The Nobo’s guide to Baxter and Katahdin for 2021

The Birches in early October.

Congrats! You’re almost there!
Some things you need to know:

  • Plan ahead!!
  • Kennebec Canoe Ferry:
    The operational hours for the 2021 season are as follows:
    May 28 – June 30 ………………….9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
    July 1 – September 30 ………….9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Monson: If you’re really late in the season, consider a flip up to Katahdin, and a hike back to Monson thru the 100. I highly recommend Shaw’s and the Lake Shore House. Get cash here for Baxter fees.
  • The ATC’s Monson Appalachian Trail Visitor Center. Right across from the Post Office, 8-11 AM and 1-5 PM Thursday – Monday. Contact (207) 573-0163 or
  • Poet’s Gear Emporium at Shaw’s Hostel. Outstanding re-supply for your finish!
  • Whitehouse Landing in the 100 Mile is closed to hikers for 2021. Use Shaws or AT Lodge for food drops.
  • Baxter Planning: When you get to the Park, there will be only 12 spots ($10 cash only) at the Birches each night for long distance hikers. (You must hike in from at least Monson to qualify for a spot.) You can either chance getting a spot, or call ahead from Monson and see if there are any open spots at Katahdin Stream Campground. KSC is on the AT with a water source, the Birches (pictured above, snow covered in early October) are up a dirt road a bit from the campground with no water. If you’re looking at a weekday in September or October you may score a site to share with a friend or two. Call the Park at (207) 723-5140, you can charge the $32 fee over the phone. Tell them you’re a thru, and you’ll pick up the reservation paperwork at the KSC Ranger’s Cabin. If you have four people split the cost of a site, its cheaper than the Birches!
Snow falling on Katahdin, from Abol Bridge.
  • The end of the 100 Mile: Bang a right, and a short road walk over the West Branch (the famous photo-op of Katahdin!) brings you to a small store with limited re-supply, no ATM, and a restaurant. You can stay in bunkhouses at the private campground ($$$), or at the wicked nice State campground ($) across the river. Pay the small fee, #dontbethathiker.
  • Abol Pines at Abol Bridge: Screenshot_1389
  • Screenshot_1388
  • AT Hiker Permit Card at Baxter: Check in with the Katahdin Stream Ranger
  • Timing: Avoid Labor Day weekend. KSC is booked solid by a Native American group.
  • The small store at Abol Bridge closed September 30th in 2020. Plan an extra two days of food if you’re late leaving Monson.
  • Try to summit by the first week in October, later dates are pushing the weather window. Baxter and Katahdin do not “close” on October 15th. The Birches and Katahdin Stream stay open until October 22nd. Trails up stayed open until the 23rd in 2018 and 2019. But again: Try to summit by the first week in October.
Katahdin Stream Campground.
  • Money: Bring cash! You need cash to pay for camping and firewood. No credit cards!
  • Baxter State Park: It’s pack-it-in-pack-it-out. No garbage cans, no running water, no re-supply, no mail-drops, no land-lines, no guaranteed cell connection, no electricity, only narrow and winding dirt roads.
  • New bridge at Katahdin Stream Falls!
  • “No children under the age of 6 are allowed above timberline.” 
  • Dogs: No pets allowed, with the exception of real service dogs. Please don’t try to fake Fido in as a service dog. When caught you will be expelled from the Park and subject to a fine. Service dogs must be on a leash at all times. Thought western Maine was tough with Fido? Wait til you hit Katahdin. Kennel that dog. Remember this: Sneaking your dog in will directly affect the future relationship between the Park and the AT hikers. Think of the hikers to come behind you.
  • Personal Behavior: Be nice, you’re a guest in Baxter. No pot, no over-the-top partying. Don’t tag shelters or signs. Follow the simple and sensible rules, act responsibly, and don’t screw it up for the Class of ’22. Finish well!
  • Leave no trace means leave no bad impressions too.
  • Climbing Katahdin: Get an early start, before the car campers and drive-ins. Pack fleeces, rain gear, hats, gloves, headlamp, snacks and water – pack smart for the Greatest Mountain. Sign out at the Trailhead, read and respect the posted cautions. Keep your group to 10 at the most.
  • Screenshot_1391
  • Getting home: Starting in September of past years the AT Lodge provided a daily shuttle, but unfortunately situations have changed, and that might not be the case going forward. Contact them as they are highly regarded by Park staff and past northbounders. Beware “bandit” shuttlers hanging about Baxter parking lots – legit shuttles park across the footbridge at the Ranger cabin, not in the day use area. Hitch-hike or yogi a ride into Millinocket if you have to, most folks leaving the Park are heading there. Then it’s out to Medway (Cyr Bus will have very limited capacity for 2020. Buy tickets ahead of time.) to make bus connection south to Bangor and Portland to connect with planes and trains.
  • Section Hikers: The AT Lodge and Shaw’s are your go-tos for logistics regarding car-drops, long term parking, and slackpacks and shorter sections in the 100.
  • After your hike: Contact the guidebook folks with your corrections and suggestions. Send those thank-you notes and the I Made It! cards to the service providers who helped you on your way. Join a trail crew!
  • The famous sign isn’t Baxter Peak! It’s the tall cairn over to the right. Most thrus never go tag the cairn!
    Baxter Peak Cairn.

    Links and contact info:

Monkey bars!

“The works of men are short lived. Monuments decay, buildings crumble and wealth vanishes, but Katahdin in its massive grandeur will forever remain the mountain of the people of Maine.”Percival Proctor Baxter

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