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It was indeed delightful to walk along the summit ridge. The official trail stays slightly below and to the east of the actual crest, but it is very easy and fun to scramble along the crest itself. Apart from one small scrub-filled col along the ridge, it was entirely in the open.
Blocky ridgecrest
Blocky ridgecrest
Nearing summit
The actual summit of Mt Carleton is towards the northern end of the summit ridge. There is an old fire-lookout cabin immediately adjacent to the summit, and soon we could see its gabled top in the distance. We stopped a short distance south of the cabin for lunch: the vast majority of visitors to Mt Carleton come up the shorter main route, and it was much more likely for us to have a lunch in solitude here than at the summit.

And what a beautiful lunch spot it was. Sitting in the lee of the craggy ridgeline to avoid a cool breeze, we could sit and eat while gazing far off into the distance across northern New Brunswick. There are no communities within 40 kilometres of Mt Carleton, and the only sign of human activity from here were the scars of logging activity beyond the park's borders.
Lunch break
South along the ridge
Surveying NB
Less than five minutes' worth of walking brought us to the summit proper, where Elvira posed briefly next to the summit survey marker - the highest point in all of the Maritime provinces. Just beyond stood the old lookout tower, and beyond that, a vista to the northeast that included Bathurst Lake - the headwaters of the Nepisiguit River - and on the far horizon, the Caribou Wind Park - a 99 megawatt wind-electric generating facility.
Summit Marker
The firetower
Not so nice interior
We briefly visited the interior of the lookout tower. It's not a place I generally like to visit, since its interior is covered with graffiti and there's usually garbage strewn about. This time, there was something new: a small memorial picture of some family members on one of the interior walls of the tower. It, too, was very un-tastefully vandalized by graffiti (i.e. moustaches on faces, etc). When I see this sort of thing, I'm ashamed to let people know that I grew up in Northern New Brunswick. Maybe they should just tear this summit cabin down; it seems to attract this sort of thing, and reduces the natural experience of visiting Mt Carleton.
Not so nice interior
Bathurst Lake
Caribou wind park
Elvira and I spent a bit more time among the open crags just north of the summit, and then we began our descent. We chose as our descent route the shorter "main" trail.
Elvira on rocky crag
Towards Head and Sagamook
Motorized vehicle evidence
The main trail quickly descended below treeline. Since it is much more travelled, the trail is wider and much more eroded. As a result, it was a lot more tiring to hike. Elvira soon found that her light hiking boots did not offer enough support, and found her feet starting to suffer.
Cross-massif trail
Wide and rocky
Firewarden's cabin
Apart from an overly-eroded trail, there's not much to see along Mt Carleton's main access trail. Therefore, we didn't stop all that much, opting to cover as much ground as we could in as short a time as possible. We were glad to reach the junction with the Big Brook trail, for from this point on the main trail had a much less rocky (and therefore easier to walk on) tread. We arrived back at the parking lot about four and one-half hours after starting out, for a grand total of just under 9.5 kilometres walked.
Elvira on way down
Big Brook junction
Lower Mt Carleton Trail
In summary, Mt Carleton offers one of the few real "mountain" experiences in New Brunswick, and is well worth doing. Via the route described here, it isn't particular long or difficult, and the elevation gain is very moderate. Try to go on a nice day and try to do the slightly longer route that climbs the entire ridgecrest. It's definitely the best way to experience the mountain.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Mt Carleton Loop - click map to view
Mt Carleton Loop - Hike Data
Start Time: 11:42a.m.
End Time: 4:21p.m.
Duration: 4h39m
Distance: 9.34 km (5.8 mi)
Average Speed: 2.0 km/hr (1.2 mph)
Start Elevation: 1395ft (425m) *
Max Elevation: 2712ft (827m) *
Min Elevation: 1363ft (416m) *
End Elevation: 1370ft (418m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 1359ft (414m) *
Total Elevation Loss: 1385ft (422m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation Graph
A Dedication
A month after my sister and I completed our climb of Mt Carleton, my father passed away peacefully, at the age of 92. He'd been a boisterous and jolly person, always full of life and playful mischief. And if you've been a long-time reader of my website, you know that in his later years I managed to take him on several of my outdoor adventures. These outings were always a thrill to him. I'd like to dedicate this hike - a hike to the highpoint of his native province - to him.

The Playful One
Dad, we shall miss the playful glint in your eyes.
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