To appreciate the rugged Saddleback Range, look at its resume: Six summits rise above 4,000 feet-of only 12 mountains this high in the whole state-and four of them thrust big, bald crowns above treeline. More than 32 miles of the Appalachian Trail traverse this roadless range, placing it among the few places in New England where you can wander so far from pavement. And consider the variety of experiences you can have: climbing alpine summits, skirting moss-choked streams, exploring boulder caves, and viewing Piazza Rock, an enormous, flat slab that protrudes horizontally from a cliff.
But impressive credentials tell only part of the story. In the end, it's the small things that win you over, like scrambling up the steep spine of Poplar Ridge, eating lunch on a boulder by the gurgling Perham Stream, or watching a fire tower emerge from the fog atop Mt. Abraham.
You'll need three days to hike the entire range via the AT, and there are three lean-to shelters and one campsite along the way. Hiker shuttles are available from Stephen Martelli of Stratton (207-246-4642), who'll ferry groups of three or fewer hikers between trailheads for a group fee of $1 per mile, or about $40.
Where: 225 miles north of Boston. Trailheads are 12 miles north of Phillips on ME 4 and 16 miles north of Kingfield on ME 27/16.
Maps:Map and Guide to the Appalachian Trail to Maine ($24.95, Appalachian Trail Conference, 888-287-8673) is a handy reference.
Trail Info: Maine Appalachian Trail Club, Box 283, Augusta, ME 04332; www.matc.org.