Baxter State Park's 200-plus miles of hiking trails range from simple strolls to the arduous climb up Mt Katahdin. For an easy day hike from the Togue Pond gate, try the mile-long walk to Katahdin Stream Falls, or the pleasant 2-mile nature path around Daicey Pond.
Climbing Mt Katahdin
Reaching the summit of Baxter Peak, better known as Mt Katahdin (kuh-TAH-duhn), is on the bucket list of many New England hikers – and for good reason. Ascending Maine's highest peak (elevation 5267ft) is one of the most challenging and rewarding day hikes in the state – particularly if you get here via the harrowing Knife Edge trail.
Don't underestimate this hike, as there have been fatal accidents over the years (most died from falls or lightning strikes). Make sure you're in good shape and adequately prepared. On the morning of the ascent, check the weather report at the ranger station; if rain or high winds are forecast, don't go. Start out early, as you'll need eight to 12 hours to complete the hike.
There are a number of ways you can get to the top, with trails leading up from Abol, Katahdin Stream and Roaring Brook campgrounds. All are rated by the park as being 'very strenuous' and will involve some degree of scrambling over boulders above the tree line.
The most popular route is the Hunt trail – also the final section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) – which leads up from Katahdin Stream. This 5.2-mile (one way) hike involves a 4188ft elevation gain and takes you past the scenic Katahdin Stream Falls. If you do the hike from late July to early October, expect to see some AT thru-hikers (those who've already hiked the 2000-plus miles from Georgia).
The hardest way to get to the top involves taking the 3.2-mile Helon Taylor trail (starting at Roaring Brook) up to Pamola Peak, and continuing via the Knife Edge for the final 1.1 miles to the summit. This last bit lives up to its name, as you'll be traveling along a narrow rocky traverse (4ft wide in part) with steep drop-offs on both sides. It's more of a technical hike, and you'll need focus and agility. Those afraid of heights should not attempt it.
If coming during the busy season (June to September) Katahdin hikers must reserve a parking spot at the trailhead ($5) via Baxter State Park's website (www.baxterstatepark.org; not required if you're camping in the park). Be sure to register at the gatehouse before the hike, and after you've returned safely.