“Man is born to die. His works are short-lived. Buildings crumble, monuments decay, wealth vanishes. But Katahdin in all its glory, forever shall remain the mountain of the people of Maine.” - Percival Baxter
Named Mount Katahdin, meaning “The Greatest Mountain,” by the Penobscot American Indians, this scenic mountain is many things to many people including the northern end of the Appalachian Trail and the highest point in Maine at 5,270 feet above sea level, but above all it is a gift to the citizens of Maine.
To highpointers and peakbaggers, Katahdin is one of the most difficult hikes in the eastern part of the country. Eight main trails of varying difficulty can be climbed, the easiest of which, the Hunt/Appalachian Trail, has a mile-long scramble up 1,000 feet over a boulder field. Iron rungs have even been added to assist climbers on the scramble in its most difficult parts. The Hunt Trail runs 5.2 miles up to the summit, known as Baxter Peak, and almost half of the hike is above the tree line. Climbers on this route might also see hikers who have hiked all the way up from Georgia, with this the final push toward their Appalachian finish.
To hikers, Katahdin is the northern end of the Appalachian Trail. The trail is usually hiked from south to north, starting at Springer Mountain, Georgia, starting in March or April and finishing on Katahdin in late summer or early autumn. Hikers wishing to complete the trail may opt to be “section-hikers,” who hike the trail one section at a time over a period of years, or “thru-hikers,” who complete the trail in one months-long hike.
To Mainers, the Katahdin climb is a rite of passage. Governor Percival Baxter, heir to a large real estate and fish canning fortune, bought the land around the mountain and deeded it to the people of Maine. Now known as Baxter State Park, the park’s mission is to be left as wild as possible. It has its own Authority and is not part of the Maine system. It has its own regulations. There are no paved roads, gas stations, or electricity in the park. Access is controlled through reservations, of which Maine residents get first choice. Maine residents also enter the park for free. Visitors should make reservations online or be at the Togue Pond gate well before it opens at 6 AM to enter the park.
To photographers, Katahdin forms a backdrop for incredible nature and wildlife photography. Fall foliage peak is typically in early October. Winter blankets the mountain and surroundings with snow. Over 180 types of birds have been sighted in the park.
To mountaineers, Katahdin is a challenging winter climb, has many rock climbing areas, and is also home to the Knife Edge. This ridge connects Pamola Peak with Baxter Peak and is completely exposed. In places the ridge is only three feet wide. There have been fatalities on the ridge due to falls and exposure.
Know Before You Go
For the Hunt / Appalachian Trail, from Millinocket, ME, go 18 miles to the Togue Pond gate house. On entering, turn left and drive 7.7 miles to the Katahdin Stream campground. Hike 5.2 miles to the summit.