Mount Katahdin – the tallest mountain in Maine – is truly an exciting place for outdoor lovers to visit.
While it isn’t the biggest or the tallest mountain in the US, the centerpiece of Baxter State Park will still give you a venture for the ages. From breathtaking bird’s eye views to adrenaline-pumping ski trips, this towering landmark – and the area around it – will whet your appetite for adventure in many ways.
And, there are plenty of other amazing things to do around Mount Katahdin besides enjoying a scenic hike. To help you figure out what to do, we’ve curated this list of things to do so you can experience a memorable trip to Katahdin.
Reach the Summit of Baxter Peak
There’s no better way to kick off a trip to the Katahdin area than to climb the highest peak in all of Maine. With an impressive elevation of 5,267, the summit offers views that will surely take your breath away.
The mountain and its views are so beautiful that they have inspired a ton of paintings, journal narratives, climbs, hikes and even a piano sonata.
But summiting Mount Katahdin is not a walk in the park. It’s a steep hike, and you won’t be able to conquer it with minimal preparation.
Many trails lead to Baxter Peak. Here are the most common and popular paths up the mountain:
- Abol trail
- Hunt trail (the last five miles of the Appalachian trail)
- Helon Taylor Trail
- Chimney Pond Trail
- Knife Edge (the most popular and dangerous trail)
All the Mount Katahdin trails are somewhat arduous and lengthy. Depending on the hiker’s pace and ability, an average hike will take around 8 to 12 hours round trip on this mountain. To manage a trip of this length, you need to carry a lot of water, food, and warm clothing.
Tip: The nearest town to Katahdin is Millinocket, so stock up on groceries and hiking essentials while you’re there.
Visit the Patten Lumbermen’s Museum
Want to learn more about Maine’s logging history? Then, pay a short visit to Patten Lumbermen’s Museum! This educational landmark highlights the logging history of Maine since the 1920s. It also houses an extensive collection of genuine artifacts from Maine’s different eras.
- Address: 61 Shin Pond Road, Patten, Maine, USA
- Opening times: 10:00 AM to 04:00 PM from Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays, except for Columbus Day, Labor Day and Memorial Day
- Admission fee: $10. Discounts apply to kids (4 to 12 years old) and senior citizens (65 years old and above)
- Contact number: 207-528-2650
Soar over Mount Katahdin
Even if you’re not a seasoned or enthusiastic hiker, you can still soak up some stunning Katahdin views by touring it from the air.
Booking an air tour with Currier’s Flying Service will let you soar over a thousand feet above the ground and see the towering mountains of Baxter State Park. It will also allow you see the vast expanse of forest land, streams, and lakes of the state park from a bird’s perspective.
At $175 per person, this option is more than expensive than hiking Mount Katahdin. But you don’t have to walk for more than 8 hours to feast your eyes on some awe-inspiring sights. If you don’t have the time or energy for a strenuous hike, it’s a terrific way to admire the beauty of Mount Katahdin.
Check out Millinocket Historical Society
Founded by a couple of locals in 1979, the Millinocket Historical Society Museum aims to showcase the town’s history as well as preserve its hometown traditions. Inside the museum, you’ll find an array of exhibits and treasures that depict the town’s history, from vintage photographs to a steam whistle.
- Address: 80 Central Street, Millinocket, Maine, USA
- Opening hours: 12:00 to 03:00 PM Thursday to Saturday
- Contact number: 207-723-5477
Summit Mount Chase
With a total round-trip length of 3.4 miles, hiking Mount Chase makes for an easier alternative to Mount Katahdin.
The trail up Mount Chase is used for hiking, trail running, walking and snowshoeing. Since it’s a relatively easy trail, children and even dogs have successfully scaled this mountain. And with an elevation of 2,440 feet, Mount Chase doesn’t skimp out on the amazing views.
