Hike Katahdin via the Helon Taylor Trail

Katahdin Helon Taylor Panoramic View

3.2 Miles to Pamola Peak, elevation 4,902 feet
2-3 hours (one way, up)
Difficulty: Weekend Warriors

On nearly any other mountain in the Northeast, the Helon Taylor trail would be a destination hike unto itself. On Katahdin, however, it’s often relegated in discussion to “the most direct route to the Knife Edge,” but this is no ho-hum hike. The mostly exposed ascent of Pamola’s rocky spine with views for miles is truly remarkable—not to mention exhausting. Here’s to enjoying the commute!

The hike begins at Roaring Brook Campground with a quick 0.1 mile jaunt up the easy going Chimney Pond Trail. The Helon Taylor Trail, named after a celebrated former Baxter State Park supervisor, begins it’s 3.1 mile trek on the left with a moderate climb up a path entwined with rocks and roots.

Helon Taylor Trailhead

The beginning of the Helon Taylor Trail at the junction with the Chimney Pond Trail.

The rocks get bigger as the trail approaches treeline, a few of which require scrambling and possibly hopping.

Helon Taylor Trail Boulders

My brother Mike jumping from one boulder to the next on the Helon Taylor Trail.

Exiting the trees begins the ascent up Keep Ridge, where most of the Helon Taylor Trail’s 3,413 feet of elevation gain is earned. Looking up, Keep Ridge appears as one long, steep staircase into the clouds that makes the gym’s stairmaster seem like a tricycle with training wheels. Once onto the ridge there’s no cover, nor any place to seek shelter, so make sure you’re prepared with plenty of water, all weather gear, and sun protection. Steer clear of this hike during inclement weather.

Helon Taylor View Hamlin Ridge

The view of Hamlin Ridge from the Helon Taylor Trail.

Katahdin Keep Ridge Up

Switchbacks? Ha, the Keep Ridge laughs in the face of switchbacks.

Helon Taylor Knife Edge View

In fair weather the Helon Taylor Trail delivers an extended look at the south side of Katahdin’s Chimney Peak and Knife Edge, giving plenty of time for that nervous pit in your stomach to grow.

Katahdin Keep Ridge Down

Pack plenty of water, it takes a lot of sweat to look down Keep Ridge.

The Helon Taylor Trail tops-out at Pamola Peak (elevation 4,902 feet) at the junction with the Dudley and Knife Edge trails, the latter of which gets our vote for the most spectacular trail in the Northeast. If you’ve got your brave hiking boots on, and Pamola, Katahdin’s deity feared for her fickle territorialism, is playing nice with the weather, continue across the Knife Edge to reach Baxter Peak, Maine’s highest point (elevation 5,267 feet).

Katahdin Pamola Peak

Atop Pamola Peak before taking on the Knife Edge.

Katahdin South Peak

Looking across the Knife Edge at Katahdin’s South Peak, elevation 5,240 feet.

Directions
Follow Baxter State Park’s directions to the Togue Pond Gatehouse. Veer right after the gatehouse and follow signs to Roaring Brook Campground, which is also the main parking area for Chimney Pond Campground. Those staying at Chimney Pond have a 3.3-mile hike to the campground.

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Maine, Maine Trail Reviews, Weekend Warriors
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9 responses to Hike Katahdin via the Helon Taylor Trail
  1. Richard says:

    There’s no way to get down from Helon Taylor Trail without doing the Knife Edge or Dudley? There’s no easy on the knees way down? Can one go up Helon Taylor and return down the same trail or would that be too difficult?

    • Daren Worcester says:

      It’s Katahdin, with tons of rocks and steep elevation gains, so any route will be felt in the knees if you are prone to knee issues. The Saddle Trail is considered the “easiest” trail, but from Helon Taylor you have to cross the Knife Edge to get there. If you go up Helon Taylor, returning via that trail or the Dudley Trail are the only options without braving the Knife Edge. Helon Taylor is a trail you could use trekking poles on to take pressure off your knees. Just pack the poles away if you try going though the Knife Edge chimney. Good luck!

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  2. Sue Mayotte says:

    Did the Helon Taylor Trail last year and the trail up was rugged but this is my 61 year old body talking. We also descended by the same route which I didn’t find terribly difficult and the rock formations (which I didn’t notice on the way up) were spectacular. The toughest part was the texture of the rocks. My legs looked pretty beat up at the end. All said the hike was totally worth it. I’ve seen Knife’s Edge from Baxter Peak so this was a way different perspective and it was worth the trip.

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