Difficulty: Moderate. The hike is 4.2 miles round trip and should take about 3 hours.
How to get there: From Brownville Junction, travel 5.5 miles north on ME Route 11 to Katahdin Iron Works Road (KI Road). Turn went onto KI Road. Drive 6.3 miles to the checkpoint at the entrance to KI Jo-Mary Forest. Stop and register. May-October, Maine residents pay $6 and nonresidents pay $10. From the gate, continue 7.3 miles on KI Road to the junction with Chairback Mountain Road. Turn left and drive 2.4 miles on Chairback Mountain Road. The parking lot is on the left, just past the trailhead sign of Third Mountain Trail.
Tip: Follow signs to Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins. You will pass the driveway to the lodge just about a mile before the trailhead to Third Mountain Trail.
Information: Third Mtn., rising 2,069 feet above sea level, is not one of the tallest mountains in its area, but near it’s summit, Monument Cliff offers breathtaking views of nearby ponds and mountains. To the southwest of Third Mtn. is Fourth Mtn. (2,378 feet tall), and to the east is Columbus Mtn. (2,342 feet tall) and Chairback Mtn. (2,190 feet tall).
Third Mountain Trail is marked by blue blazes. The first portion of the trail crosses several small streams on wooden bridges. Then the trail switchbacks up the mountain, climbing steadily. At a particularly steep section, hikers must climb several rock staircases and a wooden ladder. The trail meets the Appalachian Trail at 1.4 mile. Turn left on the AT and hike 0.7 mile, following the AT’s white blazes, to reach Monument Cliff, Third Mountain’s finest outlook near the summit. (If you were to instead turn right on the AT, it would lead you to the wooded summit of Fourth Mtn. in about 2 miles and the abandoned fire tower Barren Mtn. in about 5 miles.)
The Third Mountain Trail is within 66,000 acres of conservation land owned by the Appalachian Mountain Club as part of their Maine Woods Initiative, a strategy for land conservation in the 100-Mile Wilderness region. This land is open to the public for recreational use including hiking, paddling, camping, skiing and snowshoeing. Fish and hunting are also permitted in accordance with state law. For information, call AMC at 695-3086 or visit www.outdoors.org.
Personal note: I hiked Third Mountain starting at Gorman Chairback Lodge. From there, I took Long Pond Trail 0.5 mile to Third Mountain Trail and hiked 0.2 mile to where the trail crosses Chairback Mountain Road, where the day hikers typically start the hike. This is an option for people staying at Gorman Chairback Lodge. You will see me hiking Long Pond Trail at the beginning of the “1-minute hike” video. (See this route on the map below.)