Via the Appalachian Trail from the Caribou Valley Road and Bushwack Approximately 8 miles
Redington Mountain is located in western Maine and is the only 4,000 footer in the state without an established trail to the summit. This makes it challenging in itself, but also alluring for an adventurous person with a day to spend in this magical range. From the summit of South Crocker, it is one mile as the crow flies to the summit of Redington, however the actual distance is likely about 1.25 – 1.5 miles depending on your skills as a navigator of the woods.
We chose to approach Redington by first ascending South Crocker via the Appalachian Trail from the Caribou Valley Road. This road is located a mile from the access road to Sugarloaf ski area on the south side of ME 27. It is an unsigned logging road that is privately owned and maintained. It should only be driven by a vehicle with high clearance and all wheel drive. In wet conditions I would recommend bringing boards with you just to be safe as the mud can be brutal. There is a locked gate about 3.6 miles from the start of the road, parking for the trail is allowed here but do not block the road or gate. Immediately behind the gate there is a wire bridge that crosses a stream, I had to carry my dog across the bridge because the grate was the size of her paws, so keep this in mind if you attempt this hike. The Appalachian Trail crossing is .5 miles up the road from the gate and is signed with a cairn and the customary white blazes of the AT.
To start the trail is easy grades and climbs steadily but not too steeply up the first mile to the Crocker Circe camping area. There is a side trail leading to the camp site, where there are two tent platforms and a latrine. The stream alongside the trail is the last reliable water for the remainder of the hike. Beyond the camping area, the trail begins to climb the shoulder of South Crocker, this is where the trail becomes much steeper, there are a few ledgy exposed areas as you break out of the birch forest and enter into the spruce that dominate higher elevations. There are some fantastic views of the Bigelow range and beyond from here. We had some difficulty in this section due to early spring conditions and lots of ice. A few times we had to assist the dog in both getting up and down this section, however I think this was a seasonal issue that would not matter in later spring and summer. Once you reach the spruce forest the trail moderates as you gain the summit cone. The true summit of South Crocker is located off a blue blazed side trail that is signed and easy to find. There are views from the summit because the forest has been cleared in this area. From the rocky summit, you can see the expanse of the Appalachian Trail as it winds along many of Maine’s 4,000 footers. Visible are Sugarloaf, Abraham, Spaulding and Saddleback, if it were without the ski area summit on Sugarloaf, there would be nothing made by man in this entire area. It is truly humbling, to be in a place that is so quiet and peaceful.
From the South Crocker summit, to reach Redington, requires skill, a map and compass and probably a GPS. I would not recommend this hike to anyone who is uncomfortable in the woods, being lost or without knowledge of bushwacking and survival skills. While the distance is short, this is a hike with no trail, at all. Getting lost in a wilderness area like this can be life threatening, so only attempt it if you have confidence and skill. At any time if you doubt yourself, turn around. Unlike my other trail write ups, this one is less descriptive and purposely so. We got turned around a few times and lost for while. At the summit of South Crocker look for a climber’s trail of ribbons tied to trees. This year they were a combination of orange and pink in color. Follow these, you will soon get to the boundary cut for the Appalachian Trail corridor follow a cairn here across the cut and rapidly descends South Crocker to the col between the peaks. We descended to about 3,450 feet before we started to gain elevation again. There are some views from old clearings between the mountains, to the North into Canada that are impressive. Continue to follow the ribbons up the ridge of Redington, across an old logging road or snowmobile trail and through thick spruce to the bare summit of Redington. There are some views from where the summit was cleared at one time and some small regrowth of spruce trees. There is also a summit register canister located on a tree behind the summit cairn, it is an old PVC with a notebook in it for people to sign.
We got off the “trail” on our way down the mountain and had to fight our way through thick spruce forests for about a half mile before we got back on track. This wack took us about 3 hours round trip and while at no time was very steep or exposed, it was hard to stay on the path. We did it in early spring, there was still a lot of snow the entire way. My dog was able to complete the hike with us both of South Crocker and Redington, but again I would not recommend that anyone without back country skills do this summit. If anyone does get to the top of Redington, I left behind one of my business cards for Lone Pine and if I get it back, the recipient will receive a growler on me.