What to Do?
Ideas For Those of You on a Tight Schedule!
- So Little time so much to do!
Allow 30 minutes to travel between Millinocket and Togue Pond Gate and approximately 45 minutes to reach Matagamon Gate from the town of Patten. The suggestions below are offered to help you make the most of limited time but we also encourage you to plan to visit again for a longer period of time. The Park is meant to be experienced deeply and over a period of time; wilderness experiences are measured in days and weeks, not hours, so we hope your short visit is an enjoyable introduction to a lifetime of visits!
If you have 2 hours, entering and leaving via Togue Pond Gate, we suggest:
- Cranberry Pond: This little gem of a walk starts within sight of Togue Pond Gatehouse and winds through the forest to arrive at a small pond with all sorts of bog plants, from cranberries to tiny sundew plants! Stay on the bog bridges to protect the plants and keep your feet drier!
- Togue Pond rental canoe: Employees at the Visitor Center or Togue Pond Gate can rent this canoe, life jackets and paddles for only $1/hour! Paddling on either of the Togue Ponds is a great way to "preview" the Park, especially Katahdin, which dominates the view on a clear day. A picnic and short dip in Togue Pond will make the perfect summer afternoon!
- Caverly Pond: Parking for the short trail to this pond can be found about 1 mile from Togue Pond Gatehouse on the Park Tote Road. Katahdin seems to loom straight up from the far shore of the pond and if you approach quietly, you may see one of the resident deer near the pond edge.
- Abol Pond Picnic Area: Do you like to share your picnic spot with loons? Abol Picnic Area is reached by taking the signed spur road on the left 3 miles from Togue Pond Gate. Proceed past employee housing down the hill to the end of the road. Shelters over the tables make this a good choice if it is raining. Little ones will enjoy the tadpoles and dragonflies at this location!
- Mobility limitations? We suggest you visit Abol Pond culverts and Stump Pond. The Abol Pond culverts are approximately 2.5 miles from the gate with Abol Pond on both sides of the road, photogenic views of the mountain and a productive wetland with abundant wildlife; keep your eyes open! Stump Pond is about 2.5 miles further down the road. There is a parking area with a short trail across the road to a viewing platform. For those unable to leave the vehicle, there is a single parking spot set aside just north of the main parking area, from which to view this popular wildlife area.
If you have 4 hours, entering or leaving via Togue Pond Gate, we suggest:
- Daicey Pond The campground spur road leaves the Park Tote Road 10.4 miles from Togue Pond Gatehouse. Park in the designated day use parking lot. Walk up the hill to find the campground with rental cabins. You have just enough time to hike down to Big and Little Niagara Falls about a mile walk down Nesowadnehunk Stream from the campground. Alternatively, rent a canoe or kayak and paddle around the small pond with extraordinary views of Katahdin. If you have small children who need to be active, you may want to hike around the entire pond; pick up a guide for the Daicey Pond Nature Trail and learn while you hike!
- The Kidney Pond campground spur road leaves the Tote Road north of the sign for the Daicey Pond spur road, winding through bottomland forest and over Nesowadnehunk Stream into this campground. There is a spacious open picnic area and canoes for rent. A 0.6 mile hike will bring you to Big Rocky Pond, with Little Rocky just beyond. Check with the local ranger to see if the rental canoes at these ponds are available.
- Katahdin Stream Falls: Katahdin Stream Campground is the second campground you come to on the Park Tote Road, about 8 miles beyond Togue Pond Gatehouse. Warning: Because this is a trailhead for the Hunt Trail up Katahdin, the parking lot here may be filled for the day; gate attendants will help you to choose another hike. The hike to Katahdin Stream Falls is about a mile of gradually uphill forest hiking, leading to a bridge across the foot of the falls and several viewpoints uphill, along the side of the falls. The trail here is white-blazed because you are hiking a portion of the legendary Appalachian Trail, which ends (or starts, depending on which direction you are hiking) at Baxter Peak on Katahdin!
- Sandy Stream Pond: Head to Roaring Brook Campground, 30 minutes from Togue Pond for this ½ mile hike Roaring Brook is the most popular Katahdin trailhead so parking spots are often taken very early in the morning. Togue Pond Gatehouse issues "Moose Passes", good for three hours per pass, on a first-come, first-serve basis. While luck is a big part of wildlife watching, it also helps to approach the pond quietly and keep your voices low when you are in this area. Please check elsewhere on this website for Wildlife Watching guidelines to observe, especially when in "Wildlife Area Only" zones.
If you have 2 hours, entering/leaving via Matagamon Gate, we suggest:
- Horse Mountain The trailhead is 0.6 mile from the gatehouse. The trail is steep but within 1.2 miles, you will see a sign for a spur trail to the viewpoint. This is well worth your time. Take a snack and water with you as well as your camera. You will have a birds-eye view of Grand Lake Matagamon and speaking of birds, you may be sharing the view with numerous Turkey Vultures that have been roosting on the cliffs of Horse Mountain in recent years. These birds are masters of the thermals and typically ride the updrafts of warming air in late morning in ever-widening spirals.
- Trout Brook canoe exploration Trout Brook Campground is 2.6 miles west of Matagamon Gate on the Park Tote Road. Canoes are located near the Group Camping Area, on the bank of Trout Brook. Life jackets/ paddles are stored on the porch of the ranger cabin and rental is $1/hour. The launching area can be slippery. The current here is gentle but steady as you float out toward Matagamon Lake. Wildlife abounds, ospreys and great blue herons fly above you and ducks and geese forage while a moose may be feeding out closer to the lake.
If you have 4 hours, entering/leaving via Matagamon Gate, we recommend:
- South Branch Pond Campground: Allow thirty minutes to drive from the gate to the South Branch Campground road and into the campground. On the way, you will pass a small parking lot for South Branch Falls. A short walk from the car will bring you to dramatic tilted rock exposures and fast flowing water of the Falls, a perfect rustic picnic area. Near the campground, you will see the day use parking lot. You can choose to hike the South Branch Nature Trail with the self-guiding pamphlet, take a shorter hike to visit just the Ledges viewpoint over the ponds or picnic in the public picnic area near the water. Canoes and kayaks are for rent here under the same system as the rest of the Park: $1/hour with paddles and life jackets. A paddle on Lower South Branch is an excellent way to view and plan for future trips up all the mountains easily viewed from the comfort of your canoe!
These suggestions are only a few of the options available. We recommend you purchase a map even if only the $1 Day Use Map for short visits, so that you can learn more about the area you are experiencing. Opportunities expand if you have a day or more to spend in the area. Park employees at Park Headquarters in Millinocket, the Togue Pond Visitor Center, Togue Pond and Matagamon Gates and all the Park campgrounds are ready to help you plan an enjoyable visit!