Difficulty: Moderate. The 3.3-mile loop hike of Trout Brook Mountain includes long stretches of gradual but constant climbing, as well as a few particularly rocky sections where footing is tricky.
How to get there: Take Interstate 95 Exit 264, then head north on Route 11 toward the town of Patten. Drive 9.3 miles, then take a left onto Route 159. Drive 9.9 miles and you’ll arrive at Shin Pond Village, which is a great place to gather any final supplies for the hike. Drive another 14.3 miles, staying on Route 159, and you’ll reach Matagamon Wilderness Campground, then cross a bridge over the East Branch of the Penobscot River. Continue another 1.8 miles to Matagamon Gate, the north entrance to Baxter State Park. Register at Matagamon Gate, which is open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., then drive 2.6 miles to the trailhead parking area for Trout Brook Mountain, which will be on your left, just after the entrance to Trout Brook Campground, which will be on your right.
Information: Rising 1,767 feet above sea level on the north end of Baxter State Park, Trout Brook Mountain features a 3.3-mile loop hike that leads to great views of the nearby Traveler Mountains and Grand Lake Matagamon, as well some lesser mountains and bodies of water. Marked with blue blazes, the hiking trail travels through a number of different forest habitats, featuring a wide variety of plants, mosses, lichens and mushrooms.
At the trailhead parking area, sign the trail register, then begin your climb on Trout Brook Mountain Trail, which begins by climbing up a grassy hill and entering a beautiful mixed forest of mostly deciduous trees — maples, birches, beech and oak. The trail then passes through a stand of large white cedar trees on its way up the north slope of the mountain. The climb is gradual but steady. And like most other hiking trails in Baxter State Park, the trail travels over unimproved forest floor that is uneven due to an abundance of rocks and exposed tree roots. Watch your step.
About 0.7 mile into the hike, the trail emerges from the forest onto exposed bedrock where you’ll be rewarded with your first open view of the forest to the north and the long body of Grand Lake Matagamon.
The trail continues the mountain, then descends into a small dip before climbing to the summit about 1.3 mile from the trailhead. The summit, marked with a wooden sign, is on a small patch of exposed bedrock with a partial view over the treetops.
For the best views of the hike, continue on the trail past the summit, south to the ledges on the south side of the mountain. The trail then strikes east, tracing the top of these ledges and offering several open views of the nearby Traveler mountains, as well as the smaller Billfish Mountain and Barrel Ridge. A few tall spruce trees growing on the rocky slope break up the view. Moving diagonally down the slope, the trail re-enters the forest about 1.5 mile into the hike.
Moving down the eastern side of the mountain, the trail offers a fairly gentle and constant descent with just a few steep areas. As it nears the base of the mountain, the trail swings north to end at the Five Ponds Trail about 2.3 miles into the hike. There, you’ll turn left to hike the final 1.1 miles back to the trailhead parking area, closing the loop. Most of the descent is through a mixed forest of mostly deciduous trees, including aspen, beech, striped maple, birch and maple trees. Along the way, you’ll pass by a small meadow and walk through a dense cluster of balsam fir trees.
You’ll emerge on the east end of the parking area. Don’t forget to sign out on the trail register.
Pieced together by former Maine Gov. Percival P. Baxter between 1931 and 1962, Baxter State Park covers 209,644 acres north of Millinocket. Baxter is home to more than 200 miles of hiking trails that visit pristine ponds, waterfalls and a number of sizable mountains.
Located in the north end of the park, Trout Brook Mountain is much less crowded than the more popular mountains reached through the south entrance of the park, such as Katahdin. So if you’re looking for a quiet, moderately challenging hike with great views, this is a good mountain for you.
For more information, call 207-723-5140 or visit baxterstatepark.org, where a detailed map of the trails on and around Trout Brook Mountain is available under the tab “Design Your Trip” by selecting “hike” and “summer,” then scrolling down to the link for the Trout Brook Farm trail map.
Personal note: There’s something about a road hemmed in by a thick forest for miles and miles that makes one second guess themselves.
“Is it supposed to be this far?” my mother, Joyce, asked as she navigated the windy, tree-lined road to the north entrance of Baxter State Park.
“Trout Brook Campground is 27 miles from Patten,” I said, referring to the “Appalachian Mountain Club Maine Mountain Guide.” “And we haven’t gone 27 miles yet.”
Meanwhile, my husband, Derek, snoozed in the back seat. He’d come down with a bit of a head cold that morning but insisted he felt well enough to hike, and that the fresh air would do him some good.
At Matagamon Gate, the north entrance of the park, we were greeted by a Baxter attendant who checked us in for the day.
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this today,” the man said, referring to the clear blue skies and sunshine. The weather report had called for a foggy morning and cloudy afternoon.
“But I’ll take it,” he said, adding that it looked like a great day for hiking the Trout Brook Mountain loop.
With the trailhead at Trout Brook Farm Campground — a beautiful field with a brown ranger cabin and campsites tucked into the woods all around — I imagine Trout Brook Mountain is a popular day hike for people camping there. We completed the hike in a little less than 3 hours, and at the top of the mountain, we were rewarded with a number of different views of the surrounding wilderness.
Throughout the hike, we felt fall’s presence. Leaves floated down to rest on the forest floor, maple red and aspen yellow, knocked loose by the breeze. And the rich scent of decaying vegetation triggered my mind to think of pumpkin patches and apple picking.
As we descended the mountain, I took care to step over clusters of yellow mushrooms that seemed to be sprouting up everywhere. We spooked a grouse, which flew just a short distance before touching down again to shuffle through the dry leaves. We also scared a large toad off the trail, walked past a pile of moose droppings, and disturbed a number of squirrels harvesting pine cones.
After completing our hike, we stopped at Shin Pond Village for ice cream cones. And just a warning: the “small” cone isn’t small; it’s quite big — three scoops at least, maybe four. But I won’t complain.
More photos of the trail: