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DayTrip
04-22-2014, 02:39 PM
I was talking with one of our vendors at work this morning about his plans to hike Katahdin this summer and it got me all fired up again to drive up there and do the same (I have never been to Baxter State Park or hiked in ME). I searched some VFTT threads trying to find advice but did not find much (other than a winter post).

I am a solo hiker and would likely drive up and try to stay in a nearby town, hike following day, stay that night and drive home the 3rd day. From what little I've read Baxter State Park has a lot of procedures and requirements and you don't just cruise in there and go hiking. I want to keep this as simple as I can but I realize there will be some leg work involved.

So these are my questions:

1) What is REQUIRED of a visit to hike Katahdin in terms of regulations, permits, etc?

2) Is Millinocket the closest town to stay in a motel or lodge? How much of a "town" is it (i.e. restaurants, bars, gas stations, etc). How far is trailhead from town (looks to be about an hour on Google Maps but I'm not sure if that is where trailheads I want are)? Am I better off camping instead? (I'd rather stay somewhere with a shower and a bed after my 8 hr drive provided the trade offs are not too excessive).

3) What is the best time of year/week to have the best chance of small crowds and be allowed access (from what I have read there are days where a "limit" is reached and access to the park is denied)? It would be a "one shot deal" for me so I would likely plan midweek. How can I guarantee a sunny day for my hike? (Kidding)

4) What is the most popular route? Easiest route? Which of the peak names is the official summit with the sign? (I have no maps to reference and see there are numerous summits along the ring - it appears Baxter Peak is the official summit). Approx times and mileages for the loop of each would be helpful. Best trail map out there?

5) I would really like to do the Knife Edge as part of the hike if it is reasonable length and time. I've seen a lot of photos of it and it does look awesome but also rigorous. Is it mostly PUD or is it serious rock scrambling the whole way? What would be the shortest route to the true summit that would include the knife edge?

6) I doubt I could afford but are there any outfits that provide guidance and/or do all the legwork arranging (permits, booking a campsite, preferential access to the park, etc)? If so, any idea what they charge? I really do not want to do in a group but having an experienced guide along wouldn't bother me.

Any advice anyone has, references to other websites or forums, etc would be greatly appreciated. This trip will be quite an upgrade from my jump in the car day trips so I want to gather as much info as possible before I..well.. jump in the car. Been on the "bucket list" for a long time. Thanks.

David Metsky
04-22-2014, 03:53 PM
1) What is REQUIRED of a visit to hike Katahdin in terms of regulations, permits, etc?
Reservations if you're staying in the park. Nothing if you're outside the park. You just need to get in the gate and have an open parking spot at your desired trailhead.


2) Is Millinocket the closest town to stay in a motel or lodge? How much of a "town" is it (i.e. restaurants, bars, gas stations, etc). How far is trailhead from town (looks to be about an hour on Google Maps but I'm not sure if that is where trailheads I want are)? Am I better off camping instead? (I'd rather stay somewhere with a shower and a bed after my 8 hr drive provided the trade offs are not too excessive).
There are motels in Millinocket, it's a fairly substantial town that caters to hikers. There are also campgrounds. I'll let others opine on which are best.


3) What is the best time of year/week to have the best chance of small crowds and be allowed access (from what I have read there are days where a "limit" is reached and access to the park is denied)? It would be a "one shot deal" for me so I would likely plan midweek. How can I guarantee a sunny day for my hike? (Kidding)
Midweek is best, give yourself at least a few days in case whether doesn't allow a summit trip. Anytime in mid-summer will be busy but with a little bit of flexibility and the willingness to get on line early you should be able to get a spot.


4) What is the most popular route? Easiest route? Which of the peak names is the official summit with the sign? (I have no maps to reference and see there are numerous summits along the ring - it appears Baxter Peak is the official summit). Approx times and mileages for the loop of each would be helpful. Best trail map out there?
There are two main dayhike routes. One is up the Abol Slide and down the Hunt trail. Or up and down Hunt (the AT). That won't get you the Knife Edge however. If you want to get the KE you should park at Roaring Brook and take the Helon Taylor trail up, cross the KE, and down the Saddle trail to Chimney Pond and out. Or, if you're more ambitious, go over Hamlin Peak and down Hamlin Ridge trail to Roaring Brook. That's a bigger day and you'll be above treeline for much of it. But it's the most spectacular trip in the park.

http://www.baxterstateparkauthority.com/hiking/hikeKathadin.htm - this has trail descriptions, maps, etc.



5) I would really like to do the Knife Edge as part of the hike if it is reasonable length and time. I've seen a lot of photos of it and it does look awesome but also rigorous. Is it mostly PUD or is it serious rock scrambling the whole way? What would be the shortest route to the true summit that would include the knife edge?
The route described above will get you the KE. The most challenging part is climbing down to and out of the Chimney. It's steep rock scrambling. IMO, the rest of the trip is just fun easy scrambling/hiking that's not too rigorous. Unless you do it in bad weather, which I wouldn't recommend.


6) I doubt I could afford but are there any outfits that provide guidance and/or do all the legwork arranging (permits, booking a campsite, preferential access to the park, etc)? If so, any idea what they charge? I really do not want to do in a group but having an experienced guide along wouldn't bother me.
IMO, you don't need a guide for Baxter. Getting a campsite for a solo hiker won't be too difficult if you are flexible. You can check availability online and book them just a few weeks in advance. If it's a nice weather day, you won't be alone very long.

bikehikeskifish
04-22-2014, 04:04 PM
There are tons of threads on vftt about Baxter State Park. In short it looks like a lot but isn't as complicated as you might think.

