The Edge of the Earth: The Bigelow Range

The Maine High Peaks area is the likely spot for those finishing the New England 67, or a favorite area for thru-hikers completing the Appalachian Trail. Aside from these people, the area doesn't get much attention, and that's fine. The mountains are great, the trails are rugged and beautiful, and the lakes and valleys are vast with wilderness. One of the best areas in the Maine High Peaks is the Bigelow Range.

West Peak - The Highest Point of the Bigelow Range

The Bigelow Range runs prominently  along the south side of Flagstaff Lake. It houses two peaks that exceed 4,000 feet, West Peak and Avery Peak. The Horns lie to the west along the ridge, and are included on the New England 100 Highest list. While there are a few more peaks, we were interested in the ones mentioned above, and our route for ascent was Fire Wardens Trail.

The trailhead can be found after Stratton Pond.

The trail begins at Stratton Pond, a small body of water with official campsites on it's shores. It is possible to drive down to the pond, but it's recommended that you park at the first parking lot marked with a kiosk, as the road ahead is rough. A bridge crosses Stratton Brook, and eventually leads to the trailhead. Many peaks can be seen from the pond as well.

Horn Pond Peak and Cranberry Peak seen from Stratton Pond.
The river crossing.
Little Bigelow can be seen in the distance.
Sugarloaf Mountain as seen from Stratton Pond.

Fire Wardens Trail begins as an old fire road, passing through some beautiful forests and running atop some bog bridges. Eventually, it climbs steeply up rocks, then reaches the junction with Horn Pond Trail, are descent. The path continued to climb until it reached Moose Fall Campsite. After the campsite the trail climbed very steeply up rock staircases for a while with minor views, until it reached Avery Col Campsite.

Looking up the trail.
Sugarloaf Mountain visible from the trail.
Spaulding Mountain can just barely be seen to the right.
The junction at Avery Col.

Avery Col had many tent platforms, as it's right along the Appalachian Trail. The caretakers cabin was closed, and all the water sources were running. We set up camp here, and climbed up the rugged trail toward Avery Peak. The trail eventually reached treeline, and the views were beautiful.

Looking up the trail and toward the summit.
Looking toward West Peak.
The summit lying just ahead.
Atop the narrow ridgeline of the summit.
Notice how the summit area drops dramatically to the left.
The ruins of the firetower.
Little Bigelow can be seen to the left.
Flagstaff Lake with the Border Ranges visible beyond.
Sugarloaf and Spaulding are visible yet again, with Saddleback visible to the far right.
The long ridge of Mt Abraham can be seen to the left.

We spent all day on the summit, awaiting the sunset. Some clouds rolled in, and many thru-hikers passed by. We had a long talk with a friendly group of thru-hikers, then climbed down the trail a bit until we found an area out of the wind to watch the sunset.

Looking to West Peak later in the day.
The Maine High Peaks visible later in the day.
The Crockers can be seen to the right of Sugarloaf.
The tallest summit, Mt.Coburn, can be seen looking north.
Looking over Flagstaff Lake before sunset.
The 100-Mile Wilderness can be seen here, just before sunset.
The sun setting from Avery Peak.
The sun setting over Flagstaff Lake.
The colors of the sun are still visible.

We stayed the night at Avery Col, which made for a nice camping area. There were no thru-hikers camping there, which was surprising. After awaking early, we made the rugged climb back up to Avery Peak to watch the sunrise. It rose above Flagstaff Lake, and it was a beautiful site to see.
Just before sunrise.
The sun starting to rise.
A different look at the sunrise.

After sunrise, our climb commenced up West Peak, the tallest point of Bigelow Mountain. The climb was steep, but as we approached the summit, the views and distant mountains began to rise above the short trees, and the trail lead us to the true, rocky summit of West Peak.

Looking toward the other High Peaks from West Peak.
The Horns as seen from West Peak.
Looking north from West Peak.
Flagstaff Lake
The Horns are seen down the ridge. East Kennebago is in the distance behind the peaks.

From here we could see The Horns, our next destination. The climb down West Peak was steep, as it climbed down a bare rocky ridge onto a flat spot, then it dived into the dense forest below. We climbed further and further down, until we started gaining elevation for South Horn, the taller of the two Horns. We eventually reached the scenic summit.

The High Peaks from South Horn.
Looking down to Horn Pond. Cranberry Peak can be seen at the end of the ridge.

After taking in the scenery, we hiked over to North Horn, which has almost the same views as South Horn. We eventually found our way to Horn Pond, which was very scenic, with cliffs looming over the water, and fish jumping in the water. Bella enjoyed swimming in the water, of course.

South Horn as seen from North Horn.
The Crockers can be seen in center shot.
West Peak from North Horn.
Flagstaff Lake, with the super tall sign visible.
Horn Pond. Bella had a good time here!

We took Horn Pond Trail back down to Stratton Pond. It made for an easy descent through the calm forest. When we got back to Stratton Pond, it made for a relaxing stop, and we enjoyed the views looking back to the Bigelows, and looking over to Sugarloaf Mountain.

Back where we started.

The Bigelows are beautiful range that gets little traction, and I'm okay with that. With places like the White Mountains getting crowded, it's good to see places like this that have not been discovered by the average inexperienced day hiker yet. The Maine High Peaks are left only to thru-hikers, people completing the New England 67, or experienced day hikers that know the best areas to hike.


  1. GREAT PICS! This one looked like another amazing hike, a two for the price of one, a spectacular sunset followed by a most beautiful sunrise.

    Excellent write up! Always looking forward to your next adventure...

    1. Thank you for reading as always. I've been focusing more on my photos lately, so it's good to see the effort has paid off. Thank you again!