Caribou Mountain, Gilead
Updated: Oct 3, 2022
The original plan was a weekend in Baxter State Park with five friends. We would camp two nights, hike Katahdin, maybe see a moose, definitely eat some good food, and make some great memories. But life happens and for different reasons, my friend Anna and I both had to back out of the trip. To cheer ourselves up, we decided to head to the White Mountains for a shorter day hike on Caribou. This hike, with its endless waterfalls, vibrant fall colors, and mystical mountain men (more on that later) was the perfect antidote to any Baxter FOMO we may have been feeling. This hike cured all of our ails, as mountains often do.
The Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness is located inside the White Mountain National Forest in Maine. We hiked Caribou Mountain via the Mud Brook and Caribou Loop, counter-clockwise. The total loop is 6.7 miles and took us about 4.5 hours...we took our sweet time. Caribou Mountain is 2,850 ft and the total elevation gain of this hike is 1,958 ft. Here is the All Trails link for more info on the hike and how to get to the trailhead: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/maine/mud-brook-and-caribou-loop
A highlight of this hike was the water element - endless brook crossings and waterfalls provided soothing sights and sounds along the way, in addition to keeping our pups hydrated. Anna and I have sister dogs who love to hike, but require a fair amount of water. Packing enough water for ourselves and our large dogs can be a challenge. It's always helpful when the mountain provides a natural water source, as was the case on this hike.
At the summit, we met a retired teacher who seemed to be high on life. He told us all about his camp near Baxter State Park, hiking with his wife, mountain biking, and how meeting our dogs had made his day. He was a ray of sunshine and enthusiasm, which gave us an extra boost as we continued on our way.
On our descent, he appeared again, just as we were nearing a gorgeous waterfall. It prompted him to give us a message about the energy in water, sharing information he'd read in the book, "The Hidden Messages in Water", by Masaru Emoto. The book talks about how our thoughts and words impact the molecules of the water around us. I'd read the book years ago, but this friendly mountain messenger had a way of talking about it that connected the words we say, to the waterfall, to the greater world around us. He explained that words of love and gratitude affect water in positive ways, which ultimately benefits our earth and health. Then just like that, the magical mountain man went on his way.
"Was that guy even real?" Anna asked me as he disappeared into the woods. I had no idea, but the waterfall carried extra significance after that conversation.
The power and life-giving energy of waterfalls is undeniable and I always try to get as close to them as I can. Standing underneath a waterfall is exhilarating! You'll see this waterfall through the trees to your right as you descend the mountain on the Caribou Trail, but to get close to it, you'll need to find the tiny trail that's just past the waterfall. This will lead you directly to the crystal clear pool below it. It's easy to miss, so pay close attention. Anna and I past it at first, then decided to retrace our steps to find a closer view of the falls. I'm so glad we went back, because it led us to this. Although there are falls and brook crossings the entire way down the mountain, this waterfall is the closest to the trail and the easiest to access. And it's absolutely breathtaking.
Aside from the tiny bit of rock scrambling, I would rate this hike as moderate. My phone didn't have service for most of the hike, so we were unable to use the All Trails GPS. However, the trail was pretty clear most of the way. The only confusing section was at the summit of Caribou. From the Mud Brook Trail, continue straight to connect with the Caribou Trail, which creates a loop and brings you back to the original starting point. If you're confused about where the trail is at any point, look for rock cairns. They will guide you along the open ledge sections of trail.
This hike offers just about everything and is an easy day trip. Now is the perfect time to try it since the fall colors are popping and the waterfalls are flowing!