Maine is a state in the uppermost northeast corner of the United States of America, bordered by Canada (New Brunswick and Quebec) on its northern end and New Hampshire on its west end. Maine’s coastal location makes it a sought-after locale for lovers of nature. It is known for its clams, lobster, forests, national parks, islands, and mountains. Let’s take a look at the highest point in Maine.
What Is the Highest Point in Maine?
At 5,268 feet, Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park is the highest point in the state of Maine. Locals named Mount Katahdin after the Abenaki word, which means “main mountain” in English when translated from Algonquian. Many regard Mount Katahdin as one of the toughest peaks to climb, especially for hikers coming from the starting point of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Georgia.
The mountain was first recorded in history by the Penobscot Nation, which gave it its name. Their tribes would often sacrifice animal fat and oil to an evil spirit named Pamola (a bird with the head of a moose). They believed it inhabited the mountain and would eat them if they tried to reach the top of Katahdin.
Mount Katahdin is one of America’s most famous mountains, especially for those who seek the glory of hiking the entirety of the mountain, which can take multiple days, depending on the starting point. It is located in Baxter State Park, which, despite its name, is not a state park but a personal donation of 209,501 acres of land to the people of Maine from former mayor Percival P. Baxter. Per his wishes, visitors to the park are in charge of their own safety, a condition that appeals greatly to seasoned hikers and naturalists who desire an untrammeled connection to the outdoors.
Where Is Mount Katahdin Located on a Map?
Mount Katahdin, in Baxter State Park, is 20 miles northwest of Millinocket, in Piscataquis County, in the east-central part of the state. Maine sits at the northeastern tip of the United States. New Hampshire borders it to the west, the Gulf of Maine lies to the southeast, and the Canadian Provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec border it to the northeast and northwest.
Who Was the First Recorded Climber of Mount Katahdin?
The first documented person to summit Mount Katahdin was Charles Turner Jr. and his unnamed group of 10 individuals. Two of these were Native American guides who, per their belief in Pamola, refused to go all the way to the top of the mountain.
Charles Turner Jr. was a U.S. Representative from the seaside town of Duxbury, MA. He served in the State House of Representatives and State Senate and achieved the lieutenant colonel commandant position in the Massachusetts State Militia.
Turner Jr. recorded the day of ascent as August 13, 1804. After the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ordered to survey the area, the group arrived at the base via canoe and began their journey at 8 a.m., completing the climb by 5 p.m. The height of the mountain had such great effects on members of his party, including thirst, vomiting, and fatigue, that he recorded them in his log.
What Are the Other Highest Points in Maine?
Excepting Mount Katahdin and Hamlin Peak (a subset of the same mountains), four other mountains in Maine are famous for their great heights.
The next tallest is Sugarloaf Mountain, at 4,240 feet, about 1,000 feet lower than Mount Katahdin. This peak is located in the Sugarloaf Resort in the Carrabassett Valley — a popular winter destination for hiking, snowboarding, skiing, golf, zip lining, and mountain biking in the summer. Sugarloaf is the second-biggest ski resort in the eastern United States, and the Appalachian Trail also winds about a mile to the west of the summit.
Old Speck Mountain
The third-largest mountain in Maine is Old Speck Mountain, which reaches 4,180 feet. This mountain is next to Newry in Oxford County, ME, and is nested inside the Grafton Notch State Park amongst the Mahoosuc Mountain Range. Old Speck offers plenty of trails and opportunities for backpacking, hiking, birdwatching, and brook trout fishing. In addition, the hardest 12 miles of the Appalachian Trail wind their way through Old Speck Mountain, including the Standard Route Trail, which leads to the peak of Old Speck.
Crocker Mountain is the fourth-tallest peak in the state, standing at 4,228 feet near Stratton in Franklin County, ME. This mountain is also in the Carrabassett Valley (like Sugarloaf Mountain), and the sole trail leading to its peak is also a section of the Appalachian Trail (like Old Speck Mountain). Crocker Cirque is a valley located within the middle part of the mountain that was created by the erosion of glaciers.
The fifth-highest point in Maine is Bigelow Mountain in the Bigelow Preserve, a range of six peaks that run along the shore of Flagstaff Lake. Its tallest peak is at 4,150 feet, and it traverses 12 miles of land. The Bigelow Preserve is a 36,000-acre expanse that is also located near Stratton and links to the Appalachian Trail via the Bigelow Range Trail. One of the hardest day hikes in the United States is the Bigelow Range Traverse, which occurs at 10,000 feet and continues for nearly 20 miles.
What Recreational Opportunities Are Available at Mount Katahdin?
