View Full Version : Baxter State Park - Places to go besides Baxter Peak

08-14-2013, 09:29
I am getting ready for a trip up to Baxter on Labor Day and have been helping a few folks with trip planning. Most folks think of Baxter State Park as a couple of trails that happen to end up on the summit of Baxter Peak of Katahdin and one of those trails happens to have white blazes on it. Fortunately, there are lot more places to go and things to see at the park that many miss as they rush on out of the park to resume life. Perhaps its best that maybe they make a return trip at a later date but here is a short lists of places to go that arent on the typical AT hikers itinerary.

The Traveler loop in the NE corner of the park at South Branch Pond is a worthy trip. It can be accessed via the internal trail system in the park as an overnight or via the perimeter road (but its a long drive from the south end of the park to the north end). Great views most of the day and some real great views looking south at Katahdin. One caveat is that the traffic in and out of this area is much lower and the usual acces is via the north gate. The odds of getting a ride to the Millinocket bus stop arent great.

Doubletop Mtn - This is great 4 to 6 hour trip with super views, its great for someone to do if they are waiting for a thru hiker to get in the park. The north approach is well graded but a bit out of the way. The south approach has a very steep section near the summit that is as steep as anything you climbed on the AT.

The Brothers and Coe - A long loop hike with great views, the climb down off Mt Coe is via a large boulder slab/slide, not recommended when wet or icy.

Backcountry - There are several backcountry backpack trails the run through the park but unless you can get a car spot you may be backtracking . Of particular interest to hikers are the remote shelters, they are generally located at great places to camp and frequently, the nearest other camper is several miles away. Davis Pond is probably the most remote and if you can score a night there, there is nothing close on the entire AT. The interior trails tend to be old tote roads so the going is reasonable although occasionally wet.

Lesser used ways of heading down from Baxter Peak, There are two trails that head north from the summit to the Russel Pond area. One goes through the Northwest Basin and the other is ridgeline walk over the Howe Peaks, both would add an overnight to the trip at Russel Pond and most hikers would end up on the Wassataquoik lake trail, although some could extend the trip one more day heading up to South Branch Pond. Both of these trails get little use by dayhikers and you may not see anyone until the Pond. Heading to the east towards Roaring Brook is the infamous Knifes Edge, the rarely used for decent Cathedral trail, the Hamlin Ridge Trail and the Saddle trail. The Saddle is a bad weather route and Cathedral is not recommended for ascending. They all end up at Roaring Brook Campground which is a popular trail head on a dead end road. It highly likely that you can score a ride to the main gate and most likely Millinocket at the trail head.

There are numerous shorter hikes many without a lot of elevation gain around the park that would also be good for people meeting AT hikers. Sentinel Mtn near Kidney Pond and South Turner mountain near Roaring Brook both are half day hikes that most can handle with good moose viewing potential. One thing to note is that it is quite difficult to see many views of the park while on the perimeter road, people really need to get a bit of elevation so they can see above the trees.

The major caveat is that you need reservations to camp anywhere in the park. Unless you are there on a busy weekend, you can normally do a last minute itinerary but reservations are not optional, if you do not have them you can try the visitors center at Togue Pond Gate to check for open spots or cancellations. The reservations are on line so there is no excuse for just heading up and hoping The drive up campgrounds around Katahdin may be booked up but generally the sites away from the mountain are less so. Just in case folks haven't heard, there are also day use parking reservations for the three Katahdin trailheads, Katahdin Stream, Abol and Roaring Brook, if you dont have a reservation for a parking space you cannot park at these lots even for a short time. So if you or the folks welcoming you want to have a picnic with a thruhiker when they finish their hike, have them make a reservation or head down the road a few miles to the Abol Pond Picnic Area which has a nice beach for swimming which may be appreciated by those who the hiker is riding with. One other reminder if you are cell phone dependent, the only spot for a signal is up on the summit ridges there is zero cell service in the park down low.

08-15-2013, 09:43
Thanks for the info, I'm staying at a lean-to in Chimney Pond 8/28-9/2 and need all the suggestions I can find. :)

Weather though long range has gotten worse, hope it clears up.


08-15-2013, 09:52
Thanks for the info, I'm staying at a lean-to in Chimney Pond 8/28-9/2 and need all the suggestions I can find. :)

Weather though long range has gotten worse, hope it clears up.


The good news, as you probably know, is that long range forecasts around here, and moreso up there, are wrong about as often as they are right. :)

08-15-2013, 10:02
yeah. I wouldn't trust a weather forecast any older than 2 days.

Doubletop is a beautiful hike with fine views of Katahdin, but basically any mountain in Baxter is fabulous.
Just do it.

08-15-2013, 11:04
I ma up there also so lets hope.

Some opinions on Chimney Pond Trails, Dudley feels straight up the side of Pamola, if you like hopping boulders continuously you will love it, to most it really gets old after awhile. The views are great. Dont do the knifes edge unless its a class 1 day, rarely is it worth it on a class 2 day. Definitely only go up Cathedral, never down. Saddle should be only used for bad weather descents. The top section is quite loose and its real popular, this is a problem as clueless newbies tend to knock rocks loose and they go straight down the trail potentially creating missels for those below. I try to time groups and follow them . Hamlin Ridge Trail is great up or down, dont miss it. Its worth taking the trip over to Pamola Caves, all sorts of fun scrambling, the main gallery is impressive.

Bring warmer gear than you normally would for evenings at Chimney Pond it gets quite cold when the sun goes down and it gets dark quick. Bring a good food bag with a loop on it for the bear line. If you have lots of food bring two as the method used to set the bags on the hooks is a PITA with the wooden pole if the bag is too heavy. There are normally resident moose at Chimney, you may not see them during the day but in the evening you may encounter them on the various trails around the site. I have had a baby moose come begging into my lean to.

08-26-2013, 08:05
Any thoughts on the bugs this time of year? Will I need a mosquito net in the lean to at night?

08-26-2013, 08:12
Bugs are rarely an issue this time of year although there always can be late hatch. Mosquitos will be around near sunset but will taper off quickly as the temps are starting to drop fairly quickly once its gets dark.

A general hint is bring some late fall gear. I have appreciated having a down jacket, a hat and gloves and long underwear at Chimney Pond on the first week of September in the past.

08-27-2013, 12:45
One thing that wasn't clear to me was if alcohol stoves were allowed at Chimney Pond. The Park rules say online "4.3. Fires or other cooking or heating devices are permitted only in designated campsites or picnic areas. At Chimney Pond and Davis Pond, open fires are prohibited and only backpack-type stoves are allowed. The removal of bark from, or the cutting or defacing of live or standing dead trees is prohibited."

I called and the person who answered said they were ok at Chimney pond lean-to's.

FWIW, I'm delaying my travel up till Thursday since Wednesday is supposed to be so wet.


08-27-2013, 13:15
Late Thursday or real early Friday for me. Looks like Monday may be iffy, but some indication it could hold off. With the humidity, it definitely good to get going real early in the AM a the summits tend to attract thunderstorms.

TJ aka Teej
08-28-2013, 19:59
DoubleTop, with a car spot on a nice September day, is as rewarding as any in the Park. Good weather wishes heading your way, Peakbagger!

09-05-2013, 08:54
We went up Thursday and missed 2.75" of rain on Wednesday. :)

Hiked Friday up Dudley to Pamola then knife edge to Baxter Peak. Went down Saddle. Weather was awesome till about 11:00 am then the clouds rolled in but overall the trip was great. At first I said I'd never do knife edge but now I'm looking forward to going again. Ranger Mark said he thought the route we took was easier than Cathedral to Baxter peak. He also said that going down Dudley was easier than Saddle, having seen both I'd tend to agree though we did take Saddle down. Oh and the gap between Pamola and Chimney is pretty intense.

The weather for Saturday and Sunday looked bad, very wet so we left early Saturday and had a dry enjoyable walk down to the car.

Short trip but so worth it, already penciled in next year's dates.

Couple of thoughts from Chimney Pond:
(1) Bear line is tough with heavy food bags, but can be done.
(2) Lean To #5 and most of the older ones barely fit 4 people, it's possible just tight.
(3) Lean To #7 and #9 are the newest and the biggest according to Ranger Mark.
(4) Outhouses are excellent, I actually got changed in one.

It wasn't clear to me that you still had to pay the $14 per vehicle if you were out of state, we brought in two cars and didn't need the day use passes but paid the $14 each for the entire time we were there. No big deal really.

We probably could have done a few other day hikes before the rain rolled in but it was nice to get back to the car dry and head out on a good note.


09-06-2013, 08:10
I did the old Marston Side trail route on Friday. Nice views earlier but eventually I hiked into the clouds. THis trail was abandoned 25 years ago. Too bad as its a really fun slide, open slabs down low transitioning to larger rock field and then swapping over to loss gravel. Definitely an advanced hike due to route finding but worth the trip.