Dave did not mention the DUPR you can but 2 weeks in advance to guarantee a parking spot. I foolishly did this for the weekdays after Labor Day last year and the lots were never close to full.

Tim

peakbagger
04-22-2014, 05:00 PM
Best time of year is late August thru mid September. Many folks prefer the weeks after Labor Day, the crowds thin out and the leaves are turning. Labor Day weekend and the two proceeding weekends can be a zoo.

You are required to buy a day use parking pass to dayhike Katahdin. With the exception of very popular weekends you can buy the at the gate but you have to wait until 7AM to buy them. The gate is open earlier so its generally better to reserve a pass prior to your visit. (no refunds on the passes). If you don't reserve a pass, you may not get the trailhead you want. If you stay in one of the three campgrounds with trailheads to Katahdin, you don't need a day use pass to park. If you drive a car with out of state plates you also have to pay a road fee which I believe is $14.

There are a couple of options for camping closer to the park gate than Millinocket, check out this link http://www.neoc.com/. Nothing wrong with the motels in Millinocket just don't expect high end. If you do want to camp in the park, you have to make reservations in advance and it complicates the trip somewhat up front but cuts a couple of hours off a long day by starting out at a trail head. If you want the AT experience, there is an AT hostel in Millinocket that will shuttle you in and out of the park and offers overnight very rustic accommodations. They will be quite busy servicing thru hikers in later summer.

There is no "easy" route to the summit, all routes have their issues but most would probably agree the Chimney Pond/Saddle trail combination the "easiest". It has a steep sandy slide section sort of reminiscent of the south slide of Tripyramid. Second easiest is arguably Abol, which is one long slide, it has major sun exposure with a mix of terrain, Next up is the AT AKA the Hunt trail, its is very well graded initially but has about a 1 mile section of very large boulders (some the size of large trucks), there are some steel assist bars mounted in the rocks to use to ascend the most tricky spots. Chimney Pond/Hamlin Ridge is nice route but very long for most folks. Hamlin is worth a separate visit. Next harder is Chimney Pond/Cathedral Trail, its not technical but very steep with lots of boulder scrambles, not a great trail is you don't like exposure, Great Gully trail in the whites is a comparison.

The final two are variations that require a trip across the Knife Edge, I would not recommend it to a first timer although many have done it. It has significant vertical exposure and you will need to traverse some very steep vertical sections using your hands. Yes the downclimb into the Chimney is challenging but there are usually folks in the area to help out. My classic route for a dayhike is up Chimney Pond Trail, then Cathedral trail to the summit, then over to Pamola via the Knifes Edge and then down Helon Taylor Trail. This is a very long day for some but it hits a lot of impressive territory (but is quite exposed in the afternoon). If when you are on the summit the weather appears to be going downhill, you can hike down to the Saddle trail as a backup. I would avoid Dudley Trail as an option, it is very steep and is mostly a boulder field. A descent down Dudley puts a lot of stress on ones knees and a hike up it can be real discouraging as half the route is false summits.

One observation is that many folks who grew up in Maine were probably dragged up to Baxter with a youth group usually around the age of 11 to 13. Most survived so climbing the mountain with little experience is possible but it makes for a really long day. I know of some out of shape folks who have taken 12 plus hours and regretted it all the way down. In general despite the lower elevation, a hike up Katahdin is best compared to hike up Adams with terrain similar to Kings Ravine and Airline. For most folks its an 8 to 10 hour day.

Planning a trip to Baxter is tough unless you have some leeway or plan for a few spare days to get a good weather day. Generally Baxter attracts any weather within 100 miles and a rule of thumb is only 1 in three days is really worth climbing. They rate the climbing conditions daily and unless its a class 1 day it can be a cold and wet experience. There are some other nice mountains in the park to visit on Class 2 days and if its a class 3 day, read a book. In general weather and clouds form in the afternoon, so arriving at the park gate early is strongly suggested and summiting before noon is highly recommended. The gate opening times vary over the course of the summer but usually you can get in line and be let in the park while it is still dark and be at the trailhead a little before sunrise.

A general comment is that you need at least a week to hit all the major spots in Baxter State Park. Everyone has Katahdin on their list but once you are up there you will realize that there are lot of other places to go. Unless you are willing to backpack some of the park is out of reach but for most, a trip to Baxter will call for a hike up Doubletop, the Brothers, Fort, Coe loop, Traveler and Katahdin.

One thing to keep in mind is water management has to be considered, there are no AMC huts with wells above treeline. On the west side of the mountain the Hunt trail and Abol goes by "Thoreau Springs" but in late summer early autumn the spring can be a stagnant pool. Plan on bringing extra water.

Daniel Eagan
04-22-2014, 05:43 PM
My wife and I have been to Baxter a few times, camping at the Roaring Brook campsite. We've never had trouble getting a site, although we do go during the week and not on the weekend.

In my opinion a relatively experienced hiker should not have any trouble with the Knife Edge. You just have to focus. We encountered two tricky spots, big steps we call them, and the rest of the route was fine apart from the exposure. Kids passed us in flip-flops.

