View Full Version : Where to camp/hike in Baxter...?

The Unstrung Harp
05-15-2011, 05:35 PM
A friend and I will be spending 3 days next month in Baxter SP. We've got our bug nets and DEET so hopefully we won't get carried off...

Just wanted to ask your opinions on where to camp. I usually like Katahdin Stream since I usually like to go up Hunt Trail, but this time I think I'd rather do some other stuff --a little shorter/a little less intense/great views would be fine -- so figured maybe we ought to camp elsewhere.

What do you-all recommend? I've done Katahdin a bunch of times, Coe & Brothers, and several of the flatter/short trails (Blueberry Ledges and such, I think?). What about Doubletop, OJI, Owl, etc? How long/intense/beautiful are they? Traveler loop looks fun but I think we might not be up for it this time....then again, having never tried it, and it's not on my map, I welcome input.

Thanks for any recommendations, and any light you care to shed. :)

Jay H
05-15-2011, 05:45 PM
how about camping at say one of the ponds on the west side of Baxter and then you'll have the option for Doubletop, OJI, the Owl, etc..

And for some nice peaks that you didn't mention, consider hiking Sentinel or if you're on the east side or just a dayhike, South Turner...


05-15-2011, 06:03 PM
I would heartily recommend to you or to anyone to camp at Daicey or Kidney Pond in one of the cabins. This puts you in a beautiful location with amazing water views, the option to canoe or kayak (available on-site for a whopping $1 rental fee), and excellent hike options directly from your doorstep. Plus, you have a doorstep. Still no electricity or running water, of course, so bring your lanterns and water jugs.

From Daicey it's a beautiful walk out to the old dam and down along Little and Big Niagara Falls. I believe you can also hike directly up to Sentinel?

From Kidney you have even more options, as not only are a series of little ponds scattered through the woods north of the campsite (including at least one with a canoe), but also the trail to Doubletop, which has amazing views across to the Brothers and Katahdin itself.

You're also in a great position to drive to the Mt. OJI trailhead or the Marston Trailhead to visit the Brothers, Fort, Coe, or OJI. If you like slabby, steep slides, OJI has a terrific one. Go up it, love the open viewpoints just before the summit, and head down the other side, out the bottom of the Coe Slide (careful, the black lichen is slippery as teflon). Or hit the other peaks ... they all have open summits and majestic (really) views.

The next best thing to hiking Katahdin is hiking the peaks with open views of Katahdin. :)

Jay H
05-15-2011, 06:50 PM
Yup.. Sentinel is on one of the ponds. I know I've hiked in winter before, solo, after one of Arm's trips and before meeting Chip to climb Katahdin.. Hiked from Abol Bridge, breaking trail for most of the way. Sentinel is off of Kidney pond but I think I remember going around Daicey to get there though I know I missed a turn off when I hit the road and hiked the long way around Kidney pond to get there..



05-15-2011, 08:01 PM
Double Top, OJI, Sentinel and the Owl, all great hikes !
All less intense, with nice views.
Probably, what you're looking for.

However, consider South Branch.
Not much more of a drive, if any.
The Travelers Loop is not to be missed.
One of the best hikes in the northeast IMO.
South Branch Mt. and Black Cat is a nice hike too!

Have fun and good luck with the bugs !
You are braver than me...

TJ aka Teej
05-15-2011, 10:08 PM
Up and over DoubleTop, north to south, with a car drop.
The Owl, neglected with a spectacular summit.
Traveler Loop. South Branch is a gem, stay at the walk-in sites, bring your kayaks or canoe.

The Unstrung Harp
05-16-2011, 06:05 AM
Thanks for all the ideas and info.

How long is the Traveler Loop, and is it really that much less intense than, say, Hunt Trail of Katahdin? I was under the impression that it was still a fairly serious full day and possibly more than we are up for. We have some health issues we need to stay wary of and are not looking for the biggest/baddest stuff. Would rather err on the safe side. Any thoughts on how Traveler fits in with this?

We will be carpooling so no car drops this time. If we do Traveler and stay at South Branch, is there other awesome stuff we can do from there? My point (sorry I wasn't so clear about it) is that we hope to have one base camp and not have to re-pitch in three different spots.

Not familiar with Black Cat -- anyone have specs on that one? About how long is Doubletop? Guess I can google it but it's more interesting to hear you-alls answers.

....Although, Sentinel sounds really sweet, around 6 miles with great views, so maybe we'll stay at or near Kidney Pond. Really looking forward to checking out some of the slightly lesser known gems of Baxter.

Thanks again, and feel free to keep the ideas coming.

