Mount Katahdin, ME
Location: northwest of Millinocket, Maine
Dates: 17 September 2008
5 September 2009
25 June 2010
Summit elevation: 5268 ft (1605 m)
|Katahdin from the park entrance (2010)|
Mount Katahdin is the highest point in Maine, and is a very large and fairly isolated mountain that towers around the surrounding landscape. The mountain is in Baxter State Park near Millinocket in remote, but fairly accessible northern Maine. The park has several regulations you should read about on their website before visiting the park. Katahdin has three peaks: Baxter, Pamola, and Hamlin (in order of elevation). There are three primary trailheads with campgrounds and varying distances and elevation gain to the summit.
|The view north from Baxter Peak looking towards Hamlin Peak (2009)|
The hike from the Abol Campground and trailhead is the shortest (3.8 miles one way) and has only about 3870 ft in elevation gain. This is the route of choice for people who want the shortest hike and to simply reach the summit. I have never taken this route but it approaches the summit from the southwest and is relatively uninteresting compared to the other routes.
|The view west from the Hunt Trail (2009)|
Katahdin Stream Campground
The route from Katahdin Stream follows the last 5.2 miles (one way) of the Appalachian Trail (known locally as the Hunt Trail) to the summit and gains about 4160 feet in elevation in the process. This is the route that I took in September 2009. The first mile of the trail is relatively flat, at which point it reaches Katahdin Stream Falls. Just after crossing the stream below the falls the trail then begins to rapidly gain elevation, soon emerging above the trees, and then leveling out on tablelands west of the summit. Once on the tablelands the elevation gain is only moderate until you reach the summit. Overall, this route has good views and is a decent option if the Roaring Brook trailhead is full.
|Tablelands looking towards Baxter Peak from west (2009)|
Roaring Brook Campground
Roaring Brook is the trailhead of choice for most hikers because it offers numerous route options, including what is probably the best trial in the eastern United States, the Knife Edge.
|The North Basin from Hamlin Peak (2008)|
From Roaring Brook you have two options for trails: the Helon Taylor and Chimney Pond Trails. I suggest taking the Chimney Pond Trail to the summit for a number of reasons. First, in the case of strong winds you can still safely reach Baxter Peak and not have to cross the Knife Edge. Second, you can hike up the very impressive and steep Cathedral Trail, which is suggested that you only take up, not down. Third, you can stop at the Basin Ponds and Chimney Pond at the base of the mountain.
|The Knife Edge from Baxter Peak (2009)|
Twice, in 2008 and 2010, I began hiking up the Chimney Pond Trail, which follows beautiful Roaring Brook for part of the way. Both times I ascended the Hamlin Ridge Trail to the much less visited Hamlin Peak. This route has amazing views of Baxter Peak and the North Basin that most people don't get to see. In 2008 I returned to Chimney Pond via the saddle trail and went back to Roaring Brook via the Chimney Pond Trial. But in 2010 I continued south from Hamlin Peak across the Saddle and up to Baxter Peak.
|Katahdin from the Hamlin Ridge Trail (2010)|
From Baxter I hiked across the Knife Edge, which is the narrow ridge between Baxter and Pamola peaks. For 0.3 mi this ridge is only 3 feet wide with very long drop offs on both sides. The Knife Edge is closed when it is very windy. I descended back to Roaring Brook via the much less scenic Helon Taylor Trail.
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