Mount Chase is located near Baxter State Park. After driving up a rough road, the trail begins as a 4-wheeler track and soon steepens to a mild rock trail. The climb up is a pleasurable hike through the woods and ends at a magnificent granite plateau peak. In the forest, you’ll also find a variety of small mammals, birds, mosses, birds, and flora below the tree line.
Once you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views of Mount Katahdin, Lower Shin Ponds, and Sugarloaf Mountain.
See Fascinating Art at North Light Gallery
A visit to the North Light Gallery lets you feast your eyes on artwork that demonstrates the Katahdin region’s beauty. If you like what you see, you can purchase prints, paintings, and furniture at the gift shop. And with its inviting atmosphere, the gallery is a relaxing breath of fresh air after days of non-stop hiking and outdoor exploration in the Katahdin area.
- Address: 256 Penobscot Avenue, Millinocket, Main, USA
- Opening times: 09:30 AM to 05:30 PM from Monday to Saturday. Closed on Sundays.
- Contact number: 207-723-4414
Go Whitewater Rafting on the Penobscot River
If you want a thrilling change of pace, try rafting through the stunning Katahdin wilderness on the wildest river in Maine.
You’ll get to drift along miles of striking scenery and eventually cross under the famed Appalachian Trail. And since Penobscot is the state’s steepest and longest river, expect to face the most technical and challenging whitewater rafting adventure in the eastern United States.
Rapids range from class I to class V, so there’s a whitewater adventure available at any level.
Explore Bait Hole Trails
When winter sets in, the Bait Hole Recreation Trails turn into a chilly wonderland for adventurists. Here, winter tourists will discover easy and moderately groomed trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The trail network has a couple of main loops with some additional shortcuts and connecting trails.
During the summer, Bait Hole offers extensive and accessible trails for biking, running and walking.
Stop by Moose Prints Gallery and Gifts
Moose Prints Gallery is the official home base of Mark Picard – an internationally published and well-known wildlife photographer. The gallery showcases striking art, a wide selection of regional wildlife and landscape images, and dazzling 3-dimensional art.
The gallery also houses gifts crafted into perfection by local artisans. From twig-framed miniature photos to life-size images of moose, the gallery celebrates Maine’s indigenous wildlife and landscapes through art, gifts, and photography.
- Address: 58 Central Street, Millinocket, Maine, USA
- Opening times: 10:00 AM to 06:00 PM from Monday to Saturday. Closed on Sundays.
- Contact number: 207-447-6906
Go Downhill Skiing in Mount Jefferson
Feel the adrenaline rushing through your veins by going on a downhill skiing trip in Mount Jefferson. Nestled in Lee, Maine, the mountain resort has a dozen trails for downhill skiing and stubbing.
It’s also quite affordable. For $15 per day, you can experience the thrill of this flying down fresh Maine powder. Beginners will also find this an excellent opportunity, as lessons are just $20 per hour.
The resort also has a handful of amenities, such as a lodge with a snack bar, a ski patrol unit, a snow tubing park with a rope tow, and two 2,000 pound lifts. And though it’s known as a winter destination, it will soon become a year-round destination concerts, mountain bike rentals, and disc golf.
- Location: Penobscot County, Maine, United States
- Contact number: 207-738-2377
Spot a Moose
During the summer, the Katahdin becomes a prime spot for moose viewing. One of the best spots to see these animals is at Baxter State Park’s Stream Pond. Evenings, late afternoons, and mornings are the best times for viewing moose.
Alternatively, you can also canoe across Millinocket Lake to Grant Brook to spot some moose. This spot also allows you to spot a variety of birds.
If you don’t want to leave a moose sighting to chance, take a “Moose Tour” by Pontoon Boat with NEOC. Trips depart every day during morning and evening on Millinocket Lake.
Catch Sight of Rare Wildlife in Katahdin Woods
The Katahdin Woods is one of the best places in America for wildlife viewing. With its sizable protected landscape, the area supports a wide range of wildlife species.