05-16-2011, 06:59 AM
hey--subjective stuff and strictly my opinions...

from S Branch Campground (which also has nice canoeing on 2 lakes @ $1/hr fee)

Traveler Loop - one of my favorite hikes, but it's fairly strenuous--maybe 10 miles, probably 8 hours for average hiker?-superb views as much of hike is above treeline-best done counterclockwise, down Pogy Notch Trail and up to "Center Ridge", the Traveler, then S. Traveler--the stretch from Pogy Trail to Center Ridge is fairly steep/relentless over big rocks--Center Ridge to Traveler is mostly in open over various types of rock with a small knife edge type section, but NO exposure like on Katahdin, great views, some of best in park --Traveler to N Traveler is mostly rock, scrub, excellent views--N Traveler back to S Branch has steep sections, nothing really bad, , superb views

N Traveler from S Branch is a great hike on it's own-not too long, some steep spots (NO exposure)--very, very good views during entire second half of hike

Black Cat--OK, but i have never been a fan of this one--lots in woods, nice views for a bit once you crest, start down the backside if you're looping down around the lakes and back the Pogy Trail-probably serious bugs

Barrel Ridge-less strenuous hike -almost nobody does it; good, unique views during hike and on ridge-make sure to have decent directions as it may not always be obvious--

can drive to and do shorter hikes with good views from top on Trout Brook, Burnt (very short/mellow with real out there feel from top on Burnt.... really), etc --Horse no longer has much of a view
Owl -is an excellent hike with great views toward K up higher, but does have a jumbly rock section near top (no exposure)

OJI- even the south slide "might" be a bit strenuous?, i think it's more exposed than say Coe Slide, especially if wet--IMHO, stay off the North Slide

Doubletop--been many years since i was up there, but i remember it as great views from top(s), maybe a bit steep going up? (nothing bad)

Sentinel--maybe i was having a grumpy day when i was up there, but not a fav of mine

there's a good chance the blackflies and skeets will be bad even beyond what you expect
leantos/tent sites are up to $30/night--out of state entrance fee is now $14/car

PM me if you want more


The Unstrung Harp
05-16-2011, 04:40 PM
Yet more great info - thanks!

How is the South Branch campground?

What about a couple of there-and-backs: North Traveler for one day, and then South Branch Mtn for the other? Then misc. canoeing and checking out some waterfalls for the partial day. Just typing this makes me want to douse myself in a cocktail of Lewey's and DEET...

Anyway - both of these sound like interesting/rugged terrain but short enough that we can really take our time and hopefully soak up some awesome views.

I know No. Traveler has a pretty open summit, what about South Branch?
(We'd probably ascend from the north, go to the summit or a bit beyond depending on how open/awesome it is.)

Just thought of one more questions. We'd been planning on tents, but maybe we would be better off in bunk houses if we can get them, due to bugs. Anyone know if they are enclosed, or if they are just lean-to type things?

05-16-2011, 05:57 PM
Whatever you do, you do not want a lean-to during bug season. If you have a lean-to, you are explicitly not allowed to set up a tent of any kind on the ground. No screen room, nothing. We managed to squeeze the interior netting portion of our tent up *into* the lean-to, which was allowed, but still a pain in the tuckus.

05-16-2011, 06:37 PM
Double top is one of my favorites 8 mi rt, on the South side the last 1/2 mi is a very, very steep section to the top, two or three tricky spots in the "chute" that require caution. the rest is a lovely walk in the woods. North side is longer but not quite as rigorous. Fantastic views of Kt, and the Allagash. Traveler loop is a solid 8hour day hike, equivilant to a similar day in the whites- Franconia loop, Adams or Madison. So Branch is a nice campground with some waterfront leantos- not sure what you may have available next month w/out resv already. Tends to be more Maine families than the hiker centric Roaring Brook. A nice take. Agree with South branch, Owl & So Turner as three great shorter hikes.Even shorter with credible view of Kt is Burnt Mountain. The view from So Turner is unique in the park. BTW, If you go to So. Branch, don't miss a swim in So Branch falls, a quick flat 1/2 mile walk to a neat cascade and pool. Good Luck and have fun!

