QUICK TRAIL FACTS
- Preserve Size: 209,644 acres
- Trail Mileage: 10.6-mile loop
- Pets: no
- Difficulty: Very difficult!
- Sights: Gorgeous views, ponds, Howe Brook pools
Map shows trails near South Branch Pond and Trout Brook Farm campgrounds. Traveler Loop in blue.
When we hiked this 10.6-mile loop in mid October, the wind gusts on the exposed ridge almost knocked us off our feet. And the wind chill was hovering around zero, according to the ranger. I guess it’s all part of the adventure. The loop includes two high summits: North Traveler and Traveler mountains, respectively 3,144 ft and 3,541 ft.
The loop that connects them is a very popular hike in the northern part of Baxter State Park: it is rugged, tough, and exhilarating. But be prepared for a long day, anywhere between six and twelve hours, and potentially extreme conditions on the exposed peaks and ridges. When the wind is blowing, it’s nice that the trail dips into patches of scruffy forest every periodically, giving hikers breaks from being buffeted about.
The park recommends hikers do the loop counter clockwise, to get the arduous and steep ascent up Traveler Mountain over first. If you do this, you begin your hike along Upper South Branch Pond, on the Pogy Notch Trail. At 1.5 miles, you take a left onto the Center Ridge Trail to begin your ascent; the change is dramatic from flat path to what feels disconcertingly like a near vertical climb!
Throughout a lot of the hike above tree line, the path crosses rock fields that require nimbly stepping from stone to jagged stone. You need to have pretty good balance—walking sticks might help.
If you don’t want to do the whole loop, you can chug up a steep 0.5 mile from South Branch Pond Campground to a pretty overlook on the way up to North Traveler’s summit (3,152 ft.). The length to N. Traveler summit is about 2.8 miles one way from the campground.
Note: Wikipedia says the Travelers got their names from the loggers who used to drive trees down the East Branch of the Penobscot River, because the peaks could be seen at many points along the river, seemingly moving with the men.
Directions: The trail begins at the eastern end of the South Branch Pond Campground. You can park in the general lot for the campground if you’re not staying there, and walk down the campground road.