My recommendation is to do it earlier in the day, then you can decide how ambitious you want the rest of the hike to be. We've gone up the Helon Taylor trail, over the Knife Edge, then Baxter and Hamlin. We came back down the Saddle Trail because we wanted to see Chimney Pond, an awesome site. We've also climbed other routes but that is our favorite by far.

We've stayed in a couple of grungy motels in Millinocket and have come to prefer the Big Moose Inn (http://www.bigmoosecabins.com/) which has rooms, cabins, and tentsites as well as a good restaurant. I think it is the closest place to Baxter Park. Especially after a long drive it will be a welcome place to sleep.

There is a great sandwich shop whose name escapes me right now, it's off the main street and has Italian specialties.

Framerman
04-22-2014, 06:17 PM
I can only give you my perspective and suggestions. I went twice last year. First time they were predicting 90°, clear, and scorching hot. It turned out to be about 80°, cloudy and about 60 mph gusts. The weather is quite unpredictable, so I don't think you can count on anything 100%. The second time we went it was socked in and drizzling. We all agreed after the hike that next time, it may not even be worth going. It's quite slippery. We went down the KE and it got a little hairy at the chimney.

The first route went up the Dudley Trail, KE, then down Saddle. It's well known that the saddle is the easiest, yet it can still be quite tough. Our second trip went up the Cathedral and down KE and Helon Taylor. That's a pretty good trip IMO. Cathedral is quite steep. I wouldn't suggest going down that trail.

I'd get the day use pass just in case. You never know. Also, get to the gate early. It opens at 6, but we were there at 530 and there was a line already. It takes about 5 minutes I guess for the rangers to let each car through, then it's still a good drive to the trailhead. If you get going by 630, you're doing well.

Millinocket...well...some good and some bad. I'd avoid the DD sausage egg and cheese breakfast like the plague. Not good. The hotel...well it's a place to stay. Defintely not 5 star, but it has a bed and hot shower. It's a trip from there to the gate just like you said. Hardly anyone on the roads early.

Unfortunately for us, what we found was that it is like a herd of cattle all heading up to the summit and all roughly reaching at the same time. It gets crowded. September you will start getting through hikers finishing, which makes for some real nice entertainment. It's fun. I'd suggest going during the weekday like you thought. It would be much less crowded. Heading down was like "hi...hi...hi...hi...hi..." so many people.

Have not gone the west side yet, but I heard it's a nice trip as well. No KE unless you backtrack.

And most of all, enjoy yourself and bring some painkillers. :)

DayTrip
04-22-2014, 07:04 PM
There are tons of threads on vftt about Baxter State Park. In short it looks like a lot but isn't as complicated as you might think.

Dave did not mention the DUPR you can but 2 weeks in advance to guarantee a parking spot. I foolishly did this for the weekdays after Labor Day last year and the lots were never close to full.

Tim

I was quite confident there would be tons of threads but I couldn't find under "Katahdin" or "Baxter". I seem to get either way too much irrelevant information or no information. I obviously don't think the same as posters when I search for threads, use the right search terms, etc. Anyway.

DayTrip
04-22-2014, 07:10 PM
So if I'm understanding this right there is only one gate to get into entire Baxter State Park but there are multiple trail heads you would proceed to inside the park? Or is each trail head it's own gate situation with the "show up at 3AM" wait in line affair? And if you stay at one of the camping grounds in the park do you only deal with the gate to get into Baxter once but then you're free to move around at your leisure once inside?

tomcat32
04-22-2014, 07:38 PM
I hike Katahdin regularly and have been up or down every route. If you are looking for the best of, definitely hit the Knife Edge. Easiest to include Knife Edge is up Helon down the Saddle. I would recommend using Dudley or Cathederal only on a climb. If you have the endurance, my favorite loop is up Hamlin Ridge and down Helon. Psychologically, I prefer ending on Helon because it dumps you out just before the trailhead at the end of the hike. The most challenging part of Knife Edge is the Chimney between Pamola and Chimney Peak where there is a short actual climb.
On the other side Abol is shortest route at less than 4 miles to the summit but it steep and loose rock. Hunt Trail is more exposed with better views but longer. There are a few spots with rebar to assist on the jumble of rocks.

Before July 4th I never had a problem getting trailhead of choice even on a weekend if you get there at 6am. After july 4th expect to get a Dupr for a weekend spot. Saturday seems to busier than Sundays. Mid Week I never had an issue getting my trailhead of choice unless it's a holiday. Sept and Oct usually has less hazy skies and crisper views. You can hike after Oct 15th but there is no camping in the park and Knife Edge will likely be closed due to snow.

The closest place to stay outsid of park in the New England Outdoor Center where you can camp for $10 a person At least a few years ago and they have food service at least on the weekend but expect crowds on the weekend since it's a rafting operation.

Millinocket has everything you need minus a quality gear store. A couple motels, a couple fast food places, a couple other places to eat, even a high class strip club. It's about 20 miles from the business part of town to the park.

Like said before allow extra days to account for weather since the summit is often in the clouds.

