The 2022 SoBo’s Guide to Baxter and Katahdin

  • Get that Katahdin Stream reservation planned NOW. Want June 1st 2022? Plan to make that rez on Feb 1st.
  • Flying up? There’s a 5:30 PM-ish bus** in Bangor you need to get on, it’s your key connection. Call the AT Lodge to confirm a pick up, stay over, and shuttle to the AT trailhead in Baxter. (**The Cyr Bus station is a short walk from the airport. There may be capacity limits and minor tweeks to the schedule.)
  • Your 2022 guidebooks will be full of outdated info for this season. Actively share info with the hikers and service providers you encounter! Always call ahead.

Your first stop for official info: Baxter State Park.

Join the SOBO 2021 and SOBO 2022 Facebook groups!
The name of the mountain is Katahdin, the summit is Baxter Peak.
The famous sign isn’t on the peak – go tag that 12 foot high cairn!

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The AT is called the Hunt Trail from Katahdin Stream Campground to Baxter Peak. The traditional start for sobos is a there-and-back-again climb from Katahdin Stream Campground to Baxter Peak.

The physical and mental challenge of climbing Katahdin is not to be underestimated. You cannot roll off the couch and climb this mountain. Fit hikers can easily spend 8-10 hours getting up and down the mountain. More than a few prospective southbounders were unprepared for the task, and ended their hikes the same day they started.

A successful SoBo should be a fit and relatively experienced backpacker. Dozens drop out every season before they hit the Kennebec.

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The ATC registration program is a very useful tool for planning and distributing information. Please visit ATC here. Your ATC date does not guarantee that Baxter or a trail up will be open.

Be COVID aware and prepared. Carry PPE and hand sanitizer, If you’re using drop boxes be sure to include these items, don’t rely on them being readily available in the small towns along the trail.

Share – the bus ride, the shuttle, the campsite – save $, make friends.
Kennel that pooch! No dogs allowed in Baxter state Park. I recommend Katahdin Critters– Connie McManus (Connie’s CPM Pet Care was not available for the 2020 season.)
Bring cash, as Baxter Park does not accept debit or credit cards.

Getting here: Fly/bus/train to Portland or fly/bus to Bangor. Then bus or shuttle to Medway. Your bus gets in many miles away from the Park at 7:40 PM. You are not going to camp in the Park that night.
Contact the AT Lodge in Millinocket about their MEGA deal, they’ll pick you up at the bus stop, put you up for the night, shakedown your gear, and take you to KSC the next morning. Ask them about a food drop in the 100 Mile Wilderness! The Lodge will open Memorial Day, but will start taking reservations in April. Call them asap!
Getting a ride into the Park? There’s a fee at the gate – bring cash – $15 for an out-of-state vehicle.
The Abol Bridge store has accepted mail-drops in past years. However they may not open until mid – June. Please contact them personally well in advance. Whitehouse Landing in the 100 Mile accepts mail-drops – send at least ten days in advance! For 2022 I strongly advise hikers to contact ALL service providers in advance before sending a drop box.

TIP: For P.O.s you need to know window hours not lobby hours. Window hours have been drastically reduced over the last few years, and you can’t pick up your box if the window is closed. Best practice: send to the hostel you’re staying at.

Bring bug spray and a head net with you to Baxter. I also suggest long sleeved shirts and long pants.

Watch the snow melt here: http://www.neoc.com/webcam/twin-pine…am-camera1.php
(Just because you can’t see snow doesn’t mean Katahdin trails are open!)
Katahdin summit weather: http://forecast.weather.gov/product….C&issuedby=CAR
Baxter State Park 7 day forecast: http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick…2#.VwMpRnpKltR

You’re not going to climb on May 15th, which is the traditional date for the Park to open to overnight camping. The Park closes Katahdin to all hiking in April, and trails do not open until at least late May. 
Plan your start for later, after Memorial Day at least, June 1st better, second week of June best. I recommend the second week of June to ensure a Katahdin trail will be open. Don’t plan on an up-and-over from the Roaring Brook side. The logistics, the load, uncertain trail conditions – just don’t over complicate your start. Come back another day to do the Knife Edge.

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Yellow = AT. Map credit: BSPA.

My list of dates for when a trail to Baxter Peak opened:

  • ’21 May 28th for the Hunt (the AT) and Abol trails.
  • ’20 July 1st due to Covid-19.
  • ’19 Park delayed opening tote roads and campgrounds. May 15th opening postponed. All Katahdin trails were closed until June 14th.
  • ’18 Park delayed openings of tote roads and campgrounds. Abol opened May 21st, Hunt opened May 24th, major portion of tote road still closed.
  • ’17 Park delayed opening some campgrounds, Hunt and Abol open May 27th.
    ’16 The Hunt Trail opened on May 27th
    ’15 Park delayed opening some campgrounds. Hunt open May 22nd. (Summit snow on the 23rd!)
    ’14 Park delayed opening some campgrounds until May 22nd. Hunt opened May 29th.
    ’13 May 24th
    ’12 May 20th
    ’11 Park canceled traditional May 15th opening, Abol open Memorial day weekend.
    ’10 May 25th
    ’09 May 20th for both Hunt and Abol.
    ’08 Park canceled traditional May 15th opening, Abol and Hunt open May 29th.
    ’07 May 31st

How late in the year can you start? You need to be south of the Whites by October 1st. An August start is pushing the window.

