Mount Carleton offers Rockies experience in New Brunswick
Provincial park offers great views, trails for hiking, biking and camping sites
It contains the tallest peak in the Maritimes, but CBC Information Morning's outdoor adventure columnist says Mount Carleton Provincial Park offers much more than just the big mountain.
Calixte LeBlanc of Moncton is exploring New Brunswick's natural attractions and hiking trails for CBC radio in New Brunswick.
Last weekend LeBlanc spent two days in New Brunswick's largest provincial park, and he took in many of the attractions.
"It met and exceeded my expectations," he said.
The highlight of the weekend was an all day hike and bike ride which took in the summits of two mountains: Mount Sagamook, 777 metres high, and Mount Carleton, which tops out at 820 metres.
"The crisp air, the rooty terrain, the view of mountaintops, the whole experience feels like you're in the Rockies."
Mount Sagamook is the less popular of the two peaks, but it's a tougher hike. LeBlanc notes that once you reach the top, the view is arguably better than Mount Carleton.
The route between the two peaks is also a highlight — a relatively flat trail with views.
"It's a really fun stroll."
LeBlanc says the old fire hut at the summit of Mount Carleton is also worth checking out.
LeBlanc warns that while the the hike up Mount Carleton is popular, it is somewhat strenuous, and it's worth planning ahead.
Extra water, food, good footwear and rain gear is a must.
Besides hiking, the park has lots to offer, including camping at Armstrong campground or more semi-rustic sites within the park. LeBlanc did some canoeing and paddleboarding on Nictau Lake to round out his Mount Carleton Provincial Park experience.
One of New Brunswick's little known gems, Mount Carleton Provincial Park is a dream location for outdoor enthusiasts and an awe inspiring spot for scenery and nature lovers alike. Mount Carleton forms part of the northern extension of the International Appalachian Trail and is the highest peak in the Maritimes at 820 m. A fire tower still stands at the summit of Mount Carleton, where from 1923 – 1968 rangers scanned the horizon for signs of smoke and were able to prevent forest fires up to 65 km away.
From Fredericton and Saint John access the TransCanada West towards Edmundston. Exit at St. Leonard onto NB 17 (NE). Follow it for 63 km to St. Quentin. Turn right onto NB 180. Continue for 31 km. Turn right at the sign for Mount Carleton Provincial Park. Drive for 10 km (unpaved) until reaching the visitor centre and park entrance on the left.
From Moncton take Highway 15 towards Shediac. Take Exit 31 and follow Highway 11 to Miramichi. Continue towards Bathurst on Highway 8. Go left onto Highway 11. Take Exit 310 onto NB 180. Continue approximately 110 km. Turn left at the sign for Mount Carleton Provincial Park. Drive for 10 km (unpaved) until reaching the visitor centre and park entrance on the left.
Serviced and unserviced camping sites are available to rent as well as semi-primitive sites and cabins. For the more experienced hiker, back country sites are available just a short hike from the summit of Mount Carleton. Ten trails offer easy to strenuous adventures through the wilderness, to picturesque look offs, past rushing waterfalls and over mountain tops. The magnificent lakes provide paddlers with plenty of opportunities to enjoy the water, surrounded by mountains. The weather is unpredictable due to the mountainous climate so make sure to come prepared for rain, cooler nights and bring appropriate hiking footwear if you plan to climb any of the mountain trails. Several routes can be planned to experience the park. Following is a description of a loop that allows adventurers the opportunity to climb two of the most spectacular mountains in the park.
Length: 11 km biking / 10.9 km hiking
Difficulty: easy - moderate biking / very strenuous hiking
Time: Allow 7-9 hours with breaks and time to enjoy the views
Trail Condition: very steep in parts, rocky, rooty, boulder scrambling, especially near the summit of the mountains, may be wet in some areas
Park at the base of Mount Carleton. Bike or walk along a dirt road (mostly downhill) approximately 10 km back to a fork in the road. Turn right towards Mount Sagamook and continue 2 km. The trail head is clearly marked on the right. Follow the 2" x 2" blue metal blazes with a white diagonal bar. The trail is marked with blue paint blazes on the boulders when the trail leads across rocks. To follow the most challenging trail in the park, go right on the western route. The trail is very steep, rocky and rooty and may be slippery if there has been recent rain. At 2 km a short side trail (0.3 km) leads off to the right for impressive views of Nictau Lakes and a great place to stop for a snack. Continue on the main trail which becomes mainly exposed rock for 0.3 km to the summit of Mount Sagamook (777 m).
Continue following the blue blazes (some signs) for 3.2 km to Mount Carleton. This trail gently ascends and descends between the two mountains and is narrow but less rocky and rooty in most areas. After 1 km a side trail to the left leads to Mount Head (792 m). The summit of Mount Carleton is reached after a 0.3 km steep climb and magnificent views can be seen in 360 degrees. Beyond the old fire station, the most challenging trail from the peak takes the hiker across a rock ridge and requires some boulder scrambling before it returns to rocky, rooty terrain, sheltered by the trees (0.8 km). A 4.1 km descent will return the hiker to their vehicle parked at the base. This last stretch follows alongside the gushing Mamozekel Brook, with moss covered rocks along its banks and small waterfalls.
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