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Mount Katahdin

Katahdin from 10,000 ft (3,000 m)
Elevation 5,270 ft (1,610 m) NAVD 88[1]
Prominence 4,288 ft (1,307 m)[2]
Listing New England 4000-footers
#2 New England Fifty Finest
U.S. state high point
Katahdin is located in Maine
Piscataquis County, Maine, U.S.
Range Appalachian Mountains
Coordinates [1]
Topo map USGS Mount Katahdin
Type Granite
Age of rock Devonian, Acadian orogeny
First ascent 1804 by Charles Turner, Jr.
Easiest route Hike, Abol Trail / Hunt Trail
3.8 miles (6.1 km)
Designated 1967

Mount Katahdin (pronounced , "") is the highest mountain in Maine at 5,270 feet (1,606 m). Named Katahdin by the Penobscot Indians, which means "The Greatest Mountain",[3] Katahdin is the centerpiece of Baxter State Park. It is a steep, tall mountain formed from a granite intrusion weathered to the surface. The flora and fauna on the mountain are typical of those found in northern New England.

Katahdin was known to the Native Americans in the region, and was known to Europeans at least since 1689. It has inspired hikes, climbs, journal narratives, paintings, and a piano sonata.[4] The area around the peak was protected by Governor Percival Baxter starting in the 1930s. Katahdin is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, and is located near a stretch known as the Hundred-Mile Wilderness.

The mountain is commonly called just "Katahdin",[5] including by Baxter State Park in official publications.[6] The official name is "Mount Katahdin" as decided by the US Board on Geographic Names in 1893.[7]


  • Geography 1
  • Natural history 2
  • Human history 3
  • Recreation opportunities 4
    • Knife Edge 4.1
  • Mt. Katahdin Trail 5
    • Abol 5.1
    • Hunt 5.2
    • Helon Taylor 5.3
    • Dudley 5.4
    • Cathedral 5.5
    • Saddle 5.6
    • Knife’s Edge 5.7
    • Hamlin Ridge 5.8
    • Chimney Pond 5.9
  • Other references 6
  • In popular culture 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Katahdin is located in Baxter State Park, which is in east central Piscataquis County, about 25 mi (40 km) northwest of Millinocket. It is on the drainage divide between the East and West branches of the Penobscot River and is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

The second highest point in Maine, Sugarloaf Mountain at 1,295 m (4,250 ft) is over one hundred miles to the southwest. There is low lake country to the south and west of Katahdin, and lowlands extending east to the Atlantic and north to the Saint Lawrence River in Canada.

It is commonly thought that Katahdin is the first place in the United States mainland to receive sunlight in the morning, but this is incorrect. Other mountains, lower in elevation but further to the east or southeast, depending on the season, see the first sunrise of the day.[8]

Natural history

Katahdin is part of a laccolith that formed in the Acadian orogeny, when an island arc collided with eastern North America approximately 400 million years ago. On the sides of Katahdin are four glacial cirques carved into the granite by alpine glaciers and in these cirques behind moraines and eskers are several ponds.[9]

In Baxter State Park many outcrops of sedimentary rocks have striations, whereas Katahdin Granite and Traveler Rhyolite lava have weathered surfaces on which striations are commonly not preserved. Bedrock surfaces of igneous rocks which have been buried by glacial sediments and only recently exposed have well preserved striations, as in the vicinity of Ripogenus Dam. Several outcrops of sedimentary rocks along the Patten Road show striations, especially on the north side of the road at Hurricane Deck. A few outcrops near the Pattern Road just north of Horse Mountain are striated as are several outcrops of sedimentary rocks along the road from Trout Brook Farm northward to Second Lake Matagamon.

The bottom of the diagram shows the lowest section of vegetation: coniferous forest. This is around 3,500 ft above sea level, and some species include red pine and balsam fir. Just above these conifers, the mountain becomes a slightly steeper grade, from about 3,500 to 4,000 ft above sea level, and due to poor soil and constant heavy wind, the trees start to have stunted growth. They continue to be conifers, but are slightly smaller. Then we reach the tablelands, which is above the treeline (4,200 ft), and has alpine communities, containing a variety of shrubs. Above the alpine communities, there is just lichen growing on rocks, which can reach one mile above sea level.

Fauna include black bear, deer and moose as well as black flies and mosquitos in the spring. A subspecies of arctic butterfly, known as the Katahdin arctic (Oeneis polixenes katahdin) is specific to the area, and is currently listed as endangered.[10] Among the birds are Bicknell's thrush and various songbirds and raptors. A study of the animal communities was published by Irving H. Blake in 1926.[11] The flora includes pine, spruce, fir, hemlock, beech, maple, birch, aspen, and Diapensia lapponica.

Mount Katahdin

Human history

Mount Katahdin from Millinocket Camp, by Frederic Edwin Church, 1895

Katahdin is referred to 60 years after Field’s climb of Agiokochuk (Mount Washington) in the writings of John Gyles, a teenage colonist who was captured near Portland, Maine in 1689 by the Abenaki. While in the company of Abenaki hunting parties, he traveled up and down several Maine rivers including both branches of the Penobscot, passing close to “Teddon”. He remarked that it was higher than the White Hills above the Saco River.

