End of the Trail

Mount Katahdin from within Baxter State Park.

Baxter State Park’s administration has threatened to reroute the end of the Appalachian Trail off Katahdin. Don’t worry — we have some ideas for the new terminus.

By Brian Kevin
As summer wound to a close, The New York Times reported some surprising news about Maine’s highest peak. In a letter addressed to officials from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy — which manages the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine — Baxter State Park director Jensen Bissell wrote that relocating the northern terminus of the AT is an option to address what he sees as an overabundance of hikers arriving at Katahdin’s 5,269-foot summit. Too many AT hikers, wrote Bissell, “view the AT corridor in the park as a means to an end and the summit of Katahdin as a backdrop to their human achievement.”

Complaints include too many hikers conspiring to ascend in large groups, hikers celebrating too boisterously at the summit (sometimes with illicit alcohol), and hikers and their families ill-informed about Baxter’s regulations and reservation/fee system. What’s more, said the Times, this fall’s big-screen release of Robert Redford’s AT dramedy A Walk in the Woods has park officials bracing for a surge next year.

A six-month AT hike that ends anywhere but Katahdin’s windswept summit may seem anticlimactic. But hey, Maine has a lot to offer! We’ve put together a trail map with a few suggested alternatives. Starting at the top and working south:

Allagash Ice Caves

Maine Map, Down East Magazine

Erin Bott, Silverline Graphics

New AT distance: 2,195 miles

Unwelcome on Maine’s highest mountain? End your hike in its deepest cave! You can celebrate raucously and not bother anyone when you’re 70 feet underground.

Mosquito Mountain

New AT distance: 2,037 miles

Sure, it’s not Maine’s most iconic peak, but this 2,216-footer near The Forks is named after our most iconic insect (there’s no Blackfly Mountain — we checked).

DeLorme Map Store

New AT distance: 2,048 miles

AT thru-hikers love maps and GPS! DeLorme loves maps and GPS! Triumphant hikers can plan their next adventure at the Yarmouth store using Eartha, the world’s largest rotating globe.

Katahdin Wood Fire Grill & Bar

New AT distance: 1,993 miles

Finally, a Katahdin where you’re encouraged to drink. Bartender Winnie mixes a mean martini. Plus, just because it’s in Portland is no reason to reprint literature saying the trail ends at Katahdin.

Old Orchard Beach

New AT distance: 1,979 miles

No mile-high mountain, but there’s a 70-foot Ferris wheel! If you thought OOB couldn’t get any weirder, wait until it’s full of grungy, famished thru-hikers gorging on pier fries.

Reader-submitted photo by Bill West.

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Brian Kevin

Brian Kevin is Down East's editor in chief.