Katahdin Mountain is one of the most breathtaking hikes in the Northeast. The terminus of the Appalachian trail, it represents the final conquest for thru-hikers; for day hikers, it’s a chance to feel on top of the world for a few hours. Clocking in at 5,269’, it’s also one of the tallest peaks you can bag in the Northeast.
This is a mountain that demands your respect. Unpredictable weather, craggy peaks, slippery rockslides, and overflowing streams are a “good” day on the mountain. But your reward for the summit is stunning 360-degree views across pure Maine wilderness, snacking on a PB&J while watching bald eagles circle overhead. While there’s no hike that’s not labelled “strenuous” or “extremely strenuous,” those sore muscles will be worth it.
How to Get to Katahdin Mountain
Find your way to Maine, the way life should be, to hike Katahdin. Part of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, the best way to reach it is through Baxter State Park in Millinocket. The good news? You’re so far north that the exits on 95 become really easy to navigate. Millinocket’s is Exit 244.
The nearest airport for Katahdin is Bangor International Airport, about an hour and a half away, but you’ll still need a car to get to Baxter State Park.
Where to Camp Near Katahdin Mountain
The best way to conquer Katahdin is to camp overnight and get an early start. The park gates close at 8 PM and don’t reopen until the next morning, so it’s best to get a campsite within the park if you can.
While there’s plenty of places to camp within the park, Baxter State Park offers three amazing camping choices that will give you the best chance of hiking the mountain early. None of the campsites have hookups or electricity and you’re not allowed to bring your own firewood — you can purchase some in the park — so if you want to be the first to the summit, you’ll have to think rustic. Baxter has a Leave No Trace policy, meaning you should plan on packing out anything you pack in. You can book any campsite in the park over the phone or online here.
Chimney Pond Campsite
The first campsite is Chimney Pond, a backcountry campground about 3.3 miles from the Roaring Brook campsite. It’s a gorgeous spot in a little valley that offers 9 lean-tos and a 10-person bunkhouse.
Roaring Brook Campground
If you’re not up for hiking in with your gear, the next best option is Roaring Brook Campground, the most popular to hike Katahdin Mountain. From Roaring Brook, you have the option of multiple trails up the mountain. You’ll have 9 lean-tos, 10 tent sites, a 10-person bunkhouse, and 3 group sites for 14 people. It books up fast, almost as soon as it opens six months out for the summer hiking season.
If you miss out on Roaring Brook, never fear — Abol, at the base of Abol Slide, is the next best option for hiking Katahdin. It offers 12 lean-tos and 9 tent sites and is a bit of a drive down a dusty dirt road to get there. The biggest difference between Roaring Brook and Abol is that with Abol, you’ll only have one option for trails to the summit, so it can be more crowded.
Campsites not your thing? There are some small motels and B&Bs in Millinocket like the Baxter Park Inn, but it’s 45 minutes from the closest trailhead on Katahdin, so plan accordingly.
Where to Eat and Stock Up on Supplies
Millinocket is a fairly sleepy town built up around logging and the outdoors. You can find most major camping supplies in town, including groceries at Hannaford’s on Route 157. If you’ve forgotten any important gear, you can grab it at the Katahdin General Store. You should pass both if you’ve come from the highway.
If you’re not ready to cook over an open fire, you’ll find great diner fare — the kind of stumble-into-wonderful sandwiches, whoopie pies, and more — along Route 157. Try the Appalachian Trail Café or the Loose Moose Bar & Grill.
Katahdin Mountain Trails: An Overview
There are no bad trails up Katahdin — everything is truly breathtaking. However, there is a wide range of difficulty and length you’ll want to pay attention to while planning your hike.
From Roaring Brook Campground
The Knife’s Edge
The most famous — and spectacular — of Katahdin Mountain’s hikes, the Knife’s Edge is gnarly. There’s no other way to say it. If you don’t like heights or aren’t into climbing on your hands and knees with a thousand-foot drop below you, then do not attempt this trail. If you’re game for an adventure, though, it’s seriously rewarding. If you want to hike the Knife’s Edge, then you’ll need to take the Helen Taylor Trail to Pomola and then continue on to the Knife’s Edge.
Chimney Pond Trail
If you’re not taking the Knife’s Edge up the mountain, then your other option is the Chimney Pond Trail. For those staying at Chimney Pond Campground, you’ve already hiked this bit! This is a lovely wooded trail moving up and around boulders and streams. It connects with Saddle and Cathedral.
Saddle spends a lot of time in the woods, but once you pop out onto the side of the mountain, it’s unforgettable. It feels like magic among the clouds on the ridge for your final ascent to the summit. Compared to the other trails on the mountain, Saddle is significantly easier, though it will make for a longer day.
Cathedral is a direct route to the top, but it’s classified as a technical route. Meaning: If you like rock climbing, you’ll probably like this hike — and if it’s raining or slick at all, you should avoid it. Things get steep pretty quickly, but your payoff is that much sweeter when you pop up at the summit.
From Abol Campground
From Abol, your trail choices are much more limited. The Abol trailhead is right off the campsite and is about 4 miles straight up to the top of the mountain. Be sure to come back the way you came unless you’d like to hitchhike back to your car at the Abol Campground.
How to Spend Your Time When Not Hiking Katahdin Mountain
Katahdin is just one of many epic mountains in the area. If you’re planning a longer trip, consider smaller hikes around Sandy Stream Pond or the other lakes in the area. Take a dip, go moose-spotting, or grab a fishing rod for a relaxing day by the water. You’ll also find the Penobscot and Allagash rivers plenty of fun for whitewater rafting or kayaking. No matter what type of outdoorsy adventure you’re interested in, you’ll be able to pursue it in Maine!
Have you ever hiked Katahdin Mountain? Tell us your tips below!