Exploring Maine one hiking trail at a time
Traveler Mountain Loop Trail
|Estimated Time||8-10 hours return|
|Surface Type||forested, rock|
|Elevation Range||2,358 feet|
|Total Ascent||3,732 feet|
|Trail Markers||blue paint|
|Maintenance Rating||well maintained|
The Traveler Loop Trail takes you through an amazing array of different habitats as it follows exposed ridges interspersed with descents down into small valleys between the ridges and peaks. The mountains on this trail are eroded, ancient volcanos, so the rock is rhyolite. This rock is much more slippery than the granite that makes up Mount Katahdin. The center peak, called The Traveler, is the highest volcanic mountain in Maine at 3,541 feet.
If you are hiking this loop in the counterclockwise position you will first hike along the edge of South Branch Pond to get to the Center Ridge Trail. Just before the trail junction the trail climbs a steep cliff to a lookout overlooking the lake. The Center Ridge Trail continues to climb the hill just past this lookout.
The climb is a combination of switchbacks and scrambles up over small cliffs. There is no dangerous sections but remember that the rock is slippery so be sure of your footing. If it's raining or wet you may want to consider hiking another trail. All along the climb you will get views of the lake behind you. When you get high enough you will start to get views of the ridges to the north that you will return on from North Traveler. Higher up on the ridge the trail crosses large rock slides and passes by rocky outcrops. One large, square boulder is balancing on a steep slant and looks like it should fall over.
Eventually you will come up and over a ridge near the peak to see views of Katahdin in the distance and views of the rest of the park to the south. After enjoying the views you can continue to climb up the ridge on the left to the Peak of the Ridges (3,225 feet elevation). From here the trail travels along a narrow, exposed rocky ridge that requires some scrambling. From the ridge you can see the rounded Traveler Mountain ahead.
Before you reach Traveler Peak the trail drops down into a valley of mossy, stunted fir between the Peak of Ridges and Traveler Mountain. As the trail emerges from the forest you will get views back at the Peak of Ridges before crossing a very large and wide rock slide. When you get to the peak of Traveler you will not only be able to see back at the Peak of Ridges but you will also be able to see views to the north.
The descent down the other side of the mountain is more gradual. You will pass by a couple of large rocky outcrops and you will increasingly get views of North Traveler. Soon the trail drops down into another valley of mossy, stunted fir trees. Here the trees have thick Old Man's Beard moss hanging off their branches. When you start to climb again you will pass by a large rocky outcrop that is completely covered in moss. A large spruce tree is growing out of the top of another large moss covered boulder.
The trail climbs up to a rocky, flat ridge that travels along above the treeline providing views in all direction. Near the end of the ridge you will start to get clear views of Barrel Ridge to the north. The trail once again goes down through a stunted forest valley. This one had strange, fuzzy mushrooms and crooked white birch.
The next climb takes you up a long ridge to North Traveler Peak. All around the peak is a large rock field made up of baseball sized rocks and smaller. This makes the peak look like a moonscape. The Rhyolite rocks sound almost like porcelain as they rub against each other.
Another small valley takes you through an alpine meadow lined with short trees. The blueberries were thick all along the trail but here near the meadow they were the thickest I have ever seen. The tree-lined meadow opens up into a grassy meadow on the lead up to another small peak. The views of the surrouding mountains and lakes from this meadow were amazing.
From this last peak the trails starts it's long descent down to the lake. The trail follows an exposed ridge line. From hear you will start to get amazing views of the lakes below. After traveling through another saddle with more meadows you will come to a full forest of stunted and crooked white birch. It feels like walking through a forest of ghosts as these bright white, crooked stems poke out of the surrounding greenery in every direction. They never get very tall due to the harsh environment.
The ridge gets very narrow in places and follows some explosed cliffs overlooking the lakes. It goes over a large, dark, rocky outcrop that looks like old lava spires. You won't notice until you look back up at the cliff face. The steep and exposed trail along with the lose rocks make this a potentially dangerous part of the trail so be extra careful. Remember that your legs will be tired by this point. If you are out of shape like I am you will have spaghetti legs so they may not be as responsive.
Soon you will get back down to lake level and come to the Pogy Notch Trail junction. Turn right and you will soon be back at the trail head. Make sure you sign out on the registration form. On your way back to the car take one of the side trails down to the lake. At the lake's edge you will find an amazing view of all the surrounding mountains.
Always be cautious of weather when you are going above treeline.
For directions to the park go to the Baxter State Park page.
From the Matagon Gate in the north of the park continue for 7 miles on the Tote Road. Turn left onto the road to South Branch Pond Campground. Drive for 2.2 miles and you will come to a day use parking area before you reach the campground. Park here and continue through the campground on foot. After 900 feet you will see the Pogy Notch Trail sign and a registration box on the right. Make sure you register before you begin your hike.
It is recommended to do the Traveler Loop Trail counterclockwise due to the steep climb on the Center Ridge Trail. To get to the Center Ridge Trail follow the Pogy Notch Trail for 1.5 miles. You will find the trail climbing the hill on the left.
On the way to the Center Ridge Trail you will pass by North Traveler trail on the left at 0.1 miles. This is the other end of the large loop. You will also pass by the Howe Brook Trail (also on the left) at 1 mile.
- Trail Last Hiked: September 8, 2019
- Page last updated: September 13, 2019