OverviewThe Hamlin Ridge Trail provides the only direct access to Hamlin Peak, and as such is a nearly essential part of any loop or traverse covering multiple peaks. It is also popular with peak-baggers, since Hamlin is the only one of Katahdin's peaks (other than the summit) to meet the AMC's 200-foot prominence criterion. It is an easy trail by Katahdin standards, and likely to be crowded.
Because it follows the ridge crest, this trail is not a very good choice in bad weather. If you need to retreat eastward off the Saddle or the north end of the mountain, the Slide Trail is likely to be more sheltered.
ApproachIf you are lucky enough to reserve a space in the lean-tos at Chimney Pond, the Ridge Trail itself is reached by following the North Basin Trail northward, but the usual approach is from Roaring Brook Campground (via Chimney Pond Trail).
Roaring Brook Campground is at the northern end of Roaring Brook Road, which begins at the south gate of Baxter State Park (whereas the Tote perimeter road heads west from the gate). Rangers will close the road when the parking lot at Roaring Brook is full. This is an extremely popular trailhead so plan on getting there early.
Note: Rangers may prevent you from leaving from Roaring Brook after 9:00 AM, in order to ensure that you will have enough daylight to complete your hike. Similarly, you may prevented from hiking in bad weather, or if there is snow or ice on the peaks. In winter many more rules apply - see Katahdin page or park website.
Route DescriptionStarting from Roaring Brook, follow the Chimney Pond Trail westward up a gentle slope.
After a bit more than two miles, you will have a choice of trails: bear left to remain on Chimney Pond Trail, followed by a right turn onto the North Basin trail to reach the base of the Hamlin Ridge trail, or bear right onto the North Basin Cut-Off, followed by a left turn onto the North Basin Trail to reach the base of the Hamlin ridge Trail. The Cut-Off may be slightly shorter and less crowded, but the Chimney Pond trail offers a short and scenic detour to the pond itself.
Once on the Hamlin Ridge Trail, simply proceed uphill along the crest of the ridge to Hamlin Peak. This section quickly passes treeline and remains extremely exposed to weather.
The trail continues a short distance west past Hamlin Peak (where the Howe Peaks Trail begins) to Caribou Spring (reportedly not very reliable), where it meets the Northwest Basin Trail and a cut-off to the Howe Peaks Trail.
Hamlin Ridge Trail itself is only 1 and 3/4 miles ; from Roaring Brook the whole route is about five miles, with over 3000 feet of elevation gain.
Essential GearUsual New England weather gear, with special attention to wind gear and preparation for navigation in fog. If planning to loop to other peaks, be sure to carry plenty of water or verify that Caribou Springs is flowing.
Don't even think about a winter hike without thoroughly familiarizing yourself with the park rules - rangers reputedly stop and search hikers to ensure they're carrying all required gear.