The 2020 SoBo’s Guide to Baxter and Katahdin

Baxter State Park has delayed their season opening.


Your first stop for official info: Baxter State Park.

Join the Appalachian Trail SOBO 2020, or SOBO 2021, 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!

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 physically fit and experienced backpacker. 420 SoBos signed in with the Rangers at Baxter in 2018. Dozens dropped out before they hit the Kennebec.

The ATC has a registration program for those attempting AT thru-hikes. 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.
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 is 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 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. 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 does accept mail-drops. 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!

Kids? “Rule 2.2 – No children under the age of 6 are allowed above timberline.” 

TIP: Your guidebook info may be over a year old by the time you get to a mid-trail destination. Always call ahead when you plan on sending a mail-drop. This includes P.O.s as their window hours may change. Talk with the nobos to get first hand recent info.

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

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

You’re not going to climb on May 15th, the traditional date for the park to open to overnight camping. The Park closes to all hiking in April, and trails do not open until at least late May. In 2019 – All Katahdin trails were closed until June 14th.
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. The Dudley Trail is closed indefinitely. Come back another day to do the Knife Edge.

Yellow = AT. Red = Closed trail. Map credit: BSPA.


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

’20 TBD

’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.

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 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.

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 Sobo ’18 Facebook page.(Pro-tip: tentsite 16 is the northernmost site on the AT!)
Reservation information:
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. Borrow a daypack for your summit.screenshot_103
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 2020 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 2020 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.


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. Lakeshore House, Spring Creek BBQ, the ATC’s Monson Visitor Center (get your Thruhiker Tag here, phone number: 207-573-0163), a new General Store, and a hiker friendly Post Office too! Poet’s Gear Emporium at Shaw’s Hostel, has outstanding re-supply. Pro-tip #1: Do NOT bounce a box ahead to Caratunk, you’ll probably hike there before your box arrives. Pro-tip #2: Check in with the great folks from the ATC, they’ll have up-to-date trail conditions and ferry schedules for the Kennebec.

2020 Kennebec River Ferry schedule:

  • REVISED schedule as of 5/11/20:
    June 1 – June 30 9am – 11am
    July 1 – Sept 30 9am – 2pm


Have fun on your SoBo hike! – Teej


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