Climbing Katahdin: A Quick Guide to Maine’s Greatest Mountain
Mt. Katahdin is the highest mountain in Maine. It rises nearly a mile high and serves as the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail (AT). It is a wildly popular climbing destination recognized as one of the world’s best summit hikes by National Geographic.
Make no mistake, climbing Katahdin is tough.
This is not the kind of climb you’re going to jump off the couch and conquer. Climbing Katahdin is a 4,000’ elevation gain. No matter what route you take, it will be a strenuous trek to the summit of Baxter Peak, the tallest of the mountain’s five granite peaks.
You’ll need 8 to 12 hours to complete it so start early and pack a flashlight and a headlamp (actually park rules require you to carry a light on your trek).
Climbing Katahdin will require second to fourth class scrambling for at least a part of it, generally above tree line. Add the obligatory weather changes and you could be in for more of an adventure than you anticipated.
But isn’t that part of the thrill?!
With features like the Knife Edge – a sharp ridge only a few feet wide in places that connects South Peak to Pamola Peak – awaiting you near the top, climbing Mt. Katahdin is an experience you’ll want to repeat.
So if a Katahdin summit is something you need to scratch off your bucket list, here are answers to some questions you probably have.
Where is Mt. Katahdin?
Katahdin resides in Northern Maine, within Baxter State Park, a place set aside and maintained for its wildness. To get there, head over to Millinocket and follow the signs to the state park. Once there, you can navigate to your desired climbing point.
How to I climb Mt. Katahdin?
There are a number of routes to the top. The most popular is the Hunt Trail, a 5.5 mile section from the southwest comprising the northernmost segment of the Appalachian Trail. There are several other routes to choose from, so you’ll want to do your research in advance and pick the one most suited to your interests and abilities. The Baxter State Park website has great descriptions of the various trails along with downloadable maps.
Where do I park to climb Mt. Katahdin?
Parking is one of those little details you absolutely must plan for in advance. In keeping with the wilderness ideal, Baxter State Park limits the number of visitors it allows so there are only so many parking spots. If you don’t plan to stay over in a campsite the night before your climb, you’ll need to apply for a parking pass in advance or risk missing a day if there are no available spots. Don’t worry, all the information you need for parking reservations is available online.
How should I prepare to climb Mt. Katahdin?
The Baxter State Park website is a great resource when planning your Mt. Katahdin hike. In addition to making sure you’re physically fit enough for the trek, there is some gear you’ll want to carry such as a headlamp, space blanket, and extra food and water. This essential gear and a number of other wise considerations are highlighted on the website.
Planning is critical to a successful trip up Mt. Katahdin. Get and study trail and topo maps (also available online). Time your hike so that you have plenty of daylight to get up and back. Understand that getting down the mountain is neither easier nor faster (some say coming down is actually harder on your body, especially after you’re already wore out from the hike up). Set a turnaround time so you don’t get stuck on the mountain in the dark.
The park requires you to register at a gate house upon entry. Here’s where you can make sure someone knows where to look for you should something go wrong. Though it may all seem a bit formal to be making entries into a logbook just to go hike up a mountain, I’m sure everyone who’s ever been rescued with the assistance of that information is more than happy they provided it.
Interested in one of the world’s greatest summit hikes? Katahdin awaits.
A great basecamp for your next climb, our Denney Lodge sleeps 15 and our updated 1800’s Farmhouse sleeps 8 comfortably with all the amenities from home. We also have ATV and snowmobile trails, no license needed, 7 days a week pheasant hunting, a private shooting pavilion and more. Read more here: