Hiking

Ron Chase: Hike the New Ragged Mountain Trails

Contributed

Forty-five years ago there was only one trail to the top of Ragged Mountain in the Camden Hills. The original Ragged Mountain trail started on Gillette Road in Rockport and progressed southeast to the summit. As the first part of the trail passed through private property, access was subject to the discretion of the owner and sometimes closed.

Much has improved in the years since. About three decades ago, the Georges Highland Path (GHP) was opened. From Route 17 in West Rockport, the path crosses Ragged Mountain to Barnstown Road in Camden. Additionally, an auxiliary trail has been constructed from the Thorndike Brook trailhead on Hope Rd which joins the main road west of the high point. The lower portion of the original Ragged Mountain trail has been closed. Georges River Land Trust maintains GHP.

More recently, a network of trails from the Camden Snow Bowl downhill ski area has been added to the expanding network at Ragged Mountain. Included are two trails on the north side of the mountain, Hosmer Brook and Red Diamond Trails. Both lead to the summit area. Cross-country skiing and mountain biking trails are also located near the Snow Bowl. In 2020, the first section of the Round the Mountain Trail, a cycling and walking path, was laid out on the southern and eastern perimeter of the massif. In short, Ragged Mountain has become a multifaceted outdoor paradise.

Since the inception of GHP, my friends and I have done our best to exhaust the trails of Ragged Mountain. Now most of us are old and retired, but we still come back regularly. Only about an hour’s drive from my home in Topsham, I find myself enjoying the spectacular views the captivating prominence has to offer several times a year. When I wrote my mountain guide, “Mountains for Mortals – New England”, Ragged Mountain was a must-have inclusion.

After announcing a Penobscot Paddle & Chowder Society ride on Ragged Mountain in December, three retired Chowderheads immediately accepted the invitation. One participant, Dave Boyle, recommended a loop hike on the Hosmer Brook and Red Diamond trails. A new venture for the rest of the group, we enthusiastically welcomed his suggestion.

It was chilly and windy when the four of us met at the Camden Snow Bowl parking lot. Unsure of trail conditions at higher elevations and expecting crisp, cold winds, we packed micro spikes and parkas.

The start of Hosmer Brook Trail was not obvious. However, Dave guided us to the far right of the ski area where a blue diamond sign and symbols marked the start. Although the passage was wet in places and a few creek crossings were required, we enjoyed the easy hike on a gradual incline through predominantly hardwood forest. After passing the junctions for an alternate loop hike, we climbed some steep switchbacks before arriving at the GHP on Ragged Mountain Ridge. The GHP ridge area was part of the original Ragged Mountain trail.

Fishing to the left, we made rapid progress on partially exposed ledges before entering a confined couloir in a densely wooded area. After climbing an icy rock formation, our group of age-old seniors arrived at a continuum of cliffs and the fun began.

For me, the beautiful elongated escarpment on the west face of Ragged Mountain is a must-see attraction. Rather than turning left on Red Diamond Trail, we extended our trip by continuing on GHP along the cliffs. Despite strong winds and patches of ice, we were not disappointed. Phenomenal views of Mirror Lake and the southern Camden Hills were our reward as we negotiated the steep cliff edge.

There are two peaks on Ragged Mountain. We stopped for lunch on the east side of the southeast summit where tiered ledges provided shelter from the wind. From there, a short bushwalk over large boulders to Red Diamond Trail brought us to the scenic high point of Ragged Mountain.

Leaving the summit, we began our descent on the sparsely treed and winding Red Diamond Trail. Soon, the alpine ski slopes could be observed. Incongruous snowbanks testify to snowmaking efforts. Near the parking lot, some mountain bikers hurtling down a nearby trail caught our eye.

When we reached our vehicles, a member calculated the trip to be 4.1 miles on his GPS. The unanimous conclusion: our new Ragged Mountain route was an outstanding route that would be repeated.

Author of “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England”, Ron Chase resides in Topsham. His latest book, “MAINE AL FRESCO: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine,” will soon be published by North Country Press. Visit his website at www.ronchaseoutdoors.com or he can be reached at [email protected]

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