Mt. Katahdin / BSP advice.

9:39 a.m. on March 4, 2014 (EST)
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Good day all,

I'm planning to travel to Baxter State Park in early June to hike Mt. Katahdin. It will be myself and three others and we are all reasonably experienced backpackers although I will admit I have never attempted a mountain trek such as this. Judging by what I have read and watched on YouTube we are planning to reserve at lean-to site at Roaring Brook for two nights and do the trek in between. We plan to ascend via the Cathedral Trail, traverse the Knife Edge and descend via the Helon Taylor Trail and back to Roaring Brook. I estimate it will take us between 8-12 hours.

If anybody is familiar with this area and hike, I'm curious if this all sounds feasible. Any comments or tips would greatly be appreciated.



10:35 a.m. on March 4, 2014 (EST)
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Totally doable as you described though it makes for a long day.  The trail up to Chimney Pond from Roaring Brook is highly traveled so they have built a lot of bridging to control erosion.  It is a nice warm up for the actual climb though.  Water is not generally available once you start to ascend after Chimney Pond so load up there though in June you may still find some trickles coming down the slopes.

Cathedral is a challenging collection of routes that head pretty much directly up from Chimney Pond.  I have no experience going that route so can't tell you which of them is harder or easier.  I do see folks headed that way wearing helmets sometimes if that tells you anything heh.  My preference is to go up via the Saddle and then head towards the summit.

I'd check time and weather at the top before committing to coming down via Knifes Edge.  It is beautiful but the terrain is challenging and you want to get down before you lose the light though being June you'll have long days.

Another option you may want to consider is doing one or both of your overnights at Chimney Pond.  The sunsets there do wonderful things to the mountain looming over your head.  If you do stay there be sure to use the bear line because there is a fisher cat that lives there and will chew up any bag it can reach.

3:34 p.m. on March 6, 2014 (EST)
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I agree with LoneStranger that it is a doable loop but will make for a long day. I have done a route a few times that leaves Roaring Brook and ascends Cathedral to the summit and descends the Saddle trail. Each time it took me a full 8 hours. I love the climb up the Cathedral trail but keep in mind that it is not a novice route. It is very steep and requires frequent scrambling using hands and feet. The last time I did the loop I brought my GPS to record the route and show the profile. Below is a picture:


The Cathedral trail is the portion of the above picture that goes from approximately 3000 feet to 5000 feet in less than a mile. If you take this route you are rewarded with some great views. 

If you are planning on going late May/June you should look into making your reservations soon. Roaring Brook is pretty popular and will fill up quickly. Also, the black flies are starting to come out during that time of year and they can be pretty bothersome.

No matter what route you take, Katahdin is a great hike. Enjoy it.

9:20 a.m. on March 7, 2014 (EST)
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Thanks Jim. I intend to book shortly. I've been monitoring the reservation website and there are still many openings at Roaring Brook. Planning to go on a workday and before school is out to further avoid the crowds. I'm all about the views so the Cathedral Trail seemed like the obvious route. No pain no gain, LOL. You mentioned the black flies. Do the bugs get bad there ? I recall reading somewhere that you will encounter many winged insects on the climb up.

I plan to sleep at Roaring Brook on both ends of the trip just so that we can leave early and finish the trek at our hammocks so daylight shouldnt be an issue. I will bring a headlamp just in case we run late on the Helon Taylor Trail though, hehe.

9:42 a.m. on March 7, 2014 (EST)
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No, we never have any bugs in Maine. Especially not during late May/early June. You certainly won't need bug dope, a head net or a snorkel that time of year.


3:40 p.m. on March 7, 2014 (EST)
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Hi Sean,

Welcome to Trailspace and let me apologize for my fellow Mainers!

Do the bugs get bad there ?


It's been a wicked cold winter, so there is a good chance you won't see worst case scenario where our "state bird" (the blackfly) climbs into your ears, nose and eyes in quantities too thick to remove, but I'd plan on lots of them.

I go for long sleeves, pants, and a headnet over a ballcap. If it gets wicked bad, I'll add bug dope on top of all that, and if it gets to true DEFCON levels, I'll fire up a cigar (I am a non smoker.) The worst I've ever seen had me hiking in a full rainsuit, hood up, wearing gloves on a 90 degree day!

Bugs aside, the "Greatest Mountain" is a wonderful place. It seems like you're getting on top of your planning early, and that goes a long way to ensuring you have a good time. Take pictures and share a trip report!

7:18 a.m. on March 8, 2014 (EST)
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LOL,..just so you all know, I'm from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia so I know all about flies and mosquitos. I think what I meant to ask is do the bugs stay with you all the way to the top or does the altitude or the wind keep them away ? Just curious.

btw...I bought a new head rig for my camera so I'll post a video when I'm done. Heres a couple videos of some of my trips last year if your interested.

8:49 a.m. on March 8, 2014 (EST)
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I've never been bothered by bugs on the summit but definitely on the way up.

Last year I treated my clothes with permethrin before my first trip and it really helped.  I didn't use my head net once last year and only applied bug dope one time.  Might have just been a good bug year, but I'm buying another bottle of that stuff again this year for sure!

When you make your trip report be sure to give us some contrast and comparison between ME bugs and your native fauna.

3:39 p.m. on March 8, 2014 (EST)
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A couple years ago, I used some accumulated airline miles to fly to New England and gather some High Points I had not done when we lived in Boston. My trip report here on Trailspace includes my climb of Katahdin. Although I don't include a profile or map, it may be of some interest to you. I did this in the Fall, so NO BUGS! Got a lot of rain, though.

8:36 p.m. on March 9, 2014 (EDT)
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Hi Sean - ok. You know bugs! They clear out up high on the mountain, especially when the wind picks up. If you have time - please consider sharing some trip reports from trails in NB/NS. I've heard a lot of nice things about your trails up there!

12:16 a.m. on March 10, 2014 (EDT)
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Will do. Some of my favourites are;

Kenomee Canyon Trail

Both Kejimkujik Park trail loops 24 km and 61 km.


Fundy Footpath


7:15 a.m. on March 10, 2014 (EDT)
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I'd like to see those too Sean. We are really close to starting up ferry service to NS again which should make it easier for us to get over there for exploring.

7:04 p.m. on March 11, 2014 (EDT)
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Are the black flies in early June or more like late June?  How long is the typical black fly season?  (I thought it was relatively short.)  My wife and I discovered  them in late June in NH a few years back.  For those who haven't experienced them before, they are like black mosquitoes but way, way, way more persistent and seemingly more resistant to bug spray.  Definitely head nets.

10:28 p.m. on April 6, 2014 (EDT)
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Been doing some more reading on the trails at Katahdin. Thinking now that I should be going up the Dudley, across the Knife Edge and down the Saddle versus Cathedral Knife Edge and down the Helon Trail. One website was saying that after a long day going down the Helon Trail would not be advisable when tired.

Any comments ?

7:08 a.m. on April 7, 2014 (EDT)
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I'd opt for either Cathedrals or Knife Edge, but not both in one day.  If you do the KE before hitting the summit and are still feeling spritely you can add a little to your loop and bag Hamlin while you are up on the tablelands and follow that trail back down.  That will bring you back down to the Chimney Pond trail about .75 of a mile below the pond campground so you are already headed back to Roaring Brook.

Five feet of snow at Chimney as of yesterday, but Winter camping is closed and we are expecting a heavy warm rain tonight.  Won't be long now :)

February 25, 2018
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