
While these are long distances, there are no challenging spots on the trail, making this a great mountain for any hiker of reasonable fitness. Some of the grades are steep, but there are no open exposed areas, and I found we covered the distance quickly, even in early spring conditions. There were no obstacles for the dogs and plenty of running water to drink. When we hiked Crocker, there was a lot of snow on the summit remaining from winter, and snowshoes would have been helpful. However, where I post-holed the dog was light enough to remain on the surface of the snow, making the final summit push easier for her than for me. This was the first time I have visited Western Maine in a few years and while I have spent a lot of time in New Hampshire’s White Mountains as of late. This is a special place, with few visitors. This section of the Appalachian Trail is rugged, sometimes hard to follow and absolutely a fantastic place to hike and spend time.