I have to admit one of the things that have been on my bucket list for a while is to hike the Appalachian Trail. I don’t necessarily need to hike the whole trail but I would like to hike every section that is a part of the Appalachian Trail. The “AT” is perhaps the world’s most famous hiking trail. You’d have to hike its length to see all of the famous places on the Appalachian Trail. The northern terminus is at Mount Katahdin, Maine and the southern terminus rests at Springer Mountain, Georgia. The “AT” is 2190 miles long. You will gain or lose a total of 464,500 feet as you traverse the entire trail. There are over 3 million visitors to the Appalachian Trail each year. The “AT” crosses through parts of 14 states on the eastern side of the US. We will start our hike here at the northern terminus of the “AT”. Maine is the A.T.’s most challenging, rugged and remote state, and it has the wildest feel of any area of the Trail. This segment of the “AT” is also famous for hosting the hardest mile of the Trail: Mahoosuc Notch. So, we will start with the hardest part of the “AT” and work towards easier parts over time.
In October 1921, regional planner Benton MacKaye went public with his proposal for “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning.” With publicity from a New York newspaper columnist (who himself blazed the first specifically A.T. section of trail), he then spent years working his network of trail and government contacts from Washington to Boston. By March 1925, MacKaye had generated enough support for a hiking trail. Toward the end of the Twenties, retired Connecticut Judge Arthur Perkins of the Appalachian Mountain Club took over the reins of ATC from MacKaye. Perkins soon drew the attention of federal admiralty lawyer Myron H. Avery and a small band of Washingtonians who had formed the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) and started blazing the path in West Virginia and northern Virginia. Avery succeeded Perkins as head of ATC (as well as PATC) and efforts to recruit more volunteer clubs and put the A.T. truly on the ground accelerated. In August 1937, a footpath was indeed complete from Maine to Georgia, and Avery and National Park Service allies were well into a plan for overnight shelters along the 2,000-mile length of it, with some formal measure of federal protection on either side. A pair of leaders—Murray Stevens of New York and Stanley Murray of Tennessee—followed Avery in the Fifties and Sixties, convinced that only federal ownership of the land on which the footpath twisted could truly protect it for future generations of backpackers and hikers. The legislation succeeded in 1968, and President Johnson signed into law the National Trails System Act 47 years after MacKaye’s original proposal was published. The A.T. became the first national scenic trail in place, a unit of the national park system.
In this article we will travel a little over 300 miles, which depending on how many hours a day you want to hike will take us a little over 22 days. We will hike from Mount Katahdin, Maine to Gorham, New Hampshire. Maine’s reputation is primarily earned in its Southwestern region, a 113-mile stretch that plays out like a topographical game of connecting the dots. Each day is a new mountain, or two or three, highlighted by the imposing climbs of Old Speck, Baldpate, Saddleback, and Bigelow. All told, there are seven 4,000-plus foot peaks and 13 others topping 3,000 feet with significant elevation gain and loss between each. Maine is famous for its unbridged stream crossings, which can be hazardous after spring snowmelt and heavy rains. The Kennebec River, the wildest unbridged crossing, has a free ferry service in the form of a canoe during hiking season. This is the A.T.’s official and historic route. The Kennebec is approximately 400 feet wide with a swift, powerful current under the best of circumstances. However, as a result of releases of water from hydroelectric facilities on the river, the depth and current of the river surge quickly and unpredictably. You cannot cross faster than the water level rises. The trailhead of the northern terminus is inside Baxter State Park. You’ll start out there on the Hunt trail which will bring you down from the summit of Katahdin (5267 feet). Next is Mahoosuc Notch, a boulder-filled gorge widely regarded as the hardest mile on the entire Appalachian Trail. The northern end of the Maine AT is anchored by the 100-Mile Wilderness, revered for being such a long stretch of untamed forest with no designated resupply points. Enjoy the rest of your hike through Maine and into extreme northeastern New Hamshire.
