Climbing Mount Katahdin

I didn’t intend to climb to the summit of Mt Katadhin this week, it just sort of happened. But that’s ok, I needed to hike to the northern terminus of  the Appalachian Trail eventually and things just worked out.

Mount Katahdin from Darcy Pond
Mount Katahdin from Darcy Pond

Hike: Mount Katahdin (Baxter Peak)
Location: Baxter State Park, approximately 300 miles north of Boston, outside of Millinocket, Maine
Route: The Hunt Trail
Mountains: Mount Katahdin (5,201 feet)
Elevation Gain: 4,200 feet
Distance: ~10 miles, round trip
Available Water: Streams below treeline, filter required.

Mount Katahdin is really awesome. I’m sure I’ll be back to climb it again and some of it’s sub-peaks and surrounding hills. It’s a challenging climb, intimidating even, despite the fact that the mountain is only slightly above 5,000 feet in elevation.

Mount Katadhin's Neighboring Peaks
Mount Katadhin's Neighboring Peaks

I climbed up and down on the Hunt Trail. This is the last 5 miles of the 2,178 miles that thru-hikers need to walk to complete the Appalachian Trail. Katahdin is certainly a sublime end to such a enormous endeavor.

The Hunt Trail, Mt Katahdin
The Hunt Trail, Mt Katahdin

Climbing Katahdin is really a climb and less of a hike. The first 3 miles are very steep and hard scrambling is required. Once you hit treeline, it’s best to stow trekking poles to free your hands because you need to use them to climb up the exposed ridge to The Gateway. It’s an exciting climb, especially coming down in the rain when the rock becomes very slippery!

Steep Section leading to The Gateway
Steep Section leading to The Gateway

Scary too. I met a teenage girl who’s father had left her to climb the mountain without her when she became to scared to continue. She had insisted that he continue without her, but was shivering and weeping in an alcove of rock below the steepest point of the ascent. It reminded me of a time when I watched my father swim way out from shore in Atlantic City to retrieve my beach ball when it washed away in the waves. I was afraid that he wouldn’t return and remember crying in terror when he disappeared over the horizon. I tried to console her, but she was hurting. I did catch up to her dad though and talked to him. Later I saw her smiling and climbing again with him.

Katahdin Alpine Zone
Katahdin Alpine Zone

Once past the vertical climb, you come to a flat tableland that leads across an alpine zone to the summit cone. From here, it’s about a two mile walk in full exposure. The day I was there we had intermittent breaks in the clouds, but the mountain was pretty much socked in. Still the blazing is good enough that you can see the path except in a total whiteout. I wouldn’t count on the cairns though; they are quite small and hard to see in the mist.

Philip Werner at the summit of Mount Katahdin
Philip Werner at the summit of Mount Katahdin

At last, I reached the summit and got my very own Katahdin Victory shot. It’s still premature because I have about 1200 miles of the Appalachian Trail left to hike, but a section is a section. I was also happy to be around other people, thru-hikers and even some section hikers who were finishing the entire trail that day. One day, I’ll finish it too.


  1. Sweet! I can't think of any mountain that is as awe-inspiring as Katahdin. Even the presidential range, as far as I'm concerned, pales in comparison. I'm glad you made the trip.

  2. I need to go back and hike it again, the sub-peaks, the knife edge, and some of the surrounding peaks. The Owl, for example, looks like a terrific climb. I agree with you. Katadhin is even nicer than the Franconia Ridge Trail, which is probably the most scenic walk in the Whites.

    The back story is that I couldn't find the Golden Road and Abol Bridge, so I drove into Baxter instead and bagged the 15 AT miles in the park including Katahdin. By then, I'd figured out how to get to Abol so I could hike down into the Wilderness and finish my last 26 miles there, too. Trip report in progress. Met some really nice thru-hikers and had a wonderful trip.

  3. Katadhin is no joke…I can't recall the exact trail we took, it was supposed to be more challenging that another, and boy was it. It was a vertical rock scramble the entire way. Kicked my butt! Great pics!

  4. Very jealous- but my goal is to do Katahdin "last" so it will be a number of years before I see the summit!

    Off with RevLee to do the Smokies in September to start plugging the "hole" in our trip.

  5. Nice photo Phillip…I'm hoping to be up there next year on final section hike to complete the AT. After that I can go back a re-hike some of my favorite sections.

    What sections are left for you to complete the AT?

  6. Hey JJ – I've got a hard 75 mile stretch left in Southern Maine, and then everything from the Delaware Water Gap in NJ to Springer Mountain left. I'm hoping to do another long section this spring to help move things along. Lots of places I want to hike besides the AT though, even though it keeps drawing me back.

  7. I have from Springer Mtn GA up to Great Barrington MA finished, hoping to finished the remaining MA, VT, NH ME next year. Yeah there are a lot of other trails I want to hike too, but I've set my sites on finishing the AT first.

  8. My group and I hiked Katahdin via the Hunt Trail the day before you apparently! We had a bit more sun for the summit but caught the afternoon thundershower with a few miles left to go on our descent. I grew up hiking in the Whites, but Katahdin blew me away. Our trip Sunday (and now this blog!) makes me want to consider section hiking the AT. Hope to catch your talk at the Boston REI in September!

  9. Cool – it's worth doing. Come say hi to me at the talk. I love meeting readers at these events.

  10. Just curious; what was the date of your climb? I did the climb on August 3rd. Your pictures bring it all back. Eric know as Pilgrim67

  11. I think it was Monday August 15th – I kind of forget about calendar dates and days of week when I go backpacking. Sounds like we missed each other.

  12. We hiked it on Friday the 19th! It was the hardest thing I've ever done! Took ME 15 hours round trip, with legs that wanted to stop working on me…. but I did it! Good luck on finishing the AT!

  13. Hi Phil. Thanks for the report. I’m climbing Katahdin in two weeks with my sister, her family, my brother, and our Dad. Cheers! Kirby.

  14. I did K with my father in the late summer in the early 60s when I believe the Abol slide trail was the end of the AT? Is that factually correct?? My Dad – now passed – was wearing dress business shoes and a long trench coat!!! Knife edge was memorable.

    Rained all the way to Boston coming home.

    John Sampson

  15. My wife and I plan to hike the last 5 miles of the AT with our son, who will be finishing his thru-hike in early September. We are not experienced climbers, but are in good physical condition, staying active. Are we biting off more than we can chew, or do other “newbies” complete the Hunt trail round trip ok?

    • It’s a state park. People like you climb this mountain all the time. Just take plenty of water. I’d recommend 3 liters each and start as early in the morning as possible.

      • Thanks so much for the feedback! We are so excited about it! Got my parking pass and we plan to be starting by 7 am. Again – thanks very much for the response!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *