Forty-five years ago, there was only one trail leading to the summit of Ragged Mountain in the Camden Hills. The original Ragged Mountain Trail began on Gillette Road in Rockport and progressed southeast to the summit. Since the first part of the trail crossed private property, access was subject to landowner discretion and sometimes closed.
Much has improved in the ensuing years. About three decades ago, the Georges Highland Path was opened. From Route 17 in West Rockport, the path traverses over Ragged Mountain to Barnstown Road in Camden.
In addition, an adjunct trail was built starting at Thorndike Brook Trailhead on Hope Road that joins the primary route west of the high point. The lower portion of the original Ragged Mountain Trail was closed. Georges River Land Trust maintains GHP.
More recently, a trail network originating at the Camden Snow Bowl downhill ski area was added to the expanding Ragged Mountain system. Included are two footpaths on the north side of the mountain, the Hosmer Brook and Red Diamond Trails. Both lead to the summit area.
Cross-country ski and mountain bike trails are also located near the Snow Bowl. In 2020, the first section of Round the Mountain Trail, a biking and walking path, was constructed on the south and east perimeter of the massif. In short, Ragged Mountain has become a multi-faceted outdoor paradise.
Since GHP was established, my friends and I have done our best to wear out the Ragged Mountain trails. Now, most of us are old and retired, but we still return on a regular basis.
Only about an hour drive from my home in Topsham, I find myself taking advantage of the spectacular views the captivating prominence has to offer several times a year. When I wrote my mountain guidebook, “Mountains for Mortals — New England,” Ragged Mountain was a must-have inclusion.
After I announced a Penobscot Paddle & Chowder Society club hike on Ragged Mountain in December, three retired Chowderheads immediately accepted the invitation. One participant, Dave Boyle, recommended a loop hike on Hosmer Brook and Red Diamond Trails. A new endeavor for the remainder of the group, we enthusiastically embraced his suggestion.
It was cool and breezy when the four of us met at the Camden Snow Bowl parking area. Unsure of trail conditions at higher elevations and expecting cold, brisk winds, we packed micro spikes and parkas.
The beginning of Hosmer Brook Trail was not obvious. However, Dave guided us to the far right side of the ski area where a sign and blue diamond symbols marked the onset. Although the passageway was wet in places and a few brook crossings were required, we enjoyed easy hiking on a gradual incline in a predominantly hardwood forest.
After passing the junctions for an alternative loop hike, we ascended steep switchbacks before arriving at the GHP on Ragged Mountain Ridge. The ridge sector of the path was part of the original Ragged Mountain Trail.
Angling left, we progressed rapidly on partially exposed ledges before entering a confined corridor in a densely wooded area. After climbing steeply up an icy rock formation, our band of seniors, not acting their ages, arrived on a continuum of cliffs and the fun began.
For me, the magnificent elongated escarpment on the west face of Ragged Mountain is a compelling attraction. Rather than turning left on Red Diamond Trail, we extended our journey by proceeding on GHP along the cliffs.
Despite strong winds and patches of ice, we weren’t disappointed. Phenomenal views of Mirror Lake and the southern Camden Hills were our reward as we negotiated the rim of the precipitous bluff.
There are two peaks on Ragged Mountain. We stopped for lunch on the east side of the southeastern summit, where tiered ledges provided shelter from the wind. From there, a short bushwhack over some large boulders to Red Diamond Trail led us to the scenic Ragged Mountain highpoint.
Departing the top, we began our descent on the sparsely wooded, twisting Red Diamond Trail. Soon the downhill ski trails could be observed. Incongruent snowbanks attested to snowmaking efforts. Nearing the parking area, mountain bikers hurtling down a nearby trail caught our attention.
When we reached our vehicles, one member calculated the trek to be 4.1 miles on her GPS. The unanimous conclusion: our new Ragged Mountain itinerary was an exceptional one that would be repeated.