As far as weather. I'm pretty sure they did away with the class system. Either a trail is closed or it's not and rangers will try to recommend not to use a trail but won't stop you.
unless it's closed.
http://tomcatoutdoors.blogspot.com/2013/06/katahdin-and-hamlin-peak-hiking-maines.html this is a link to a trip report for a loop including Hamlin, up Hamlin Ridge down Helon.

bikehikeskifish
04-22-2014, 08:06 PM
I have the following threads bookmarked from my researching it to go last year. Peakbagger (Dennis) is, as usual, an excellent source of information. He should probably maintain a BSP FAQ :)

Winter-Baxter-Expedition-Advice
Baxter-S-P-Logistics-Help-Needed
Ktaadn
Baxter-State-Park-Day-use-Parking-Permits
Baxter-State-Park-Day-Use-Parking-Reservations-Started-4-1
Katahdin-2009
A-week-at-Baxter-State-Park-%96-September-13-19-2008-PART-TWO
Two-Great-Peaks-in-Baxter-State-Park-(9-7-9-10)-Katahdin-and-The-Traveler
Driving-to-Baxter-question
Baxter-S-P-driving-from-Roaring-Brook-to-South-Branch-Pond
Katahdin-Pamola-Baxter-and-Hamlin-Peaks
Hiking-Katahdin-during-busy-season
Baxter-Katahdin-Brothers-Fort-and-Coe-NEHH

I can't vouch they are all helpful, but between these threads and the BSP site, I figured out everything I needed to know.

Tim

DayTrip
04-22-2014, 08:10 PM
OK. Thanks for those links.

marty
04-22-2014, 08:32 PM
And if you stay at one of the camping grounds in the park do you only deal with the gate to get into Baxter once but then you're free to move around at your leisure once inside?

The Reservation FAQs state the following:

11. Do campers need a Day Use Parking Pass (DUPR) to hike Katahdin?
No, but let the campground Ranger know of your plans the day/night before your intended hiking day. They can provide information on weather and trail conditions and suggest a starting time to leave for the trailhead.

I called the Park Headquarters to clarify that. They concluded that you as a camper do not need a day pass to any of the trailheads, provided that you contact the campground Ranger the day before your intended hike and that you leave for the trailhead by the time the ranger tells you. I asked them if this means I could stay at Katahdin Stream Campground and hike at Roaring Brook without a day pass, as long as I followed the instructions. The answer was yes.

Here is the link for the FAQ reservations: http://www.baxterstateparkauthority.com/reservation/resFAQ.htm

Marty

peakbagger
04-22-2014, 09:56 PM
To comment on Marty's information, that is quite interesting and a change in policy. For at least two years after the day use parking rule went in place, the policy was that if a camper was staying at a campground other than a trailhead campground, the camper had to park prior to when day use users were let in the park. Therefore when I staying at Daicey Pond and wanted to hike from Roaring Brook, I had to leave Daicey in time to go past Togue Pond prior to when the park declared Roaring Brook full (when they block the road). A year later I was Katahdin stream and the same rule was in place. Therefore the park appears to have put in more reasonable policy. Of course the Ranger may just tell you that you need to leave for Roaring Brook from KSC at 4 AM so the policy may not have really changed

With regards to the park entrances, there are two but the north gate is about a two hour drive from the main gate which is Togue pond. If you go on the baxter start park website there is a map of the park and the gates and locations of trailheads. From Togue Pond it about a 45 to 60 minute drive on the parks roads to the trailheads on the east and west side. Thus someone staying at KSC or Abol who wants to hike from Roaring Brook has about a 1.5 hour drive on park roads. If you are outside the park , you wait in line and if you have passes they check you in and send you on your way. On weekends, there will be lot of folks in line so you may wait in line for up to an hour after the gate officially opens for you to actually get on the park roads.

Do yourself a favor go during the week, things go a lot faster and there are fewer folks on the trails

marty
04-23-2014, 08:09 AM
Of course the Ranger may just tell you that you need to leave for Roaring Brook from KSC at 4 AM so the policy may not have really changed

That is a very good point and probably what the Ranger will tell me :). If the Togue Pond gatehouse opens at 5 AM, then leaving at 4 or 4:30 may be the case.

Regards,
Marty

1SlowHiker
04-23-2014, 10:07 AM
You can check my trip reports at http://1slowhiker.blogspot.com/2013_09_04_archive.html and http://1slowhiker.blogspot.com/2013_09_05_archive.html for other options using the bunkhouses. Like you, I hike solo and have an 8 hour drive up (RI) . I drove up and hiked to Chimney Pond bunkhouse my first day then did Baxter & Hamlin via Dudley and the KE on day 2 then stayed at a bunkhouse at Nesowanehunk the 2d and third nights doing the Coe, Brothers, and Fort loop on the 3rd day. (I’m the red dot in one of Tim’s pictures in the last link he posted above. It was my most favorite hike ever. I just went back and checked my trip report and think I may repeat it again in Sept. Also if you stay in the park they will tell you if you go out you have to be back by 8 or 10 but you don't really. The ranger at the gate told me that if i was late getting back to the gate that i could improvise (drive around the gate) wink - wink. Also if you look at the roads in BSP maps keep in mind that they are narrow dirt roads and also used by moose so keep it slow and expect long drives from the gate to the THs.

DayTrip
04-23-2014, 06:47 PM
Great information everyone. Thanks.

So based on all this it sounds like the most convenient option would be to camp at a campground in the park closest to my trail head of choice and go through the festivities at the gate the day prior when it is likely later in the afternoon as I arrive and the morning rush is done. Then I can just get up and start hiking when I am ready (provided I make the time to trail I may be given by ranger). If I'm so inclined I could stay in Millinocket the night of my hike and head back the following day.

Also I recall reading in one of the prior posts on VFTT that there actually is cell service in Baxter, although spotty. Is that accurate? I have Verizon as a carrier. Anyone know how reliable it is? Need to make sure I stay in contact with the wife so she isn't freaking out the whole time wondering if I'm OK or at the base of the Knife Edge (maybe I'll leave out the part about the Knife Edge until it's done and we can just look at pictures).

Lastly, regarding the degree of difficulty of the Knife Edge there seems to be differing opinions to difficulty level here. I've done the 48 4k's in NH and many of the harder trails in the Whites like Huntington Ravine, Madison Gulf and the North Tripyramid slide. Where does the Knife Edge rate compared to these benchmarks? And the boulder fields mentioned on other trails. Are they like The Fan in Huntington Ravine? Not as bad? Worse? I think peakbagger used the reference of comparing it to doing Adams via Airline Trail. Done that route before and it didn't bother me at all difficulty wise. Just trying to get a gauge of exactly the severity. The mention of "The Chimney" you climb down to at the end. What is that like in reference to The Chimney on the Osceolas? Obstacles like this don't generally bother me on the way up but I'm less confident descending elements like that. Any added detail on this would be great appreciated.

OK lastly part 2: anyone have a recommendation on the most detailed map available for Katahdin and it's trails? I assume there is a comparable set of trail guides or maps to what the AMC puts out for the White Mountains? EMS or REI would stock yes?

tomcat32
04-23-2014, 07:30 PM
I definitely get cell service on Katahdin. I know I had service on Park Road between Katahdin Stream TH and the gate and I only have Tracfone. Knife Edge is more going from Pamola to Chimney is most technical part. It's not slabby like Huntington but more of a climb. There are only a couple spots where it is actually 3 feet wide. The Great Basin side is steeper but it isn't sheer drop. A fall would still be bad. Dudley is a steep boulder and scree covered climb, probably too loose to go down in anything but very dry conditions. Cathederal I wouldn't recommend going down but it gives great views into the basin pretty close to the edge. Saddle covers some boulders but the last pitch to Tableland is loose ground but not nearly as steep as the others. Helon Taylor is a long spur down from Pamola covering 3 miles and steepest at top. Some roots and rocks may be needed to grab going up Helon. Hamlin is a little more of a rocky jumble with with great views in the North and Great Basins. Hamlin Ridge is mostly above treeline and requires some hands up the jumbles of rocks. Abol's challenge is loose rock. It is very loose and steep. Near the top it requires some use of hands to get over some sections. Hunt Trail is another spur like Helon or Hamlin Ridge. It is nearly 11 miles round trip up and down Hunt. It has good views into Wetherle Ravine toward the Owl. In my opinion it is my least favorite route. It has several sections of scrambling with Rebar at the worst sections to help climb. I find Huntington Ravine or Kings Ravine not as challenging as most routes up Katahdin with exception of Saddle mostly because Katahdin routes are long. Huntington to me is only challenging for that one stretch where it gets slabby where Katahdin's challenge seem more continuous.

Best map I have came with Maine Mountain Guide. It has all park trails and distances between junctions. This is a great resource if you plan any other hikes in Maine and is very thorough for Baxter Trails.

peakbagger
04-23-2014, 07:57 PM
You are getting close. Pick your preferred route and then pick corresponding campsite that is at the trailhead you want o leave from. Bunkhouses are a nice option for solo hikers. You wont regret heading into the park the day before.

There is zero cell coverage down low, once you are up are at or near treeline you will most likely have Verizon coverage. There really is no coverage once you leave Millinocket down low.

There are several maps available, realistically I don't think anyone is much better than another for hiking on Katahdin. AMCs maps is a good one. The trails are well marked so the maps is mostly useful for planning.

Pretty much across the board the typical Katahdin trail have no equals in the whites. The boulders are bigger and the trails steeper. With the exception of the flat ledge section on Huntngtons ravine trail, Huntington's is easier than most of the Katahdin trails. The knifes edge on a nice day is fun for many, but the exposure is significant. There are usually "chicken routes" around some of the more extreme sections but there are some spots with no options except to crawl on all fours. The final pinnacles prior the chimney require going sidewards on a near vertical slope using four points of contact. There is plenty of texture on the rock to hang onto. The drop down to the chimney is far more intimidating than the Chimney on Osceola. If you are heading from the summit to Pamola it requires either someone to spot you or it requires a "controlled slide" hoping you land on something that you cant necessarily see. There sometimes can be 30 or 40 folks waiting to go through this section and if there are a couple of folks below they can guide your feet to where you need to land. On the other hand I have met folks who had a fine time doing the knifes edge up to the Chimney and they have turned around at this point rather than going down this section. The Adams comparison was mostly with reference to overall elevation gain and length of route

