South Branch Falls & South Branch Mountain Trails (Baxter State Park, ME)

I genuinely cannot believe it is November. There are so many trips I want to tell you about, so many stories to share… and somehow they are already months ago!

In August, we went on our epic trip to Maine. Our favourite part of the whole trip was Baxter State Park. It is a beautiful, quiet, comfortable place to stayunscathed by tourists and the paved roads, selfie sticks, and waste receptacles that they require. It was, for us, a dream destination for a road trip: car camping so we did not have to haul expedition packs with us for 2,000 kms, hiking trails aplenty ranging from easy to arduous, and incredible beauty! We could have spent a whole week in Baxter and still left with a list of trails to explore.

While at Baxter, we mostly visited the northern (and less popular) part of the park. Below are two of the hikes we did in that area.
 
South Branch Falls
 
South Branch Falls (map here) was exactly what we needed when we arrived to the park. After a long day in the car, we hopped out and set off on a beautiful kilometer-long trail to put our feet in the rushing water of the falls. We signed the trail register and off we went!
Baxter, like many parks, requires you to sign into their trails
to help locate hikers should they go missing.
The trail is a sea of green followed by an exposed ridge but with little elevation change. Once near the falls, you can observe from up on the ridge or descend to the falls (recommended).
Our 4-year-old hiking up the ridge!
Victory! We could have sat there for hours. 
South Branch Mountain
 

South Branch Mountain (map) was a much more ambitious hike with a 4-year-old. With an elevation gain of appx. 2,175 feet over a fairly short distance, we pushed ourselves to help our kiddo climb her first “mountain” (peak: 2,600 feet).

This hike begins with a river crossing then quickly enters a wooded area where the trail follows a meandering brook before quickly beginning to climb. It is a difficult trail not to be attempted with kids without experience. We gave ourselves a full day knowing that we would be slower with a wee one. We were right! We got off the trail just in time for supper and completely soaked in the midst of a complete downpour that lasted well into the night.

We took fewer photos on this trail. Here is a hint as to why.
We pretended this was a castle, which made climbing it fun!

Despite the trail’s difficulty, our daughter loved it. She was euphoric when we reached the top, and I was so proud of our accomplishment that I welled up. The climb back down was extremely tricky with a wee one, and once the trail leveled out again, we opted for babywearing both to hike faster and because kiddo was completely exhausted.

Yes, at 4.5 years old and 40lbs, she still fit in our mei tai.
Best $90 I spent as a parent! 

This was our most intense hike of the trip, and we cannot wait to return to Baxter over the years to hike more of the peaks with our kiddo. Before we know it, she will be climbing Katahdin with us!

General Notes about Baxter State Park

  • No running water or flush toilets. Bring your own drinking water. Cleanest outhouses I have ever used.
  • Waterproof maps are available for purchase at the park entrances. (Price was $11 in 2015.)
  • It takes over 1.5 hours to get from one end of the park to the other.
  • There are park permit fees.
  • This park has a really committed group of rangers who will want to know about your plans and make sure that you know their expectations of you as a camper.
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