QUICK TRAIL FACTS
- Preserve Size: 209,644 acres
- Trail Mileage: Trails of various lengths
- Pets: no
- Difficulty: Pond trails are easy to moderate
- Sights: ponds, mountain views, marsh
Trails to ponds around Kidney Pond are in blue; Sentinel Mountain Trail is in yellow; Doubletop Mountain Trail is in red
Kidney Pond, in southern Baxter State Park, has several trails spiraling away from it. One of the most popular walks is the hike to Sentinel Mountain. But the other paths (all easy to moderate, as they’re a bit rocky and rooty but mainly flat) are also great — both for the remote ponds they lead you to and also for the views they provide of mountains looming over water. Visitors can rent canoes from park rangers (you can track down a ranger at the Kidney Pond station) to explore the ponds and some of the little paths extending beyond them.
Sentinel Mountain — The hike to the 1,842-ft. mountain is 3.1 miles one way from Kidney Pond. From Kidney Pond campground, the trail to Sentinel Mountain winds around Kidney Pond for a rocky 0.5 miles before heading off to the right (south). For the next 2.3 miles, you walk through forest and over bog bridges. The final 0.5 miles to the views is up a steeper pitch, until you reach the 0.6-mile loop around this small but magnificent mountain. There are views in every direction. Do the loop — and then if you have time, do it again! One western-facing ledge is called Sunset Ledge, and I imagine the spectacle is wonderful from here.
Doubletop Mountain — A wonderful, challenging hike to two summit peaks—3,489 feet and 3,455 feet—both of which cast the illusion of being unscalable, except maybe to climbers, when you’re looking at them from below. In truth, Doubletop is not a technical climb (there were several children at the top when we visited), and the views, especially from South Peak, are breathtaking.
Lily Pad Pond Trail — The trail portion of this hike is .9 miles from Kidney Pond Campground. But you’ll need a boat to access the full 20 acres or so of Lily Pad Pond. The trail portion takes you to a marshy stream where there are park canoes that you can use if you’ve arranged to get a key from a ranger. If you canoe to Lily Pad Pond, you’ll find a trail to Windy Pitch Pond at the southeast corner.
Slaughter Pond — My favorite of the many small, remote ponds sprinkled around Kidney Pond. It’s also the farthest away — an approximately 2.3 mile one-way walk through beautiful forest and slightly outside the park’s boundaries. The path begins on an old tote road, flat and easy. Even after it turns into a footpath, the walking remains fairly gently for a woods walk. Before you come out to the pond, you pass a canoe graveyard (I mean, the boats not left to die here, but there are so many scattered near the shore it looks a bit post-canoe apocalyptic). Then you’ll arrive at the smallest and sweetest of little gravel beaches. Looks very tempting for swimming (but beware the leeches). You can get to the pond either by taking the Doubletop Mountain trail from the Kidney Pond parking lot, or on the Slaughter Pond trail, which leaves from the trailhead and small parking lot farther up Kidney Pond Road.
Rocky Pond and Little Rocky Pond — Aptly named ponds, as they both have boulders poking up through the pond surface that create good foreground for photos of more distant mountains! Rocky Pond is 0.6 miles from Kidney Pond parking area, with Little Rocky Pond another 0.6 miles beyond it, on a trail that is slightly rougher and seems less used than the first section to Rocky Pond.
Celia, Jackson, and Little Beaver Ponds — Celia Pond is about 1.5 miles from the Kidney Pond parking area, through a pretty forest. I recommend continuing on to Jackson Pond, another 0.2 miles farther on the trail, as you can see Doubletop Mountain and other peaks in the backdrop of the peaceful pond. The unmaintained trail to Little Beaver Pond (there were blowdowns when we walked it), is just beyond Celia Pond, and is marked with a park sign. The quiet pond is 0.7 miles farther.
Draper Pond — The closest of the ponds the circle Kidney Pond — it’s just 0.5 miles from the Kidney Pond parking area. And the water access is a bit smoother and easier than some of the others.
Directions: The best place to pick up all these trails is at the Kidney Pond parking area, at the end of Kidney Pond Road, a short dead-end road that leads to the cabins on the pond and a largish parking area. The turn into Kidney Pond Road is almost opposite the Foster Field camping area.