Doubletop Mtn 3488 ft
Somehow, someway, my first trip to Baxter State Park wasn’t until 2021, when I was working on my New England 67. This is noteworthy only because I grew up in Maine and had parents who loved to camp and hike. I’m not sure why we never made it as far as Baxter (the Whites were our go-to), but we didn’t. During my year of hiking the 67, I was in Baxter twice, the first time to hike North Brother and a then to finish my 67 on Katahdin. Both times I was only there for the day, once by car and once by foot via the Appalachian Trial after finishing the 100 Mile Wilderness. Both times, I knew I wanted to return to explore more of the vast, 200,000 acre wilderness.
One of my (many) favorite things about Baxter is the choose-your-adventure vibe. With no electricity, potable water, or cell-service, everything is an adventure on some level. But I like that you can choose to drive to a campground with minimal effort or carry all your stuff miles into the woods for a backcountry experience. In September, I opted for a big adventure, backpacking from Roaring Brook to Chimney Pond, then over Katahdin and out to Russell Pond. My hiking partner and I brought fly fishing rods and had one of our favorite trips to date. We visited again in October (sadly after fly fishing season ended) to stay in a cabin on Kidney Pond.
During that trip, we hiked Doubletop, which kind of feels like Katahdin’s less famous cousin (North Brother being the less famous sister). I think it’s a gem in its own right and deserves more attention. It is arguably as recognizable as Katahdin (albeit much smaller) with its slide-scarred eastern slopes and unmistakeable steep double peaks. It stands prominently above Kidney Pond, its profile more impressive than the comparatively gentle slopes of the OJI-Coe-Barren-Owl mountain ridges. I was excited to hike this mountain but admittedly daunted by the insanely steep slide at the summit (the canoe picture below really shows it off).
From Kidney Pond Campground parking lot, you start this hike on the Doubletop Trail, or you can drive to the parking lot next to Nesowadehunk Stream and start at the Slaughter Pond trailhead. We chose the slightly shorter Slaughter Pond Trail option. It starts out easy and flat, passing Draper Pond, crossing Slaughter Brook, and then linking up with Doubletop Mountain Trail and following an old tote road. The trails continue together until the clearing of an old logging camp, where Doubletop Mtn. Trail forks right. This turn is easy to miss, so keep an eye out!
The Doubletop Mtn. Trail follows a woods road and crosses a brook several times before passing under the cliffs of Moose Bosom. The ascent begins on the southeast flank of Moose Bosom and climbs into the saddle between Moose and Doubletop. From there, things get Capital S Steep, covering over 900 feet of elevation gain in .8 mi. The terrain is very rocky, like climbing up a ravine, and the rocks were wet. It’s a three-points-of-contact kind of section, meaning tuck your poles away and get ready to use all hands and feet for the climb. There are some roots and trees on the sides that help with the ascent, but it definitely feels like you’re covering all the elevation in one vertical mile.
After the aggressive rock climb, the trail reaches the south peak of Doubletop with incredible views in every direction. Many consider this vantage point one of the finest in Baxter State Park, with views of Katahdin, the surrounding lakes and high peaks to the north, and the vast 100 Mile Wilderness to the south. Doubletop’s north peak is an easy .2 mile walk across the ridge, where there are remnants of an old fire tower and more spectacular views.
Climbing back down the steep section was the hardest part of the hike, but we took our time, knowing the rest would be comparatively easy. This hike can be done as a morning or afternoon adventure by most fit hikers, leaving time before or after for a canoe ride on Kidney Pond!
|Total elevation: 3455 ft & 3489 ft
|Elevation gain: 2454 ft
|Mileage: 8.2 miles
|Alpine exposure: at summit
|Terrain: woods walk, rock scramble
|Challenges: very steep section, exposure at top
|View payoff: outstanding
Recap: Doubletop Mountain is a stunning peak with some of the best views in Baxter State Park. The trail is there miles of easy woods walking and gradual ascent and one mile of very steep rock climbing (x2 for the return trip). While not a 4000-footer, it offers the same view payoff as its bigger sisters, Katahdin and North Brother, and it is a satisfying option if those parking lots are full. Starting at the Kidney Pond Campground allows you to make a day of it by adding a canoe trip before or after the hike!