Katahdin, in Baxter State Park, is the tallest mountain in Maine and the northern end of the Appalachian Trail. Because of the AT, the trails are fairly popular in season. Summiting Katahdin is a long day, so we stayed overnight at one of the bunkhouses in the Roaring Brook Campground in order to be on the trail at daylight. Campground reservations go quickly so you need to plan a few months in advance. We were fortunate that our chosen date (end of August) had wonderful weather.
Our route is the easiest way up Katahdin, and still pretty hard. We took the Chimney Pond Trail to the pond of the same name. The pond is beautiful, in a glacial “cirque”. From the pond, we took the Saddle Trail up the steep cirque wall, which was slow going. One very steep mile took more than an hour. Once we reached the saddle, we were above treeline in a windy field of boulders. The rest of the way to the summit was straightforward but still tiring. Going down the saddle is less of a cardio workout, but still demanding to find good footing.
Other ways to the summit include the Cathedral Trail (parallel to Saddle Trail, but more bouldery) and the notorious Knife Edge Trail. Knife Edge really lives up to its name; there is a sheer drop of hundreds of feet on either side of the trail. Beyond my personal limit for this sort of thing. (At the campsite the night before we went, I spoke to someone who had just completed the Knife Edge. Her comment was something like “I can’t believe they let regular people do this trail! It’s so scary!”)
We got a clear day. Views from the summit for tens of miles, probably into Canada. Very high difficulty, very high reward. Ate a huge dinner and slept well.