Among some Native Americans, Katahdin was believed to be the home of the storm god Pamola, and thus an area to be avoided.[12]

The first recorded climb of "Catahrdin" was by Massachusetts surveyors Zackery Adley[13] and Charles Turner, Jr. in August 1804.[14] In the 1840s Henry David Thoreau climbed Katahdin, which he spelled "Ktaadn"; his ascent is recorded in a well-known chapter of The Maine Woods.[15] A few years later Theodore Winthrop wrote about his visit in Life in the Open Air. Painters Frederic Edwin Church and Marsden Hartley are well-known artists who created landscapes of Katahdin. On 30 November 2011, Christie's auctioned Church's 1860 painting Twilight (Katahdin) for $3.1 million.

In the 1930s Governor Percival Baxter began to acquire land and finally deeded more than 200,000 acres (809 km2) to the State of Maine for a park, named Baxter State Park after him. The summit was officially recognized by the US Board on Geographic Names as "Baxter Peak" in 1931.

The Appalachian Trail on Katahdin's Hunt Spur

Recreation opportunities

As the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail and southern terminus of the International Appalachian Trail, Katahdin is a popular hiking and backpacking destination and the centerpiece of Baxter State Park. Baxter State Park is open year round, though strictly regulated in winter. The overnight camping season is from May 15 to October 15 each year. Capacity limits have been placed on day use parking at the trailheads to minimize the overuse of trails.[16]

Knife Edge

The most famous hike to the summit goes along Knife Edge, which traverses the ridge between Pamola Peak and Baxter Peak. The mountain has claimed 19 lives since 1963,[17] mostly from exposure in bad weather and falls from the Knife Edge. For about 3/10 of a mile the trail is 3 feet wide, with a drop off on either side. The Knife Edge is closed during periods of high wind.

Mt. Katahdin Trail

Katahdin Cliff

Mt. Katahdin has several trails leading up to either Pamola or Baxter Peak. There are two trails, Hunt and Abol, accessible from the South side of the mountain each having its own separate parking lot.[18] These trails start right up the mountain, but each trail on the mountain ends up taking eight to ten hours depending on ability.[19][20][21] The rest of the trails go up the North side or West side of the mountain. These are accessed from the Chimney Pond Trail. For these trails, Hikers must park at the Roaring Brook Campground and hike in. All trails are maintained by the Baxter State Park Authority who run the State Park. All of the trails on the mountain are classified as very strenuous, the highest classification the Park Authority gives, except for Saddle (strenuous), Hamlin Ridge trail (moderate), and Chimney Pond (moderate).[18]


Abol is one of the trails on the South side of the mountain.[19] It is a 3.8 mile trail to Baxter Peak. It is the fastest way to Baxter Peak.[18] It doesn’t get much traffic because it is not the trail of choice for hikers hiking the Appalachian Trail. It is a steep trail composed of small looser rocks. The top of the trail is known as the Abol Slide. It is a half mile section of loose rock that slides underneath climbers’ feet. Many hikers compare it to hiking up a steep beach or taking two steps forward and three steps back.[20] Abol Trail is currently closed to hiking due to loose rock that shifted during the winter of 2013-2014. The trail is being rerouted with switch backs to avoid the danger area.


Hunt is the other trail accessed from the backside of the mountain. It is a 5.8 mile trail to Baxter Peak. It is the longest trail up the mountain and takes the longest amount of time. The beginning mile and a half is not that steep. Hikers pass over mountain streams and numerous waterfalls. It takes a while for the trail to become steep. Once the tree line is reached, however, Hunt is known for its boulders. These giant rocks are very difficult to traverse. Hikers must use metal handlebars secured in to rock to progress through the latter part of the trail. The last section of the trail is considered a very difficult climb.[18]

Helon Taylor

Helon Taylor is a trail on the east side of the mountain. This trail is 3.2 miles in length. Hikers still must park at Roaring Brook, but the trail splits off from the Chimney Pond Trail.[18] The trail is named after a longtime overseer of the park. The trail climbs up to Pamola Peak where hikers must climb Knife’s Edge to get to Baxter Peak.[19]


Dudley is a trail on the North side of the mountain. This trail is 1.3 miles, and goes to Pamola Peak. It is known for its boulders that hikers must climb between instead of over. The top section of the trail is all loose rock. It is the location of a notable landmark on the mountain, a rock that is halfway down the trail. The rock is a few hundred feet in length and juts out the side of the mountain. From the other side of the mountain, this rock is the only one distinguishable.[18]


Cathedral trail is a trail on the front of the mountain that goes to Baxter Peak. It is 1.7 miles in length.[18] It is one of the more steep trails. It is known for its three giant granite structures named Cathedrals 1-3. It is a style of hiking similar to rock climbing called scrambling because one must traverse huge rocks the entirety of the trail.[20] It is not recommended that hikers climb down this trail because of its steep nature.[18]


Saddle trail is on the front of the mountain and goes to Baxter Peak. It is 2.2 miles in length. It is one of the easier trails on the mountain. It is accessed from the Chimney Pond Trail and Roaring Brook Campground.[18] It has loose rocks, but does not have the big rocks to traverse. It is recommended for beginners, and it is often the safety net for hikers who encounter bad weather.

