ankle-breaking rocks and roots
region’s best summit views
→ Call it Maine’s Stairway to Heaven: This stretch of AT beelines to sky-kissing summits in just 2.9 miles, making this one of the East’s shortest, most direct routes above treeline. But speedy ain’t easy. The most infamous mile is elevator-shaft steep, sustaining a 50 percent grade between the Baldpate Lean-to (at 2,645 feet) and the 3,662-foot summit. But you’ll need more than fitness to stay upright, because the entire climb (and descent) involves a web of foot-trapping tree roots atop a sheet of bedrock slickened by algae and runoff: Step on greasy roots or rocks, and your foot skates away beneath you; step between the roots, and you trip. Your reward for sure-footed perseverance? One of the best 360-degree views in Maine, with no roads or towns in sight and layers of peaks fading into the distance.
DO IT Wear sticky, lugged-sole hiking boots for the 2.9-mile (one-way) hike from the Table Rock trailhead (off ME 26 north of Newry) to Baldpate Mountain. The first 2 miles are rocky but dirt-packed; Baldpate Lean-to signals the start of the Menacing Mile. For the return, use trekking poles, which prevent faceplants after the inevitable slips and stumbles. Side-stepping (placing your boots parallel to tree roots, as if they were ledges) improves traction and reduces entanglement. Overnight option: Camp at Table Rock, via a .8-mile, blue-blazed spur at mile .8. Infobit.ly/GraftonSP