Via. Grafton Loop Trail & Woodsum Spur
Distance to Southeast Summit: 3.2 one way
Woodsum Spur adds: 2.1 miles for a total of 8.6
Puzzle Mountain is one of the eastern most peaks of the Mahoosuc Range. It has an open summit that offers panoramic views in all directions. From the exposed granite ledges and summit, you can see the ski resort of Sunday River, Grafton Notch, and far to the distant Presidential Range on clear days. All of these trails are fairly new, the Grafton Loop Trail was constructed in the early 2000s as an alternative for multi-day trips to the heavily used Appalachian Trail. It took years of partnerships and a large coalition to create this network of trails. These trails cross privately owned land, so be sure to follow landowner instruction; stay on the trail, do not camp in non-designated areas, and practice the Leave No Trace principals.
To get to the trailhead, from the intersection of US Route 2 and ME Route 26 in Newry, follow ME Route 26 approximately 4.7 miles north. You will see the Grafton Loop Trail sign and the parking area are will be on the right, directly across from Eddy Road on the left. The trail leaves from the northern end of the parking area.
The Grafton Loop Trail (GLT) leaves the parking lot through a young forest and follows an overgrown logging road. It gently switches back and forth through a forest of birch and spruce, utilizing old logging roads for sections at a time. For the first 2 miles, the ascent is gradual, follow blue blazes and rock cairns on the open ledges. From there it climbs steeply up with some small rock scrambles. As it ascends to the open summit of Puzzle Mountain after passing several ledges with fine views of the Bear River Valley, the Mahoosuc Range and the Presidential Range beyond. About 0.5 miles before the summit, at a sign junction, the Woodsum Spur branches to the right. The GLT continues to the southwest peak and a large cairn with fine views in all directions. Descending slightly, it then follows open ledges until about 0.2 miles after the summit where the other end of the Woodsum Spur branches to the right. The GLT continues down Puzzle toward the the valley between Puzzle and Long Mountain. The Woodsum Spur, assuming you are traveling in a clockwise direction, goes gently up and down through small conifers skirting below the northern (tree-covered) and highest peak of Puzzle to a series of open ledges. It crosses over the open summit of the Southeast peak and begins heading consistently downhill. The trail then enters the woods and crosses a stream with reliable water about three fourths of the way along the Woodsum Spur. After another 0.5 miles in the woods, the trail emerges again at the GLT.
Depending on the length of hike desired, there are quite a few different combinations that can be done with the Grafton Loop Trail, the Woodsum Spur and longer multi-day hikes are always an option. This is an easy to follow trail, with lots of water options. There are no obstacles or hinderances for four legged companions. Keep in mind that it is exposed at the summit, so be aware of changing weather patterns. It is also a gorgeous hike, that is rewarded with views in just a few short miles. It is moderate both in activity and distance, and I would highly recommend it to people and pups of most levels of fitness.