Hiking in Maine in the Katahdin Region – our favorite hikes

Guests enjoy the challenge of hiking to the summit at Mt. Katahdin.

If you’re looking to hike to the top of Katahdin or simply enjoy a trek through our Maine woods, we can make it happen. Hiking in Maine during any season offers a variety of terrain which highlight amazing views, great exercise and local ecology.

The New England Outdoor Center is located just eight miles from the south entrance of Baxter State Park providing families and friends great access to plenty of trails in the Maine outdoors.

Hiking in the Katahdin Region offers thrill seekers the physical and mental challenge of Maine’s highest mountain, Katahdin, or an enduring trek on the northbound end of the Appalachian Trail in Baxter State Park. Baxter State Park also has over 200,000 acres of trails for hiking, plus campgrounds for visitors that wish to enjoy a night under the stars. Scroll down this page for additional Hikes in the Area.

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Hiking on the Ice Caves Trail

The Appalachian trail: is a 2200 mile footpath that wends its way from Georgia to Maine, ending or beginning (depending on if you’re a north-bound or a south-bound A.T. hiker) on the summit of Mount Katahdin. The AT does not end there – heading through the Katahdin Lake Trail in Baxter State Park and pick up the International Appalachian Trail “IAT” and head to Scotland starting off through The Katahdin Woods and Waters parkland the Regions newest contribution.

All of these trails lumped together will wear out several pairs of boots over the course of several summers for the hiking enthusiast looking for variety and challenge.  Another local hike is in the Nature Conservancy Land, offering a less taxing adventure to the Ice Caves overlooking First Debsconeag Lake.

Guided Hikes

We have Maine Guides on Staff and in addition to that we offer on a daily basis a number of local and enjoyable guided hikes.  The Ice Caves is on of them:  We will travel by NEOC vehicle to Omaha Beach on the Debsconeag Deadwater. This is one of the largest natural beaches in central Maine. From there we canoe approximately 1.5 miles to the entrance to First Debsconeag Lake. One of the three pristine, white sand beaches on the pond will be the stopping spot to swim and have a snack or lunch. Depending on weather and size of the group, access to the trailhead to the Ice Caves will be either on foot from the beach or by canoe across the pond. There is an option of hiking to the top of a bluff with a spectacular view overlooking the First Debsconeag Lake before returning to Omaha Beach by canoe where we will pick up our ride back to NEOC base.

Baxter State Park

There are Hundreds of miles of hiking trails in and around Baxter State Park:  here are a few of the more popular ones, however there are lots of other ones and you should investigate them on the Baxter State Park Authority website.  Baxter State Park is a remote wilderness area.  You need to be prepared to hike there with water, first aid kits, food, flashlights and maps.  Please review the information available via the Baxter State Park Authority website so that you are prepared.

  • Knife’s Edge – Most Difficult for Many – Katahdin is the highest mountain in Maine and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.  Knife’s Edge is a granite edge that has been eroded away and carved by glaciers.  You can access Knife Edges (1.1 mi.) via Dudley from Chimney Pond to Pamola Peak (1.3 mi.). You can also head west from Chimney Pond to Hamlin Peak via the Hamlin Ridge Trail (2.2 mi.) if you want to hike the entire western side of the mountain to the summit. Also from Chimney Pond, you can ascend the Cathedral Ridge Route (1.7 mi.) that runs up the salient ridge just west of Baxter Peak or the Saddle Trail (2.2 mi.) which is considered the easier access route to the tableland. You can also climb directly from the east via the Roaring Brook Campground on the Helon Taylor Trail (4.3 mi to summit). This takes you directly to Pamola Peak and the Knife Edge route to the summit and bypasses Chimney Pond.
  • Baxter Peak – There are many routes to the Summit and generally they involve scrambling from level II to IV classifications of hikes and come from three general directions, north, east and southwest. Coming in from Roaring Brook via Chimney Pond to In the Belly of the mountain sits Chimney Pond, in an area named Great Basin. From this point, you can ascend the Cathedral Ridge Route (1.7 mi.) that runs up the salient ridge just west of Baxter Peak or the Saddle Trail (2.2 mi.) which is considered the easier access route to the Tableland and from there the summit.  From the southwest you can approach via Abol Campground or Katahdin Stream Campground which intersect and head up the Hunt Trail (the northernmost 5.5 miles of the AT). (5.2 mi total).
  • South Turner Mountain via Sandy Stream Pond in Baxter State Park, Maine.  Total Miles: 3.8 Trails: Sandy Stream Pond Trail (0.6 miles) to South Turner Mountain Trail (1.5 miles one way with elevation gain of 1622 feet) to outer loop of Sandy Stream Pond Trail (1.7 miles) back to Roaring Brook Campground.  This trail is a kicker.  It starts off with a beautiful stroll by Sandy Stream Pond (great for Moose sightings) and then swiftly turns into a very active hike gaining elevation and scrambling over rockts and stumps until you reach the summit to enjoy beautiful views to the east and stunning views onto Katahdin to the West.  See the map here
  • Doubletop Mountain is a mountain located in Baxter State Park. As the name implies, the mountain has two peaks; a north peak (3,489 ft or 1,063 m) and a south peak (3,455 ft or 1,053 m). From the north a trail from the Nesowednehunk Campground to the north peak is 3.1 miles (5.0 km) long and another 0.2 miles (0.32 km) to the south peak. From Foster Field, to the south, a 4-mile (6.4 km) trail leads to the summit. The last third of mile (0.53 km) is steep and climbs about 900 feet (270 m)
  • Sentinel Mountain stands in the southwest corner of Baxter State Park and provides what is certainly the best view of the west side of Katahdin and its adjacent peaks. At only 1843′, less effort is required to climb this peak, but the open ledges at the top provide views onto the West Branch of the Penbscot River to the west and all the peaks including Doubletop to Katahdin to the East/Northeast.  From the day-use parking lot at Kidney Pond, the hike is 2.8 miles each way with about an 800′ vertical gain.

