Posted on October 17, 2020 and last updated on October 18, 2020

South Branch and Black Cat Mountains, Baxter State Park


  • Preserve Size: 209,644 acres
  • Trail Mileage: 6.6-mile loop
  • Pets: no
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Sights: Beautiful views from Black Cat Mtn., pond access

Map shows trails near South Branch Pond and Trout Brook Farm campgrounds. South Branch Mountain trail in orange.

This hike looks more benign than it actually is as you’re gazing up at it from the ponds below. The other important thing to know about this hike is there are no views from South Branch Mountain’s 2,630-foot summit, the one closest to the campground. But the views from the neighboring 2,611-foot peak of Black Cat Mountain more than make up for this! They’re great, especially if you walk about 100 feet south of the summit, to an open knob with beautiful views of Traveler Mountain and Mount Katahdin, and all the peaks and valleys between them.

Leaving the campground and heading up South Branch Mountain, you start your hike by crossing a little brook. For us, that meant taking off our shoes and socks, since the water was running quickly over the stepping stones. The trail head is to the right of the beach, if you’re looking out over Lower South Branch Pond.

After following the brook for a bit, the trail climbs steadily, and at times, steeply. There are a few places you get a break in the trees for views to the north. You’ll reach the wooded summit at 2.0 miles, before heading down into a saddle and then up steeply for 0.5 miles to Black Cat Mountain’s summit. Continue another 100 feet for the best views!

You can continue down the 1.9-mile steep path from Black Cat Mountain to Upper South Branch Pond. After you pass the remote camping site, you’ll walk along bog bridges and past a small marsh to the intersection with Pogy Notch Trail. Turn left and you have a flat and pretty 2-mile walk back to the campground.

And here’s a great hiking resource to Baxter State Park.

Directions: One end of this loop trail starts near the ranger station of South Branch Pond Campground, at the right end of the beach. The other end of the trail comes out at the eastern end of the campground.


Let me know if you have any trail updates or corrections!