Sunrise from the shores of Wassataquoik Lake.
Photo by Ryan Linn
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Backpacking Through Baxter State Park

For my second annual Baxter State Park backpacking trip, I had planned to bring friends from all over the country to Maine late in the season to show off the parts of the park that few out-of-staters ever see.

Ryan Linn       Trip Report       10/19/2015
Ryan Linn
Trip Report
10/19/2015

For my second annual Baxter State Park backpacking trip, I had planned to bring friends from all over the country to Maine late in the season to show off the parts of the park that few out-of-staters ever see.

Most of my friends had to bail, but a small core group stuck with the plan, and we spent a large chunk of Columbus Day weekend hiking across the park.

I take great pleasure in bringing visitors to my home state and acting as a sort of outdoor tour guide. Partially, it’s an excuse for me to take trips that are on my bucket list, but it’s also nice to be reminded how much of a treasure the state’s wilderness is.

A map of the hike through Baxter State Park.
Map of the backpacking trip through Baxter State Park.
Map created by Ryan Linn (using CalTopo.com)

Grant, the president of Gossamer Gear, his stepson, Ian, and my fellow Portlander, Hans made up the small group. Grant had last been in Maine at the end of his AT hike in 2002. Hans had been to Baxter State Park several times, but never as deep into the park as we went on this trip. Most of the hike was new terrain for everyone.

Day one consisted of driving four hours from Portland into the Park, then shuttling cars from Roaring Brook Campground to Nesowadnehunk Field Campground (by far the most beautiful and remote roadside campground in the park).

Despite long hours of driving, there was plenty of good sightseeing along the road. And since it was a car-camping night, we had an epic feast of lobster-mac and maple-apple-cobbler to get the trip started right.

Day two started with a hard frost and sunrise views over Doubletop Mountain, then a long hike through deep forest to the newest BSP campsite on the west end of Wassataquoik Lake (Grant shortened the name to a more pronounceable “WTF Lake”).

Foliage colors were a little duller than peak, but still gorgeous, especially as seen from a high ledge overlooking the lake in the evening. Once at the campsite, we spent a bit of time canoeing across the lake as sunset put the final light of the day on Turner Mountain.

Sunlight illuminates a green meadow with trees and mountains in the background.
Frosty morning at Nesowadnehunk Field Campground.
Photo by Ryan Linn
A golden grassy meadow stands in front of low mountains.
A trailside bog on the Wassataquoik Lake Trail.
Photo by Ryan Linn
A view from a mountain ridge overlooks orange, red, yellow, and green trees and a blue lake in Baxter State Park in Maine.
Wassataquoik Lake from an overlook at the west end of the lake.
Photo by Ryan Linn

Day three was a short hike to Russell Pond, with a perfectly timed day of cold rain. Despite the damp and cold, it was a beautiful hike along Wassataquoik Lake, with waterfalls and deep, mossy fir forests.

We spent the afternoon and evening drinking hot cocoa and reading in our sleeping bags while the rain fell outside our lean-to.

Three hikers stand in front of an exquisite waterfall in a forest.
Green Falls on the south shore of Wassataquoik Lake.
Photo by Ryan Linn
Hikers move down a trail through a mossy forest.
Damp, mossy forest in the depths of Baxter State Park.
Photo by Ryan Linn

Day four was the long day, climbing Katahdin via the North Peaks Trail (which started with an icy ford of Wassataquoik Stream) and traversing about six miles of frosty alpine terrain.

The rain of the previous day had brought the foliage colors out with a vengeance, but also coated the summit in a thick layer of rime ice. I nervously watched the time all day, since we were taking one of the longest routes to Baxter Peak, and one of the hardest descents, but the tour-guide in me decided getting down from the mountain after dark wasn’t the worst thing that could happen.

We took our time to enjoy the scenery and the biting wind, and got to the car at Roaring Brook an hour after dark, then took another hour to drive back to Nesowadnehunk Field for the night.

A bright blue lake is surrounded by a forest and hills.
Early morning on Russell Pond after a day of rain.
Photo by Ryan Linn
A hiker wades across a clear, flowing mountain river.
An icy ford of Wassataquoik Stream.
Photo by Ryan Linn

Because of how BSP’s reservations system works, backpacking trips like this have to be planned in advance with an eye toward worst-case-scenarios. I got incredibly lucky for the second year in a row with this trip, having the rainy days fall only on short hiking days or on days when hiking only in low elevation forests.

Even if it had rained for all three days of the trip, though, it would have been an enjoyable trip in some of the finest wilderness the east coast has to offer. I’m already thinking of plans for next year’s trip.

A hiker crosses a massive boulder field.
Climbing Baxter Peak on Katahdin despite the rime ice.
Photo by Ryan Linn
A rocky ridgeline overlooks a distant valley.
Starting Katahdin’s Knife Edge in the afternoon.
Photo by Ryan Linn

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Baxter State Park

Baxter State Park is home to Maine’s highest peak, Mt. Katahdin, as well as lakes and campgrounds. Bottom line, Baxter is worth the trip!

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170+ miles of trail (275 km)       $9.99 full guide
Turner Deadwaters, Baxter State Park, Maine
Photo by Ryan Linn
Turner Deadwaters, Baxter State Park, Maine
Photo by Ryan Linn

Baxter State Park

Baxter State Park is home to Maine’s highest peak, Mt. Katahdin, as well as lakes and campgrounds. Bottom line, Baxter is worth the trip!

170+ miles of trail (275 km)
$9.99 full guide
Learn more
Get our trail guide for this area!
About the Author
A man wears a blue shirt, blue backpack, and a tan baseball cap.

Ryan Linn

Ryan is also known as “Guthook”, which is where our apps get their name. Already an avid hiker, he hiked the Appalachian Trail, New England Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail before joining forces with Paul to create the Guthook Guides apps. Ryan handles iOS development for our apps from his office in Maine, and usually runs away to the forests and mountains throughout New England. He also volunteers with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Baxter State Park in Maine is his happy place.