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Hiking the Maine AT: Horns Pond, Carrabassett Valley

By Tom Richardson

The Appalachian Trail, or “AT”, stands as one of America’s greatest hiking challenges and a spectacular natural resource, but many sections of the trail can also be enjoyed as short day hikes or overnight trips. In Carrabasset Valley, a hike to Horns Pond in the Bigelow Range checks that box. This roughly 10-mile, round-trip hike can be tackled in a day if you get an early start, but an overnight stay is a lot less strenuous and makes for a neat adventure!

View of Horns Pond in the Bigelows.

There are two routes to Horns Pond: the Appalachian Trail and the Fire Warden Trail. The latter is less difficult, while the former involves a steeper ascent over some boulder scrambles.

Chilling out at one of the tent plattes at the Horns Pond shelter.

The trail starts at the AT parking area off Route 27, just north of Sugarloaf Mountain. Here, you’ll find signage about the trail and the Bigelow Range in general. Cross the road and pick up the trail, which winds through a marshy area and woods for about a quarter-mile before crossing a dirt road. The trail soon begins to climb steeply, and leads through and over some large boulders. Eventually you’ll arrive at an open ledge overlooking Horns Pond. From here, the trail descends to the pond and leads to the shelter area, which features two lean-tos and a several tent sites, or “plattes.” A nearby spring offers a source of water (be sure to filter it first), and a moldering toilet is also available. The plattes come with five-gallon buckets for storing food (the red squirrels are the biggest pests).

Several snowshoe hares live at the Horns Pond shelter, and seem remarkably unafraid of humans.

Horns Pond itself offers good fishing for native brook trout, so consider packing a rod. You can also use the pond to cool off after your hike.

For more information on hiking the Maine AT, including shelter locations, distances, elevation gains, and more, visit the Maine Appalachian Trail Club website.

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