DayTrip
04-23-2014, 08:09 PM
Pretty much across the board the typical Katahdin trail have no equals in the whites. The boulders are bigger and the trails steeper. With the exception of the flat ledge section on Huntngtons ravine trail, Huntington's is easier than most of the Katahdin trails. The knifes edge on a nice day is fun for many, but the exposure is significant. There are usually "chicken routes" around some of the more extreme sections but there are some spots with no options except to crawl on all fours. The final pinnacles prior the chimney require going sidewards on a near vertical slope using four points of contact. There is plenty of texture on the rock to hang onto. The drop down to the chimney is far more intimidating than the Chimney on Osceola. If you are heading from the summit to Pamola it requires either someone to spot you or it requires a "controlled slide" hoping you land on something that you cant necessarily see. There sometimes can be 30 or 40 folks waiting to go through this section and if there are a couple of folks below they can guide your feet to where you need to land. On the other hand I have met folks who had a fine time doing the knifes edge up to the Chimney and they have turned around at this point rather than going down this section. The Adams comparison was mostly with reference to overall elevation gain and length of route

So I should expect long sections of trail like The Fan in Huntington Ravine? And why does one not go up this nasty chimney and go down some other route?? Is there a reason people would prefer to descend here?? As much as I want to do this it sounds like you are probably right not to try first time until I've traveled some of the trails and have an idea of overall layout, terrain, vertical, etc.

DougPaul
04-23-2014, 08:34 PM
Lastly, regarding the degree of difficulty of the Knife Edge there seems to be differing opinions to difficulty level here. I've done the 48 4k's in NH and many of the harder trails in the Whites like Huntington Ravine, Madison Gulf and the North Tripyramid slide. Where does the Knife Edge rate compared to these benchmarks? And the boulder fields mentioned on other trails. Are they like The Fan in Huntington Ravine? Not as bad? Worse? I think peakbagger used the reference of comparing it to doing Adams via Airline Trail. Done that route before and it didn't bother me at all difficulty wise. Just trying to get a gauge of exactly the severity. The mention of "The Chimney" you climb down to at the end. What is that like in reference to The Chimney on the Osceolas? Obstacles like this don't generally bother me on the way up but I'm less confident descending elements like that. Any added detail on this would be great appreciated.

It has been a while, but:

I wouldn't worry about the KE. I've done it in the rain in summer and in the winter. The vast majority of it is an easy walk. The only remotely difficult section is the short climb from Chimney Notch to Chimney Peak. It's a bit of a scramble requiring the use of hands, but not difficult and is well marked. There are a few bits of exposure so some intolerant hikers may have (psychological) difficulty. I don't recall crawling on any of it...

Might be worth avoiding in high winds or thunderstorms.

The Boulder Field on Dudley is just a boulder field. Slow and requires the use of hands, but not particularly difficult. I've been up and down it in the rain.

The guidebooks are overly cautious because a few people have difficulty. There are a number of threads assuring potential first-timers that it can be done by mere mortals...

Doug

DougPaul
04-23-2014, 08:35 PM
So I should expect long sections of trail like The Fan in Huntington Ravine? And why does one not go up this nasty chimney and go down some other route?? Is there a reason people would prefer to descend here?? As much as I want to do this it sounds like you are probably right not to try first time until I've traveled some of the trails and have an idea of overall layout, terrain, vertical, etc.
Ascending the Chimney is a technical route.

Doug

bikehikeskifish
04-23-2014, 08:39 PM
https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-7Ib-b-4AMTY/UisaQKSMx8I/AAAAAAAAG8o/zvz5RTMloFU/s800/IMG_2115.JPG
Descending from Pamola into The Chimney

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-SiNOQtXlVBo/UisaTuYZFtI/AAAAAAAAG9Y/nCxkT_qJfR4/s800/IMG_2127.JPG
Short better-not-fall zone

It's much less scary than it's billed, as noted above, to ward off the uber casual hiker.

Tim

DayTrip
04-23-2014, 08:46 PM
Wow that chimney is quite a scramble! I would not want to go down that. I assume it has no bypass - you must go up or down it? Nice pics Tim. Thanks.

TJsName
04-23-2014, 10:18 PM
Awesome pics! IIRC, I actually thought the scramble down into the col from the Knife Edge was more challenging than the one on the Pamola side. The Pamola one was fun, easy climbing. Might be more challenging for a shorter person though.

Stan
04-23-2014, 10:49 PM
If you are an avid hiker I suspect this won't be your last trip to Baxter. Since I was peakbagging 20 years ago, we've gone back every two years. There is more to the park than Baxter ... though that alone earned three trips for me ... and it is worth getting to know the ropes.

If you can add one more day to your trip, it could give you a bad weather backup plan and afford you the opportunity to become more familiar with the Park. Look over the trail guides and pick out a plan B.

I like earlier in the summer as much as late summer, mainly because of more daylight. Then again, I'm not as inconvenienced by biting insects as some others ... due mostly to a series of measures to minimize the aggravation.

BTW, I think Woodstock is a beautiful town ... took my family there for Easter dinner.

DougPaul
04-24-2014, 01:57 AM
Awesome pics! IIRC, I actually thought the scramble down into the col from the Knife Edge was more challenging than the one on the Pamola side.
It is.

DT: you must pass through Chimney Notch.

The picture is foreshortened and looks steeper than it really is. After you do it, you will probably wonder what you were worried about...

Doug

bikehikeskifish
04-24-2014, 07:35 AM
Might be more challenging for a shorter person though.

I had no difficulty at 6'3". Shorter people have fewer options. At no point did I feel I was in trouble, nor did any of the people I was with nor the others that were there with us that day. I don't recall reading or hearing about any serious injuries or fatalities here either.

