This long trail at the the north end of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument offers a variety of options from a half-day of skiing to a multi-night trip. The trail begins at a small parking area just off the Grand Lake Road, about a hundred feet before the road ends at the winter parking area for Baxter State Park's Matagamon entrance. The shorter, groomed Old River Road Winter Trails makes a loop along the East Branch Penobscot River from this same trailhead.
The groomed trail follows an old logging road South for about 4 miles before turning east towards the river. Billfish Mountain, Bald Mountain, and the Traveler Peaks can all be easily seen in this section rising to the east. Approximately 5 miles from the trailhead, a side trail takes visitors 1/2 mile off the main trail to Stair Falls on the East Branch Penobscot River. Continuing on the main trail another few hundred yards there is another side trail to the left leading a short ways to Haskell Hut. This hut is in an open clearing overlooking the Haskell Deadwater.
From here the trail narrows, and occasionally is not groomed late in the season. Less than a mile beyond Haskell Hut (6.3 miles from the trailhead) the trail reaches Haskell Rock Pitch. This series of steep rapids on the East Branch Penobscot River is a highlight of the trail, and makes a good turn around point for skiers just out for the day.
From Haskell Rock Pitch, continue along the river a short distance and keep right at the next junction. The trail to the left here goes to Grand Pitch, and is rarely groomed during the winter. The next 1.5 miles is a gradual climb past Little Messer Pond and Messer Pond, followed by a series of long easy hills. A couple of summer trails head off to the right in this section, but stay on the blue-blazed trail. About 3 miles from Haskell Rock a sign directs skiers down a narrow trail to Big Spring Brook Hut. This hut is in a small clearing just a couple hundred feet from Big Spring Brook.
Currently, there are two camping huts along this trail that are community- and user-maintained: Haskell Hut and Big Spring Brook Hut.There is no charge for staying at the hut, which has basic accommodations to comfortably sleep 8, with wood-burning stoves, outdoor pit toilets, and gas stove tops. However, permits are required for stays at the huts as well as for overnight parking. Reservations are made through the Elliotsville Foundation Recreation Manager for the National Park Service.
Pets are not allowed in or near the huts, and must be leashed in all other areas of the National Monument.
The Maine Section of the IAT also maintains lean-tos for thru-hikers and others to share on a first-come, first-served basis.
Fires are permitted only in designated sites and require a permit from the Maine Forest Service (Ashland Office, 207-435-7963).
Visit Katahdin Woods and Waters online for more information and a printable map, or contact:
From I-95 take Exit 264; turn west onto ME-158 which shortly joinsME-11. Bear right on ME-11 and travel 9 miles to Patten. Leaving Patten, turn left on ME-159, the Shin Pond Road. Continue 26 miles on this road to the Matagamon Wilderness Store and Camps. Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument can be accessed just beyond the camps on the left. During winter, additional parking is available at the nearby winter parking area for Baxter State Park.
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