A Climb to the Sky:
An Alpine Adventure on the Hamlin Ridge Trail
by David Mills
Ascending Hamlin ridge is an aerial adventure reaching some of the most
rugged and remote mountain country in Maine. The grandeur is unparalleled,
the alpine silence pervasive.
From the base at Roaring Brook Campground in Baxter State Park in North
Central Maine one already feels worlds away. A hike of just a few more miles
brings one to a world apart, a world reminiscent of the European Alps yet with
a distinctive Appalachian character.
Start: At Roaring Brook Campground Ranger Station
The hike up to Hamlin Peak begins here at the Roaring Brook Campground
Ranger station on the wide and gradual Chimney Pond trail. Within a couple of
miles the route branches off on to the far less traveled north basin cutoff and
north basin trails.
From there it’s a very steep ridge walk to the summit along the Hamlin Ridge
Trail. This trail climbs very steeply along a narrow rocky ridge that separates
the deep and wild north basin from the less wild, but still very impressive
south basin. Looking ahead up the ridge, your eyes are constantly drawn
upward to the distant summit of Hamlin Peak which projects above the alpine
plateau known as the Table Land.
This plateau runs from the rugged and
rocky north peaks to the steep
escarpments of Mount Katahdin and
the Knife Edge, a rugged near vertical
arête or sharp ridge which joins Mount
Katahdin from Pamola Peak. These
escarpments plunge downward at
a near vertical slope to Chimney Pond
at the bottom of the South Basin.
Chimney Pond is the destination of the
three-mile-long Chimney Pond Trail
and the setting for one of the most popular camp sites in the park.
Chimney Pond Campground is nearly always full. Reservations for this and
other park campgrounds can be made by calling the Park Headquarters in
Millinocket, Maine (207-723-5140 between 8 am and 4 pm).
Short Hike, Rugged Terrain
In hiking terms, the distance to Hamlin Peak is relatively short, but the terrain
is rugged and strenuous, and the scenery breathtaking. The lands all about are
protected. The forests are young and in a state of recovery.
Baxter State Park exists today because the Late Governor Baxter had the
financial resources and the vision to see the value of land in its natural state. He
purchased blocks of land piece by piece. He tried to give the land to the state of
Maine but was met with resistance. So instead, he bequeathed in his will the
land that he purchased to the state to remain in a wilderness park as a gift for
the people of Maine for all time.
Today Baxter State Park comprises a little over 204,000 acres and is managed in
accordance with the wishes of the Late Governor. The park is supported
exclusively through a trust fund left by the late governor and by user fees.
There is a 12 dollar per day use fee charged to out-of-state residents and an 18
dollar camp site fee charged to all.
Small State Park: Thousands of Visitors
Literally thousands of people visit this small state park every year, contributing
in no small way to the economy of nearby Millinocket. Mount Katahdin,
situated entirely within Baxter State Park, is perhaps the best known and loved
mountain in the entire state of Maine and draws the majority of the park’s
visitors. It also serves as the northern terminus for the 2,175 mile long
Appalachian National Scenic Trail, a backcountry footpath that begins in
northern Georgia atop Springer Mountain.
Given that most of the park’s visitor traffic comes to the south-eastern portion of
the park where Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine is located,
Baxter State Park provides ample opportunity to experience wilderness and
Hamlin Peak is one place where the wilderness character of the park truly rings
forth, especially in the off-season after Labor Day. As I reached the summit cairn
around mid-day on September 5th, I found myself inundated by glorious
solitude amidst the grandeur of the spectacular alpine landscape. The only
perceptible sounds were those of the light mountain breezes and perhaps, if one
concentrated hard enough, the very distant sounds of mountain streams coming
from thousands of feet below at the bottom of the north and south
Modern society seemed but memory up here, hardly even real. It is hard to feel
hurried when nearly all signs of the world below are hidden, having faded away
down the sinuous ridge and forested plains that seem, to the naked eye, to
stretch to the ends of the earth.
I had reached the summit of Hamlin Peak, my goal for this hike. The early
September daylight was gentler now than it had been earlier in the summer but
still remained a comfort. The walk down Hamlin ridge was a relaxed one. The
alpine beauty witnessed on the heights, and still witnessed on the descent,
sustained my soul for the rest of the day even as my mind wanders to other
times and places.
Back at Roaring Brook Campground, I stopped to rest and have a snack. I had
left behind the high mountain wilderness and was soon to re-enter civilization.
Yet, spiritually, I remain, back there, on the mighty mountaintops of northern
I am grateful for this land that, thanks to the late Governor Baxter, has been
preserved as mountain wilderness for all time so that others may come here like
I have to appreciate this rugged alpine wilderness which is truly the jewel of
the state of Maine.
About the author: David Mills has had a life long passion for mountains and wilderness;
he has hiked and backpacked extensively throughout New England as well as in the
Alps and the Rocky Mountains. David has a degree in Environmental Studies and is a
student member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He lives in Concord,
|Join us on
for exclusive updates
on travel specials,
Click here for your FREE
weekly New England
newsletter! (And get 12
Bring the heart of
Maine into your home
with beautiful, affordable,
high-quality Maine prints.
Maine Print Gallery
Visit our Marketplace for
everything New England!
More Travel Info: