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Katahdin Woods & Waters National Scenic Byway

Katahdin [Ktotonuk] or K’taadn in Passamaquoddy, means “highest land.”


The Katahdin Woods & Waters National Scenic Byway is 89-miles of woods and waters, taking visitors through some of the most spectacular natural landscape that inland Maine has to offer. Dominating that landscape is Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain at 5,268 feet and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The Byway begins at the southern entrance of Baxter State Park and winds its way through Millinocket along Route 11 and the Penobscot River to Patten, ending at Baxter’s northern entrance at Grand Lake Matagamon.


The Katahdin region is unique and features Maine’s tallest mountain, its mightiest river, and its greatest park. Perhaps it could be said that the views of majestic Katahdin are the Byway’s “signature views”. From the Byway, visitors can experience the “wow” factor from various points along the way, these vistas and views offering a collection of some of the most spectacular scenery of Maine in just one region.


Byway highlights include boating, camping, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, leaf peeping, hiking trails, historical landmarks, lakes, rivers, mountain views, whitewater rafting, snowmobiling, a state park, and wildlife.


Some of the most popular things to do and see along the Byway are visiting Patten Lumbermen’s Museum, Baxter State Park & Katahdin, Shin Falls, Grindstone Falls, Debsconeag Ice Caves, Ash Hill, Ambajejus Boomhouse Museum, Golden Road, and the West Branch of the Penobscot River.


Climbing along the ridgeway to Ash Hill, there is a breathtakingly beautiful 360° view of Katahdin, the mountains surrounding Baxter State Park as well as views toward the Allagash River and Aroostook County.


The Byway region boasts hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness and public forest, making for abundant and diverse habitats for animals including moose, whitetail deer, beavers, bald eagles, loons and more. In Baxter State Park alone, with over 200,000 acres, 200 miles of trails and more than 50 ponds, much of the land serves as a wildlife sanctuary.

Most area wildlife can be seen all year long, and there are numerous opportunities for photography, particularly in and around streams, lakes, ponds, trails and even on campgrounds and near roads. The Katahdin Woods and Wilderness area also provides many opportunities to canoe or kayak and swim, and there are also many trails that are easily accessible for people of all skill levels.


In addition to the beautiful scenery and activities on and around the Byway, there are historical sites and points of interest to visit as well. Visitors to the Millinocket Historical Society (located downtown at 80 Central Street) will find exhibits and other collected history, literally a treasure trove of historical items including photographs and artifacts from the families, businesses, and bygone industries of Millinocket. These historical elements provide a glimpse into what has shaped the town and its residents for over 150 years.

Perhaps it was Henry David Thoreau and his chronicles of the Maine woods that best captured and then projected the character of the region, impressing readers around the world with wild and inspirational expanse. “The tops of mountains are among the unfinished parts of the globe, whither it is a slight insult to the gods to climb and pry into their secrets and try their effect on our humanity. Only daring and insolent men, perchance, go there.”
― Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods

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Content and photos courtesy of


Photographer credit: Thierry Bonneville