Ledges Trail

Ledges Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

The Ledges Trail is accessed from the Middle Fowler Trail/Nature Trail trailhead kiosk a short walk north from the parking area of the South Branch Pond campground at Baxter State Park. This hike in the lesser-traveled northern part of the Park is fully described in the Maine Mountain Guide., and BSP’s downloadable South Branch Pond map covers the area. A left (north) turn at the Ledges Trail intersection after a third of a mile will take you up a wooded blue-blazed trail to the ledges facing west.

Ledges Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

On the way up, I disturbed a pair of large, colorful pileated woodpeckers, who voiced their collective displeasure, and flew off to other trees. The ledges provided a series of views over South Branch Ponds and South Branch Mountain and Black Cat Mountain, with changing September leaves.

Ledges Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

The Ledges Trail exits the woods about a half mile north of the campground, with a walk along the dirt and gravel road leading back to parking or the campground. This was a short lollipop loop from South Branch Pond campground, maybe a mile and a quarter total. I was moving quickly due to impending thunderstorms on my trip, but this hike will not take more than thirty to forty-five minutes.

Ledges Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

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Lily Pad Pond

Katahdin shrouded in clouds across Kidney Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine. Colt Point is visible to the right.

The hike to Lily Pad Pond, a short, relatively flat out-and-back from Kidney Pond Campground at Baxter State Park, is an easy walk that skirts Kidney Pond with some big-time views of Katahdin and Mt. O-J-I. I used it as a “last day at Baxter” hike, dehydrated, sore, but wanting to see more of this special place on the way out the Park Tote Road. Baxter State Park’s site has a downloadable map of the Kidney-Daicey Pond trails, but for a real full-day six-mile-plus amphibious adventure, including a canoe exploration of Lily Pad Pond, and a follow-on hike of Little and Big Niagara Falls, check out the hike description in the book Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park.

Plank bridges toward Lily Pad Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

From Kidney Pond Campground day-use parking, head towards the Sentinel Link Trail, where you will quickly find views across Kidney Pond. This portion of the trail, hugging the shore of Kidney Pond, is the only part with tricky footing, as it is full of boulders and cedar roots. Shortly after the Celia and Jackson Ponds Trail departs to the right, there are more views of Kidney Pond Campground on the opposite shore, followed by the Sentinel Mountain Trail intersection, where you continue straight towards Lily Pad Pond. The .2 mile Colt’s Point spur trail leads to a Kidney Pond peninsula, accessible when I visited via a flooded area crossed by a ramshackle log bridge. This tenuous span was ultimately unsuccessful in keeping me above water, but the views from Colt’s Point were worth the wet socks.

View from Colt’s Point of Mt. O-J-I and Barren Mountain across Kidney Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine

Shortly after returning from Colt’s Point, turn off to the right onto Lily Pad Pond Trail, about .4 miles long, a moss-lined pathway with a slight downhill grade. A long section of plank bridging through a bog takes you to Beaver Brook, where there are three rental canoes ($1/hr or $8/day) available to take you to Lily Pad Pond, and keys can be secured from a ranger at Kidney Pond or Daicey Pond Campgrounds, as well as the Togue Pond Gate. Across Lily Pad Pond, at the east end, you can take the Windy Pitch Pond Trail to the Falls, walking parallel to the Appalachian Trail, on the opposite side of Nesowadnehunk Stream. I will definitely be using this trail-canoe-trail option on my next visit. The Lily Pad Pond out-and-back itself (including the Colt’s Point spur) was about 2.8 miles, which took me a little over an hour.

Canoe put-in on Beaver Brook towards Lily Pad Pond, Lily Pad Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

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Dwelley Pond

Dwelley Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, ME

A rainy final day in Baxter State Park, tired legs, and a desire to see wildlife led me to a morning exploring remote Dwelley Pond. For me, this was a 7.6 mile out-and-back, taking a little under two and a half hours in full rain gear. In good weather, allow more time to relax and enjoy the solitude, and rent the canoe at Dwelley Pond for a quiet exploration. It is also possible to spot a bike or a car at either end of the trail, turning this into a 4.6 mile point-to-point hike between the northern and southern Dwelley Pond parking areas. A description and map are available in the book Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park.

McCarty Field, Dwelley Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, ME

I began from the north trailhead, which is about a mile south from the Burnt Mountain Picnic area on the Park Tote Road. The trail, skirting Morse and McCarty Mountains in a half-circle, starts from here as a flat walk in the ruts of a former woods road, with juvenile maple saplings sprouting in the middle. A disturbingly large pile of bear scat lay in the path like a warning sign. After a stream crossing, the trail median, along with the vegetation on the periphery, changed abruptly to evergreens, hemming in the trail. At a larger stream crossing I disturbed a moose or a deer, which galloped off loudly, through woods too thick to see through. The meadow at McCarty Field, reached after less than a mile and a half, was busy with black-capped chickadees, white-throated sparrows, and golden-crowned kinglets. This unexpectedly flat, cleared area is the site of a former farm and logging depot called McCarty.

Dwelley Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, ME

After McCarty Field, the slight downhill of the previous trail switched to a light but steady uphill. The trail overlooks the south branch of Trout Brook to the east down a steep embankment, with the pleasant sound of rushing water. Closer to Dwelley Pond, a series of bogs brackets the trail, and then earthen breastworks retain shallow ponds, the logs and sticks bearing the trademark conical cut of beavers.

Dwelley Pond, Baxter State Park, ME

At Dwelley Pond, there’s a canoe, a toilet, and a picnic structure. Keys to the canoe are available for rental at either BSP gate and South Branch Pond and Nesowadnehunk Field Campgrounds ($1/hr or $8/day). Views of the pond, criss-crossed with ducks on my visit, are available via the short northward spur leading to the canoe launch. The return journey didn’t yield any moose, deer, or bear sightings, but the lighter rain and easy hike made for a relatively quick and pleasurable walk back to the north parking area.