On a good day, you can spot the federally threatened Canada lynx, bobcats, American marten, snowshoe hare, white-tailed deer, bear, mouse, and ruffed grouse.
Hike Blue Trail
The Blue Trail is pretty tough, so pack plenty of water and wear a good pair of shoes. The path will lead you through some impressive forest stands and will loop around Woodman and Clifford ponds. The end of the Blue Trail – the Rainbow Lake – is the largest of all the lakes in the scenic Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area.
This trail is also a terrific area to see bald eagles and loons. To top it all off, it’s one of the few lakes in the state with arctic char, which is a native fish related to trout and salmon.
Climb Barnard Mountain
Not all great views come after a challenging hike. A round-trip hike in Barnard Mountain, for instance, will only take you 2 to 3 hours – but it will still reward you with outstanding panoramas.
Barnard Mountain is a moderate hike that starts on a brief portion of the International Appalachian Trail. For around 1.5 miles, you’ll be hiking on a gravel logging road that’s frequented by hikers, mountain hikers, bear, and moose.
Once you leave the trailhead, you’ll have to pass through switchbacks, large boulders, thick young hardwoods, and stone steps built by the Maine Conservation Corps in 2014.
At the summit, you’ll have a clear view of Katahdin Lake, Mount Katahdin and an untouched valley of surreal green. And with a picnic table at the summit, Barnard Mountain also makes for a picture-perfect picnic spot.
Note: Keep an eye on the multiple moose signs near the top, as these animals usually hang out there during summer.
Stay at Shin Pond Village
There’s no shortage of outdoor fun and adventures at Shin Pond Village, regardless of the season. Situated in the heart of the Katahdin Region, this 100-acre family-friendly recreational resort has a variety of available dwellings:
- Two waterfront homes
- Three guest suites
- Eight housekeeping cottages
- 20 electric or water RV sites
- 14 campsites.
In winter, they groom a trio of snowmobile trails leading into their property. Moreover, they offer a wondrous tubing hill, access to ski trails, and ice fishing on several ponds and lakes. During summertime, the village offers opportunities for hiking trips, waterfall exploration, fishing and wildlife viewing.
- Address: 1489 Shin Pond Road, Mount Chase, Maine, USA
- Contact number: 207-528-2900
Drive the Katahdin Loop Road
Need to take a break from the non-stop hiking in the Mount Katahdin area? Try the Katahdin Loop drive.
The loop is about 17 miles long and offers visitors a chance to see the mountain’s southern side. There are several areas along the Katahdin loop where you can pull off and savor sweeping views of the picturesque woods. The loop drive also has access to plenty of trails located just off the road.
The whole drive will take an hour and a half to complete.
Scale Doubletop Mountain
Doubletop is a reasonably challenging, quiet, and beautiful 13.4-mile trail with a variety of terrains and sights. To reach the summit, you need to cross streams and do a little bouldering. Along the way, you’ll see a plethora of alpine flora and fauna. With an elevation of 3,489 feet, you’ll also enjoy tremendous views at the top of this mountain in Baxter State Park.
Check out Little Abol Falls
Baxter State Park is home to a host of magnificent natural wonders.
One of the primary can’t-miss natural attractions in Baxter State Park is Little Abol Falls.
The path to the Falls starts at Abol Campground’s upper end. You’ll start by instantly crossing a tiny brook. Afterward, the route follows an old forest road and gradually ascends uphill with excellent views of Katahdin’s southwest side, including the beloved Abol Slide. After walking for 0.8 miles, you’ll reach an Abol Stream tributary.
From there, you may take a short downhill hike to find the 15-foot drop to a small pool below.
The Falls are a thing of beauty, tumbling down the pink granite into the pool below. Like the rocks that surround it, the pool at the bottom looks pinkish. And, while it’s not exactly deep, it’s still great for swimming.
