The Owl is one of the best day hikes in Baxter State Park!
Willow and I decided to check out the Owl in Baxter State Park at kind of a last minute’s notice. A weekend opened up and I was able to snag a campsite at Neuwahasodunk field, which we had never camped at, but had been wanting to check out. If you’re not familiar with the site, it’s about 16.9 miles from the park entrance, but takes about an hour to get to the field once you hit the Togue Pond Gatehouse. It features lean-tos and campsites as well as bunkhouses. You have access to Doubletop and it’s very close to the trailheads for North and South Brother, as well as Coe. We met a dude doing Coe, the Brothers, and Fort as many people do – Fort is a bushwhack. More on that later!
Getting to the trailhead at the Owl is a bit trickier, as it shares the parking lot with the Hunt Trail, a very popular trail up Katahdin. It begins the terminus of the AT, and it’s very busy during the late summer season. We left out campsite at 6 am to beat the day use hikers into the park to grab a spot at Katahdin Stream Campground so that we could hike up the Owl and experience amazing views of Katahdin. Day use hikers are entering the park around 6 am when the gates open, and the “commute” into the park is about 25-30 minutes to get to the Katahdin Stream Campground.
Hiking The Owl
On this particular day, we got the last parking spot available at the trailhead. We loaded up our packs and off we went, taking the Hunt Trail up until we reached the cutoff for the Owl. After signing out at the trailhead, we realized we were the only ones going up that trail that day, so it was nice to have the trail all to ourselves.
According to the great things we had heard about this hike, we would experience epic views of Katahdin, as long as the weather was nice. Willow and I had bumped out hike to Sunday because it was supposed to be the nicer day. Spoiler Alert – it wasn’t. In fact the whole weekend we have dubbed “ Wet and Wild” FMI refer to our North Brother post. There wasn’t a dry foot, or body in the house!
Length: 7.4 miles RT
Height 3,434 – 3,736 feet – disputed.
Time to Complete: 5 – 7 hours
Dogs: Not allowed in Baxter State Park
Kids: The older and more experienced, the better.
The trail starts relatively flat, running along Katahdin Stream for 1.1 miles until you reach the junction, with great views of the falls and the stream. We recommend checking these out on the way back down, because the hike can feel long, and you don’t want to slow yourself down. About a mile in, there’s a sign that warns you that you are entering MAINE’S LARGEST WILDERNESS! That’s also where you should make a turn break to follow the Owl trail. it’s 2.6 to the top from this point, but it’s a long 2.6. You start climbing immediately after breaking away. The trail is moderately maintained, definitely not as well maintained as the trails leading up Katahdin. You will encounter a lot of roots and trees while climbing, so make sure you have some support in your shoes and on your toes. We also recommend waterproof shoes for this trail, as we did need to walk through some streams in July.
After a bit of a climb and some streams, we see the rise in front of us. The Owl is prominent – you gain some significant elevation. After climbing for a while in the humidity, we then saw the rise to the summit in front of us through the trees, and it crushed our spirits a bit, but we kept going. Be prepared for a lot of time below tree line!
The views are totally worth it though if you keep plugging along. There’s no “true” summit, or summit sign, just a wide open granite cliff, where you can take a nice long break and take in the views of Katahdin. It is a perfect lunch spot!
The trail down is pleasant. It didn’t take us long to get back to the parking lot after our break at the top. All in all, we recommend this as a beginner hike for Katahdin, or a nice day hike if you’re in the park already. Planning a trip to Baxter State Park? Don’t forget your park map!
Have you hiked the Owl? Tell us your tips in the comments below! Better yet, share your photos with us on IG – use #LoveMaineAdventures!
DD + Willow
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To read another first hand account of hiking the Owl, check out this post from our friends at Northeast Hikes, or this post from Act our with Aislinn!