Mount Katahdin is not only the tallest point in Maine, but also completes the northern end of the Appalachian Trail (which starts all the way down in Georgia). The total mileage is between 7-10 miles (11-16km) depending on the trail, and requires scrambling to get up at some points. Definitely be prepared before starting this hike!
For more comprehensive information on the park and preparing ahead of time, check out this Baxter State Park Ultimate Guide. Day parking passes and campgrounds can run out days in advance, and you won’t be able to enjoy the highlights of the park without doing this research in advance
QUICK NOTES ON HIKING MOUNT KATAHDIN
- Hiking Route: Hunt Trail up to the summit & Abol Trail down (quickest and most direct route to summit)
- Hiking Duration: 8-12 hours
- Parking: There’s a $15 gate pass for non-residents, which can be purchased here or at the gate (cash only). Parking reservations are required for all Mount Katahdin trail heads (see the note below for further parking details)
- Starting on Abol Trail – reserve for Abol Campground
- Starting on Hunt Trail – reserve for Katahdin Stream Campground
- Best Time to Hike: July – September
NOTE ON PARKING SITUATION FOR MOUNT KATAHDIN TRAILHEADS
Day Use Parking Reservations (DUPR) are required for anyone who is hiking Mount Katahdin and is not already in the park the night before. For non-residents, there is a $5 fee, and can be purchased up to two weeks before your hike. I would recommend doing this as soon as possible – my friend and I weren’t able to buy one, but thankfully we were in the park the night before and the lots didn’t fill up. Parking reservations expire at 7:00AM, so be sure to get there on time.
If you aren’t able to get a reservation, first-come first-serve starts to fill at 6AM from the Togue Pond Gates entrance. There’s a good chance of getting one of these, but no guarantee.
MY EXPERIENCE ON MOUNT KATAHDIN
This was day 2 of my 10-day Northeast hiking trip with my friend Katie, and our 2nd day in Baxter State Park. We arrived at the Katahdin Stream Campground close to 5:30AM to eat breakfast, pack or bags, and get ready for the adventure ahead. The campground has some picnic tables, 2 bathrooms, and a ranger station.
We also hiked Doubletop Mountain on our 1st day, and would recommend for a less-trafficked and less intense hiking option!
THE ASCENT – HUNT TRAIL
The first few hours were fairly easy, and even had a beautiful waterfall around the 1 mile mark. Certain parts follow along a stream, so it can get muddy at some points. Right as the treeline ends, the trail gets pretty intense. One of the first few boulders you encounter has a metal bar attached. You’ll need to hoist your entire body over it to reach the next section. After that, there’s also a couple sections with metal footholds to help you reach the ridgeline.
Now comes the tricky part! The Hunt Trail goes into full-body rock scrambling mode at this point. This part of the trail is definitely fun for those who have experience and like scrambling. But if you’re like me – and have no experience with scrambling – just remember to take it slow and steady. Other people we passed didn’t seem to have any problem with the trail markers, but we had a few slowdowns here and there trying to find the next marker. Once you approach the end of the ridgeline, don’t forget to celebrate! It’s about another mile or so to hit the actual summit, but there’s minimal elevation gain left.
THE DESCENT – ABOL TRAIL
Our initial plan was to take Hunt back down, but we went with Abol after the tough time we had on the ridgeline. It gets really steep toward the top of the trail, so we spent a lot of time on our butts at the beginning of our descent. Once at the Abol campground, it’s another 1-2 miles back to Katahdin Stream Campground. If you’re going with two cars, I recommend leaving one at each site so you can carpool back to the beginning. Otherwise, we ended up walking along the road for about 40 minutes which wasn’t too bad.
I definitely recommend a quick dip in the stream back at Katahdin Stream Campground as a nice and refreshing way to end the hike. And don’t forget to sign out of the logs to notify the rangers you finished your hike.
Overall – don’t underestimate this hike. Bring lots of food and water, start early, and don’t forget to check-in and check-out. Even though it’s tough (and scary) and certain points, you won’t regret it at all when you’re soaking in the 360 views up top. And when you can tell others you summited the highest point in Maine! Let me know what you thought of the hike below!
ARE YOU PLANNING YOUR OWN HIKING ROAD TRIP THROUGH NEW ENGLAND?
There’s plenty of articles and resources on the site to help you best prepare for your own adventure! Check out the 1-2 Weeks Ultimate New England Hiking Road Trip Guide to get a comprehensive look at the region, or read some article highlights below:
Want to make your own epic road trip adventure but don’t know where to start? Check out these
8 Simple Steps to Planning a Hiking Road Trip that will bring you from a basic concept all the way to your final checks before heading out.