4.4 miles one way to Goose Eye’s East Peak via South Branch
8.8 miles for the full loop trail
5-7 hours round trip
Difficulty: Weekend Warriors
As one of the AMC’s red lines, the Wright Trail is by no means a secret. Given that I completed it on a cloudless Saturday morning in June after a week of rain and only saw four other people, it certainly passes for a hidden gem. Listed in the White Mountain Guide as a loop trail, the North Branch now appears to be closed. Don’t let this scare you away, though. The long parallel with Goose Eye Brook and eye-popping scenery of Goose Eye Mountain and the Mahoosuc Range make it a great getaway.
The Wright Trail begins by allowing hikers to choose their own adventure. A side trail breaks left and follows Goose Eye Brook for a ways before rejoining the main trail, which begins on an old woods road. Whichever direction you pick, the trail is an easy-going, tranquil walk in the woods for the first two and a half miles. Both options ultimately follow the brook and you’ll likely find its soundtrack setting your mind adrift. When the trail finally appears to make an earnest effort for elevation gain, it’s merely a bluff and just as quickly returns to the brook. This continues longer than one would expect, and because the trail sign is absent from the trail head, you might find yourself questioning if you’re on the Wright Trail. I know I did.
There’s a designated tenting site at the 2.5-mile mark, which is also where the North and South branches of the trail split. The North Branch is on the right just after the side trail for the camping area. There’s currently a ribbon across the trail entrance suggesting that the North Branch is closed. And for good reason. The North Branch is in need of some trail love with numerous blowdowns and rotting footbridges.
The North Branch is still navigable by experienced hikers—just don’t let Ranger Rick catch you. Anyone intent on doing the full loop should ascend via the North Branch as the various stream crossings and other debris can be slippery and are best traversed with fresh legs. In its heyday this was probably a fun trail to tackle as it passes along the base of a large ledge and crosses a rocky ravine in a couple of places. This section of the Wright Trail comes out on the Mahoosuc Trail/Appalachian Trail on the north side of Goose Eye’s East Peak, the traverse of which is steep and ledgy with several ladders. Take a left at the Mahoosuc Trail intersection to hike up and over the East Peak to get to the Wright Trail’s South Branch, which is .3 miles away.
It’s worth noting that the current state of the North Branch is in no way an indication for the quality of the South Branch or the Mahoosuc Trail—both of these are in meticulous shape. From the Wright Trail tenting site, the South Branch crosses Goose Eye Brook and switchbacks up the mountain with a few steep sections. Glimpses of mountaintops through the trees fuel anticipation for the first viewpoint soon to come, and one last climb up a rocky ledge escorts hikers above the treeline. From here you’ll enjoy views of Sunday River, Goose Eye, Old Speck and beyond.
The trail then descends a rocky ledge back into the trees before climbing another knoll, this one offering views of Goose Eye’s East Peak, Mt. Carlo and even Mt. Washington. From here the trail continues along the ledge, ducking in and out of the trees and in one spot crossing a wet area via several planks. The North Branch soon emerges onto the Mahoosuc Trail/Appalachian Trail in a sag between the main West Peak of Goose Eye Mountain and the East Peak. Anyone looking to descend via this trail should know there’s no signage for the Wright Trail at this junction. That said, the trail entrance is fairly obvious and marked with a blue blaze. To get to the Wright Trail’s North Peak, take a right onto the Mahoosuc Trail and hike .3 miles up and over the East Peak.
Finding the Wright Trail is easier than the Konami Code-esque directions suggest. Once you get to Western Maine, that is. From U.S. Route 2 approximately three miles north of Bethel take the Sunday River Road and follow it for several miles bearing slightly to the right at each of the Sunday River ski resort’s two entrances. At 6.5 miles the road turns to dirt and at 7.8 miles there’s an intersection. Turn left onto Coburn Fields, cross two steel bridges, and take an immediate right onto Bull Branch Road. Follow Bull Branch for about a mile and a half to where it crosses Goose Eye Brook. The trailhead is a short distance after the bridge on the left, and parking is available a little farther up the road.
A waterfall on Goose Eye Brook.
It’s good to be green. The forest along the Wright Trail’s South Branch.
The first view point just above the treeline on the South Branch. Did I mention it was a beautiful day?
The valley from which the Wright Trail originates. The mountain in the back and on the left is Old Speck.
The view of Mt. Washington from a knoll on the Wright Trail’s South Branch.
A wet area near the end of the South Branch trail.
This rocky ledge is about all that stands in the way between the Wright Trail’s South Branch junction with the Mahoosuc Trail/Appalachian Trail and Goose Eye Mountain’s East Peak.
View of Goose Eye’s main summit, the West Peak (3,870 feet), as seen from the East Peak (3,794 feet). Note the black fly at the top of the image. At 8:45 AM there were a lot of them.
View of the Appalachian Trail and Goose Eye’s North Peak (3,675 feet), as seen from the East Peak.
Trail ladders on the north side of Goose Eye’s East Peak.
The Wright Trail’s North Branch junction with the Mahoosuc Trail/Appalachian trail. The strewn brush is presumably to indicate this trail is closed.
Exhibit B on why the North Branch is closed.
A ravine along the Wright Trail’s North Branch.