Gulf Hagas

  • Gulf Hagas is a gorge located in the Katahdin region in the mountains of central Maine and is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the East. The West Branch of the Pleasant River cuts through the earth for three miles creating a vertically walled slate gorge with numerous waterfalls. A trail follows the rim of the canyon offering hikers views of the falls and its geology. The gorge is 3 miles (4.8 km) long; the river drops 370 feet (110 m) in this distance boasting 130 feet (40 m) walls. Gulf Hagas is one of 14 National Natural Landmarks in the State of Maine, and is open to the public for a fee during the regular season. Gulf Hagas is part of the Appalachian Trail (AT) Corridor. For a short distance the Gulf Hagas Rim Trail follows the AT, a 2,200 miles (3,500 km) hiking trail extending from Georgia to Maine. The section of the AT which goes through Gulf Hagas is called the Hundred-Mile Wilderness. This is the final 100 miles (160 km) of the AT and is viewed by many as the most remote and difficult portion. Most people access Gulf Hagas by driving through Katahdin Iron Works, a State Park and historic site where iron ore was once smelted.  It is a 30 minute drive from NEOC.

Nature Conservancy Lands – Horserace Hiking Trails:

  • Horserace Pond Trail (4 miles round trip) and Blue Trail (5 miles round trip): The parking lot for these two trails is south of the Golden Road, five miles west of Abol Bridge. The turn is an unmarked road at the top of the hill just west of the sign for Horserace Brook campsite. Follow the dirt road several hundred yards and park at the trailhead near Horserace Brook. This trail travels 1/2 mile along a small stream before the intersection of the Horserace Pond Trail and the Blue Trail. Turning right yields a 1.5-mile hike to Horserace Pond. The Horserace Pond Trail continues to meander along the picturesque Horserace Brook that drains the pond, as well as through a stand of old-growth hemlock. The pristine Horserace Pond is surrounded by deep green conifers and granite cliffs and boulders. There are three backcountry campsites on the banks of the pond.
  • Ice Caves Trail (2 miles round trip): This quick, 1-mile trail offers three separate destinations. The parking lot is located at the end of the Hurd Pond Road, a left turn off of the Golden Road immediately after crossing Abol Bridge. Keep left at the fork and drive about four miles to reach the trailhead. The trail leads up and down through granite boulders, leftovers of the last Ice Age’s glacial activity. The first turnoff on the right leads to a scenic lookout, which offers a vista of First Debsconeag Lake and the Debsconeag Deadwater. Continuing down the Ice Cave Trail (left at the fork), will bring you to another fork. Veer right to see the Ice Cave – a deep hole under a jumble of boulders with a cool environment that retains ice sometimes as late as August. This is a great spot to cool off in some of Nature’s best air conditioning. Turning left at the fork will bring you to the shore of First Debsconeag Lake. (As described by the Nature Conservancy at http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/maine/placesweprotect/debsconeag-lakes-wilderness-area.xml.)
  • The Blue Trail is the left fork and is a steeper 2.3-mile hike past Clifford and Woodman ponds, ending at Rainbow Lake. This trail is strenuous, so make sure to bring good shoes and plenty of drinking water. The path leads through some remarkable stands of old-growth forest, and loops around Clifford and Woodman ponds. Rainbow Lake, the terminus of the trail, is the largest of the lakes in the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area, and is a great spot to see Loons and Bald Eagles. It is also one of seven lakes in Maine with arctic char, a native fish related to salmon and trout.  (As described by the Nature Conservancy at http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/maine/placesweprotect/debsconeag-lakes-wilderness-area.xml.)

If you’re looking for a simple day hike or an intense summit of Katahdin, we can help. For more information on hiking and guided experiences give us a call at 1-800-634-7238.

Click here to reserve your Katahdin trailhead parking space.