On the difficulty scale, the Bigelow Range Trail hike from Stratton village to Cranberry Peak falls somewhere between a Family Hike and Weekend Warriors. The 3.2-mile (one way) jaunt feels like a long 3.2 miles thanks to the continuous climbing and bounty of bucket-sized rocks (there’s loose gravel in a few spots) that can slow your roll. This said, the trail is well maintained by the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, there is no truly steep climbing and only a couple places where hand usage is necessary on scrambles.
Distance: 3.2 miles (one way); elevation gain 2,044 feet
Time: 4-6 hours round trip
Difficulty: Family Hike/Weekend Warriors
Recommended Gear: hiking boots or trail runners; trekking poles (optional); bug repellent (optional at your own risk)
For kids, the Cranberry Peak hike offers plenty of trail entertainment, from the aforementioned rocks to a cool cave, plenty of sheep laurel and blueberries (when in season) growing trailside, and a 360-degree summit view of the Bigelow Range, Flagstaff Lake, and Sugarloaf. In the words of my ten-year-old nephew: “That was a hard hike, but it’s satisfying to reach the top.”
The hike begins at the end of Currie Street (Google and other maps list the road as “Curry,” but the actual street sign is spelled “Currie”). The hike begins with a couple short but steep-ish hills mixed between flat stretches. It doesn’t take long for the stretch of rugged and steady climbing that lasts until the side trail for Arnold’s Well (no water), close to a point where the two-mile mark is painted on a rock.
It’s also worth noting that the majority of the hike occurs in a mixed forest; we found the biting insects to be malnourished and ravenous.
Around the two-mile mark, the trail opens up unto some rock ledges that offer the kiddos rock scrambling distractions and partial views of Flagstaff Lake. Don’t worry if you can’t see over the treetops here, there’s no shortage of views on the summit (weather permitting of course; sorry, no refunds).
A short distance from the ledge area is a side trail for “The Cave,” a detour that’s worth checking out. The cave requires a rock scramble to get inside. On the backside, the cave opens up to a plateau covered by a giant slab of granite.
Cave survivors continue along a ridge with some short ups and downs for approximately another mile before tackling an open rock scramble to the Cranberry Peak summit at an elevation of 3,213 feet.