QUICK TRAIL FACTS
- Preserve Size: 209,644 acres
- Trail Mileage: 6.4 miles one way
- Pets: no
- Difficulty: easy
- Sights: wild stream, placid river
Appalachian Trail in dark blue; Foss and Knowlton in red; Blueberry Ledges in blue.
The final miles of the Appalachian Trail that lead to the base of Katahdin, the last mountain of the long hike, offer a peaceful walk first along the banks of a placid river, then by the side of a turbulent stream with roaring rapids, and through old forest.
Most day hikers will start this trail at Daicey Pond, where the AT stretches south for 6.5 miles to the southern border of the park. The first mile along Nesowadnehunk Stream to Little Niagara Falls — a popular waterfall — is flat and easy. The path gets a bit rougher for the next 0.4 miles to Big Niagara Falls. Then you might have the trail to yourself (and an occasional backpacker), because most day hikers stop at Big Niagara. But if you can, I recommend continuing. More dramatic rapids and ledges are ahead.
About 0.9 miles from Big Niagara, you’ll reach the High Water Bypass Trail, which diverts from the AT for 0.9 miles and follows a smaller, but almost equally beautiful stream as the Nesowadnehunk. (There is one wet section along the bypass trail, so wear good shoes!) The AT crosses Nesowadnehunk Stream twice; the upper crossing is easier than the lower. I hiked down the High Water Bypass and found I was unable to jump the rocks at the lower crossing because the stream was so full and fast after heavy rains, whereas at the upper crossing, I had no problem.
If you are able to make both stream crossings, you can do the roughly 2-mile loop of the Bypass Trail to the AT, and head back to Daicey Pond for a nice morning or afternoon hike of roughly 5.6 miles total.
But if you continue down the AT beyond the Bypass Trail, you’ll see more rushing water and at least two nice areas with flat ledges to sit stream-side. Then, at roughly 3.5 from the trailhead, you leave the roar of the Nesowadnehunk Stream as it calms down upon meeting the wide, tranquil waters of the Penobscot River’s West Branch. The two miles along the West Branch were some of my favorite of the day. There is one privately-owned house along the river that the trail swings around. And you do occasionally pick up the noise of a car along the road opposite the river. But overall, it’s a quiet, pleasant, and easy section of the AT.
The trail meets Foss and Knowlton Trail at 6.4 miles, and you can retrace your steps on the AT or head back along the approximately 5.4 miles of Foss and Knowlton and connecting trails to Daicey Pond.
Directions: The best place to pick up the AT is at the day-use parking lot at Daicey Pond cabins. It’s about 11 miles from the Togue Pond Gatehouse, the southern entrance to Baxter Park, and a 35-minute drive.