Two Peaks in One Day

September 1, 2008

The surge often happens when the trail levels off and trees no longer seem to march uphill. Or when the dirt path scuffs onto open slabs of granite. You know you’re close so your pace quickens until you are standing on a summit, admiring vistas of nearby peaks, erratic cliffs, or rivers tumbling out of lakes. Tiredness melts away, and suddenly you want more. The following trips traverse two peaks in a single day, providing a feast of scenic outlooks and varied alpine habitats to explore.

Penobscot and Sargent Mountains
Acadia National Park, Maine
Two of Acadia National Park’s highest peaks sit behind Jordan Pond House, a
popular spot for post-hike popovers and jam. Begin on the Penobscot Mountain Trail to reach 1,196-foot Penobscot Mountain. A short, challenging ascent on iron rungs tucked in granite cliffs will deliver you to ledges speckled with blueberry bushes. Look for peregrine falcons nesting nearby before hiking down the col to admire Sargent Pond. Continue to the summit of 1,379-foot Sargent Mountain, a flat and expansive rock table with panoramic views.

Distance: 5.2 miles round-trip
Info: Discover Acadia National Park (AMC Books); Maine Mountain Guide (AMC Books)

Goose Eye and Carlo Mountains
Grafton Notch State Park, Maine
A seldom-done day trip, this hike in the Mahoosuc Range provides views of mountain ranges rolling through two states. Begin on the Carlo Col Trail, which traverses a logging road and crosses a brook before ascending 3,565-foot Mount Carlo. The Mahoosuc Trail comes in just below the summit, where you can spy nearby 3,870-foot Goose Eye Mountain. Stay on the Mahoosuc Trail and climb up Goose Eye’s steep flank via wooden ladders. Return via the Goose Eye Trail.

Distance: 7.5 miles round-trip
Info: Maine Mountain Guide (AMC Books)

Mounts Starr King and Waumbek
Jefferson, N.H.
Starr King Trail is a classic traverse of moderate elevation gain. It starts on an old logging road before passing into hardwood forests. Look for the foundation of an old springhouse before climbing the southwest ridge. A cleared vista, just beyond the 3,907-foot summit, has views of the Presidential Range. Mount Waumbek is 1 mile north and one of the easier 4,000-footers to bag. Its summit is viewless, but lovely fern beds grow along the ridge leading up to it.

Distance: 3.6 miles
Info: Randolph Paths: Guide to the Northern Presidentials and the Crescent Range (Randolph Mountain Club); White Mountain Guide, 28th ed. (AMC Books)

Alander and Bash Bish Mountains
Mount Washington, Mass.
The sheer number of expansive vistas and ecosystems makes this a must-see kaleidoscopic journey. Begin on the Bash Bish Gorge Trail to the South Taconic Trail, which will end atop 2,230-foot Alander Mountain. A steep gorge with cascading falls is the first encounter of the day, then hemlock forest, mountain laurel thickets, and a rare pitch pine-scrub oak community. As you go over Bash Bish Mountain and onto the ridge, views of the Berkshires and Catskills become more pervasive and envelop you on Alander’s summit.

Distance: 5.6 miles round-trip
Info: Discover the Berkshires of Massachusetts (AMC Books); Massachusetts Trail Guide (AMC Books)

Mount Algo and Indian Rock
Kent, Conn.
Both peaks on this hike are wooded, but the vistas of the Housatonic Valley that unfold beyond these summits are worth the effort. Begin on the AT off Route 341, passing through hemlock and hardwood forests. Connecticut’s state flower, mountain laurel, grows in abundance here. As the trail skirts under Mount Algo’s 1,152-foot summit, look for the white-veined green leaves of rattlesnake plantain. Continue past Thayer Brook and over 1,403-foot Schaghiticoke for many pastoral views of the valley. Pause at scenic Indian Rock before turning around.

Distance: 7.6 miles round-trip
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Connecticut (AMC Books)

Wittenberg and Cornell Mountains
Phoenicia, N.Y.
Wittenberg and Cornell mountains are two of the highest points in the Catskills. The trail departs from the Woodland Valley Campground and ascends into a hardwood forest, chasing seasonal brooks before meeting the Terrace Mountain Trail, a 0.9-mile spur trail with good vistas. Continue the 1.3 miles to Wittenberg, scrambling up rock ledges and near-vertical crevices for a 180-degree vista. Cornell Mountain, another 0.8 miles, looks upon the scars of Slide Mountain’s 1820 rockslide.

Distance: 9.4 miles round-trip
Info: Catskill Mountain Guide (AMC Books); AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Catskills & Hudson Valley (AMC Books)

Mounts Tammany and Minsi
Kittatinny Point, N.J.
Dueling for attention, Mounts Tammany and Minsi sit on opposing shores of the Delaware River. The two are, however, united by the Appalachian Trail. The hike up 1,463-foot Minsi passes Lakes Lenape and Lettini before reaching the summit where Tammany comes into view. Loop down the mountain on a dirt fire road, then cross the walkway along I-80 before climbing 1,527-foot Tammany. Rewards on the summit include views of the Delaware Water Gap and prime seating to watch for migrating hawks.

Distance: 10 miles, includes both loops
Info: National Park Service; Mohican Outdoor Center, 908-362-5670

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