If you've done Durand Ridge, Six Husbands, Caps Ridge, Huntington's, etc., you will be fine.

Tim

peakbagger
04-24-2014, 09:11 AM
I actually thought the scramble down into the col from the Knife Edge was more challenging than the one on the Pamola side I agree, no comparison

My reference to the "controlled slide" is not in the photo. It would be about 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Rarely do a I see a line form to ascend or descend the area in the photo as there are several options and plenty of features to grab onto. There almost always a line on the other side of the Chimney as there is only one way to go with no other reasonable options. The line is mixed blessing, it means that there are usually helpful folks to assist people through the tight section, unfortunately there are also morons who try to push there way through. As there is only room for one person, the morons can inadvertently push a nervous hiker into getting even more stressed and they can freeze up. I have had to assist a couple of times getting someone who is darn close to frozen down over this section. In one particular case I and a couple of companions had to inform a group that was trying to push their way through they had three options, back off and give people space, turn around and find another route or jump. They were pissed but they did finally shut up and back off and then it took about 15 minutes to work a frozen hiker down through. Another great reason for leaving as early in the morning as possible as the moron factor seems to increase as the day goes on.

Billy
04-24-2014, 12:52 PM
Another perspective. When I hiked Katahdin, I went up Cathedral, across the Knife Edge, and down Helon Taylor. For pretty much the entire hike I played leap-frog with a group of 20'ish year old girls, one of whom had a prosthetic arm. So she did Cathedral, Knife Edge, and the Chimney notch with one arm. She was about 5'3''. She didn't need to do anything magical. She just took her time and used the available hand holds. Just another data point for those who are concerned about the difficulty level.

Mike P.
04-24-2014, 03:57 PM
You should be fine. I need to get back there, only been back once since the late 1990's.

There was a Best Western in town & another motel with a pool and hot tub which was nice after hiking. As others said, mid-week is best. Give yourself a few days. Since you've done the NH48, after Katahdin, you may be back for Hamlin & North Brother, the other 4K peaks. (Coe, Fort & South Brother are on the NE 100 highest.)

Ponds along the way to the Brothers are great moose spots and Sandy Stream Pond, near Roaring Brook and on the way to South Turner, is almost a guarantee moose sighting. (South Turner's summit view of the Katahdin Basins made the photo credits in Forest & Crag)

My two trips up Katahdin was an up and back from Roaring Brook using the Saddle Trail the day before the 7/4 holiday years ago & I was able to show up at 7:30 and get in. (Those days are likely gone) The other was a trip up Helon Taylor, across the KE and then over to Hamlin & down Hamlin Ridge. If you can pick a perfect day, I'd reverse that second trip. Only issue I have with BSP (it's a tin issue) is that all day hikers start about the same time as they enter the pack about the same time. Trails to the top are about the same distance so it can get crowded on the top. (Not Washington crowded) Doing Hamlin first would get you to Baxter Peak after many have left, it may put you in the PM Thunderstorm part of the day though.

Besides the Brother's Loop, OJI. The Owl, South Turner and Double Top are worthwhile too. IMO, in the East, there is BSP and then everything else.

TJsName
04-24-2014, 06:23 PM
It's much less scary than it's billed, as noted above, to ward off the uber casual hiker.

It is worth noting that if you have a fear of heights, there are a few sections that might give you the willies. This is now something I ask people before hiking with them. One of the friends we brought across turns out wasn't too keen about heights, but even he made it!

bikehikeskifish
04-24-2014, 09:53 PM
It is worth noting that if you have a fear of heights, there are a few sections that might give you the willies.

Probably not any more so than some of the harder WMNF trails mentioned throughout this thread. It is probably the most-challenging, commonly-used route to a NE67 4K. But, it gets done 1000s of times per year.

Tim

sleepy_mike
04-25-2014, 08:50 AM
The ranger station at the park entrance does not have electricity, so entrance fees must be paid in cash. They do not accept credit cards.

DayTrip
04-25-2014, 05:56 PM
I'm not afraid of heights but I wouldn't categorize myself as an accomplished rock climber or scrambler. I've done the hardest trails in the Whites but I don't exactly go flying up them without a moments hesitation. I'm more deliberate because of my lack of agility. Sheer vertical is my biggest problem because my upper body and hand strength is poor. On Huntington Ravine I personally find the smaller chimneys and scrambles well up the head wall to be far worse than the huge flat ledge after the brook crossing at the beginning. If the terrain is jagged enough to get a good grip I'm generally fine.

Printed a bunch of stuff off Baxter website yesterday and stopped at EMS for a few maps and the AMC Guide for Maine. The more I read about this the more I think I'm going to make this happen this summer.

TJsName
04-25-2014, 06:17 PM
Probably not any more so than some of the harder WMNF trails mentioned throughout this thread. It is probably the most-challenging, commonly-used route to a NE67 4K. But, it gets done 1000s of times per year.

Tim

I think it was the precipitous drop off to the sides that was getting to him. It's different thank going up something that really steep like 6 husbands, because you're not really going up or down a lot - just across the very narrow ridge. I haven't done the Airline trail yet, but I'm excited to know that it warrants a comparison!

DayTrip
04-25-2014, 06:40 PM
The Airline Trail (on Mt Adams I assume we're talking) is very scenic but is quite tame. Would be nowhere near by 10 toughest for the Whites. I was pretty disappointed with it as a comparison to Katahdin. Nice trail though.

