Some trails at Baxter State Park are quieter than others, and Blueberry Ledges, on the south side of the park, approximately midway between Katahdin Stream Campground and Abol Beach, is a beautiful spot you just might have all to yourself. Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hikers this close to Katahdin are unlikely to take side trails, and day-hikers are often focused on the more robust peaks to the north and east. The lollipop loop trail to Blueberry Ledges from the trailhead at the end of Abol Beach Road is a 6.6 mile hike (if you take the side trails like I did), using the Abol Stream Trail to briefly leave the Park, then pick up the Appalachian Trail (AT) northbound on the way out, and Abol Pond Trail on the return. On a bright mid-September morning, I used this route recommended by the book Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park. The Blueberry Ledges are also accessible from the north by using the AT southbound from the Park Tote Road near Katahdin Stream Campground, an out-and-back hike of about three miles each way. The trails are all on the downloadable Kidney-Daicey map from Baxter State Park, and in my pack, as usual, was the durable Map Adventures’ Katahdin Baxter State Park Waterproof Trail Map.
I began by crossing the small bridge at the outlet of Abol Pond, following the trail along a wide, wooded floor dotted with colorful late-season mushrooms. The path rises on an esker above Abol Stream. A little over a quarter mile in, there’s a short side path along the stream, which dead-ends at a robust beaver dam, and after about .4 miles, a small sign-in kiosk for hikers. At about .7 and 1.1 miles are more turnouts with excellent views of Katahdin’s bulk rising clear and crisp over multi-colored marsh grasses. The trail at this point is an old woods road bounded by sweet fern and pine, and serenaded by the chattering of red squirrels and jays.
As the marsh opened up wide to the right, I reached the junction with the Appalachian Trail and turned right, reaching to another kiosk and the re-entry to Baxter State Park, where a friendly Ranger awaited inbound entries off the Appalachian Trail, which he said had slowed for the season, with clumps of hikers every now and again making their last push to Katahdin. I took my leave and continued north, turning right (left would take you out to Abol Bridge) at an intersection after about 1.5 miles to stay on the AT, moving up through long, thin white birches. A fire danger sign at the intersection with the Abol Pond Trail yields a clue to a likely reason for the thin forest bounding the trail, as a 45-acre wildfire burned its way through here in May 2020.
A massive boulder looking like a giant’s tooth sat to the right of the trail, and erratics that size and smaller peeked through the small trees on either side of the path, remnants of a glacial past. A little before two miles, I started hearing rushing water to the left and followed a small side trail towards the sound, finding some small Katahdin Stream waterfalls in what would be a nice place to dip in on a hot day. I returned to a trail that began to move uphill, then levelled out on a tree-lined ridge, with more side trails at about 2.6 miles and 2.8 miles leading down to waterfalls, with rocks treacherously slick from runoff, morning dew, spray, and algae.
As I approached the Blueberry Ledges spur trail, the reason for its name became immediately apparent, with wide expenses of exposed rock covered in berry bushes (to my admittedly untrained eye, they appeared however to primarily be huckleberry bushes, rather than blueberries, a guess I later confirmed through the Picture This application). Sparrows, chickadees, and red squirrels bounced around, feeding on the berries. The apex of the ridge led to a trail gently sloping downhill to the left, flowing to Katahdin Stream, lined by full berry bushes. These granite ledges, flat and sunny, bounded by berries, make for a perfect picnic spot. From here, you can listen to the birds and the rushing stream and enjoy the beautiful views across and down the stream.
I returned downhill on the AT and turned left this time to complete the loop on the Abol Pond Trail. The path started with a gradual uphill climb before leveling out and becoming a narrow path through the deciduous forest. I then moved downhill over the rolling terrain, passing a woodland pond to the left, which sat improbably above the trail, thanks to a carefully woven web of branches, each bearing the trademark conical ends of beaver-chewed wood.
After a short downhill run, the trail changed to a darker green, with more conifers lining its edges. I crossed the slippery Abol Stream, inadvertently dunking my trail runners, just before emerging onto Abol Beach Road. The trail itself continued across to connect with the Kettle Pond Trail, but I turned right and went back to my car, conveniently parked at the picnic area at Abol Beach, completing the easy loop in about 2 hours and 15 minutes. This is, however, a hike with plenty of spots to stop and picnic, explore, pick blueberries, or cool off in a chilly stream, and can easily be made into a full day.
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