Estimated Time: 2-3 hrs roundtrip
Distance: 2.2 – 2.8 miles roundtrip
Mt. Crag in Shelburne has one of the greatest rewards for effort ratios in the area. This relatively short loop not only follows a lovely trail through picturesque forest, it also leads to a fantastic rocky summit with great views of the Androscoggin Valley and the Northern Presidentials! The mountain can be hiked either in a loop (requiring a bit of road walking) or for a shorter option simply go out and back. For either option, begin on the eastern side by parking at the Austin Brook Trailhead.
The Austin Brook Trailhead is located on North Rd. in Shelburne (parking is across the st.) and is easily recognizable by the white fence and turnstile gate (yes, it has a turnstile!). The trail begins by following an old logging road that runs along the Austin Mill Brook. After 0.4 miles you will reach a 4-way junction. Turn left and take the Yellow Trail towards Mt. Crag. Shortly after the junction you will reach a group of giant boulders on the left that provide an excellent opportunity for poking around in small caves!
After the boulders the Yellow Trail begins to climb uphill through a deciduous forest. It switchbacks a couple of times before leveling off and emerging on the open summit of Mt. Crag. From the summit you can either reverse directions and head back the way you came, or continue on the Yellow Trail west towards the Gates Brook Trail. This side of the mountain is a bit steeper but is a nice contrast as it is largely a coniferous forest for most of the descent. It can be a bit more challenging, however, especially in wet weather.
After a short but steep downhill, you will reach the junction with the Gates Brook Trail, which continues to the right up towards Middle Mountain. To finish the Mt. Crag loop, turn left and follow the wide trail down to the road. After 0.5 miles, you will return to North Rd. and can walk along the pavement back towards the parking.
Note: For added excitement, take a short detour to the Cable Car found on the Yellow Trail. It can be reached by turning right instead of left at the junction of the Yellow Trail and the Austin Brook Trail.