Forget Katahdin – Lots of better Baxter hikes

I’ve hiked most of Mt Katahdin’s trails but I have to tell you that the crowds these days on the trails are far too large. I think there are much better and more enjoyable hikes throughout Baxter State Park.

We’ve owned a camp on the edge of Baxter for nearly 40 years. We actually drive on Baxter’s Perimeter Road for 20 miles to reach the driveway into our camp. We always found the northern half of the park much less crowded than the southern half.

When our kids were small, Sentinel Mountain was a favorite. It’s a very nice hike and not too difficult for kids. We also did many of the flat hikes. A favorite was the trail to Wassataquoik Lake which started very near our camp.

The kids also loved the magnificent waterfall about 1 mile up the Katahdin Stream Trail towards Mount Katahdin. Before you get to the waterfall, on the left there’s a hike up the Owl, another favorite of the kids. It’s a short hike but fairly steep as you close in on the summit.

Early on OJI was my favorite, probably because you had to climb up open rock slides, a bit tricky. But once I discovered Mount Coe, that became my very favorite hike. It takes about two hours and passes through three kinds of habitat, the last of which is a long gradual rock slide. The view from the top is spectacular.

I have photos of our kids on top of many of the mountains I’m writing about. One of my favorites is of our daughters Rebekah and Hilary on top of Mt Coe.

Next to Coe are two other favorites, North and South Brother. One time Rebekah and I hiked all three, starting with Coe, where we had to hike through snow, and then hiking across the mountain top to South Brother, and finally up North Brother. Turned out to be about a 15-mile hike. Somehow I had misread the guide and thought it was closer to 10 miles. Yup, we were exhausted by the time we got back to camp. I do remember one spot where a bear jumped up and took off to the left of us.

One time a friend and I hiked up North Brother and then bushwhacked down the far side and up Fort Mountain where a World War II plane crashed. At the top of Fort there is a memorial to those who died in the crash and on the far side of the mountain lies the remains of the plane.

Another favorite is Trout Brook Mountain near the northern end of the park. It’s a fairly easy hike with a beautiful view at the top. We would always go when the blueberries were ripe because there was a huge patch partway up the mountain.

We actually picked blueberries in several places in the park but in recent years we have focused on mushrooms. I’m forbidden from telling you about our favorite mushroom picking places.

Other mountains we hiked a lot are Double Top and North Traveler. And be sure to take the 1-mile trail from Dacey Pond to Big Niagara Falls, a stunning place that we all enjoyed many times, often having a picnic there. Son Josh and I loved to start fishing below Niagara Falls and going all the way to the West branch of the Penobscot River.

And that’s the only favorite fishing place I’m going to tell you about!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.