(Note: As of October 23, 2020, Baxter State Park offices and headquarters remain closed to the public, but reservations can still be made online and by calling (207) 723-5140. Togue and Matagamon Gates are open 6am to 7pm. Katahdin and Traveler trails are closed at their trailheads to protect alpine resources.)
The day after a strenuous Traveler Mountain hike at Baxter State Park, I chose to take the approximately seven mile Five Ponds Loop, both for its relative ease and for morning opportunities to see wildlife. A detailed description of the trail can be found in the AMC Maine Mountain Guide and Falcon Guides’ Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park.
I hiked the loop in a clockwise direction from its trailhead at the Trout Brook Farm Campground, familiar to me from my hike of Trout Brook Mountain two days prior. The ponds, in that east to west sequence, are Littlefield Pond, Billfish Pond, Round Pond, High Pond, and Long Pond, accessed through a series of side trails. Billfish and Long each have canoe rentals (through the ranger at Trout Brook Farm campsite).
I continued my theme of enjoying the varieties of green seen on the trail in mid-September before the fall colors set in. Colorful mushrooms seemed to sprout from everywhere. After the junction with the Trout Brook Mountain trail (about 1.1 miles in), everything was new, and I saw moose tracks in the mud next to a plank bridge on the trail, as colossal as they were fresh.
My favorite part of the hike was the long esker between High Pond and Long Pond with views through the trees of each pond, and the clicking of Belted Kingfishers. These ponds can be accessed through a narrow, rocky sluice way, and then again via several side paths. After the ponds, the trail climbs slightly, then settles into its slightly downhill run back to the trailhead.
I didn’t rent a canoe this time, but this long, flat walk would be a good opportunity to use a canoe to explore Billfish or Long Pond, and to make a full day of this beautiful hike.
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