100-Mile Wilderness, ME: Little Lyford to Gorman Chairback

Ski (or snowshoe) hut-to-hut in the East’s wildest preserve.
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Ski (or snowshoe) hut-to-hut in the East’s wildest preserve.

Winter in the far north isn’t only for Shackelton wannabes. In fact, this 20.6-mile weekender could be the most luxe on your adventure calender. The Appalachian Mountain Club runs a string of fire-warmed lodges (with hot meals to boot).

Day one: Sign in at the Little Lyford kiosk at the Greenville Road trailhead and dump a duffle of personal gear (AMC will shuttle). Then shoulder your daypack with snacks and water and glide along groomed trails (with no set tracks) into the mixed hardwoods, staying straight at a junction at mile 1.3. Turn left (north) onto Upper Valley Road and continue past a series of three small kettles (glacier-scoured depressions) where dead trees are scarred by woodpeckers: Oval holes indicate hairy woodpeckers; round, downy; rectangular, pileated.

Turn right at mile 5.7, and head .4 mile downhill to Little Lyford Lodge at mile 6.1. Before retiring to your bunk, bundle up and stroll a few hundred yards to the shore of 1st Little Lyford Pond and gaze northwest at 3,521-foot Baker Mountain, a massive black and white face marbled with moonlight on clear nights.

Day two: Proceed south on the Camp-to-Camp Trail through boreal forest along the West Branch Pleasant River. After a 50-foot climb away from the river, cross a 90-foot bridge. Next, cross Katahdin Iron Works Road at mile 9.6 and kick-and-glide south into the silence of softwoods, arriving at Gorman Chairback Lodge at mile 12.4.

Day three: Go uphill (east) from the lodge, then turn right (south) onto Long Pond Trail, which bends west in .5 mile. Stay straight along the pond, passing some small sinkholes formed by springs. Pause on the bridge at Long Lake’s gurgling outlet and peer across the sheet of white, then follow the trail along Trout Brook. Take a break at the three-sided Phoenix Shelter. Close the loop at Greenville Road, turning left (southwest) for 1.3 miles of moderate climbing to the trailhead.

Reservations: $273 ($233 for AMC members) covers meals, lodging, and gear shuttle for this itinerary. (outdoors.org)

Map: Maine Mountain Guide ($20; outdoors.org)

Gear up: Northwoods Outfitters, Greenville, ME; (866) 223-1380 maineoutfitter.com

-Mapped by Charlie Wood

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 33.1

Waypoints

WRA001

Location: 65.178593, -148.073398

The Start: Parking lot is on the east side of the Elliott Highway (AK-2) at mile post 27.7 (a.k.a. MP 28)

WRA002

Location: 65.189049, -148.031997

Ski Loop Trail junction.

WRA003

Location: 65.213827, -147.906127

The first major junction.

WRA004

Location: 65.212789, -147.890352

The junction to Lee's Cabin.

WRA005

Location: 65.213106, -147.889888

Lee's Cabin

WRA006

Location: 65.275046, -147.849218

The junction to Eleazar's Cabin. Only 1.3 miles to go, but it gets a little steep. Might consider taking your skis off and just booting it part way up. Quite a ride down!

WRA007

Location: 65.279089, -147.875638

Eleazar's Cabin

WRA008

Location: 65.278333, -147.846667

Wickersham Creek Trail Shelter. No reservations needed. First come, first serve.

WRA009

Location: 65.355989, -147.747966

Two miles to go to the Borealis-Leverve Cabin - all down hill (going north).

WRA010

Location: 65.370412, -147.744853

Big Bend trail junction to Colorado Creek Cabin.

WRA011

Location: 65.380322, -147.738363

Borealis-LeFerve Cabin Junction

WRA012

Location: 65.386667, -147.736667

Borealis-LeFerve Cabin

WRA013

Location: 65.460073, -147.588506

Caribou Bluff junction and Fossil Gap Trail.

WRA014

Location: 65.463462, -147.594426

Fossil Gap Trail/Caribou Bluff Cabin Trail Junction

WRA015

Location: 65.471808, -147.572562

Caribou Bluff Cabin

WRA016

Location: 65.538016, -147.695391

Fossil Gap/Colorado Creek Trail Junction

WRA017

Location: 65.496925, -147.899251

Colorado Creek Cabin Trail/Big Bend Trail Junction

WRA018

Location: 65.493333, -147.9

Colorado Creek Cabin

WRA019

Location: 65.554971, -147.656171

Wolf Run Cabin

WRA020

Location: 65.582855, -147.421513

Cache Mtn Loop Frail/Windy Creek Trail/Fossil Creek Trail Junction

WRA021

Location: 65.579235, -147.424686

Windy Gap Cabin

WRA100

Location: 65.273333, -147.966667

Summit Trail Shelter

WRA101

Location: 65.228333, -147.63

Moose Creek Cabin

WRA102

Location: 65.321667, -147.46

Crowberry Cabin

WRA103

Location: 65.426667, -147.243333

Cache Mountain Cabin

WRA104

Location: 65.426667, -146.975

Richard's Cabin

Colorado Creek Cabin View

Location: 65.493333, -147.9

Wolf Run Cabin Aproach

Location: 65.554528, -147.656289

Colorado Creek Cabin

Location: 65.493333, -147.9

Alpen Glow

Location: 65.554967, -147.656167

Approaching Windy Gap

Location: 65.5821, -147.512325

Aurora Borealis

Location: 65.579233, -147.424683

Bridge

Location: 65.503344, -147.673469

Cache Mountain Junction

Location: 65.582853, -147.421511

Caribou Bluff Cabin

Location: 65.4718, -147.572567

Eleazar's Cabin

Location: 65.279083, -147.875633

Fossil Gap Trail

Location: 65.462789, -147.600053

Frozen River

Location: 65.379467, -147.739675

Ice Overflow

Location: 65.337733, -147.777158

Junction Sign

Location: 65.538039, -147.695403

Lees Cabin Junction

Location: 65.212847, -147.8906

Limestone Crags

Location: 65.563906, -147.450775

Mountain Departure

Location: 65.453656, -147.607631

Open Water

Location: 65.496203, -147.649856

Raven Prints

Location: 65.578617, -147.569628

Sastrugi

Location: 65.539539, -147.685547

Sunrise Departure

Location: 65.194872, -147.993767

Sunset

Location: 65.409328, -147.70995

Trail

Location: 65.534544, -147.480639

Windy Arch

Location: 65.573983, -147.458317

Windy Gap Cabin

Location: 65.579408, -147.424689

Windy Gap Snack

Location: 65.578811, -147.490186

Windy Ridge

Location: 65.575336, -147.445856

Wolf Run Cabin

Location: 65.554967, -147.656167

Wolf Run Junction

Location: 65.554967, -147.656167

Wood Stove

Location: 65.554967, -147.656167