Member Trip report
Puzzle Mountain Hike (Newry, ME)
Trip Report/Photos from shep5
As I was up at Sunday River for a ski weekend, I decided to head off and hike Puzzle Mountain on Friday, March 3rd. I arrived at the trailnead parking lot at the southern end of the Grafton Loop Trail (on Route 26). The skies were mostly clear and blue with temperatures in the upper teens/lower twenties. It was just before 9AM, when I arrived. I checked out the trail and decided to don microspikes as it was hard-packed (I still carried my snowshoes, as I wasn't sure what to expect at higher elevations and on Woodsum Spur, which I had hoped to check out).
After quickly getting ready, I headed up the trail. It was obvious that the trail had been used in the past week. Still the trail was well blazed and easy to follow. The trail's grade was modest at best as it wanders through the woods. There were a number of small brook crossings, but nothing significant as the trail did a little switch-backing up the peak. By 10:15, I reached the first of many open ledges with a view up Grafton Notch towards Old Speck Mountain. A little beyond this there was a more open ledge with beautiful views of Old Speck and the Baldpates and a few minutes later I got a good view of the SW Puzzle Peak. At 10:30 I reached the lower trail junction with the Woodsum Spur Trail. It looked like it had been used, but I decided to continue up to the top and hike this "spur" trail in a clockwise manner. From the ledges here I finally got a clear view of the Sunday River Ski Resort and the clouded-over Presidential Range. As I climbed the trail steepened a bit, but it was easy enough with microspikes. Ten minutes later I reached a short spur trail for the Boulder Caves. The trail was not blazed or broken out, but I decided to check them out. It didn't take long to find them. They were interesting enough with some deep crevasses. I re-joined the trail and continued to climb through woods at times and out onto open ledges...finally arriving at the marked summit of the SW peak at 11AM (3077'). This peak gave a mostly 360 degree view with the actual summit and the SE peak to the east.
After descending off of the rocky summit of the SW peak, I re-joined the trail. The trail wasn't immediately broken out and there were no obvious blazes. I continued to the east and finally found cairns on the other side of the peak. I followed these into the wooded col. There was evidence that someone had been on this part of the trail, but it was not as well-worn as the trail to the SW peak. I continued and reached the upper trail junction for the Woodsum Spur Trail at 11:15. I decided to continue on the Grafton Loop Trail to the main summit of Puzzle Mountain (3142') and after about 5 minutes I was on the open ledge just below the summit. Here the trail descended off of the summit, but I decided to explore further up the ledge. There did not appear to be an easy path to the actual summit, which was in the woods marked with a canister. In any case, I decided to not try the bushwhack to perserve my jacket (I had put a small tear in it recently).
I retraced my steps back to the Woodsum Spur Trail and proceeded along this trail, which was not broken out at all on this end. Despite this, the trail was well-blazed and easy to follow initially. Before the trail began to descend, I decided to bushwhack for a distance towards the main peak...the woods were open here. After about 10 minutes I returned and just decided to continue. As I descended into the col, I lost the trail for a time and at the bottom of the col, there was another blaze. I couldn't find another, so I just bushwhacked up a short distance to the summit of the SE peak. At the summit, the trail was obvious and I must have just paralleled it. At the summit there was a great view to the northeast. A wind farm was visible with about 18 turbines located on Record Hill in Roxbury, ME. Sunday River was also prominent. As I started to descend off of this peak, there were a few more open ledges with great views to the south as well as over to Goose Eye Mountain in the Mahoosucs. It was here that I finally stopped for a lunch break (noon). After lunch I continued along the spur as it descended with views back over to the SW peak. The trail meandered again through the woods and some climbing and descending, I finally reached the lower spur junction with the Grafton Loop Trail. It was 12:50PM. Back on the main trail, I descended back to the parking lot, which I reached again by 2PM.
This was an amazing moderate hike with alot of "bang for the buck". Without a tremendous effort, this mountain offered a great number of views from ledge after ledge as the trail rounded the three peaks, which make up the mountain. The Woodsum Spur Trail allowed for a wonderful loop around these peaks.
Total mileage and elevation gain: Approximately 8.2 miles with roughly 2600 feet in cumulative elevation gain.
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Congrats! Well done.