Go to Big and Little Niagara Falls
Get a taste of the famous Appalachian Trail by hiking this remarkable path. The trail starts from Daicey Pond Campground and follows the Nesowadnehunk Stream. After a mile of hiking a short side trail, you’ll discover the Little Niagara Falls. From here, you’ll have to walk for 1.2 miles to reach the next stop for your hike – the Big Niagara Falls.
All in all, the hike is a pretty straightforward 2.2-mile round trip. Both cascades are superb swimming spots, especially Little Niagara.
Enjoy a Host of Family-friendly Activities at Millinocket Lake
Millinocket Lake is a pristine body of water, remarkably free of modern-day shoreline development. As you visit this natural wonder, you’ll get a spectacular view of Mount Katahdin to the northwest.
The lake also offers a smorgasbord of activities for the entire family.
One of the most popular options is going kayaking on this tranquil lake. Even during the busy summer months, boat traffic is rather light, making the voyage even more laid-back.
Besides kayaking, you can also hit the two sandy beaches on the lake’s northeast shore. Ideal for swimming and shore lunches, these spots are accessible only by boat.
For fishing connoisseurs, Millinocket Lake is home to the lake trout, landlocked salmon, and yellow and white perch. Just remember to get your license before you start catching fish on the Millinocket Lake.
Enjoy a Celebration
Despite its rural setting, there are vibrant celebrations and events in the Katahdin area year-round. Here are some of the best celebrations throughout the year:
– Millinocket’s Trails End Festival
– Riverfest in Medway
– Sherman Old Home Days
– Patten Pioneer Days
– July 4th
– Fiddles and Fiddleheads
Chill at River Driver’s Pub
A great way to end a perfect day in Katahdin is to enjoy a beer or latte while watching the sun set behind Doubletop at River Driver’s Pub.
Ranked as the top restaurant in Millinocket, River Driver’s Pub impresses guests with its juicy burgers, nutritious salads, sandwiches, and soups.
A must-try here is the Lobster Bisque. Although it’s a thinner version of the renowned classic bisque, it doesn’t lack on lobster flavor.
If you’re a fan of seafood, you have to sample the haddock and salmon, as well as the seared scallops on summer veggies.
I highly recommend this restaurant – the view is fantastic, the atmosphere is casual, and their service is second to none.
- Address: 30 Twin Pines Road, Millinocket, Maine, USA
- Opening times: 07:00 AM to 08:00 PM Daily
- Contact number: 207-723-8475
Hike the Cranberry Pond Trail
Traveling with your little ones? One of the best ways to introduce your kids to the outdoors is to take a nature walk on Cranberry Trail. With no elevation gain, it’s the ideal trail for those who can’t scale the demanding summit of Mount Katahdin. You’ll find it nestled in Baxter State Park, near the Togue Pond Gatehouse. The path follows the forest and ends at Cranberry Pond.
To make the most of the day, pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic after your hike. You can also swim at Togue Pond, cherish the striking view of Mount Katahdin, and have some fun under the sun on the sandy beach.
Spend a Night Under the Stars
Searching for free things to do around Mount Katahdin? Try going outside and gazing at the beautiful night skies.
With its extreme remoteness, the Katahdin region is an excellent place to view clear night skies filled with planets and twinkling stars. You might also even spot the awe-inspiring aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights.
Venture into the Ice Caves of Debsconeag Lakes
The Ice Caves of Debsconeag Lakes are one of the most exciting places to visit in the Katahdin region.
This hike will start by taking you over some enormous granite boulders, which are the remnants of the last glacial activity during the Ice Age. From here, the trail will take you to a scenic lookout, where you can enjoy a gorgeous view of the Debsconeag Deadwater and First Debsconeag Lake.
The trail continues down to the Ice Cave Trail. When you veer right, you’ll see the enthralling Ice Cave. This natural landmark consists of a wonderfully deep hole under a pile of boulders. It has a chilly environment that somehow retains ice often as late as August. Making the trip here is an excellent way to cool off in Mother Nature’s air conditioning.
