Route: Wassataquoik-Katahdin Loop (Baxter State Park, ME)

Submitted by Donald Eno on Sat, 10/17/2020 - 01:39pm
Maine, US
20.69 mi
Vertical Gain
5,476 ft

September 2020

A beautiful trail leads you out of Roaring Brook Campground, past Sandy Stream Pond and toward Wassataquoik Stream Valley. Rolling paths, mixed with bog bridges finally bring you to the first Wassataquoik Stream crossing, just before reaching a lean-to site. A short ankle-deep crossing brings you to a path over a grassy knoll, which takes you to a gravel beach on the main stream course. Here is the (sometimes infamous) Wassataquoik Stream crossing. At high water it is waist high or deeper, although the bottom is fat and offers easy walking. Today it was only knee high and refreshing. On the far side the trail turns left toward the former logging camp known as Old City. A few old metal implements can be seen among the grass and trees, and the trail offers easy walking or running. A quick and short detour over the Russell Pond Campground and back to say hello, then on to the Northwest Basin Trail. Passing through dark woods, you eventually get to cross Wassataquoik Stream again, only this time it is puddle and rock hopping amongst fast flowing water. The trail then winds its way slightly upward toward the Basin, sometimes following a small stream bed. Slippery slab rock and mossy edges make it interesting. A final steep scramble up to Lake Cowles, surrounded by beautiful heath. The Northwest Basin headwall greets you. A short drop to the Davis Pond lean-to, then the Pond itself, with a fine view. Turn right at the lean-to site and walk around the backside of Cowles, then start the scramble up the Basin Trail. The path is a mix of bouldering and talus dancing. Softwoods give way to scrub and the treeline is passed. A steady climb up the slop gets you to the Northwest Plateau, an expanse of alpine flatlands north of Katahdin and Hamlin Peaks. A fine walk gets you to Caribou Spring, where the North Peaks and Hamlin Ridge trails coverage. From here it's a generally downhill route above the treeline toward the Saddle. Then, following the Saddle Trail, climb steadily upward, sometimes among loose pink Katahdin granite, other times over worn stone steps. Finally topping out at Baxter Peak, you reach the summit of Katahdin. Take the narrow Knife Edge Trail toward Pamola Peak. This section offers fun technically running or hiking, with sheer drops on both sides. The Chimney Notch offers a final test of steep climbing up and down. At Pamola Peak, take the Helon Taylor Trail down the spine of Keep Ridge. Amazing views down this trail. After treeline is gained, you have some downhill boulder scrambling, then a steady downhill trek. Before flattening out near Roaring Brook, Helon takes you through beautiful hardwood stands. Turn left when you return to the Chimney Pond Trail, and it's a short walk back to Roaring Brook. I did not run very much of this trail, this time. More of hiking recon for future FKT.


GPS Track