Best Base Camps
Fair warning: This campsite is not for the faint of heart, nor for the soft of foot. But if you're looking for a great base camp with the chance to really kick some butt, Speck's your place. Just north of New Hampshire's fabled White Mountains, Maine's Mahoosuc Range boasts some of the toughest hiking anywhere. Don't let the mileages fool you, either. Experienced hikers budget 50 to 100 percent more time for hiking in the Mahoosucs. So while Speck Pond is only 3.3 miles from Success Pond Road via the Speck Pond Trail, don't start in late afternoon.
Once you set up camp at the pond, you're free to explore on foot. From the pond, turn south onto the Appalachian Trail (AT) and climb about one mile up to Mahoosuc Arm, which offers far-reaching views south into the Mahoosuc Range. Farther south, the AT descends into Mahoosuc Notch (reputed to be the toughest mile of the AT's 2,175, it takes most hikers at least an hour to cross it, often longer). If you're up for it, you could explore all the way into the notch and then backtrack to the pond in one dayit's only a six-mile round-trip. But be warned: this is a very tough six miles, so think of it more as a climb than a hike. If you venture farther than the summit of Mahoosuc Arm, be sure to budget your energy so you have enough to retrace your steps back to camp.
Another way to experience the Notch is to make a loop hike. Start by spending a day or two relaxing at Speck Pond, then return to your car the long wayby following the AT up the Arm and down through the Notch. At the south end of the Notch, the Mahoosuc Notch Trail takes you back to the Success Pond Road. Total mileage from the pond back to your car is about eight miles (six if you can arrange to park two cars, one at each of the trailheads). Be sure to budget enough time for these eight milesyou're going to need pretty close to a full hiking day to cover them. And naturally, adequate footwear is a must.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication