Biking Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument

This article was originally published in the
 Summer 2018 edition of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Wilderness Matters.

In mid-May, a group of Appalachian Mountain Club trip leaders visited the KWWNM, some for the first time, to explore and learn about the recreational opportunities it holds.

When I pulled into the parking lot at the Matagamon Gate with my two friends and fellow AMC trip leaders Sarah Keats and Frank Brooks, we were greeted by a gang of bandits cloaked in bright bicycle attire.  One generous member of our group, Jeanine Libby, had brought bandanas for all of us. Our friends in the parking lot had already donned their new accessories, covering their faces to protect their ears, noses, and mouths from the dreaded little black bugs.  Most of them wore sunglasses, too, concealing the only area of their faces that would otherwise be left exposed by the bandanas. It was a pretty rugged look. I gratefully accepted my protection from the tiny bugs and joined them.

Most of us already knew one another, but some were new to the group, so after brief introductions (made comical by our disguises), we were off.  The plan was to put in several hours of exploration and hopefully make it to the Fiddlehead Festival in the neighboring town of Patten before the end of the day. We started down Messer Pond Road towards Haskell Gate, following the International Appalachian Trail (IAT).  Our group sported a collection of bikes from hardtail and full-suspension to much-loved 20+ -year-old relics, short on shocks and long on miles. This section of the IAT follows an old tote road, so cyclists of all abilities can enjoy this stretch of trail on any type of mountain bike.

We soon met up with the East Branch of the Penobscot River and we were never far from it for the rest of the day.  We encountered three scenic pitches along this stretch of the river. Haskell Rock Pitch is just steps from the path and it boasts the noteable Haskell Rock – a fascinating and photogenic geological feature.  A gentle breeze allowed us to stop here for an extended photo shoot. When the bugs came out, we moved on and soon reached a fork in the trail. We pulled out our hot-off-the-press KWWNM map and opted to take a left to continue following the river (and the IAT).  

This section of the trail felt older and a bit more wild.  Rather than gravel beneath our wheels, we were rolling on a soft forest floor padded with pine needles.  It led us to two more dramatic views of the river, Pond Pitch and Grand Pitch. We reached both vistas on foot, leaving our bikes on the trail and traveling a short distance on portage trails.  At Grand Pitch, several of us looked longingly at the trail ahead, but we decided to save it for another day. The Fiddlehead Festival was calling. We retraced our path back to the cars and drove into Patten in time to check out the festival and buy fresh fiddleheads.

Special thanks to Lindsay and Mike Downing, owners of Mount Chase Lodge, for hosting our group and feeding us so well.  Check our calendar of events for opportunities to join us in KWWNM. For more information about the monument, visit


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