Baxter Area Biking

Baxter Perimeter Road
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Map of the Baxter Perimeter Road
Length/Configuration : 43 miles from point to point
Aerobic Difficulty : Tough; long climbs on loose gravel
Technical Difficulty : Modest
Scenery : Splendid; some of the most wild and remote land in Maine
Special Comments : We suggest planning your ride in Baxter as a multi-day tour

Maine's network of old, abandoned roads and former railroad beds help to make the state a great place to ride mountain bikes. Combine these with Maine's rugged appeal, deep woods and diverse landscape, and the attraction to bikers is irresistible!

The three rides presented here have at least one thing in common: they are at or near the beautiful Baxter State Park. Baxter Perimeter Road offers a 43-mile tour of the park. The Greenville Junction-to-Shirley Mills Rail Trail, a 13-mile ride, is a great beginner-level trail, just right for families. Mount Kineo, a 20-mile ride, takes bikers around the 800-foot former volcano, and is well-suited for beginners who are in moderate physical condition.

Greenville Junction and Mount Kineo are both a short car drive from the Park, and are within very close proximity to each other. Mountain biking folks can easily combine these rides if they have several days to spend in Maine.

Baxter Perimeter Road will take you on a tour through the jewel of the Maine state park system, Baxter State Park. Although the route follows a graded, two-wheel-drive dirt road, this is definitely not a ride for the novice. From gate to gate, the route covers 43 miles of the most remote wildlands in the state. Changeable weather and voracious insects may make this ride an ordeal for the unprepared. Long climbs on loose gravel will tire even the most physically fit riders. We recommend that you plan your visit to Baxter Park as a multi-day tour. This will allow you time for hiking on any of the many trails in the park and for exploring the many sites of historical and natural interest.

Baxter State Park began as a vision in the eyes of Governor Percival Baxter. Over a period of 45 years, Governor Baxter devoted himself to gift-giving, fundraising, and legislative activity in order to assemble the parcels of land that now make up the more than 201,000 acres of wildlands within the park boundaries. The governor formed the park as a gift to the people of Maine, with the stipulation that the park forever be maintained in its natural state. It was to be used for recreation and experimental forestry and maintained as a game sanctuary for wild beasts and birds. Baxter also established a trust fund to help offset the costs of administering the park.

We think that mountain bikes are one of the best ways to explore Baxter State Park. They are quiet, save for the sound of tires crunching over gravel, and therefore allow riders to hear and see the many beasts that inhabit the area. The cry of a loon, a hooting owl, or perhaps the bellow of a bull moose will allow riders to experience the sensation of wildness that Governor Baxter intended for visitors to this park. With careful planning, this ride can begin and end each day at one of the many campgrounds located in the park. Reservations are essential and must be made well in advance. We suggest riding from the Togue Pond Gate and heading north. With most of the activity of the park focused around Mount Katahdin, which is located in the southeast corner, traffic should lessen as you head north. You have a better chance of securing a campsite at South Branch Pond or Trout Brook Farm, which are located well away from the Mount Katahdin trailheads.

General Location: Baxter State Park, which is located 18 miles from Millinocket.
Elevation Change: The trailhead at Togue Pond Gate is located at an elevation of 640 feet. The road features several long grades, some of which climb as much as 700 feet. The most difficult of these hills is 3 miles from the Togue Pond Gate. The road climbs steeply after Abol Pond, to nearly 1,300 feet at Abol Campground.
From Abol, the road rises and falls without much net gain in elevation. It reaches its highest point, an elevation of 1,500 feet, over the shoulder of Strickland Mountain and then again at Morse Mountain. After climbing and descending several more times, the end of the road is reached at Matagamon Gate, elevation 660'.
Season: The park is open from May 15 to October 15. However, several of the campgrounds do not open until June 1. We suggest an autumn ride (mid - September) if you can arrange it. Cooler temperatures, fewer insects and people, and the splendors of fall foliage all amount to a fantastic experience.
Services: There are no services available within the park. Water is available at several of the larger campgrounds. Plan on a self-contained expedition if you do the entire perimeter road. Some groceries are available at Pray's Campground, located on Golden Road. All services except bicycle repair are available in Millinocket.
Hazards: There may be heavy traffic on the perimeter road, particularly during summer weekends. If possible, ride either on a weekday or after Labor Day. The loose gravel road can be extremely dusty if there is a lot of traffic. On the other hand, sections of the road can also become quite slippery after heavy rain. Mosquitoes and black flies are thick during the summer months.
Rescue Index: There is enough traffic along the road that you should not have to wait long for assistance. Getting you to a hospital is a different matter, however. The nearest one is located in Millinocket, which can be as much as 50 miles away via rough gravel roads. Ride cautiously! All emergencies should be reported to the Baxter State Park Authority Rangers. Rangers may be found at the gatehouses and at many of the campgrounds.
Land Status: The ride is entirely within the confines of Baxter State Park.
Maps: The DeLorme Mapping Company publishes Baxter State Park and Katahdin, one of the best maps of the park.

Finding the Trail: To reach Togue Pond Gate, follow signs to Baxter State Park from Millinocket. At the gate, out-of-state residents will be required to pay a user's fee in addition to any camping fees. In-state residents must pay for camping only. Ask the gate attendant where you should park.

To reach Matagamon Gate, drive on Interstate 95 to Exit 58. Head north on ME 11 until it intersects with ME 159 in Patten. Turn left on ME 159 and stay on this road until it reaches Matagamon Gate.

The key to doing anything at Baxter is to arrive as early in the morning as possible. Most everything is on a first-come, first-served basis, including parking.

Source of Additional Information:
Baxter State Park
64 Balsam Drive
Millinocket, ME 04462
(207) 723-5140

Notes on the Trail: The rules and regulations are very strict about bicycles being confined to the gravel perimeter road. Please abide by this, no matter how tempting any of the side trails appear to be.

This trip requires that riders be familiar with the rudiments of loaded bicycle touring. You will have to carry everything you will need for the duration of your stay, including food, water, extra clothing, sleeping bag, tent, and stove.

Black bears are present in the vicinity of all the campgrounds. Practice bear-safe camping by removing all edibles and toiletries from your tent and placing them inside a bear-proof container. Alternatively, if no containers are provided, all your food should be placed in a stuff sack and suspended at least 10' above the ground.

© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press. All rights reserved.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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