Sentinel Mountain stands in the southwest corner of Baxter State Park and provides what is certainly the best view of the west side of Katahdin and its adjacent peaks. At only 1843', minimal effort is required to climb this peak, but the open ledges at the top provide views of the West Branch of the Penbscot River to the west and all the peaks from Doubletop to Katahdin to the East/Northeast.
The Sentinel Mountain Trail
At this time, Sentinel Mountain is best approached from Kidney Pond. It may be possible in the future to hike in from Daicey Pond (as it once was), but as of August 2006 the footbridge across Nesowadnehunk Stream is out. Kidney Pond is approximately 1/2 drive from the park gate at Togue Pond (about a 20 mile drive from Millinocket).
From the day-use parking lot at Kidney Pond, the hike is 2.8 miles each way with about an 800' vertical gain. Take the Sentinel Mountain Trail, counter-clockwise around the lake.
A more fun approach is to rent a canoe at Kidney Pond ($1.00 per hour) and paddle across to Sentinel Landing.
Canoeing on Kidney Pond with Mt. Katahdin in the background
There you can stash your canoe and connect with the Sentinel Mountain Trail. This will shave off .5 miles of hiking each way. The paddle is a nice way to get views of the surrounding peaks as well as to spot wildlife (e.g. the ubiquitous loons, as well as moose and beavers).
View from Sentinel Landing
The first part of the trail is mostly flat and goes through some wet areas, traversed on puncheon. There is one fairly straight-forward stream crossing.
Puncheon on the Sentinel Mountain Trail
Most of the climbing is done in the last .5 miles and is moderately steep and rocky. There are no views until you reach the ridgeline, so don't give up.
Upon reaching the ridge you will come to a junction. There is a .6 mile loop around the top of the mountain. You can go either way at the junction. To the right are open ledges and a beautiful panorama of Baxter Park's highest peaks. This is a superb area to eat lunch or a snack.
If you go left at the junction you will reach some partially open ledges with views of the West Branch of the Penobscot River and the Ripogenus Dam area as well as the infamous "100 Mile Wilderness" area of the AT.
After completing the summit loop and reach the junction again, return to Kidney Pond/Sentinel landing via the same route.
View from summit ledges
Total Distances (including summit loop):
From Kidney Pond parking lot: 6.2 miles
From Sentinel Landing: 5.2 miles
The Baxter State Park Authority has strict limitations on the number of overnight and day users in the park. While some people find the system a little heavy-handed, you will find this park is in pristine condition and never over-crowded (the only possible exception being Baxter Peak on Katahdin). At the Kidney Pond trailhead there are 18 parking spaces allotted for day users. This lot is rarely filled, so you will not need to arrive at the park gate at the crack of dawn like you will to climb Katahdin.
Kidney Pond is the closest campground to Sentinel Mountain, located right at the trailhead. There are 12 rustic cabins available to rent. There are not tent sites or lean-tos here. The cost is $25 per person per day (2006) and they must be reserved in advance. The cabins are all situated on the lakeshore and are clean and comfortable, though appropriately spartan. There is no electricity and no running water, but each has a single built-in propane lamp and a wood stove (wood provided). There are shared pit toilets. Most of the cabins are walk-in and rolling carts are provided to tote your things 100 yards or so to your cabin. Nearby Daicey Pond has a similar set up. Note that cabin #12 is across the pond and you must paddle out to get there.
Cabin at Kidney Pond Kidney Pond Camps
For tent or lean-to camping, the closest campgrounds are Nesowadnehunk Field, Katahdin Stream and Abol.
Plan on reserving camping sites in advance. You can reserve up to 4 months in advance by mail only. It is wise to plan ahead as the park is quite popular in the summer and sites are very limited. Check the link below for details.
Baxter State Park Camping Information
External LinksMaine Memory Network
A view from the Sentinel Mountain east ledges looking toward Katahdin taken in 1944.
Baxter State Park Website