Trail Names Inspired by Other Languages

August 19, 2010

American Indian words, famous explorers, and politicians: These are often the sources of names for our trails, mountains, and waterways. But what of the names of entirely different origin—what do the names of French, Italian, or Hebrew derivation mean?

Deboullie Mountain
Eagle Lake, Maine
Situated in Aroostook County, near the Canadian border, Deboullie Mountain is one of the most remote of Maine’s Public Reserve Lands. The peak takes its name from the French word for “rock slides”—a characteristic of the region’s mountains. The trail begins at the parking area and follows the edge of Deboullie Pond before crossing an intermittent rock slide. The route then heads directly up toward the summit where a fire tower provides sweeping views of the North Woods. Visitors must register at a checkpoint and pay a day-use or camping fee.

Distance: 2.5 miles
Info: Maine Mountain Guide, 9th ed. (AMC Books)

Isle au Haut
Acadia National Park, Maine
Of Acadia National Park’s 2 million annual visitors, just a small fraction make the mail-boat journey to Isle au Haut, where 13 miles of trails offer access to several peaks and scenic vistas. A small mountain range cuts 6 miles across the island and dramatic cliffs rise above the surf—inspiring the name, which means “high island.” French influence is obvious in many names in Downeast Maine. In fact, Mount Desert Island and Louisiana are the only pieces of U.S. land that can be traced back to French royal ownership.

Distance: Varied
Info: Discover Acadia National Park, 3rd ed. (AMC Books)

Chemin des Dames
White Mountain National Forest, N.H.
French for “Ladies’ Path,” or “Ladies’ Route,” the original Chemin des Dames was a Roman carriage road in northern France, so named when King Louis XV’s daughters traveled it in the 18th century. The road was also the site of three World War I battles. In the White Mountains, Chemin des Dames is a short trail climbing 800 feet up the east wall of King Ravine to the Airline, which can be incorporated into a hike up Mount Adams. The trail is thought to have been named ironically: the rugged path echoing the hardships of battle, while also being the shortest and easiest route out of King Ravine.

Distance: 0.4 mile
Info: White Mountain Guide, 28th ed. (AMC Books); White Mountain Guide Online

The Direttissima
Pinkham Notch, N.H.
The translation of Direttissima—Italian for “most direct route”—shows why it’s a popular hiking and mountaineering name. Simple and to the point. And that’s exactly what the White Mountain version of Direttissima is. Starting just south of Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, the trail heads south, crossing over a gorge (enjoy the view down to Pinkham Notch), along a cliff, and ending at the Glen Boulder Trail. Once snow begins to fall, Direttissima and Glen Boulder become popular snowshoeing options.

Distance: 1 mile
: White Mountain Guide, 28th ed. (AMC Books); White Mountain Guide Online

The Timp -Torne Trail
Bear Mountain State Park, N.Y.
This trail is named for two small peaks just north of Bear Mountain—Timp, which is taken from a Dutch word meaning “pointed extremity,” and Torne, a variation of the Middle English word for “rocky peak.” From the parking lot off US 9W (202), follow the blue-blazed Timp-Torne Trail to the red-on-white blazed Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail for a 6-mile loop. Keep an eye out for intersections with the 1777 and 1779 trails, the former used by British troops in that year, the latter by American forces two years later.

Distance: 6 miles
Info: Best Day Hikes in the Catskills & Hudson Valley (AMC Books)

Belleplain State Forest
Woodbine, N.J.
Belleplain State Forest, a diverse 22,000 acres at the southern end of New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, dates to 1928. The Civilian Conservation Corps, which set up three camps on the property, was active there throughout the 1930s. The “beautiful plain” is aptly named. The forest, flat and peaceful, features stands of pine, oak, and Atlantic white cedar. The East Creek Trail (6.5 miles) circles Lake Nummy, a former cranberry bog that was converted by the CCC for swimming, boating, and fishing.

Distance: 6.5 miles
Info: N.J. Department of Environmental Protection; New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

Mt. Pisgah State Park
Bradford County, Pa.
The name Pisgah is of biblical origin, meaning “high place” in Hebrew, and refers to the peak from which Moses saw the Promised Land. “Pisgah” has been frequently adopted in the U.S., with both New Hampshire and North Carolina having mountains by that name. Pennsylvania has one as well, tucked in the state’s northern tier. From State Park Road in Mt. Pisgah State Park, follow the Ridge Trail into Mt. Pisgah County Park, and the mountain’s 2,260-foot peak. Additional trails circle Stephen Foster Lake, near your starting point.

Distance: 6 miles (out and back)
Info: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (search for “Mt. Pisgah”)

Contributors: Kevin Breunig, Emily Carbone, Susan Charkes, Amanda Gross, Peter Kick, Steve Smith

Search AMC Outdoors and Blogs

Search for:

Marc Chalufour

Marc Chalufour, a former senior editor of AMC Outdoors, contributes to the trail-running blog Running Wild.