Region Map / Appalachian / Mount Carleton Park / Mount Carleton Trail

Mount Carleton Peak Trail

Quick Facts

Ratings Legend

Difficulty Difficult Features Mountain Peak
Trail Type Loop Trail Markers Green squares
Distance 9.27 km loop Scenery Rating Must See
Estimated Time 3 hrs 30 mins return Mainteance Rating Well Maintained
Trail Surface Type forested, rock Cell Phone Reception Minimal
Elevation Change 411 meters GPS file Available on request


Map Legend

View Mount Carleton Trail in a larger map


From the front gate of the park travel east 5.3 km passing by the road for Armstrong Brook Campground at 1.2 km and the Group Campground at 2.2 km, shortly after which you will follow the shore of Nictau Lake. At 5.3 km take the road up the hill to the right. After 7.9 km, and after passing several lookout signs for lookouts that no longer seem to exist (at least we couldn't find them), you will come to the end of the road and a small parking lot to the left. The trail head for both the east and west trail starts at the end of the road. The west trail can also be accessed by a small trail at the back of the parking lot that climbs the hill to the trail. Turning right will start you on the west trail while turning right will take you back around the parking lot to the trail head at the end of the road.

For directions to the park go to Mount Carleton Park.

Trail Description

I recommend climbing the mountain via the west trail and returning via the east trail but either way will work. The easiest way to reach the peak is by going up and back the east trail but you will miss the rocky ridge behind the fire tower. In my opinion the trai along the ridge is the best part of the trail.

West Trail

The west trail starts by descending slowly towards Mamozekel Stream through a mixed forest. The trail is increasingly rocky as you get closer to the stream. When you get close to the stream there is a junction in the trail. Going straight will take you down through some large boulders past a small cave to the stream. Going right will take you more gently down towards where the two trails meet further up the stream. There is a small waterfall where the trail first meets the stream. At the stream the trail takes a hard right turn and begins to follow the stream up the mountain. The stream is full of mossy rocks and offers many chances for great photos.

The trail is mildly rocky and continues through mixed forest. The trail eventual comes to a junction at the Headwaters campground where campsites 3 and 4 are to the left and the trail up the mountain continues to the right. Campsites 1 and 2, and an outhouse are a short distance further along the trail. There is a spring near campsite 1 if you need to replenish your water supplies.

The trail continues east as the forest continues to thin the nearer you get to treeline. You will soon come to the junction of the sheltered trail. The Sheltered trail skirts around the rocky ridge that forms the top of Mount Carleton. It is recommended to use the Sheltered trail in inclement weather. It ends in a short scramble near the peak.

If the weather is good continue to the right. Shortly afterwards you will begin to climb and the trail will get much rockier. At the start of the ridge you will begin to scramble over some fairly large boulders. As you reach treeline don't forget to turn around and enjoy the views. The trail will continue to climb up around a rocky out crop until you get to the top of the first part of the ridge. This ridge provides the first views of the fire tower at the peak. The trail then drops down into a small wooded ravine and back up to the next and last ridge that will take you to the peak. The trail follows the ridge to the peak where you will find the fire tower and many views in all directions. Remember that you are now at the highest point in the province.

East Trail

The east trail was once an old road that climbed the mountain just below the peak and provided access for the rangers who manned the fire tower. Currently the trail is the width of an ATV trail. It is rocky and gravelly and slowly ascends the mountain from the parking lot. After about an hour of walking you will find the junction with the Big Brook Trail. The trail to the peak continues to the left and becomes more rocky. Not long after the junction you will find the towerman's cabin. The trail continues to gradually climb until just below the peak where you will find the junction to the Mount Head Trail. The trail to the peak once again turns left as you begin the short 300 meter scramble up above treeline and to the peak. At the peak you will find the fire tower and many spectacular views in all directions. Remember that you are now at the highest point in the province.

The east trail is the easiest way to reach the peak but in my opinion is also the least interesting as a result.

From the Sign at the Peak:

A LOOK-OUT FOR FOREST FIRE DETECTION - This fire cabin was built in 1923. From spring until fall, this cabin and the one along the trail were both home and workplace for two fire rangers. The rangers were responsible for twice daily weather readings and a continual fire watch. They took turns scanning the horizen with binoculars. On a clear day, they could spot smoke from fires up to 65 km away.

THERE'S SMOKE! - At the first sign of smoke, a ranger would determine the angle of the fire from the cabin's position on the map. The other man would use the crank telephone to immediately notify the fire warden at Plaster Rock. Reports from other towers would help the warden pinpoint the fire's exact location.

REPLACED BY AIRPLANE PATROLS - This cabin served as a look-out for fire rangers for 45 years. By 1968, the cabin's days as a vital link in a forest fire detection network were over. New Brunswick began using airplane patrols instead of tower watches to detect forest fires.

Today, the cabin is enjoyed for the majestic view it offers. It also stands as a historical monument to past methods of forest fire detection in New Brunswick.

From the Sign at the Cabin on the East Trail:

A TOWERAN'S LIFE - This was home to the men who operated the firetower perched on Mount Carleton's peak. The towermen would arrive by May 15th to watch during the fire season which lasted into October. When the program stated in 1923 there was only one towerman for many years, Mr. John Hanna. Then because of safety and isolation two went on duty and later, when radios improved, it returned to one operator.

The tower was no longer manned after 1968 when airplanes began to be used for patroling. Today infrared-detectors that can spot fires through clouds, lightweight-powerful radios, high speed pumps, fire bombers using water and fire retarding chemicals and helicopters are all available for fighting forest fires. Of course smokey the Bear is still helping by reminding "Only YOU can prevent forest fires."

Nighttimes and some rainy or cloudy days the men would be around this cabin or another that was near the parking lot, with books, hobbies and the local animals for company. Most other times, the towerman would be scanning the forest for smoke from the glassed-in top of the tower. In the center of the floor on top of a tall round table was a map of the area he could see. If he spotted smoke he could turn the alidade, a brass sighting device over the map, until it was lined up on the fire. Then using his crank telephone (or a radio after the 1950's) he would call headquarters with an estimated distance and the exact bearing. As other towermen reported, the rangers drew lines on a map from each tower location and pinpointed the fire - the spot where the lines crossed.

The towermen kept busy on rainy days or while the other man was on duty by maintaining the telephone line or working on roads and trails leading to the tower. During hot times, when the towermen could not leave the tower, other men would do those jobs as well as bring in supplies, news, etc. If it was a wet spell and two were on duty then they would take turns heading out to civilization and family, then returning with supplies.

Current Weather


Other Trails in the park:

External Links

Friends of Mount Carleton - Trails

Trail last visited October 10, 2015.
Page Last Updated October 23, 2015.