I could just as easily call this trek “Five Peak Summits to Bag Three.” My wife called it the “Crocker Three-Way,” which is probably a more enticing and salacious title if you’re into that sort of thing.
I’ve been picking off the list of Maine’s 4,000 footers for the past couple of years in between other excursions. There were two that I’d been saving for last: Old Speck, which I had done before (but my wife and inveterate hiking partner had not), and Mount Redington, a side trek from the Crocker mountains in Rangeley, Maine, which is touted as one of the only bushwhacks in the AMC New England Four Thousand Footer list.
I can only imagine the “AMC Maine Mountain Guide” copywriters’s glee at being able to describe what sounds like a true backcountry adventure among a litany of 1,200-foot family-friendly day hikes. I also imagine them typing dutifully in smoky wood-paneled rooms lit by a single desk lamp, sporting impressive beards and clutching bottles of Allen’s Coffee Brandy like dejected caricatures of Peter Jenkins.
Neither of these things are true, probably.
Our goal was to nab three 4,000 footers in one trek—Crocker (4,229 ft), South Crocker (4,049 ft), and Mount Redington (4,009 ft). The Redington bushwhack in question is accessible via the South Crocker summit, the first of the three we approached.
There are multiple trailheads to approach the South Crocker summit—we took the Caribou Pond Road approach (if you’re looking for detailed directions, I’ve included them below). Depending on which trail report you read online, this road is either A) not bad or B) a complete shitshow. I found the road to be not bad. The parking area was fairly spacious and difficult to miss, considering that it’s not possible to go any further and it looks overwhelmingly like a parking area.
From this approach, the Appalachian Trail traverses both South Crocker and Crocker. From the AT it’s about one moderate mile to Crocker Cirque, a designated camping area with tent pads and multiple primitive tent sites. The camping area sits adjacent to a good running body of water. We set up camp and swapped out our frame packs for day packs. We didn’t need them—while we planned on overnighting and grabbing the Bigelow peaks the next day, we’d be returning to this base camp.
From the campsite, the trail gets steep fast. It stays steep with limited to nonexistent views, save for a short scramble across a talus field with some good views of Sugarloaf and the surrounding mountains.
The South Crocker peak is wooded in—all that work for no money shot. There is a small viewing area looking out over the surrounding mountains. Just past the outlook sign is where you’ll find the trail leading over to Redington. It’s hard to miss. Most of the online reports reference hunter’s tape tied to trees to mark the trail, and we found this to be the case as well.
A lot of descriptions of the Redington approach led me to believe this would be a heavily-wooded mess. I envisioned hacking through thick underbrush with a machete and a crumpled map scrawled with coordinates and waypoints. (It’s worth noting I didn’t bring either of these things.)
In fact, the trail to Redington is marked and quite evident. After picking up the trail on the South Crocker summit, it follows a short path before traversing a property line (well-cut at this time). It then ducks back into the woods, descending through a sparsely-wooded area into the col between South Crocker and Redington before emerging into a open swampy area. Upon reaching an old logging road, turn left and keep an eye out for the cairn on your right to pick the trail back up. Follow this trail over a relatively quick ascent to the Redington summit. The summit is marked with a canister hidden close by in the woods—pop it open and write your name for posterity.
Again, the views here were limited.
After summiting Redington, we followed the path back and summited South Crocker a second time before turning toward Crocker proper on the AT. The trail here is straightforward. About halfway to the summit there’s a boxed spring on the trail. I didn’t test it.
The trail approaching the Crocker summit is interesting and varied, marked by the AT’s telltale exposed rocks and roots. Again, limited views here. Back up over South Crocker for the third time, and we descended back to the Crocker Cirque campsite.
When we got back to the campsite, it had been overrun with a boys youth group. We did dinner on the MSR PocketRocket Pro—the Mountain House freeze dried beef stew is awesome—and turned in for the night at sundown.
**No-bullshit directions to the South Crocker trailhead:**
Caribou Pond Road is a dirt road nearly one mile north of the Sugarloaf ski resort’s Access Road (yes, the road’s proper name is “Access Road”) in Carrabassett Valley. Just after passing a transfer station on the right, Caribou Pond Road is on the left. There is a “steep grade” sign marking the road (visible from the other direction).
Some online reports say that this road is in bad condition. I found it to be in decent condition and all bridges were intact. I wouldn’t advise a sports car attempt it, but a standard sedan should be fine with a careful driver.
At 3.75 miles there is a cleared parking area with room for several vehicles. There’s a metal gate here that was closed on our visit. Regardless, the road beyond is not suitable for most vehicles, and there’s no parking area beyond the one at the gate.
From the parking area it’s only about .5 miles up the road to the Appalachian Trail crossing leading up to South Crocker. Turn right and begin your ascent.