The Appalachian Trail may be all hugs and kisses on the southern end of New Hampshire, but it will kick you in the fanny on its northern exit. This 31-mile section from Shelburne, NH to Grafton Notch, Maine contains 8,000 feet of elevation gain with majestic views, alpine bogs, ledge climbs, above treeline traverses, and the notorious mile-long boulder scramble of Mahoosuc Notch.
At 281.4 miles, Maine accounts for only 13 percent of the 2,178.3-mile Appalachian Trail. Statistics, however, are for maps. Ask anyone who has completed the entire trail and they’ll likely tell you Maine is the toughest state of the 14 trail states.
The Old Speck Trail in Grafton Notch State Park is a near-perfect hike for intermediate hikers. Ascending Maine’s third highest mountain (fourth highest peak) at 4,180 feet, the trail itself has 2,700 feet of elevation gain featuring stop-and-stare scenery with steep climbs that will get your heart pumping and intermittent plateaus to catch your breath. In the winter, at the tail end of a three-snowstorm week, the morning after one of the storms, it’s a little more difficult. Interpretation of the word “little” is really something everyone has to judge for themselves—a key piece of information I may have left out of the sales pitch to my wife.
Let me start by explaining that I’m only counting this day as a half day on the trail, because, well, that’s what it was. We left the Speck Pond camp…