AMC Outdoors, January/February 2002
Table Rock is a perch that looks out upon winter’s glory. Looming high above Maine’s scenic Route 26, the massive, flattened ledge is an al fresco table across from the state’s third highest peak — Old Speck. Ranked behind Katahdin and Sugarloaf, Old Speck stands at an impressive 4,180 feet. But as you look out on it, think twice about climbing it — winter ascents are quite an undertaking.
Visible from the road at the Moose Cave parking area, Table Rock lies in western Maine’s 3,192-acre Grafton Notch State Park, which is filled with hiking trails and wildlife. To snowshoe the 1.4 miles to the huge ledge via the Appalachian Trail (AT) is to achieve maximum views with nominal effort. Snowshoers who follow this route to Table Rock should know they are walking in the warmer-season footsteps of intrepid AT thru-hikers.
Table Rock itself, resting about 900 feet above the valley floor, is an open ledge, so use caution while out on the plateau. Though this snowshoe trip to the outcrop is fairly easy, it is not a good one for small children. There are other opportunities in Grafton Notch for them. They can flop around in their snowshoes in the picnic area by Screw Auger Falls. Or, leaving snowshoes behind, the quarter-mile loop by Moose Cave makes for a pleasant walk.
If you’ve got some zip left after Table Rock, consider stopping at those two areas on the way out of the park. Screw Auger Falls has huge boulders and pools, while Moose Cave is a deep and narrow flume covered with icicles. Legend has it that long ago, a hunter heard a moose struggling while trapped in the cave. Instead of helping Bullwinkle escape, he killed the moose and served it up for dinner. May your trip to Moose Cave be a little less adventurous.
How to get there: From Bethel, take Route 2 East about 8 miles to junction with Route 26 north (Bear River Road). Turn left on Route 26 and travel to Grafton Notch State Park. The Table Rock trailhead, which is on the left side of the road, is 12.5 miles from the junction of Routes 2 and 26. Look for a sign reading “Hiking Trails.”