Sugarloaf, Spaulding, and Abraham

In frost, wind, and sun, we completed a ~13 mile traverse over three 4,000 footers in Maine: Sugarloaf, Spaulding, and Abraham.


Elevation Gain
0 ft


Segment Distance

Total Distance

Route Description

0 mi0 miStart at Sugarloaf Ski Resort
2.3 mi2.3 miTote Road ski slope to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain
0.6 mi2.9 miSugarloaf Side Trail to the Appalachian Trail
2.1 mi5 miAppalachian Trail to Spaulding Mountain
0.8 mi5.8 miAppalachian Trail to Spaulding Mountain Shelter
1.1 mi6.9 miAppalachian Trail to Mt. Abraham Trail
1.7 mi8.6 miMt. Abraham Trail to the summit of Mt. Abraham
4 mi12.6 miMt. Abraham Fire Warden’s Trail to Mt. Abraham trailhead


Note: Map mileage does not match stats because Gaia GPS tends to undercount it. Mileage stats were calculated using

Sugarloaf Mountain

Hike Date: October 11, 2020

After sleeping in 25F weather, wearing beanies, coats, and gloves, we were ready to get moving. We drove about an hour to Sugarloaf Ski Resort, parked, and hit the trail around 7:30am to start our traverse across three 4,000 footers: Sugarloaf, Spaulding, and Abraham. There are a couple of different ways to hike up the ski slopes, but we found it easiest to take Lower Tote Road to Tote Road to Tote Road Extension all the way to the top. Facing up the mountain, Lower Tote Road started near the quad chairlift to the right of the lodge. We started up the gravel path and then turned left to go up the grassy ski slope. 

Gravel road next to chairlift
Grassy Lower Tote Road ski trail

About midway through, we continued onto Tote Road, a “blue” rated trail, which in ski terms just means it is a bit steeper. Once we got to the top of this section, we were rewarded with sweeping views of the valley, the mountains of Bigelow Preserve, and the last fading fall colors of the season. 

Steep "blue" section of Tote Road
Kevin climbing up Tote Road
View into the valley halfway up Sugarloaf ski slopes

It was a chilly day and we walked from a sunny fall morning into the clouds of winter. The wind picked up and the grass and trees were covered in frost. Even though it was extremely cold, this scene was pretty magical. We had never seen the weather and terrain change so quickly. One moment everything was green and yellow and the next, everything was grey and white. 

Kevin walking into the clouds
From fall to winter
Frost covered trail

We were completely socked in by clouds and fog for the last quarter mile of the hike to the peak, so we can’t say much about what the trail looked like. But, when we got to the top, we knew we were there because there was a clear road leading to a large tower and summit cairn. In about 2 miles of hiking up the ski slopes, we gained approximately 2,400 feet of elevation. This section is no joke! We paused behind the tower and were grateful for the windbreak it provided as we searched for where the trail continued. Visibility was very low, but with our brains combined and our trusty Gaia GPS, we knew what general direction to walk in and found cairns and blazes relatively quickly. We were so relieved when we ducked below the treeline and got some respite from the relentless wind.

Tower at the top of Sugarloaf
Frozen hair and smiles at the summit!
Route finding
Grateful for a tree-covered trail

Spaulding Mountain

The portion between Sugarloaf and Spaulding was surprisingly mild and beautiful. The trail descended off of Sugarloaf and then turned into a rather gentle footpath for the majority of the way. We walked 0.5 miles from the summit to the juncture with the Appalachian Trail (AT). From there, we continued 2.1 miles on the AT to Spaulding Mountain. Midway through this stretch, the sun started peeking out, warming our bones after that tough climb up Sugarloaf. 

AT sign
Sun peeking through the trees
Rocky trail

To tag Spaulding, we turned left on a short spur trail with a steep pitch. Although the summit sign says Spaulding is less than 4,000 feet, do not worry, it is in fact on the NE 67 4,000 footer list! We took a quick jaunt to the viewpoint past the summit, which provided a relatively underwhelming view from a cutout through the trees. 

Spur trail towards Spaulding
Spaulding summit sign
Outlook from Spaulding Mountain

Mt. Abraham

After tagging our second peak, we returned to the AT, turned left and kept moving the 3.6 miles to Mt. Abraham. On the way, we passed a sign for the Spaulding lean-to, a privy, and a water source, so backpacking this route is an option. The majority of the trail was similar to the section between Spaulding and Sugarloaf and we loved it. Both of us got into a pretty solid walking flow, allowing us to make quick time to the turnoff to Mt. Abraham Trail. We left the AT and quickly realized that Mt. Abraham Trail was much less traveled, as evidenced by the overgrown trees and downed leaves covering much of the way. Even so, we really enjoyed this beautiful walk in the woods. When we started ascending, we turned around and were surprised to get some incredible views of the peaks we just hiked. 

Trail descending from Spaulding
Mt. Abraham trail sign
Overgrown trail
Sweeping view from the trail

Then, in front of us, through the trees, we could see our last peak of the day, Mt. Abraham. When we emerged from the forest, we were greeted by an open field of rocks that reminded us of the northern Presidentials in New Hampshire. We stepped carefully knowing that our trail runners do not provide as much support as traditional hiking boots. After a stint in the open, we passed through some scrubby krummholz trees, and then re-emerged above treeline to a steep open rock boulder section leading up to the summit of Abraham. 

Rocky trail to Mt. Abraham
View of Mt. Abraham
View behind us on the way to Mt. Abraham
Rock boulder field on the way to Mt. Abraham

At the top of Abraham, we could see what we just traversed from Sugarloaf to Spaulding. It is one of the most rewarding feelings to look back and see all that you have just covered on foot. We walked a bit further, passing the Mount Abraham Fire Warden’s Trail that we would end up going down, toward some large cairns for a place where we could enjoy sandwiches protected from the wind. 

Windy Mt. Abraham summit
View of Saddleback and the Horn
View with all three summits we hiked

After lunch, we walked back to the summit and turned onto the Mount Abraham Fire Warden’s Trail to start the descent, which was quite precarious. The path was mostly just a jumble of rocks on the side of an open and exposed mountain with a few areas where we moved in and out of some tree cover. Taking slow and deliberate steps, we made our way down this tough, but memorable one mile stretch. Once we dropped below treeline, we descended down a typical dirt path with rocks interspersed along the way. 

Kevin descending into the trees

Then, the remainder of the hike was absolutely breathtaking. The woods were literally glowing. The ground was covered in fallen yellow leaves and the sun illuminated those still on the trees. On this one hike, we went from frosted ski slopes, to pine tree forests, to boulder fields, to yellow hardwood woodlands. This was the perfect Maine hike, offering almost every type of view and terrain possible – only missing an ocean view. 

Yes, that is the trail!
Golden forest

After about 7 hours, we made it to the parking lot and Mount Abraham Fire Warden’s Trailhead  where we met our shuttle driver, Greg, who runs All Points Transportation and drove us back to our car at Sugarloaf. Give him a call at 207-329-3482 if you need a ride for this one way traverse. Many other people hike this traverse starting at this trailhead, hitting Abraham first, and ending by hiking down the Sugarloaf ski slopes. This is probably the recommended way, but we really enjoyed the direction we hiked and have no regrets. If you have two cars and can park one on each end, that would be ideal. If not, Greg was great, very knowledgeable about the area, and picked us up with no problem.  

And, just like that, we’ve hiked 58 of the 67 NE 4,000 footers! Only. 9 more to go. 

Fire Warden's trail sign

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