Once you’ve finished enjoying the Ice Cave, turn left at the fork, and make your way to the shoreline of the First Debsconeag Lake.
Note: Exploring the Ice Caves is tough. It requires a set of equipment for exploring slippery and tight conditions underground.
Go Mountain Biking
With over 5 miles of new trails, the magnificent Katahdin area is fast becoming a mecca for mountain biking enthusiasts.
The biking trails in the Katahdin region were opened in 2019 and built by a nonprofit organization over three years.
Over the next few years, more biking trails will be opened and added in this region.
The new biking trail network on Hammond Ridge features a 5-mile loop path built for newbie mountain bikers. Surfaced with hardpan soil and mixed with crushed, locally-sourced shale, the trail is a single track that weaves through a forest and measures 3 to 4 feet wide.
The new trail network also boasts around a mile of challenging bike tracks. These trails cross the broader and more established ski trails, which are open to bikers as well.
South Branch Pond Campground is one of Baxter State Park’s prettiest campsites. The tent sites are a little clumped, but if you’re lucky to find a pond-side lean-to, you’ll feel like you’re in paradise.
The campground has an 8-person bunkhouse, 21 tent sites and 12 lean-tos. It also boasts a clean, large pond surrounded beautifully by 3,000-foot mountains on every side.
It’s sort of like the Chimney Pond campground, except you can drive to the campsite and enjoy one of the best swimming spots in Maine.
A few nights at this campsite will also give you access to the cool, deep water of South Branch Pond. You can also use a kayak or canoe for only $1. And unlike other ponds and lakes in the area, this pond has a stone bottom – so there is no muck or leeches.
Aside from the South Branch Pond Campground, the area has a myriad of other campsites, including:
- Trout Brook Farm Campground
- Kidney Pond
- Daicey Pond Campground
- Katahdin Stream Campground
- Abol Campground
- The Penobscot Outdoor Center
There’s nothing quite like a snowmobiling escapade in the Katahdin region in winter. With picturesque groomed trails, you’ll undoubtedly have a blast exploring the icy landscapes of Maine in winter on a snowmobile.
There are many operators that offer this exciting winter activity. A few of the popular options include Northern Timber Cruises Snowmobile, East Branch Sno-Rovers Snowmobile, and Jo-Mary Riders.
Before you start your snowmobiling trip, though, drop by the Katahdin General Store to get your snowmobile license. You can also buy things that you forgot to bring for your trip, such as bug spray, boots, hiking supplies, and food.
Drive the Katahdin Woods and Waters Scenic Byway
The drive takes you through some of the most spectacular and eye-catching landscapes that Maine has to offer.
Driving the Byway allows you to relive the experiences of the early settlers who ventured into the great northern woods. You’ll also get to follow the footsteps of artists who were seduced by the region’s grandeur. Some of the more popular artists include Jake Day, Carl Sprinchorn, Winslow Homer, and Frederic Church.
The Byway starts at Baxter State Park’s southern entrance and winds along Route 12 through Millinocket. It continues to Penobscot River and Patten before ending at the northern entrance of Baxter at the Grand Lake Matagamon.
With an overall length of 89 miles, the drive features a bunch of cool activities and sites. A few notable stops include the West Branch Penobscot River, Boom House, Grindstone Falls, Shin Falls, and Ash Hill.
Visit the Ambajejus Lake Boom House
The Ambajejus Lake Boom House was a functional part of the region’s paper mills and log drives until 1971. Today, it houses exhibits filled with printed documents, as well as cultural and logging artifacts.
Inside the museum, visitors get to dive into the area’s culture, technological, labor, and environmental histories.
- Address: Fire Road 23A, Millinocket, Maine, USA
- Opening times: Open 24 hours a day
- Contact number: 207-731-3672