Knife’s Edge

Knife's Edge

The Knife’s Edge is the trail that connects Pamola and Baxter Peak. It is 1.1 miles in length.[18] It is the most notable feature of Katahdin. Along with being the terminus of the Appalachian Trail, the reason Mt. Katahdin is such a popular hike amongst hikers is because of this trail. The path stretches roughly a mile and is all sharp granite rocks. It is surrounded on both sides by steep cliffs and at sections is only three feet wide. It is a dangerous part of the mountain and accounts for the most deaths.[19] The Baxter State Park Authority close the trail in any wind or rain and only recommend the trail be hiked in the best of conditions.[18]

Hamlin Ridge

The Hamlin Ridge Trail is accessed from the plateau on the top of the mountain accessed by Cathedral and Saddle trails. It is 1.5 miles long. The trail goes to Hamlin Peak, a smaller and less popular peak. It is gradual and short.[18]

Chimney Pond

The Chimney Pond trail is the trail used to access the front of the mountain. It is 3.3 miles in length. It begins at Roaring Brook Campground and ends at Chimney Pond in the base of Katahdin. It is a three-mile trail that is not as difficult as the mountain trails.[18] It passes by a large number of lakes and streams. Hikers get occasional views of the mountain along the way.[20][21]

Other references

  • Two US Navy ships have been named USS Katahdin after the mountain. Katahdin is also the name of a 1914 steamboat (later converted to diesel) owned by the Moosehead Marine Museum that plies the waters of Moosehead Lake in northern Maine.
  • The Katahdin potato, which was certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1932, was named after the mountain and is still popular in the Northeastern United States.[22]
Baxter Peak (center) and the Knife Edge Trail (center to left)

In popular culture

  • The novel A Separate Peace by John Knowles mentions Mount Katahdin, when the narrator, Gene, talks about the time when his friend, Leper Lepellier, "[satisfied] one of his urges to participate in nature" when he slept on top of Mount Katahdin, where, Knowles wrote, "each morning the sun first strikes United States territory."

See also


  1. ^ a b "Katahdin 2". NGS data sheet.  
  2. ^ "Katahdin, Maine". Retrieved 2012-11-08. 
  3. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 172. 
  4. ^ "Hovhaness: Khaldis; Mount Katahdin; Fantasy, Op. 16". Retrieved 2012-11-08. 
  5. ^ Clark, Stephen (2003). Katahdin: A Guide to Baxter State Park & Katahdin. Clark Books.  
  6. ^ Baster State Park "Hiking Katahdin"
  7. ^
  8. ^ Analysis by Blanton C. Wiggin, published in the January 1972 issue of Yankee magazine, determined that the first sunrise in the U.S. occurs at Mars Hill in most of the spring and summer, and at Cadillac Mountain in most of the fall and winter.
  9. ^ "Geology of Baxter State Park". Maine Geological Survey. Archived from the original on 2008-10-12. 
  10. ^ "Katahdin Arctic". Maine Dept of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Archived from the original on 2013-03-30. 
  11. ^ Blake, Irving H. (October 1926). "A comparison of the animal communtities of coniferous and deciduous forests". Illinois Biological Monographs 10 (4): 10–39. 
  12. ^ Eric Pinder. "Of Moose and Men...and Mountains". North to Katahdin. Retrieved 2012-11-08. 
  13. ^ "Mount Katahdin – History, Geology, and Culture". University of Maine. Retrieved 2013-12-23. 
  14. ^ Turner, C. (1804). A Description of Mount Catardin (Second Series Vol. viii ed.). Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society. 
  15. ^ Henry David Thoreau (1864). "Ktaadn". The Maine woods. Boston: Ticknor and Fields. pp. 1–84.  
  16. ^ "Parking lot capacities at Katahdin Trailheads". Baxter State Park Authority. Archived from the original on 2012-10-13. Retrieved 2012-11-08. 
  17. ^ "Hiking Tips & Wilderness Considerations". Baxter State Park Authority. Retrieved 2012-11-08. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Baxter State Park Authority". 
  19. ^ a b c d "One Minute Hikes: Helon Taylor, Knife Edge, Abol". 
  20. ^ a b c d "One Minute Hikes: Cathedral". 
  21. ^ a b "One Minute Hikes: Saddle". 
  22. ^ "Katahdin". The Potato Association of America. Retrieved 2012-11-08. 

External links

  • More detailed Wiki on Katahdin Including Trails
  • Katahdin Webcam
  • Katahdin Webcam - Millinocket
  • Katahdin Webcam - Twin Pine Camps, Millinocket
  • Katahdin on Peakware (photos)
  • Baxter State Park Authority Official Website
  • Summit Log (October 2005 summit log)
  • Katahdin at Summitpost many photos
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