Dwelley Pond from canoe launch, Baxter State Park, ME

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Wadleigh Mountain

Fading light on Wadleigh Brook Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

Wadleigh Mountain (1,259 ft) is a short hike just inside the Scientific Forest Management Area (SFMA) in the north of Maine’s Baxter State Park. The hike, described in the Maine Mountain Guide, begins at the trailhead for Wadleigh Brook (parking in a small area across the Park Tote Road) just west of the SFMA kiosk. Baxter State Park’s downloadable trail map of the SFMA covers this area. This flat, fast trail moves initially through a pine forest above Wadleigh Brook. Moose and bear scat were frequently visible, but the only animals I saw were squirrels and birds.

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Howe Brook Falls

Lower South Branch Pond from Pogy Notch Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

Howe Brook Falls is a spectacular four mile total out-and-back waterfall hike from South Branch Pond Campground in the northern half of Baxter State Park. I tacked this hike on to a South Branch Pond Loop hike, which is covered separately in another post, but the Howe Brook hike itself can be done in about three hours or less. A detailed description and map of this hike is found in the books Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park and Hiking Waterfalls Maine, and a Baxter State Park downloadable map of South Branch Pond is available on BSP’s website.

Howe Brook Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine
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South Branch Pond Loop

Lower South Branch Pond in the morning from trailhead, Baxter State Park, ME

The South Branch Pond Campground in Maine’s Baxter State Park overlooks two pristine ponds in the shadow of the surrounding mountains. The South Branch Pond Loop hike is a 6.6 mile loop that leaves from the southwest corner of the campground and includes South Branch Mountain (2630 ft) and Black Cat Mountain (2611 ft) in its counterclockwise circuit of these lower and upper ponds. A full description of the hike can be found in the Maine Mountain Guide, or as an out-and-back to Black Cat Mountain in Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park. A map of the South Branch Pond area is available for download from BSP’s website. Leaving early from behind the ranger station, I started the hike with wet shoes, as South Branch Pond Brook, the outlet from Lower South Branch Pond, stands between the trailhead kiosk and the remaining trail, and was running high after the night’s rains. The trail was marked in intervals by fresh moose droppings. Less than a mile in, the first overlook faced the wilds to the north.

View of The Traveler from near peak of South Branch Mountain, Baxter State Park, ME
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A weekend in Baxter State Park’s northern half

View west on North Traveler Trail, Baxter State Park

(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 last couple years, dad and daughter have picked a late-summer weekend to climb Mount Katahdin together at Baxter State Park (BSP). On last year’s trip, we diverted to explore some easier trails from Katahdin Stream Campground, and this year, due to daughter’s same lingering knee injury from last year and her recovery from late August knee surgery, it was a solo trip for dad. Not wanting to climb Katahdin without my hiking buddy, I set my sights on the Traveler Loop. South Branch Pond Campground was full, so I canceled our mid-September Roaring Brook parking reservation, and found a tent site instead at Trout Brook Farm Campground.

Katahdin from I-95 Overlook, Medway, Maine
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Celia and Jackson Ponds (Baxter State Park)

View across Kidney Pond, Baxter State Park

(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.)

Having completed two strenuous hiking days in the northern part of Baxter State Park, I wanted to explore an easier path on my long, scenic way out through the Togue Pond Gate. Celia and Jackson Ponds, reached in that order, are accessed from the Kidney Pond campground day-use trailhead via a 3.2 mile (1.5 to 2 hours) out-and-back hike using the Sentinel Connector Trail, and Celia and Jackson Ponds Trail. I found this hike using Falcon Guides’ Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park.

The pleasant smell of woodsmoke from the campground quickly gave way to that of pine, and the path has a definite enchanted woods feel, with soft, greenish light cast on the moss surrounding the trail. Shortly after the trail’s beginning, a large boulder on the left is whimsically marked “Kidney Stone – do not remove.” Kidney Pond can be seen through the trees, and then a small side trail to the shore provides excellent views of Katahdin to the west.

Giant boulder, Celia and Jackson Ponds Trail, Baxter State Park
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Five Ponds Loop (Baxter State Park)

September greenery, Five Ponds Loop, Baxter State Park

(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.

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Traveler Mountain Loop (Baxter State Park)

Sun rising over Black Cat and South Branch Mountains from Traveler Loop

(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 Traveler is a strenuous 10.1 mile loop hike over the rhyolite peaks of Traveler Mountain, the highest volcanic mountain in New England, with over 4,000 feet of total elevation gain. This full-day (6-10 hour) hike begins at Baxter State Park’s (BSP) South Branch Campground, and based upon advice from the AMC Maine Mountain Guide and Falcon Guides’ Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park and BSP rangers, is best attempted counterclockwise via the Pogy Notch, Center Ridge, Traveler Mountain, and North Traveler trails. This is to avoid descending the steep, loose rock on the Center Ridge Trail.

Lower South Branch Pond at dawn

This route over Traveler’s bulk, which the AMC Maine Mountain Guide accurately describes as “starfish-shaped,” crosses Peak of the Ridges (3,254 ft), Traveler summit (3,550 ft), and North Traveler summit (3,152 ft). As it says on BSP’s website, “Preparation for a Traveler Loop hike is the same as a Katahdin hike,” due to the exposed nature of the hike, elevation gain, lack of available water, and distance. This is true, and in inclement weather, hikers should explore other options. To navigate, I used Map Adventures’ Katahdin Baxter State Park Waterproof Trail Map, but BSP’s official website also has free downloadable/printable trail maps, and the South Branch Pond map covers this area.

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