Trip Report: North Brother

There was only one other 4000 footer in Baxter State Park (with prominence) that I hadn’t done so I used my last morning of hiking to knock that off the list.

North Brother can be done in a loop with South Brother and you can even throw in OJI if you’re feeling ambitious.  In this case, I was trying to be back at camp mid-morning so I wanted a straight shot up and down.  I just went up the Marston Trail on the north side and came back that way as well.  Looking at the trail register and based on those I ran into on my hike, I’d say the loop is the most popular route.

There is supposedly an unmaintained trail to Fort Mountain as well if you want to explore.  One hiker I had met on Hamlin the day before told me he heard there was a plane crash over there somewhere.  That sounded interesting, but I didn’t really have the time for a bushwhack.

It took about a half an hour to drive from Kahtadin Stream to the trailhead.  Travel in Baxter State Park takes a while because of the slow speed limits and dirt roads so take that into account with your planning.  There’s a toilet at the trailhead which is common in the park and very appreciated.

Trip stats
Distance: 9 miles
Elevation Gain: 3300 ft
Total time: 4 hours
Weight: 10 pounds (2L water, dried food, apple, tape, down + rain, phone, headlamp, water filter)
Peaks: North Brother

The trailhead begins in a meadow
parking lot.
I started at the trail register at 5:30.  It was a pleasant morning but there were rumors of awful storms in the afternoon.  The trail walks flat across a stream or two and then begins your standard next-to-stream climb following Slide Brook.  It was pretty steep but the terrain was easy.
After a bit over a mile you come to the intersection with the other trail (the Mount Coe trail) that forms the loop.  At this point, the trail gets really easy as you gradually climb for most of a mile toward a pond.  The pond is bordered by the Brother range (though you can’t actually see the peaks from here per se) and feels nice and secluded.  There is a small path off the trail to get to the best viewing on a big rock in the pond.
A secluded pond bordered by some mountains.
After this you pass the pond outlet.  The AMC guide says this is the last water but I found several more spring/streams where it would have been possible but unreliable to get water.  From the pond you suddenly take a very steep turn up the side of the mountain.  They actually use switchbacks in some places, which is not very New England-y :).  That lasts about .4 miles but it feels like much longer.  Your reward is a fairly flat walk to the northern intersection that forms the loop.
The eroded trail up North Brother.
The path up the peak of North Brother is very different from the trail so far.  It is much less maintained and seriously eroded.  There is actually one place where I had to turn around and climb up the sides because I was too deep in the eroded trail ditch.  In the pine part of the trail as you near the top the trees frequently completely obscure the trail at eye level.  However, the trail is clearly visible on the ground.  This is a steep section overall, another .4 miles of hard climb.
The scrub and summit of North Brother.
Once I neared the top, the wind picked up dramatically.  It was quite cold in my wicking outfit.  I had to hunker down behind a boulder to enjoy my snack.
The view from the very top was a great view of the Northwest side of Katahdin.  It made me want to go explore Davis Pond, nestled as it was on that side of the range.  But not today.  Today I headed back down the same trail.  I saw two hikers coming up near the pond, the only hikers I saw this whole trip.  I was back down to the car by 9:30 and back to the campsite by 10 beating my goal time. Yay!

View from the top of North Brother toward Katahdin in the center.  You can see the northwestern slopes of the range with Davis Pond to the left.

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