The Toughest Mile
Although this 9.4-mi. hike is well within the range of a fit day hiker, an overnight at Speck Pond Campsite will allow time to explore both Mahoosuc Notch and Speck Pond at a comfortable pace. (Day hikers looking for a shorter walk can make a 7.0-mi. round-trip in and out on Mahoosuc Notch Trail.)Whether you plan an overnight or a single day's adventure, approach Mahoosuc Notch with the sturdy waterproof footwear, warm clothing, map, first-aid kit, flashlight, food, and water that its reputation demands. Most important, head into this hike armed with plenty of time. Although the notch is only a mile long, it usually takes 2 hours or more to pass through, and those intimidated or enchanted by the rocky labyrinth might spend the better part of a day there.
From the parking area, Mahoosuc Notch Trail follows the spur road 0.3 mi. farther across bridges over Shelter Brook, then, at a marked junction, turns left onto a logging road that climbs gently along the lazy brook. Most of the difficulties of this trail are provided by the perpetually muddy footing, although some of these may be alleviated by significant improvements and repairs made through the cooperative efforts of the AMC and Mead Paper, which owns the land. The grade gradually increases during the next 2.2 mi., but it never hints at the challenges to come.
Mahoosuc Notch Trail crosses the brook near a fork, curves gradually to the right, follows another fork in the brook to the left for 0.3 mi., then climbs out of the valley to its junction with the AT/Mahoosuc Trail at 2.5 mi.
Turn left onto the northbound AT at the junction (where our mileage count begins). With your first few strides on the AT, the gentle valley is transformed into a rock-walled chamber. The soaring 800-ft. cliffs of Fulling Mill Mt., on the right, and Mahoosuc Mt., on the left, will have you gazing skyward in amazementuntil the city of rock that has fallen from their sides forces you to watch where you're putting your feet. The AT/Mahoosuc Trail jogs right and drops steeply into a passage that opens amid the otherwise impassible jumble of rock into the narrow boulder-filled notch. If you're lucky, you'll meet a southbound hiker who'll reassure you with the obligatory"It's not that bad." Believe it anyway, take a deep breath, and drop into the blocky cavern that will lead to the hike of your life.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication