Difficulty: Moderate-strenuous. Though several trails are located on and around this mountain, none of them are easy.
How to get there: From the intersection of Routes 156 and 142 in Weld, follow Route 142 north 2.3 miles and turn left onto Byron Road. Continue to follow Byron Road (unpaved and with it’s typical Maine potholes) about 4.3 miles to the Brook Trailhead (parking on the left, trailhead on the right, marked with a sign, kiosk and outhouse). Or continue another 1.3 miles to the Loop Trailhead parking area, which is on the right, just after the trailhead. The Loop Trailhead is marked by a sign and kiosk but does not have an outhouse.
Information: Tumbledown Mountain is a popular place for hikers in western Maine. The mountain has three peaks, the highest rising to 3,068 feet, as well as a high-elevation pristine pond (Tumbledown Pond) located on the mountain’s eastern slope. Three trails climb to the ridge, creating several options for loop hikes. From the road to the highest peak, total elevation gain is about 1,400 feet, according to the DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer.
The Brook Trail (1.8 miles long) leads from the Brook Trailhead to Tumbledown Pond, near the east peak of the mountain. It is the most gradual of all three trails. The challenge of this trail lies in crossing streams and brooks several times, as well as the rocky footing of the wider portion of the trail near the bottom of the mountain. As the trail becomes steeper and nears Tumbledown Pond, the nearby brook creates tiny waterfalls as it flows down the mountain.
The Parker Ridge Trail (1.8 miles) is another option from the Brook Trailhead. From the trailhead, follow the Little Jackson Connector for 1.1 mile. Then turn left onto the Parker Ridge Trail, which climbs Parker Ridge to a bare peak that offers stunning views. The trail then descends to the Brook Trail, just short of Tumbledown Pond.
The Loop Trail (1.5 miles), though the shortest, is the most difficult of the three trails that ascend Tumbledown Mountain. The Loop Trail leads from the Loop Trailhead to the mountain’s ridge, close to the mountain’s west peak. Features on this trail include Tumbledown Boulder, a colossal bolder located after crossing two streams (you can’t miss it) and a rock feature known as “Fat Man’s Misery” or “Lemon Squeezer,” where hikers must climb through a narrow chimney-like fissure with the help of metal rungs. This fun little challenge is near the end of the Loop Trail. Much of the trail is steep and flowing with water. In fact, “Fat Man’s Misery” typically has water flowing through it, making the rungs wet and slippery. This trail is not the best choice for hiking novices, small children or dogs.
The Loop Trail ends with an intersection with Tumbledown Ridge Trail, where hikers can turn left and hike 0.2 mile to reach the mountain’s west peak and summit at 3,068 feet above sea level. Or hikers can turn right and hike to the east peak, Tumbledown Pond (in 0.6 mile) and the Brook Trail (and therefore, Parker Ridge Trail). It connects everything together.
Also in this network are trails (Pond Link Trail and Little Jackson Mountain Trail) leading to Little Jackson Mountain, which rises 3,434 feet to the northeast.
To learn about the ecological significance of this area, visit www.maine.gov/doc/nrimc/mnap/focusarea/tumbledown_focus_area.pdf.
Personal note: People don’t seem to agree on the elevation of Tumbledown Mountain for some reason. A story in Maine Outdoor Journal says 3,035 feet. Summitpost.org says 3,068 feet. Trails.com says 3,088 feet. Peakbagger.com took a leap to 3,588 feet. And mountainzone.com decided on 3,012 feet. (I’m not making this up.) Clearly, something strange is happening on that mountain. I went with whatever DeLorme gave me – 3,086 feet. Maine Trail Finder and summitpost.org agree.
On Oct. 5, 2012, during peak fall foliage, I hiked Tumbledown Mountain with hiking buddies Derek Runnells and Geneva Perkins. We parked at the Loop Trailhead and took the steep and challenging Loop Trail (including “Fat Man’s Misery”) to the ridge. We then turned right and ascended to the west peak, and then headed over to the east peak and down to Tumbledown Pond. From the pond, we took the more gradual Brook Trail down to the Brook Trailhead. It was a great loop, considering it is always easier to hike the steepest trail on the way up and the most gradual trail on the way down. But we did have to walk the final 1.3 mile on the Byron Road to get back to our vehicle at the Loop Trailhead. Overall mileage, according to the map at the Brook Trailhead, was 5.6 miles. Did it seem longer? Yes. Was it worth it? Definitely.