Gulf Hagas - Grand Canyon of Maine
Full Day Hike DATE: 05/07/2021 - 05/07/2021
Trip/Event Location: Katahdin Iron Works Township, ME
Trip Leader(s): BillyB1976
Max # People: 6
Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Gulf Hagas is a 3-mile long gorge created by the West Branch of the Pleasant River. There are several waterfalls along this stretch. It is located in the 100 Mile Wilderness section of the...
The meeting area will be at Katahdin Iron Works.
Directions from the south:
Take I-95 north past Bangor to Exit 199 - Alton, Lagrange, Milo - It is 43 miles from I-95 to Katahdin Iron Works. Follow Rt. 16 for 24 miles to Milo. At the stop sign in Milo turn right on to Rt. 11. Follow Rt. 11 north through Milo, Brownville and Brownville Junction. (Last store and gas in Brownville Jct.) It is 12.6 miles from the stop sign in Milo to the turnoff to Katahdin Iron Works. There should be a sign for both Gulf Hagas and Katahdin Iron Works. The turnoff is at a curve on Rt. 11. Shortly after turning left off of Rt. 11 the road turns to gravel. It is 6.5 miles to Katahdin Iron Works.
It is almost 8 miles to the trailhead at Hay Brook from Katahdin Iron Works. The last 2 miles will have some rough spots. Everyone can follow me to the trailhead.
If anybody plans on staying in the Millinocket area or Greenville, let me know and I can give directions from those locations.
I'll be driving a black Nissan Frontier pickup truck. If I'm not around my vehicle, look for me around the Iron Works property.
Gulf Hagas is a 3-mile long gorge created by the West Branch of the Pleasant River. There are several waterfalls along this stretch. It is located in the 100 Mile Wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail, between Brownville Junction and Greenville.
On the drive to Gulf Hagas I stopped at Katahdin Iron Works. In the mid to late 1800's there was actually a small town there and it even had train service.
My route to access the trail was from Hay Brook, which is not the typical access point. I wanted to start at Hay Brook because I wanted to go to Hay Brook Falls and also because this route didn't require fording the West Branch Pleasant River. The last 1.5 miles of the road to Hay Brook was rough but I didn't have any problems driving it.
Above the main waterfall at Hay Brook there are several smaller waterfalls that I also checked out before continuing on to Gulf Hagas. The water in Hay Brook was not extremely high, but it was high enough where rock hopping across wasn't possible. I managed to find a fallen tree to shimmy across.
The trail from Hay Brook joins the Appalachian Trail at The Hermitage. This is a stand of old growth pine trees and a hermit used to live there in the 1890's. Before continuing on I took the A.T southbound to check out where the trail fords the West Branch Pleasant River. I turned around and continued to Gulf Hagas, stopping at the plaques at the Hermitage along the way.
As with Hay Brook the water wasn't extremely high in Gulf Hagas Brook, but was high enough where rock hopping wasn't possible. There was also a fallen tree to shimmy across.
The loop trail starts on the opposite side of Gulf Hagas Brook, which is 1.8 miles from Hay Brook. The first waterfall on the loop was Screw Auger Falls. The next viewpoint was at Hammond Street Pitch. This is the deepest part of the gorge, over 100 feet down to the river.
I continued on to The Jaws, the narrowest part of the gorge. Back in the days of the log drives they actually used dynamite to widen parts of the gorge. The next major view was Buttermilk Falls.
For the next mile after Buttermilk Falls there are several smaller waterfalls and rapids along the river. The next major waterfall is Billings Falls, one of the most spectacular falls at Gulf Hagas. Just a short distance beyond Billings Falls is Stair Falls and immediately after that is the Head of the Gulf.
The trail leaves the river at the Head of the Gulf and in 0.1 miles reaches an old tote road that the trail follows for 2.2 miles back to Gulf Hagas Brook. This was much easier and faster going than the Rim Trail. From Gulf Hagas Brook I retraced my steps back to Hay Brook.
This was a very long day for me. I was up for over 20 hours. Gulf Hagas is 152 miles from home. It took me 4 hours to drive there and 3.75 hours to drive back home; including stops.
The hike took longer than I had planned. I figured maybe 7 hours, but it was actually 9 hours 20 min. The main reasons for the longer amount of time was I spent 50 min. at the waterfalls at Hay Brook when I thought it would be more like 20 min. The biggest factor was the time spent exploring and taking pictures. I took 240 pictures on this trip, and I went to places along the river and gorge that weren't typical viewpoints. If I could see a spot where I could get down to the river safely I'd do it. There were a few trees down over the trail that also slowed me down some.
My estimate for mileage is 10 miles, but with all the little side trips to viewpoints the mileage was most likely longer. My estimate is based on trail signs and a brochure on the trails. I had estimated a total elevation gain of around 1,000 feet and this was based on what people posted on AllTrails. With all my back and forth from the Rim Trail down into the gorge and back up, the elevation gain would be more than that.
The weather was perfect and I even got a tan. I met 3 couples on the hike, each with a dog.
I tried to narrow down the 240 pictures to a more manageable level for this report. I really didn't want to cut more once I got down to 127.
There are 127 photos in Album (Note: Move mouse pointer over larger pic and click on NEXT for better viewing)
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