Saddleback and the Horn

A clear and windy day on Saddleback and the Horn in Maine for 54 and 55 of the New England 67 4,000 footers!

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Route Description

0 mi0 miStart at Saddleback Ski Area
1.8 mi1.8 miGrey Ghost to Tri-Color ski slopes to the Appalachian Trail to the summit of Saddleback Mountain
1.6 mi3.4 miAppalachian Trail to The Horn
1.6 mi5 miAppalachian Trail back to Saddleback Mountain
1.8 mi6.8 miAppalachian Trail and Grey Ghost ski trail back to the parking lot

Map

Note: Map mileage does not match stats because Gaia GPS tends to undercount it. Mileage stats were calculated using 4000footers.com.

Saddleback

Hike Date: October 10, 2020

Long weekends are for hiking in Maine! After hitting a fair amount of traffic leaving Boston, we stopped at Maine Beer Company (one of our favorite breweries) for beer and pizza. They’ve made take out orders really easy during the pandemic. We called ahead and our dinner and beers were ready for us to pick up outside. 

At around 9pm, we got to Cupsuptic Lake Campground and set up camp quickly and quietly by lantern light so as not to disturb our neighbors. The next morning, we rose naturally and saw that our campsite, Campsite 4, was located right next to a creek that leads to Cupsuptic Lake. This campground was recently renovated, so the bathroom, laundry, and dishwashing facilities are really nice and brand new. There are also kayak and canoe rentals and a beautiful beach open to anybody staying at the campground within easy walking distance of every site. After making a quick hot meal of oatmeal and coffee, we hopped in the car and drove the ~30 minutes to our first hike of the weekend: Saddleback Mountain and The Horn. 

Daytime campsite
Setting up camp in the dark
View of Cupsuptic Lake from the campground

We parked at Saddleback Mountain Ski Resort because this out and back hike to Saddleback and the Horn starts by trekking up the slopes. We took the Grey Ghost trail where there was a pretty clear herd path to follow. Along the way, we were sure to look back at the constant views of the valley and lakes below with the last remnants of fall foliage – already past peak in early October.

Beginning of the ski slope trail
Hiking up Grey Ghost ski slope
View from the ski slopes back towards the lake region and valley

Personally, I find hiking up ski slopes has pros and cons. Kevin and I are pretty quick on the ascent even when we gain a lot of elevation, which is great for timing, but the incline really kills my calves! Walking in zigzag motions up the ski slopes to use my glutes more has helped a lot. Kevin on the other hand just cruises straight up. Everybody is different! At the end of Grey Ghost ski trail, we passed a chairlift, some exposed pipes and trucks, then turned onto Tri-Color ski trail for the rest of the way. This final section of the ski slopes got significantly steeper. We powered through knowing that the best part of the hike above treeline with the summits was still in front of us. At the top of the mountain, the 20 mph wind gusts cooled us down immediately. We looked at the terrain we just covered, then turned towards the real “hiking” trail in front of us. The trail cut through some short and scrubby pine trees then opened up completely, providing endless views. 

Last steep section of the ski slope
Beginning of the actual "trail"
Trail along exposed ridge

Soon, we passed the Appalachian Trail juncture, turning left to join the AT heading to the summit of Saddleback Mountain. Completely exposed, we were in awe of the expansive views of the valley and surrounding mountains.

Saddleback Mountain summit
View from the Saddleback summit

The Horn

After a brief pause in the gusting wind, we continued on to the Horn. The descent off of Saddleback was immediately rocky and steep, but short. It was a surprisingly quiet day and we had the entire col to ourselves. This part of the hike reminded us of the Franconia Ridge Trail in New Hampshire and we absolutely loved it. We weaved in and out of small sections of scrubby pine trees with only one somewhat precarious section where there is a rickety iron ladder to climb. Emerging from the trees, the ascent up to The Horn was relatively mild. The trail zigzagged its way up over open ledges and through short shrubs to this more rounded summit with views in every direction. 

Leaving Saddleback
View of the Horn
Boggy area on the way to the Horn
Climbing a rickety iron ladder
Open rock ledges on the way to the Horn

From the top of the Horn, we could see the Saddleback Ski Resort where we started, Saddleback Mountain to the south, and also some of the other 4,000 footers in the area to the north. It was gorgeous and sunny, but the wind was pretty strong! It almost blew me over a couple of times. 

The Horn summit view
"Usie" at the Horn peak!
View from the Horn

Since this hike is an out and back, we promptly turned around and re-hiked the trail between the two peaks. We enjoyed every minute of this part, even the steep last quarter of a mile ascent to Saddleback that left us huffing and puffing for breath. 

View of Saddleback and the col from the Horn

After reaching Saddleback again, we knew it was all downhill from there. Elated from a beautiful day in the mountains, we made very quick time down the ski slopes and back to the resort. And, just like that, we checked off numbers 54 and 55 of the New England 67 4,000 footers list! 

Steepest ski slope section
Saddleback Ski Resort lodge

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