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Steve Jermanok’s Active Travels: Mount Katahdin, Maine

Mount Katahdin, Baxter State Park, Maine.

Mount Katahdin, at Baxter State Park in Maine, is a fitting end to the Appalachian Trail in the north. Reaching the mass of rock atop the 5,267 foot summit is a challenge to the most experienced climber, even the AT thru-hiker who spent the last six months racking up more than 2,100 miles. Yet, it’s somewhat of a disappointment that the AT ascends Katahdin from the Hunt Trail, the easiest (if there’s such a thing) and least spectacular path to the peak. For an unparalleled mountainous ascent in the northeast, you should opt for the Knife Edge. Like the name implies, this three to foot wide granite sidewalk sharply drops off more than 1,500 feet on either side.

The best way to reach the Knife Edge is the Helen Taylor Trail from the Roaring Brook Campground.  All the ascents are a struggle. You start at about 1,500 feet and don’t stop climbing until you run out of mountain. When the Helen Taylor trail hits Pamola Peak, a little over three miles into the climb, bear left to find the Knife Edge.  First you’ll ascend South Peak, then Baxter Peak, the actual summit of Katahdin. Rest those spaghetti legs and take in the exquisite vistas of northern Maine—Chesuncook Lake, the West Branch of the Penobscot River, Big and Little Spencer Mountains, and all the peaks that form massive Katahdin.
As you gloat, proud of your grand accomplishment, just remember that Henry David Thoreau climbed Katahdin without a trail. “It was vast, Titanic, such as man never inhabits. Some part of the beholder, even some vital part, seems to escape through the loose grating of his ribs as he ascends,” Thoreau noted in The Maine Woods.   No doubt, you’ll agree.

As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.

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