Backpack to Russell Pond, Davis Pond, Baxter Peak, and the Knife Edge

Rate this Adventure Maine Roaring Brook Campground

  • Activities:

    Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    20 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    5000 Feet


This is a one of a kind Maine hike, Staying at one pond side campsite, one remote backcountry side and traveling up and over Mt. Katahdin, Maine's only sub-alpine zone, and across the Knife Edge.

Day #1
This Backpacking trip starts at the Roaring Brook campground on the east side of Baxter SP. Immediately after entering the park through the Togue Gate, take the first right towards Roaring Brook CG. Register with the Ranger there and begin your hike to Russell Pond on the Russell Pond Trail. Elevation change is minimal as you hike through beautiful forests, passing multiple ponds for 7.2 mi. Keep an eye and an ear out for moose along this section! There is no bridge across Wassataquoik Stream and so be prepared to ford the river (Talk to the ranger at Roaring Brook about water levels before you go as it can be a hazard).

Night #1
Camp at Russell Pond and walk around the pond, if you arrive with enough time you can walk to Wassataquoik Lake, and hop in one of the canoes there for a quick paddle around a beautiful remote lake. (Once again, double check with the ranger, as the canoes might be in use for camping, or if you don't feel like camping at Russell Pond, try and get a spot on Wassataquoik Island)

Day #2
Hike from Russell Pond to Davis Pond CG. Approx 5.5 miles from Campground to Campground. Pretty quickly after leaving Russell Pond you will have to cross through some watery areas where there may or may not be some log bridges. Take your time. The trail follows the Wassataquoik stream uphill, with some minor stream crossings that you can rock hop over. At one point you will have to cross back to the southern bank of the Wassataquoik, which, depending on water level, can mean different things, but your first crossing should give you a good idea of the water level. Keep an eye out for some waterfalls on this section, dependent on water levels After crossing, the trail gets steep and muddy for the remainder to Davis Pond CG, depending on recent weather can be real slow going. When the trail levels out and then heads back down hill into the Northwest Basin you have arrived.

Night #2
Relax here for your second night and enjoy the beautiful views and lighting over the pond. Sunsets are especially beautiful here.

Day #3
The main event! Leaving Davis Pond, continue hiking up and south on the Northwest Basin Trail, which will continue to be steep and muddy, through forest, into Krumholtz and finally out onto the only sub-alpine zone in Maine. Once you've made the ridge, the whole of Katahdin Massif is visible (weather permitting). Follow trail signs to Baxter Peak, and please stay on the trail as the flora at this elevation is very sensitive to being trampled. If you need to go to the bathroom, please rock hop as best you can, but try and go before getting up the sub alpine zone. Continue to Baxter Peak, and depending on the time of year, look out for dazed and smelly AT thru Hikers finishing their 2200 mi journey. Pause for lunch on Baxter peak and take in the views of Chimney Pond to the north, Pamola Peak to the East, and the expansive Maine forest in every direction. On an especially clear day you can even make out Cadillac Mountain in Acadia NP to the south. After a good lunch, begin the aptly name Knife Edge towards Pomala Peak. Its just over 1 mile long and is spectacular. Take your time, especially if its at all damp, as it is a very exposed ridge line with steep drops on either side. After you get to Chimney peak, just before Pamola, you will need to down climb some third class terrain known as the Chimney. This is the most dangerous part of the hike, and so be sure to take your time, and check to make sure no one is below you. Then a short scramble up to Pamola and you can begin your descent back to Roaring Brook CG along the Helon Taylor Trail, about 3.3 miles, through rocky sub alpine, back down into the Kurmholtz and finally into the woods again. Be sure to sign back in once you get to the campground so no one goes out looking for you!

Permitting can be difficult so be sure to stop at the office in Millinocket before heading into the park. There a tons of different alternatives to this route such as going through Chimney pond, taking a different trail up Katahdin, hiking the trail the other way around, doing Hamlin Ridge or the North Peaks trail (When I did this trail it was in a very poor state and not very safe, I hiked it to avoid going to Davis)

Pack List

  • Backpack
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Tent (opt, both Davis and Russell ponds have Lean-To's to sleep in, but must be reserved)
  • Water bottle
  • Water Filtration System
  • Camp Stove (no fires allowed at Davis Pond)
  • Food
  • Bug Net (opt)
  • Sturdy Hiking boots
  • Gaiters (opt)
  • Trekking Pole (for river crossings)
  • Sun hat
  • Rain Gear
  • Warm Clothing, any time of year
  • Maps
  • Flashlight
  • Camera

And remember to always sign-in with the rangers when possible!

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Aidan Shafland

Backpacking, kayaking, road tripping, rock climbing enthusiast.

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