Think hard about your gear and food. Baxter has no garbage cans, no tap water, no system to send gear home, no camp store to buy gear, food, or fuel. There’s no electricity, or telephones.

Consider a food drop in the 100 Mile Wilderness! Contact the AT Lodge in Millinocket or Shaws in Monson in advance for details.

“Carry as little as possible, but choose that little with care.” – Earl Shaffer. the first AT thruhiker.

Please book a site for the night before and after your climb. (If you stay with the AT Lodge, just one night is needed.) You can get a pre-dayhiker start in the AM, and you get to recover from the AT’s hardest 10.4 miles around a campfire with your brand new life-long friends. The long hike out the next day to Hurd Brook Lean-to can be a slog with tired legs, so relax and get a well deserved good night’s sleep. NOTICE: Camping and Day Use Parking Reservations cannot be completed on a mobile device – use a PC or call HQ. I highly recommend calling HQ and talking with a real person as opposed to using the online reservation system.
Reservations can be made starting four months in advance. Want June 1st and 2nd? Make that call on February 1st!
The Birches site is not available to southbounders. It’s for NoBos who hike in from at least Monson.

At Katahdin Stream Campground:
Tent sites 16 and 17 are roomy, plenty of space for two or three backpacking tents.
Lean-tos 1-3 are quiet walk-ins, lean-tos 4-8 are streamside and away from the parking area. Photos of sites at Katahdin Stream can be found on the Facebook pages.(Pro-tip: tentsite 16 is the northernmost site on the AT!)
Reservation information: https://reservation.baxterstatepark.org/reserve
The reservation office will expand its hours to 7 days a week starting in June.

Buy a bundle of firewood at the Ranger’s cabin. Cash only, you can also buy maps and guides.
Sign your first AT register while you’re on the Ranger’s porch! You can also weigh your pack, which will be at its highest weight of your entire trip as you enter the 100.

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Free to borrow day packs have been made available by the Baxter Rangers for your use. Leave your full pack at the Ranger station, and take essential/valuable items with you.

Wait until the Ranger posts the 7 AM weather forecast and trail conditions at the trailhead before you start. Sign out at the trailhead before heading up Katahdin.
Cell connections are rare on the AT in Maine. Do not count on getting reception until Monson.
Local FM radio station is 94.9. You can hear the weather report at the top of the hour all the way to Whitecap.
Talk with the Ranger, read all the posted information and warnings, and get your 2022 Sobo AT permit card stamped!

Use the new bear cable set-ups for hanging your foodbag! If you’re car camping, keep all food/smelly stuff locked in your can when not in use.

If Katahdin trails are open, please use extreme caution to stay on the trail above treeline. The habitat you’re climbing into is extremely rare and fragile.

After you hike out the next day plan on a stop at the Abol Bridge Store and campground.
Lots of snacks, cold drinks, limited re-supply*, and good cooking! Abol Bridge Campground & Store will reopen Memorial Day Weekend for the 2022 summer season.
*Seriously – do NOT plan on buying your 100 Mile Wilderness food here.

If you’re camping at Abol Bridge you want to use the State run Abol Pines campsite across the road from the store. $6 for Maine residents, $12 for everyone else. Great riverside site with lean-tos, tentsites, fire rings, and privys. Great spot to regroup before hitting the 100. Note: there are three campgrounds with the name Abol. One, inside Baxter, a few miles south of Katahdin Stream called Abol Campground. Two outside Baxter about ten miles south of Katahdin Stream where the AT trailhead is. They are call Abol Bridge Campground an RV type campground, and Abol Pines a primitive state run tenting campground (this is where most ATers stay.)

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Next stop: Monson! The best trail town on the Appalachian Trail! Plan a zero or two here. Shaw’s, the most famous hostel on trail awaits. Waiting for you are Lakeshore House, Spring Creek BBQ, the ATC’s Monson Visitor Center (The ATC’s Monson Appalachian Trail Visitor Center is right across from the Post Office, 8-11 AM and 1-5 PM Thursday – Monday. Contact (207) 573-0163 or monsonvisitorcenter@appalachiantrail.org), a fine General Store, and a hiker friendly Post Office too! Poet’s gear store at Shaws has outstanding re-supply. Pro-tip: Do NOT bounce a box ahead to Caratunk, you’ll probably hike there before your box arrives.

Monson tip: Stay in town at Shaws or Lake Shore so the stores, PO, and restaurants are a short walk from your hostel.

  • Kennebec Canoe Ferry:
    The operational hours for the 2021 season were as follows:
    May 28 – June 30 ………………….9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
    July 1 – September 30 ………….9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

The AT Lodge has a SoBo info page! Check it out HERE.

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Have fun on your SoBo hike! – Teej

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