Katahdin is the highest mountain in Maine and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. It is located within Baxter State Park, a wilderness-managed area in which humans come second that some refer to as the 51st state. The mountain, being a mile above sea level, towers above the comparatively low Maine lakes and forests. Due to the northerly latitude, timberline is at about 3,500 feet.
Katahdin is most impressive from the south, a sheer-like granite fortress towering to the heights. It's shape is somewhat horseshoe-like with the open end heading northeasterly. Click this link to see an excellent overview photo.There are 5 main peaks on the horseshoe, counterclockwise from the north they go: Howe Peak, Hamlin Peak, Baxter Peak (summit), South Peak and Pamola Peak. The most dominant and intimidating feature on Katahdin is the Knife Edge, an appropriately-named jagged arete only a few feet wide in places and a memorable traverse from South Peak to Pamola Peak. Katahdin is climbed frequently, being a popular destination because of its prestige.
Katahdin would appear to be volcanic in origin with it's cirques resembling craters (view from the northeast reminiscent of St. Helens somewhat) but it is actually granite that has been eroded away and carved by glaciers (source).
The many routes to the summit all involve at least some scrambling from second to fourth class and come from three general directions, north, east and southwest. However there are several technical routes both rock and ice (refer to the Routes section for details). A campsite, Chimney Pond, sits within the cirque called the Great Basin. From this point, you can ascend the Cathedral Ridge Route (1.7 mi.) that runs up the salient ridge just west of Baxter Peak or the Saddle Trail (2.2 mi.) which is a bit more pedestrian. Or if you want to head up the Knife Edge (1.1 mi.) you would ascend the Dudley Trail to Pamola Peak (1.3 mi.). You can also head west from Chimney Pond to Hamlin Peak via the Hamlin Ridge Trail (2.2 mi.) if you want to hike the entire western side of the mountain to the summit.
You can also climb directly from the east via the Roaring Brook Campground on the Helon Taylor Trail (4.3 mi to summit). This takes you directly to Pamola Peak and the Knife Edge route to the summit and bypasses Chimney Pond.
From the southwest you can approach via Abol Campground or Katahdin Stream Campground which intersect and head up the Hunt Trail (the northernmost 5.5 miles of the AT). (5.2 mi total)
There is also the possibility of approaching from the far north via Trout Brook but this is more than a dayhike/climb.
The first recorded climb occurred August 2-3, 1804 by Surveyor Charles Turner Jr. via the Hunt Spur. American author, Henry David Thoreau wrote of his 1846 climb of Ktaadn in "The Maine Woods."
For a great website about Katahdin that GuitarWizard found, click here.
Panorama Link and a lot of information on this page provided by desainme.
NOTE: The Dudley Trail is unfortunately closed until 2018 due to unstable conditions from a slide. See article here
Take Interstate 95 to the Millinocket-Mattawamkeag exit about 50 miles north of Bangor, ME. Proceed to Millinocket, following the signs, then turn right where the road "T's" by a high school onto Katahdin Ave. Go a couple blocks and take a left at the sign for Baxter State Park. Follow that about 16 miles to the park. From there, either take the Perimeter Road (to the left) or the Roaring Brook Road (to the right) to the trailhead you desire for your ascent. In accordance with Governor Percival P. Baxter's wishes that the park be kept as wild as possible, the roads are gravel and used to be pretty rough but aren't as bad as they are reputed to be currently (at least the Roaring Brook Road is nicely graded with fresh gravel as of Fall 2002 and still in great shape in Fall 2006).
Camping is permitted only by reservation in authorized campgrounds and campsites. It used to be that you had to start trying to get a campsite as early in the year as possible but it has changed so that now the earliest you can try to reserve a spot is 4 months ahead of time. If you are wishing to camp within the park , the best advice I can give is to request it then as they fill up quickly. Maine residents get preference too. During the summer the park is usually filled to capacity. (I requested reservations in January a few years ago to climb at the end of September and listed about 16 sites in order of preference. I was lucky to receive my 12th pick.) You can also try to make a reservation by phone if your desired date is within 10 days but don't count on getting a site.
Click here to see the camping rules and regulations.
There are 10 campgrounds within the park, however, only 4 are usually used for climbs. Closest is Chimney Pond. To the east is Roaring Brook. Katahdin Stream and Abol Campgrounds are southwest of the peak. Russell Pond is a bit north but could also be used.
Depending on what accomodations you want, fees can be from $9 to $75. Click here for more information about camping and for detailed information on the various campgrounds.