Mount Katahdin and Baxter State Park offer some of the most unrestricted access to nature in the country, thanks to Percival P. Baxter’s unique vision to create a park “for those who love nature and are willing to walk and make an effort to get close to nature.”
From 1930 to 1962, Baxter continually sought and donated land to the people of Maine until it totaled 209,644 acres. The basic ethos of the park is to keep it wild, which means many of the park’s recreational activities are suitable only for the experienced naturalist.
There is no access to electricity or man-made running water at Baxter State Park. There are no showers or shelters (save for outhouses and cabins), and the roads are unpaved and provincial. A quarter of the park’s land allows for hunting, and there are many lakes, ponds, and streams for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing.
Hiking enthusiasts can choose from over 200 miles of trails, which include backcountry, day-hike, and long-distance options, in addition to 10 different campgrounds and 40 mountain peaks across the park. If you are opting to camp at a site instead of in the wild, be sure to reserve months in advance, as Baxter State Park is one of the most popular locations for campers year-round.
Rock climbing is also a beloved activity at the park, and the granite peaks of Chimney Pond have attracted climbers for years. All the approaches, descents, and routes will take time to complete, and it will take two hours to get to the area from the parking area. One of the routes is even named after the aforementioned Native American spirit Pamola!
Prospective climbers should take note that there are no equipment rental shops at Chimney Pond. Baxter State Park suggests bringing (in addition to your own climbing gear) your own rain equipment, compass, map, helmet, headlamp, first aid kit, and two liters of water.
What Wildlife Lives on Mount Katahdin?
Mount Katahdin is home to plenty of wildlife, including animals such as lynxes, beavers, white-tailed deer, bald eagles, moose, and black bears. You can observe many of these at the Byway — 89 miles that make up the south entrance to Baxter State Park and throughout the many campsites, lakes, and ranges of the area. Though the area is so full of wildlife, you will increase your likelihood of seeing many of these mammals by heading out in the early morning or evening,
Birdwatching is a popular activity at Baxter State Park, and visitors can expect to find hundreds of species of birds, including boreal, red-winged blackbird, black-throated blue warblers, and white-winged crossbill. There are three birdwatching trails within the park, which remain active throughout the year as migration patterns supply ample birdwatching opportunities. Much of Baxter State Park functions as a wildlife sanctuary, which turns observing animals into a common occurrence.
There are roughly 857 plant species throughout the Katahdin region, including rare plants such as fragrant woodfern, Arctic red fescue, alpine bearberry, bearberry willow, and Alaskan Clubmoss. Along the marshes, lakes, and streams of Baxter State Park, you will also find otters, raccoons, muskrats, and even beavers. In the woodland parts of the park, you are more likely to run across lynxes, bobcats, coyotes, weasels, squirrels, chipmunks, and porcupines.
Moose are the most often-sighted animals around Mount Katahdin. You can increase your chances of seeing one by visiting one of the many ponds in the area: Stump, Sandy Stream, Elbow, Dwelley, Kidney, or Grassy Pond. There are also moose-watching tours offered on the grounds.
How Long Does It Take to Climb to the Top of Mount Katahdin?
Mount Katahdin is a considerable hike, whether you’re coming from the Appalachian Trail or just there for the day. Baxter State Park is only open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the ordinary amount of time needed to complete a full hike up and down the mountain runs from 8 to 12 hours.
Another condition to keep in mind is the elevation of Mount Katahdin runs to about 4,000 feet. Altitude sickness usually does not occur until around 8,000 feet, but fatigue and strenuous force exerted on muscle and bone could be prohibitive for less experienced hikers.
What to Bring
There is a list of essential materials for making it up and down Mount Katahdin in one day. A topographical map is for distance estimates and also for assessing elevation and terrain changes along the way. You’ll also want to make sure you have the proper clothes for the summit, as the top of Mount Katahdin is considerably colder than the base. Headlamps or hand-held flashlights are already a Baxter State Park requirement, but they will be extra helpful as the sun sets or is hidden behind cloud coverage.
Remember that Baxter State Park is not responsible for your safety, so bring a properly stocked first aid kid, sun protection for your eyes and skin, and supplementary food in case the trip takes longer than predicted. Fire-starting materials such as lighters, flint, and matches are always a good thing to have on hand, and sleeping bags/space blankets and repair kits for your hiking equipment, clothes, and shoes are also helpful in emergency situations.
Last, but never least, be sure to bring water. The park does have natural springs, but you must treat the water before consumption. Baxter State Park recommends a minimum of two quarts of water a person.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Lindrik
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