Friday December 06, 2013 Mount Elmore loop via Ridge Trail by Kathy Gohl & John BuddingtonWe intended to hike a loop, using the new ridge trail that Forest Parks and Recreation had completed this summer. This early in the season, the snow depth, even at the summit, did not exceed 6 inches. Temperatures had been in the 30s during the preceding week and much of the ice was rotten, providing secure footing. We wore traction devices over our boots and had no difficulty.
Although 8 people expressed interest, only 4 left Worcester at 10:00 am. We arrived at the winter parking area on Beach Road, Elmore, and started out at 10:30. The day was cloudy with no wind and temperatures in the low 30s.
We hiked west toward the Elmore State Park entry station, then turned south toward the summer trail head. We took the bypass avoiding the first switchback, passing through the firewood lot. (We didn't gain much by this shortcut so we kept to the road on the descent.) Shortly beyond the summer parking gate (0.13 miles according to FP&R), we encountered a sign indicating the summit was 1.15 miles via the Elmore Mountain Trail or 2.20 miles to the right via the new Ridge Trail.
We proceeded up the old route along the wide road until the Catamount Trail branched south. We took the hiking trail west and continued to the site of the ranger cabin, where we lunched from 12:00 to 12:30. From lunch to about 2:00 pm there was scattered sunshine and visibility improved.
The trail to the summit appeared completely iced over. However, our boots with traction crunched the ice and gave us good purchase.
Upon reaching the ridgetop we turned north on the new trail, ignoring the tower on the summit. For many years there has been a spur trail to Balancing Rock. (There has also been a bootleg trail that went steeply downhill past some beaver ponds, which rejoined the road we used to ascend.) The spur trail was extended this summer to continue down the ridge and make a loop.
We passed a fine lookout to the west, then another lookout to the east, and came to Balancing Rock. From there we gradually descended along the west side of the mountain. The trail wound around various rocks and gullies but the grade remained remarkably constant. There were rock steps as needed and 2 log staircases.
At the north end of the Elmore ridge we passed south of a final knob and headed south. We crossed several deer and moose trails, 2 bridges, and between 2 beaver ponds. At length we rejoined the old trail and returned to the winter parking area, having hiked about 4.75 miles and ascended 1443 feet. We were finished by 3:00 pm and home by 3:30.
We tracked the route via GPS and posted it on everytrail.com. (Go to everytrail.com and search for 'Mount Elmore loop via Ridge Trail.') Our GPS readings are not precise but do provide useful maps and aerial views.Click on a photo to see the original version. See photo gallery on Facebook (pull-down under 'Trips')