1-minute hike: Doubletop Mountain in Baxter State Park

Difficulty: Strenuous. Expect stream crossings, exposed roots and rocky sections, steep grades and beautiful scenery. Hiking the mountain, depending on the route you take, is between 6.6 miles and 7.6 miles total.

doubletop0814-4How to get there: You can hike Doubletop Mountain from the south or the north. There are three parking are options, one for the north and two for the south. To reach all three, you start at the Togue Pond Gate, the south entrance of Baxter State Park. Veer left on the Park Tote Road after checking in at the gate and drive along the narrow, winding gravel road (20 miles is the speed limit). Plan for 30-45 minutes of driving to reach any of the parking areas.

You will pass Abol and Katahdin Stream campgrounds, then you’ll come to Foster Field Campground. Just before the campground is a day use parking area. That’s one option if you want to hike the trail from the south. You’ll have to walk a past the Foster Field Campground on the Tote Road, then turn left on Kidney Pond Road and walk 0.4 mile to Slaughter Pond Trail, on the right, which leads to Doubletop Mountain Trail.

The second option for hiking the mountain from the south is parking at Kidney Pond Campground at the end of Kidney Pond Road, where there is a trailhead to Doubletop Mountain Trail.

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Field at Nesowadnehunk Campground

Field at Nesowadnehunk Campground

And to hike the mountain from the north, continue driving on Park Tote Road (past the grave of the unknown river driver and Slide Dam) to Nesowadnehunk Campground. After the road crosses a bridge over Little Nesowadnehunk Stream, you will come to an intersection by a field. Turn left and the day use parking area will be on your right. Signs will direct you to cross a bridge over Nesowadnehunk Stream to reach the trailhead to Doubletop Mountain Trail.

doubletop0814-21Information: Rising 3,488 feet above sea level in Baxter State Park, Doubletop Mountain has a distinct profile — a nearly symmetrical cone shape with steep slopes and two distinct peaks.

Lying northwest of Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain, Doubletop is a part of a group of mountains called “Katahdinauguoh,” according to “Katahdin: A Guide to Baxter State Park & Katahdin” sixth edition by Stephen Clark.

Doubletop Mountain can be hiked from the north or the south. Most people simply choose one side of the mountain to hike, but some people will park vehicles at two trailheads so they can hike up one side and down the other.

doubletop0814-6No matter what trailhead you start at, almost the entire hike is in the forest. Expect muddy sections of trail at the foot of the mountain, especially after rain, as well as rocks, boulders, exposed roots and steep sections of trail. This mountain is certainly a challenge.

Baxter State Park Authority requests that hikers register at trailheads before hiking in group no larger than 12. To learn about how to prepare when hiking in remote wilderness such as Baxter State Park, visit baxterstateparkauthority.com/hiking/.

While much of the mountain is forested, the trees disappear at both peaks, revealing stunning views of the park. To the east and southeast, mountains break up the horizon — The Brothers, Mount Coe, Mount OJI and, of course, Katahdin. To the west, you’re looking outside the park at a flatter landscape broken up by water — Harrington Lake and the connected Ripogenus, Chesuncook and Caribou lakes.

A view from North Peak.

A view from North Peak.

The ridge connecting the peaks of Doubletop Mountain, seen from North Peak.

The ridge connecting the peaks of Doubletop Mountain, seen from North Peak.

The two peaks are connected by a short, rocky ridge that is partially forested. And while the North Peak is the highest of the two, the South Peak is the most open, offering 360-degree views atop a jumble of interesting boulders.

Those afraid of heights would do well to stay away from the ledges along the ridge and at the peaks, as the mountain drops away for hundreds of feet.

The entire mountain and both trailheads are located in Baxter State Park, which is free for Maine residents to visit during the day. However, there is a fee for camping, and campsites typically need to be reserved far ahead of time. It’s important to note that the park does not allow pets.

Here are some more specific mileages, but if you plan to hike the trail, it’s much easier to navigate if you simply carry a Baxter State Park trail map.

A view of the ridge from the South Peak.

A view of the ridge from the South Peak.

If hiking the mountain from the north (as I did), Doubletop Mountain Trail starts at Nesowadnehunk Campground and climbs the mountain’s north slope for 3.3 mile to the North Peak. It then continues 0.2 mile to the South Peak and descends the mountain’s south slope 2.8 miles to Slaughter Pond Trail, where you’ll want to turn left and hike 0.6 mile to an intersection.

At the intersection, you veer right if you want to hike to Kidney Pond Campground, which will be in another 1.3 mile; or you veer left if you want to hike to Foster Fields Campground, which will be in 1 mile (hike another 0.6 mile on trail, then turn left on Kidney Pond Road and walk 0.4 mile to the Park Tote Road and Foster Field Campground).

For information about reservations, park regulations, hours and fees, visit baxterstateparkauthority.com or call 723-5140.

The two hiking groups on Aug. 9, 2014, before the hike.

The two hiking groups on Aug. 9, 2014, before the hike.

Personal note: It’s a family tradition on my mother’s side to visit Baxter State Park at least once a year to camp and recreate. For me, that means hiking, but for others in my group, that means fly fishing or kayaking or looking for moose.

When I say “family tradition,” I use the term “family” broadly. One year, our group reached 40 people, and I’m certainly not related to them all. Yes, the campground is filled with my many cousins, second cousins, aunts, uncles and … is there such a thing as second uncles? But there are also simply friends, and their friends. We aren’t too picky. If you cook something passable in a dutch oven or bring a highly addictive lawn game, we’ll probably invite you back next year. I think the general qualification is that you don’t mind being treated like family.

The group resting and eating lunch at the top of Doubletop Mtn.

The group resting and eating lunch at the top of Doubletop Mtn.

Each year, we reserve a group campground in park, and it’s not always the same one, but several times, we’ve stayed at Foster Field, from which you get a spectacular view of Doubletop Mountain looming over the forest. I suppose its that view that made me first want to hike the mountain, with its sharp twin peaks. And this August, my wish came true.

My “family” of 32 reserved settled in at Nesowadnehunk Campground in early August. After a good night’s sleep in a tent (OK, to be honest, it was a bit chilly), our hiking group of 14 fueled up on grilled English muffins and coffee before splitting into two groups and starting the hike 20 minutes apart.

doubletop0814-11The trail was fairly gradual, traveling through a fern-filled forest (and occasional mud), until it reached Little Nesowadnehunk Stream, which we crossed by hopping from rock to rock. From there, the trail became much more steep and rocky — a real kick in the pants. But then, near the top, it leveled out and became relatively flat as it traveled through an enchanting mossy forest for the last mile or so to the North Peak.

My mother, Joyce, who has hiked a number of mountains in the park — including OJI, the Owl, Katahdin, the Brothers and South Turner — remarked at the top that this may go down as her favorite hike. And she wasn’t alone in her excitement about the mountain and its trails. Several people in the group remarked on the amazing views and beautiful forest of Doubletop that day.

An example of a steep section of the trail.

An example of a steep section of the trail.

We picked our way along the ridge and visited South Peak before retracing our steps down the mountain to our campground at Nesowadnehunk Campground, stopping only long enough to change into swim clothes and grab a beer before heading over to the nearby Ledge Falls, or what we always refer to as “The Ledges,” where you can enjoy natural slides of smooth rock formed by the rushing waters of Nesowadnehunk Stream.

The hike was 7 miles total and took us approximately 5.5 hours with water breaks and plenty of time at the top for lunch and photos.



More photos from the hike:

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Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.