05-16-2011, 07:11 PM
i really like S Branch campground and yes it is more family centric and more laid back, fewer hard core hikers---drove 11 hours from far upstate NY with my family to spend a week there for 5-6 years in a row-swimming in lake is cold, but really nice-now zip up there when i want to do Traveler Loop or for a few days with my wife-there are a lot of nice tent sites, most leantos are pretty close to the water, but are "growing in a bit--there are some leantos in the "back" of the campground--bunk house is enclosed building

N Traveler is 5.4 miles RT and top isn't just sorta open, it's waaay open--also nice very open ridge walk on the way--if you've never hiked it, you need to---bit steep and more closed in coming up first mile from campground, but from there it's very, very nice

Black Cat (see my above post) is the south peak of South Branch Mt--the north peak (often called just S Branch Mt) is about 2 miles from campground, the south peak (Black Cat) is about 0.5 easy miles further and has FAR superior views--if you've gone that far, a loop around Upper S Branch Pond (may involve dancing on a beaver dam and back to camp via the Pogy Notch Trail might be fun?--my 3 girls did this hike when very young

another shout out for Burnt, tiny, but worthwhile

Canoeing in Lower S Branch Pond( which is right at campground)and Upper S Branch Pond is fun--you can float/pull a canoe between the two--be careful the wind isn't blowing too hard in a southerly direction or getting out of the connecting water's "corner" from Upper back into Lower and back toward camp is a bear--superb and i mean superb views floating around Upper SB Pond (you'll want to just hang there)-- so try to go, you will not be sorry...and $1/hour for canoe...


05-17-2011, 06:52 AM
South Branch Pond has some spectacular leantos along the pond and one walk in site. The rest of the sites are tent sites and they are nothing special, no views, just gravel pads along a dirt road. The traveler loop is a long day.
The big issue with South Branch Pond is that its a very long drive from the rest of the park. Plan on about 2 hours from Katahdin Stream via the tote road. When looking at the map, you will think 2 hours is a misprint, but the tote road is slow, bumpy and curvy. Its is just as fast to go in via the North Gate fo the Park. I havent been to Nesourdahunk for many years but it is usually a quiet place somewhat closer to trailheads on the west side of the park.

05-17-2011, 08:52 AM
The best part of South Branch Pond is that there are tons of options for fun. Everything from short walks in the woods to full day rambles above tree-line. There have been many good suggestions already so I won't repeat them. You can just to there and pick something depending on how you feel that day. The bunkhouse is an actual bunkhouse with bunks (no mattresses), an indoor picnic table, a wood stove, and a counter for meal prep.

If you do go for a paddle while you are there (highly recommended) just after you get into Upper South Branch Pond (farther one) pull over at the base of the rock face on the west side (paddler's right) and scramble to the top for some good views.

Some easy walks near the campground include South Branch Falls and the Ledges. Another easy, but a bit longer (~ 2 mi), walk worth taking is to go visit Howe Brook Falls at the base of the ridge between N. Traveler and The Traveler. I'll also reiterate how great Barrel Ridge is. If you are up for some modest bushwhacking (think gentle terrain and mostly open hardwoods) check out Big and Little Peaked hills on either side of the Middle Fowler Trail. The views from Big are quite good.

If you do go to South Branch, and unless you really want to see the Park from the Tote Rd (and you'll mostly be driving through forest cover with occasional interesting glimpses) do yourself a favor and drive there via Patten, Shin Pond and the Matagamon entrance. I love driving the Tote Rd. but time is probably better spent getting the great view of Katahdin from Patten and getting to your campsite earlier.

Also, don't overlook Roaring Brook for some easier options. You can hike up S. Turner (fantastic views in all directions), go down to Katahdin Lake (short drive to trailhead and then 3.3 or so miles each way) and check out the sites from the lake, the new Martin Ponds loop. there is a canoe down there for rental, too. Paddle out to the island and look back at Katahdin - you won't be sorry.

have fun!

05-17-2011, 09:43 AM
If you do go for a paddle while you are there (highly recommended) just after you get into Upper South Branch Pond (farther one) pull over at the base of the rock face on the west side (paddler's right) and scramble to the top for some good views.

Yes, and if you are really looking for a thrill, there are some nice ledges right on that same side that you can jump off into 60 feet of water. :cool: We found three nice spots (roughly 15, 35 and 45 feet jumps), where we did not have to worry about pushing off. Just a straight jump. It was a ton of fun to do when we were young. Alas, those days are long gone. Would probably break three bones doing the 45 foot jump these days. :rolleyes:

By the way, the Upper S. Branch lean-to is an amazing place to camp, if you are willing to put in the effort. We used to fill a canoe with camping stuff, paddle across both ponds and stay there for several days there. Pure paradise.

I also agree with Buckyball about N. Traveler. It is an amazing hike for the effort.

Enjoy your time there, if you go!


