Friday, September 13, 2013

Mt. Katahdin - Baxter and Hamlin Peaks

Mt. Katahdin
STATE: Maine
TOWN: Baxter State Park
DESTINATION: Mt. Katahdin - Baxter Peak, Hamlin Peak
ELEVATION: 5268 feet, 4756 feet
Baxter SUMMIT COORDINATES: N45 54.268', W68 55.311'
Hamlin SUMMIT COORDINATES: N45 55.452', W68 55.640'
TRAIL: Helon Taylor trail, Knife edge, Saddle trail, Hamlin Ridge trail, Baxter cutoff, Abol Slide
DISTANCE: 12.5 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 3170 feet
HIKING TIME: 6 hours 30 minutes
SEASON: Summer
DATE: August 2, 2005

PARKING: Entrance to Baxter State Park currently requires a $14.00 day use fee (for out of state guests) which can be paid at a main entrance gatehouse.  A limited amount of cars are allowed in each parking area and it is recommended to arrive very early to ensure you are "on the list".  From the Togue Pond gatehouse follow the Park Tote road northeast about 8 miles to Roaring Brook campground.  Parking is available for approximately 50 cars.

USGS QUAD: Mount Katahdin Quad

MAP: (Katahdin - Baxter Peak) (Katahdin - Hamlin Peak)



DESCRIPTION:

From parking at Roaring Brook campground head towards the ranger cabin and follow the Chimney Pond trail 0.1 miles to the Helon Taylor trail junction.  The Helon Taylor trail climbs moderately through a mixed forest 0.5 miles to the crest of a ridge. The trail levels off for a short distance passing some large boulders providing great views and passing through scrub trees. At 2.0 miles you reach tree line before an exposed, ruthless and relentless climb of Keep Ridge eventually reaching 4919 foot Pamola Peak after 3.2 miles.  A narrow ridge with jagged peaks  known as the Knife Edge leads 1.1 miles to the Baxter Peak summit. The knife edge is a precarious hike where, in places the trail is only 2-3 feet wide with thousand foot drops on both sides of you.  It's intimidating, scary and one of the most spectacular mountain trails I've ever experienced. Take your time over this extremely challenging 3/4 mile of trail and enjoy the height, cliffs and exposure reaching Baxter south peak then turning northwest following the ridge another .35 miles to the highest point in Maine - Katahdin, Baxter Peak. The summit is marked with a well worn triangular KATAHDIN sign.

Descend the well worn Saddle trail over gentile slopes following cairns 1.0 miles to the saddle between Baxter and Hamlin Peaks and the junction with the Northwest Basin trail.  Ascend Northwest basin climbing 500 feet vertical over 1 mile distance to a junction known as Caribou Spring.  From Caribou Spring follow the Hamlin Ridge trail a short 0.2 miles to Hamlin Peak, the second highest point in Maine.

There are several trails that descend in an easterly direction towards Chimney Pond and the Roaring Brook parking area.  I had the benefit of a car spot and the ability to traverse the mountain descending the Abol Trail to Abol Campground on the West side of Katahdin. I would not recommend this route unless you have a more than your feet as a means of transportation.

Return via Hamlin Ridge to Caribou Spring and follow the Northwest Basin trail descending to the Saddle trail junction.  Ascend a few hundred feet to the Baxter Cutoff and follow the elevation contour around the cone of Baxter Peak 0.9 miles to a junction known as Thoreau Spring. Descend Abol Slide down the Southwestern side of Katahdin. The slide is dangerous due to loose gravel, extreme steepness and sore legs after a long day of hiking, use caution. Steeply descend a huge boulder field then continue descending a bare slope 1.3 miles to the foot of the slide.  The trail enters the woods and follows Abol stream to a old carriage road distributing you at the back of Abol Campground. 

TRAIL DISTANCES:

HIKING DISTANCES
DESTINATION
DISTANCE TOTAL DIST.
Chimney Pond trail - Helon Taylor trail 0.1 miles 0.1 miles
Helon Taylor trail - Tree line 2.0 miles 2.1 miles
Helon Taylor trail - Pamola Peak 1.2 miles 3.3 miles
Knife Edge - Baxter Peak 1.1 miles 4.4 miles
Saddle trail - Northwest Basin trail 1.0 miles 5.4 miles
Northwest Basin trail - Hamlin Ridge trail 1.0 miles 6.4 miles
Hamlin Ridge trail - Hamlin Peak 0.2 miles 6.6 miles
Hamlin Ridge trail - Northwest Basin trail 0.2 miles 6.8 miles
Northwest Basin trail - Saddle trail 1.0 miles 7.8 miles
Saddle trail - Baxter cutoff 0.8 miles 8.6 miles
Baxter cutoff - Thoreau Spring junction 0.9 miles 9.5 miles
Abol Trail - Abol Campground 2.8 miles 12.3 miles

HIKING TIMES:

HIKING TIMES
DESTINATION
TIME TOTAL TIME
Chimney Pond trail - Helon Taylor trail 5 minutes 5 minutes
Helon Taylor trail - Tree line 55 minutes 1 hour
Helon Taylor trail - Pamola Peak 1 hour 2 hours
Knife Edge - Baxter Peak 45 minutes 2 hours 45 minutes
Saddle trail - Northwest Basin trail 30 minutes 3 hours 15 minutes
Northwest Basin trail - Hamlin Ridge trail 40 minutes 3 hours 55 minutes
Hamlin Ridge trail - Hamlin Peak 5 minutes 4 hours
Hamlin Ridge trail - Northwest Basin trail 5 minutes 4 hours 5 minutes
Northwest Basin trail - Saddle trail 20 minutes 4 hours 25 minutes
Saddle trail - Baxter cutoff 20 minutes 4 hours 45 minutes
Baxter cutoff - Thoreau Spring junction15 minutes 5 hours
Abol Trail - Abol Campground 1 hour 30 minutes 6 hours 30 minutes

NOTES / COMMENTS:

Baxter State Park is over 200,000 acres of wilderness land donated to the State of Maine to be preserved for wildlife and woodland related activities.  Baxter State park is a unique and fascinating place that I recommend using a long weekend to explore the vast wilderness. It contains several picnic areas, almost a dozen campgrounds, the highest two mountains in Maine, Mt. Katahdin - Baxter Peak and Hamlin Peak and arguably the best hiking experience in New England.

I spent the weekend at Abol Campground and enjoyed the benefit of driving the park Tote road before the Togue Pond gatehouse opened for the day.  This amenity also allowed me the benefit of a non-hiking partner who willingly dropped me off at Roaring Brook in the morning allowing me to fully explore Pamola peak, the Knife Edge and the summit proper of Katahdin.  I conveniently descended the Abol trail directly to my campground.

The trail junction with the Helon Taylor trail
 
 A view up Keep Ridge from the Helon Taylor trail

 Baxter Peak from 4919 foot Pamola Peak

Views from Pamola Peak
 
The Knife Edge
 
 The highest point in Maine, Katahdin - Baxter Peak
 
Katahdin, Hamlin Peak
 

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