DayTrip
04-25-2014, 07:24 PM
You can check my trip reports at http://1slowhiker.blogspot.com/2013_09_04_archive.html and http://1slowhiker.blogspot.com/2013_09_05_archive.html for other options using the bunkhouses. Like you, I hike solo and have an 8 hour drive up (RI) . I drove up and hiked to Chimney Pond bunkhouse my first day then did Baxter & Hamlin via Dudley and the KE on day 2 then stayed at a bunkhouse at Nesowanehunk the 2d and third nights doing the Coe, Brothers, and Fort loop on the 3rd day. (I’m the red dot in one of Tim’s pictures in the last link he posted above. It was my most favorite hike ever. I just went back and checked my trip report and think I may repeat it again in Sept. Also if you stay in the park they will tell you if you go out you have to be back by 8 or 10 but you don't really. The ranger at the gate told me that if i was late getting back to the gate that i could improvise (drive around the gate) wink - wink. Also if you look at the roads in BSP maps keep in mind that they are narrow dirt roads and also used by moose so keep it slow and expect long drives from the gate to the THs.

Finally got a chance to review your links. Thanks! These were invaluable for seeing what the terrain is like and will be great planning resource. What a mountain!

Raymond
04-26-2014, 01:02 AM
Note that the water in the park is untreated, so you may want to bring as much as you can from home.

The roads are rough, so you can’t make good time. Twenty or thirty minutes to get to Roaring Brook, I think, and it’s only about eight miles from the Togue Pond gate. Probably at least that long to drive to Abol or Katahdin Stream campgrounds.

There’s a gate up north, too, but it’s that much farther away, of course, and I don’t recall any real town at that end. Not very close, anyway.

I haven’t been there since 2006, but I think that if you camp in the park, you pay the entrance fee once, and it’s good for the length of your stay, whether you actually camp there each night or not (but you’d have to have paid for each night as though you were camping). If you stay outside the park, you pay each day when you enter.

I don’t think you’re supposed to use any electronics at all, although I saw a ranger wearing earphones once. They must have been plugged into something.

I wonder if the Google Street View car has been up that way.

Mike Z
04-26-2014, 07:57 AM
I canoed the Allagash years ago. We left form Baxter and were on the river for a week. What I can tell you is, be prepared for rain and thunder at any time. It down poured every night with thunder and lightning. I think we went 4th of July week.
Mike Z

dug
04-26-2014, 08:06 AM
Just a side note, the Rangers can and do "close the mountain" if there is poor weather. We were there on Columbus Day weekend a few years back, and with rain forecasted they closed all trails on the mountain.

We went up anyway mid-morning, and as we reached the Tablelands it was socked in. On the way down, still on the Tablelands, the wall of clouds blew away and we saw the most amazing views we've ever seen. Sadly, we never got to see the Eastern side (and Knife Edge) up close.

MikePS
04-26-2014, 01:47 PM
I went up 30 years ago, got hooked and Have had the good fortune to make it to BSP every year since, including a dozen trips over KE. I have an increasing fear of heights, making it more difficult now to traverse KE, but it is certainly doable, especially in decent weather. For me, I can only go up from Pamola, not down the knife, that may just be me. Great advice so far, I would echo any chance you have, to extend your trip, to protect against a bad weather day and/or see more of the park. If you are at all a camper it is definitely a better option to be in the park and avoid the gate issue on the day you hike Baxter peak. Also a better feel for the park. Doubletop is a great mountain with great views at the mass of Katadhin. I have spent time hiking in the west, Wyoming, Utah, the Dakotas, Colorado, as stated above BSP is closest similar experience in the east, a magical place. I would recommend the guide book sold on the park website-originally written by Steven Clark, decent map, good descriptions of park trails, excellent primer for the park. Several basic motels in town, AT Café is a great breakfast spot (opens early), Good luck and have fun

ctsparrow
05-08-2014, 11:21 PM
Better late than never to add my two cents! If you are going to camp outside the park try to get as far away from the roads as possible. The logging trucks are brutal, loud and frequent and start very early. Be prepared for very persistent critters in campgrounds in or out of park, especially lean-to's. Chimney Pond I have seen chippys in packs within minutes of setting them down, take advice re:hanging food on bear lines seriously. Have a filter for pumping water even if you are not camping in park, you will go through ALL your packed water on these long hikes. Cabin bunks at Chimney Pond were awesome, the cabin is relatively new, you can reserve online after Maine residents get first dibs, but I got a night for myself and my son-during the week- within a month of our visit. We did Hamlin (have gloves for rough rock grabbing no matter the trail) to tablelands to Baxter and down the Saddle. Rocks on Saddle super loose at the top, to shiny really worn down, slippery if wet slabs lower down. There is a nice small stream, usually dependable clear cold water on way out on Saddle, or you can hit Chimney Pond to pump water for the way out. Spring at top on Hamlin was non-existent, slimy when we were there. Check postings ahead of your dates for updates on water sources.
Also, highly recc. additional days, so much to boot plant on with amazingness all around. Butt sliding off of Coe, views from so many peaks.
My first attempt for Hamlin/Baxter was seriously rained out by remnants of a hurricane one Sept. Only having one day to hike is rolling the dice, especially considering the remoteness of it all. Enjoy!!