A beautiful open ridge leads to the 3,638-foot summit of Boundary Bald Mountain and several structures. Carey Kish photo

A scant 8 miles from the Quebec border in far northern Somerset County is where you’ll find the aptly named Boundary Bald Mountain. The mountain’s multi-summited ridgeline, which reaches 3,638 feet atop the craggy main peak, extends for 4 miles across the remote commercial timberlands in the unorganized Bald Mountain Township.

Getting to Boundary Bald Mountain takes some doing but pays off with a 360-degree panorama that arguably includes more 3,000-4,000-foot peaks than any other summit in Maine. From the jumble of trail-less mountains on both sides of the border and well into Canada, to the high peaks around Rangeley, Stratton and Carrabassett Valley, to the mountains ringing Moosehead Lake, it’s a remarkable view.

Jackman is the last outpost on the way to Boundary Bald, so you’ll want to gas up and purchase any last-minute supplies (think insect repellent, for one thing) for your hike. And since it’s a long road trip  from most everywhere, the town makes a fine stop for post-hike food and drink and perhaps an overnight stay.

Head north out of Jackman on U.S. Route 201 for 9 miles, then pull off at The Falls picnic area, where a series of interpretive panels display some interesting historical factoids, including a blurb on the old Bald Mountain Railroad that operated in the early 1900s. The 26-mile standard-gauge short line utilized five steam locomotives and 70 cars to haul logs to the Jackman Lumber Company in Moose River, where it also connected to the Canadian Pacific Railroad. A portion of the rail spur snaked along the southern base of Boundary Bald, which at the time was adorned with a log fire tower that was used to keep a watchful eye on the valuable woodlands.

A half-mile north of the picnic area, turn off U.S. Route 201 onto Bald Mountain Road, a private gravel logging road open to the public. Based in Jackman, the family-owned Hilton Timberlands owns more than 45,000 acres in Franklin, Somerset and Piscataquis counties, including Boundary Bald Mountain. Jarvis Forest Management manages the land for Hilton.

A sign at the highway turnoff points to the “Bald Mtn Hiking Trail,” which lies 5 miles into the big woods. The drive to the trailhead is on a good road and well signed, but since this is an active logging road, please proceed with caution and yield to all logging vehicles.

Eventually, Notch Road diverges left from Bald Mountain Road. Not far ahead, bear right on Trail Road and drive another half-mile to parking at an old wood yard. From here, it’s a steady 1-mile walk up the heavily eroded old road to the official trailhead, where there’s a sign for “Bald Mtn Summit.” This is the old fire warden’s trail and it’s here that the real fun begins.

The unmaintained path is steep and rugged just as you might expect, gaining more than 1,100 feet in a little over a mile on its rather direct route up the south side of the mountain. Faded blue paint blazes and blue surveyor’s tape mark the way. Relics of the old telephone line once used to connect the fire warden to the outside world can be found along the upper part of the trail.

The final 1/3 of a mile is a delightful stroll as the narrow path weaves through the krummolz and delicate vegetation on the open summit ridge with unrestricted views in every direction. Take it slow, enjoy and be mindful of the fragile subalpine ecosystem as you step along.

The structures on top soon come into focus, from the helipad and shed to the solar array and communications tower. The actual summit is marked by an orange windsock. The remains of the 1937 fire tower, which collapsed in the mid-1970s, lie in a rusted heap. Ignore the human influences, pull up a comfy rock and relax, enjoy your sandwich and snacks, and revel in the grand expanse of working forest and wild country all about you.

On the drive back out to U.S. Route 201, be sure to visit Heald Stream Falls. Marked by a sign for “Heald Stream Campsite,” it’s on the left about 2 1/2 miles before the paved road. A short path leads to the base of the pretty 18-foot drop.

Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island is the author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast and editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow Carey’s adventures on Facebook @ Carey Kish.

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