Mount Katahdin - Trip Report

Trail Distance: 10.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 3778'
Terrain Rating: Moderate to Above Moderate
Hike In: 6:45AM
Hike Out: 3:30PM

At the summit of Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park. This is the terminus of the Appalachian Trail!

Trailhead: Roaring Brook Campground. Parking Reservation necessary.

On a rainy, cold Friday in Northern Maine's "summer season," we ascended Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park. I have been trying to climb this mountain for 3 years now, but I've never been able to get a permit. BSP restricts out of state residents day use parking permits. Weekends are likely to be filled up, so unless you're a Mainer, your best bet is to use some vacation days to hike Katahdin. The forecast was in the 60s with 50% chance of rain. It ended up pouring for our entire 9 hour hike, but it was still a great adventure nonetheless!

Our route from Roaring Brook Campground was to start up Chimney Pond Trail. There are outhouses available at both Roaring Brook and Chimney Pond. The 3.3 mile trek up Chimney Pond was a nice, gradual introduction to Katahdin. There is a quick lookout to Basin Pond about half way in. Once you reach Chimney Pond, there is a nice overhang to fuel up with snacks and water. We stayed here for about 10 minutes.

Heading up Mount Katahdin's Cathedral Trail

From there, we went up Cathedral Trail, the famed rock scrambling that makes Katahdin one of the best hikes I have ever done. Although I am adjusted a bit, I am still not a super fan of the rocky terrain that is the White Mountains. Katahdin, however is a little different. It's more "get on your hands" scrambling than climbing up rocks like you're on the StairMaster. I had an absolute blast scrambling up in the pouring rain. If anything, the rain made it more fun. When we were almost up to the summit, a lot of folks were getting cold from the rain.

I'll make a small tangent here to say that most of the rain gear out there is not even close to guaranteed. Out of a group of 8, only 2 people had waterproof rain jackets that actually kept them dry. My NRS Sea Tour rain jacket, which I have only had for 2 years, was soaked in 1 hour. After this trip, I stopped by the Freeport Outlets to pick up a more expensive rain jacket that I hope will work better in the future.

Once we were at the summit, most of us were pretty cold. We took some time to heavily re-fuel before snapping a few summit photos. Hiking up Katahdin was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. If I were hiking solo, I think I could've easily finished this in 7 hours. We originally had planned on Knife's Edge, but given how cold most of the group was and the pouring rain, we decided to descend via Saddle Trail. I plan to come back and do Knife's Edge, so maybe I'll change the difficulty rating from a B to A then, but for now, I would say it's moderate to above moderate! You don't need to be an experienced hiker yourself to hike Katahdin, but you need to be with at least a few experienced hikers to help you out.

Saddle Trail is a little steadier than Cathedral. There are still some short scrambles where you might need to get on your hands and knees, but other than that it was just a downstairs walk. Once Saddle Trail hooked up with Chimney Pond, we were in a rush to return to our cars. The 3.3 miles back to Chimney felt like the longest 1+hour of the day. Completely drenched, we happily drove to the Millinocket McDonald's to refuel on cheeseburgers, fries, and ice cream sundaes.

Gear Specs:

  • 2L of water
  • 5 bars
  • Steak and cheese quesadilla
  • Salmon X ULTRA MID 2 hiking boots (waterproof protection did not hold)
  • Fjallraven G-1000 hiking pants (waterproof protection did not hold
  • Topodesigns Mountain Pack (waterproof protection did not hold)
  • Icebreaker Merino Wool shirt
  • Extra clothes packed away: socks, 2 midlayers, BUFF headband
  • Emergency Gear: Map & GPS, Headlamp, reduced First-Aid Kit, Swiss Army Knife