Located in the north-western part of New Brunswick, is Mount Carleton Provincial Park. It’s one of 9 provincial parks and home to the highest peak in the Maritimes – Mount Carleton. It also acts as a natural gateway into the province from Quebec and is a logical starting point for the adventurous explorer. Spanning an area of over 42,000 acres with an estimated 10 million trees, it’s a nature-lover’s oasis.
Mount Carleton Provincial Park is all about hiking, portaging, nature, and as a designated Dark Sky preserve, star-gazing. It is known as the “Algonquin of New Brunswick.” Hiking is the real draw here, with 11 trails to choose from including a brand new portage trail connecting Bathurst and Nictau lakes opening this summer. The park prides itself on preserving the natural habitat and ecosystem of the region, while providing simple conveniences that allow campers, cottagers, and RVers the ability to explore the New Brunswick wilderness. This dedication to the environment is maintained in cooperation with both the Maliseet and Mi’gmaq First Nations. With no real cell-service, except as a reward for climbing one of the peaks, this truly is the place to go to unplug and get back to nature.
Mount Carleton’s History
Mount Carleton’s history is one built deeply around hunting. For many years, it was one of the few areas where the Mi’gmaq and Maliseet people did not have to compete for territory and resources – the forests were incredibly plentiful. As such, the mountain area became a place of not only co-existence but also as one of the few places where the tribes would meet together to negotiate. By the late 1800’s, wealthy Americans became aware of the tremendous hunting and game in the Mount Carleton area and began booking treks using local guides to lead hunting expeditions. The land became so popular that camps were established, many of which still exist today. The area was established as a provincial park in 1970, with the initial intent on keeping it as a nature preserve. The decision was made to create enough infrastructure to allow visitors to stay in the park, but it remains almost entirely a natural eco-zone with less than 1% of the park having been developed.
Staying at Mount Carleton
Mt. Carleton Provincial Park offers a wide variety of ways to stay.
Camping: Two options; drive-in or hike-in sites. Some sites offer tent platforms. There are communal cooking shelters and wash stations, with hot water and showers.
RVing: For those with RVs or trailers, there are sites available that will keep you in close proximity to the wash stations and cooking shelters. Currently, the RV sites are not powered nor have water hookups (except for special events), but there is RV waste-water disposal sites.
Historic Cottages: The cottages are offered in a couple of different areas in the park and are separate and self contained. Each area offers waterfront views that can be taken in from screened-in porches, and mowed lawns provide nice open spaces for kids to romp and play.
In my opinion, the cottages are an incredible deal. Get a bunch of friends or family together and live-it-up in old hunter/trapper cottages with modern conveniences. Honestly, my jaw dropped when we found out that a cottage (with washroom and kitchen) that sleeps 9 to 11 people could be rented for $150 a night.
Mount Carleton vs. Mount Sagamook
If you are debating which of these two peaks you want to climb (if climbing both isn’t an option), think about what kind of post you want to have for your Instagram or Facebook account: “Climbed the highest peak in the Maritimes, “ or “Epic Scenic shots of New Brunswick”. If you want the ‘highest peak’ post, go with Mt. Carleton. At 820m (2690 ft) it is indeed the highest peak in the Maritimes and will take you about 5hrs up and down. The climb is gradual and not too steep, so it’s rating on the challenge meter is listed as ‘moderate to challenging’. If you are more of the strong, silent type who elicits “likes” through your stunning photography, Mt. Sagamook will be the trek for you. But don’t forget that I said, “strong”. Mt. Sagamook (777m/2,549 ft) is definitely the more challenging climb. It is a steep and steady climb that may be shorter, but will take you just as long (5hr) due to the slower pace it takes to climb it. But rest assured it is worth it. Sagamook boasts the best and most picturesque views of the area.