05-17-2011, 10:18 AM
How long is the Traveler Loop, and is it really that much less intense than, say, Hunt Trail of Katahdin? I was under the impression that it was still a fairly serious full day and possibly more than we are up for. We have some health issues we need to stay wary of and are not looking for the biggest/baddest stuff. Would rather err on the safe side. Any thoughts on how Traveler fits in with this? We did the Traveler Loop a few years ago and it's one of my favorite hikes in the northeast. It's around 10.5 miles with over 3500 feet elevation gain. I remember a big climb at the beginning that we took care with (some loose rock), but overall I didn't think it was too bad (we took our time - I was close to 7 months pregnant at the time). Some pictures from the hike are posted here: Baxter '07 (http://www.pbase.com/pudgy_groundhog/baxter)

On our first trip there we camped at Nesowadnehunk and South Branch Pond and hiked Sentinel Mountain, Doubletop Mountain, The Owl, and The Traveler Loop. All were nice hikes. Sentinel is definitely the easiest (and a high view to effort ratio). Doubletop is shorter (6.5 RT I think), but pretty steep. I remember the Owl having some sections where I took extra care.

On our second and third trips we had cabins at one of the ponds (one time Daicey and one time Kidney). If you aren't sure about hiking the Traveler Loop, I would aim for staying at one of these ponds. There are shorter hikes nearby and the ponds are very pretty (plus you can canoe). btw, we also hiked OJI and that one had some pretty steep sections/places to take care (especially on the slide). I would say only do that one if it's dry.

TJ aka Teej
05-17-2011, 07:50 PM
We have some health issues we need to stay wary of and are not looking for the biggest/baddest stuff.
I suggest Roaring Brook Campground for a base camp with some fun hikes.
You can hike out to Sandy Stream Pond for a great look up at Katahdin across the pond and then possibly continue up South Turner Mt. If you don't go all the way up to the 360 summit, there's an open area short of the summit with unmatched views.
You could also hike into Chimney Pond, a very rewarding leg stretcher along an interesting trail.
South of Roaring Brook off the tote road there's the Katahdin Lake Trail over new bridging and along an old corduroy pack road. The Martin Pond lean-to is less than 2.5 miles in and is a hidden treasure. Rent the canoe at the gatehouse or Sandy Stream. Go all the way in to the old camp for a taste of old timey Katahdin.
More than enough good walks to keep anyone busy, without committing to an all day strenuous mountain climb.

05-17-2011, 08:48 PM
BSP is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get.
That's the only problem.
You make reservations and you are stuck with them.
If you get three stellar days in a row, it's great but, very rare.
So you have to make sure if it's worth the trip out.

Although I've never stayed at the ponds, I'd say that's your best bet.
Plenty of short hikes to do. save south branch and the travelers for later.

Like MJ said, I would not want a lean-to during prime bug-season.

Also, if you plan on doing things like the Owl or South Turner. You will have to reserve a day-hikers parking spot at that locations. otherwise, you could be sol.

05-18-2011, 05:46 PM
Daicey Pond. Last year I stayed there for a week. We had 4 class 2 days & 2 class 1 days. I was disappointed with Sentinel (however, I did it on a class 2 day) (agree with Buckyball). The two class one days I did the Coe-Brother Loop and the other I did an up the Abol and down the Hunt loop. For class 2 days, I was impressed with the loop I did right from the cabin. I hiked south on Lost Pond/Foss & Knowlton Pond Trail to AT & then back north on AT to the cabin. This was a 11.5 mile terrific hike on a rainy day. Another hike to the Owl without bothering about day parking pass is to take the southwest shore around Daicey Pond to the AT and go to the Owl and return by way of Tracy & Elbow Pond Trail (former AT). (If wet, just go as far as Katahdin Stream Falls). On both of these hikes get key for canoe use for Foss & Knowlton and Elbow Pond the evening before from the ranger. Another hike up & back same route but avoids use of cars is to hike on Sentinel Mt. Trail to Kidney Pond and then attack Doubletop from the south. Return from Doubletop via Kidney Pond there are alternate routes. You can shorten the hike by driving to Kidney Pond, but the easy 2 mile approach walk along the ponds is nice. Also. note that there is limited parking at Daicey Pond. 2 cars per cabin, but you can park extra cars further down the road where AT crosses the access road. Always have rainy day back up plans as you should consider yourself lucky if you get one class one day out of the three days you are there.

The Unstrung Harp
05-19-2011, 09:59 PM
Thanks again, everyone. Leaning toward South Branch since I've never been there. We'll see what the weather does... I'll be sure to take lots of pics. :D

Going to do Ragged Mtn in midcoast Maine a few times in the coming weeks to wake up the quads a bit. Better that than nothing, and it's close enough that I can fit it in... feel free to shoot me a note if anyone is in the area and wants to tag along.

Thanks again!!