—- Location —-
Starting ( or ending) at Mount Katahdin, Maine the nearest towns to where you would start and end up at on this segment are Millinocket, Maine, and Gorham, New Hampshire. The Maine section of the Applicihaian Trail follows the northern tip of the Appalachian Mountains in the United States. US-2 and I-95 both parallel the eastern side of the trail, at a distance. A few of the “AT” communities near the trail in Maine are Millinocket, Monson, Kingfield, and Rangeley. From Bangor, Maine get on I-95 North and follow it about 60 miles until you can exit off at exit 144 to ME-157. Follow ME-157 approximately 35 miles west until you get to Millinocket. Look for Millinocket Road going out of town to the northwest and follow it until it changes its name into Baxter Park Road. Follow Baxter Park Road 9 miles until you get to Baxter State Park and follow the signs in the Park after that. To get to the other end of this segment of the “AT” and Gorham, New Hampshire from Portland, Maine follow US-302 northwest out of town for 28 miles. When you intersect with ME-35 in Naples, Maine, turn left onto US-2 at Bethel, Maine. Then follow US-2 into New Hampshire and Gorham for 21 miles.
—- Park Camping —-
There are 3 state parks that you’ll cross through as you traverse this segment of the Appalachian Trail. They are (from north to south) Baxter State Park, Bigelow Preserve, and Grafton Notch State Park. Baxter State Park offers 10 campgrounds, 8 of which are front country and 2 of which are backcountry campgrounds. All campsites are rustic and made up of a combination of Adirondack-style ‘lean-to’s’, primitive cabins, 61 tent sites, and some bunkhouses. The backcountry campsites cannot be driven to, they should be considered wilderness camping. Some of the sites offer vault toilets. All water here is taken from streams or lakes and must be treated. Some of the primitive cabins at the frontcountry campgrounds are remote and can only be gotten to by paddling or hiking. Bigelow Preserve has 17 backwoods campsites consisting of 68 tent camping areas, 3 group tent areas and 3 Adirondack-style ‘lean-to’s’. Grafton Notch State Park has 15 semi-modern sites set in private wooded areas around the campgrounds. There are fire rings and picnic tables on each site. There is also a bathhouse with hot showers and flush toilets, a field area for horseshoes, frisbee or just kicking back and a trailer dumping station. There are also 28 of the Adirondack-style ‘lean-to’s’ scattered along this segment of the trail maintained by the Maine Appalachian Trail Club. You’ll need to get accurate trail maps to know where these are.
—- Free Camping —-
Based on https://freecampsites.net/#!Augusta,+ME,+United+States there are 20 free campsites with 83 miles of Augusta, Maine.
—- Area Camping —-
—- Hiking —-
The Maine Appalachian Trail (MAT) is officially listed at 281.4 miles, though recent relocations have likely added steps. Even so, it’s a far cry from being the longest of the 14 Appalachian Trail states. Maine accounts for only 13 percent of the entire 2,178.3-mile trail, well short of Virginia’s 25 percent. Nor does Maine boast the highest peak—that honor belongs to 6,642-foot Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. Statistics, however, are for maps. Ask anyone who has completed the entire trail and they’ll likely tell you Maine is the toughest state. All told, there are seven 4,000-plus foot peaks and 13 others topping 3,000 feet with significant elevation gain and loss between each. Mountain biking is not allowed on the Appalachian Trail except a very few miles and none of those miles are in Maine or New Hampshire but there are good mountain biking trails nearby.
—- Things to do —-
I found a list of things to do in several of the small cities along the trail as it traverses through Maine. They range from canoeing to white water rafting to exploring caves and waterfalls. In Kingfield, Maine you can find the Ski Museum of Maine, where you can learn about the history of Maine’s ski industry and get to know prominent Mainers in the ski world. Kingfield’s neighboring town of Carrabassett Valley is home to 4,000-foot Sugarloaf Mountain Resort, which is Maine’s largest ski area. In Kingfield, you can join up with snowmobile trails that connect to hundreds of miles of routes. The town also has the southernmost trailhead on the Maine Huts and Trails 30-mile network of groomed, backcountry paths for non-motorized recreation. You can also go biking, walking, running or cross-country skiing on the Narrow Gauge Pathway that follows the Carrabassett River for six miles on a former rail bed. In the spring and summer, you can go fly fishing on the Carrabassett River.
—- References —-