Hiking to Mahoosic Notch, Maine

May 6-7, 2018

40 miles north on the Appalachian Trail past the Maine/New Hampshire border lies the infamous “Mahoosuc Mile”. Nestled in a deep notch between Speck Mountain and Goose Eye Mountain is what many refer to as the most difficult mile on the whole AT. With steep cliffs on either side and what appeared to be no other alternative, trail builders routed the pathway through a mile long boulder field before climbing steeply back into the mountains on both the north and south sides.

The Mahoosuc Notch, widely considered the most difficult mile on the entire AT, is a gorge filled with massive boulders, some as big as houses. As soon as we stepped down into the notch the temperature dropped twenty to thirty degrees. The air rising out of the crevasses felt like we’d entered a commercial walk-in cooler, which was caused by lingering ice and snow.

The notch isn’t physically taxing. At least when compared to the rest of the hiking in the Mahoosuc Range. Instead it is more technically difficult. Navigating the boulders requires going over some while squeezing through cracks and caves in other areas. Doing so with a weighty exhibition pack on your back throws your balance off and makes it all that more difficult to squeeze through tight spaces. We had to take our packs off once to pass them through a cave and probably should have removed them a couple of other times. There’s also a decent risk of injury if you aren’t careful, a lesson I nearly learned the hard way. The notch, in a nutshell, is awesome. Truly.

It took us about an hour and forty five minutes to complete it. Our reward? An immediate ascent up the Mahoosuc Arm of Old Speck, Maine’s third highest mountain (fourth highest peak at 4,180 feet). The Arm has an elevation of 3765 feet. On a map it appears to go straight up. In person, I’m willing to bet it’s inverted. It’s also worth noting that there are very few wooden staircases and no metal rungs to aid the weary. It’s as if the trail planners want us to experience the torture as Mother Nature intended. Not advisable to do if wet from rain.

Trailhead: The easiest access is the Notch Trail (6M RT or 8M to Speck Pond or 12M to Old Speck Mtn top) that ascends on the southwest end of Mahoosuc Notch. Follow the dirt Success Pond Road 10.9 miles from Hutchins St.in Berlin, N.H. until you come to a sign for the 'Notch trail' which is also 'Shelter Brook' on a short spur road. There is a parking area a short distance from the turn and a small trail sign on the left hand side of the road.