The northern section of Baxter State Park in the wild country of northcentral Maine is an ecologically-rich area of deep green woods, crystal clear lakes and ponds, rushing streams, and abundant wildlife. Spend some quality time wandering the woods and paddling the waters here and you will experience solitude, splendor and history on a pretty epic scale. One of the best ways to do it: The Freezeout Trail.


The Freezeout Trail meanders through this remote region of big moose, laughing loons and fragrant spruce for 15 miles. Combined with the Wadleigh Brook Trail and the Frost Pond Trail and a handful of sweet backcountry campsites, hikers can enjoy a multiday, 35-mile circuit on foot. Bonus: Canoes, PFDs and paddles stashed at three campsites can be used for extracurricular exploring.

The route of the Freezeout Trail follows an old tote road that was likely established during early logging activities. Many such rough logging roads have long since been recovered by the forest and converted to hiking trails. You’ll find remnants of logging days long past on the Freezeout Trail: stretches of corduroy road on the hike into Webster Lake, parts of an old log hauler and tools, cookware and a camp stove along Webster Stream, and a huge sawdust pile on the shore of Grand Lake Matagamon.

With time to spare on your hike, you might also ponder the historical footsteps and paddle strokes of Henry David Thoreau. The renowned author, naturalist and philosopher of Walden Pond, along with Joe Polis, his Penobscot Indian guide, paddled and camped in this area in 1857 during the last of his three adventures in the Maine wilds. Thoreau documented these monumental journeys in his beloved 1864 book, The Maine Woods.

The Freezeout Trail loop is a woods walk through classic northern forest cover types: spruce, balsam fir and pine, and beech, maple and birch. Views of the Traveler and Black Cat Mountain complex around South Branch Pond are possible atop the ridgeline of Wadleigh Mountain. The lakes and ponds encountered en route are truly delightful, and the walk from Webster Lake to Grand Lake Matagamon paralleling Webster Stream, highlighted by thundering Grand Pitch Falls, is superb.

Four lean-tos—at Frost Pond, Hudson Pond, Webster Lake and the confluence of Webster Stream and the East Branch of the Penobscot River—allow you to travel and camp without a tent, a weight-saving plus. Each shelter sleeps four persons, and there is a picnic table, fire ring and privy. Advance reservations are mandatory and assure that your group will enjoy plenty of peace and quiet. You’ll find canoes at Frost Pond, Hudson Pond and Webster Lake.

Baxter State Park was established by former Maine governor Percival P. Baxter in 1931 with his donation of 6,000 acres, which included the land around majestic, mile-high Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain. For the next three decades through 1962, Baxter pieced together his “magnificent obsession,” increasing the park’s expanse to over 201,000 acres. Subsequent land acquisitions by the park have brought it to its current size of nearly 210,000 acres.

While Baxter stipulated through deeds of trust that much of the park be kept forever wild, he was also a proponent of sustainable forestry, and in 1955, established the Scientific Forest Management Area. This close to 30,000-acre demonstration forest in the northwest corner of the park was meant to be “…a showplace…where a continuing timber crop can be cultivated, harvested and sold… an example and inspiration to others.” Your hike will lead through a portion of this specially designated area, and you may see signs of timber harvesting here and there. Do know that the park has been recognized for its exemplary forestry practices and that revenues from the sale of wood products help support the park’s operations while providing local jobs.

How to Hike the Freezeout Trail

Here’s a suggested itinerary for your Baxter trip, a slow rolling 5 days and 4 nights, because as Thoreau wrote, “it’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see”:

Day 1:  Trout Brook Farm to Frost Pond via Freezeout Trail and Frost Pond Trail, 5.5 miles.

Day 2: Frost Pond to Hudson Pond over Wadleigh Mountain via Frost Pond Trail and Wadleigh Brook Trail, 11.3 miles.

Day 3: Hudson Pond to Webster Lake via Wadleigh Brook Trail and Freezeout Trail, 4.4 miles.

Day 4: Webster Lake to Grand Pitch Falls and Little East Shelter via Freezeout Trail, 8.7 miles.

Day 5: Little East Shelter to Trout Brook Farm via Freezeout Trail, 5.4 miles.

For everything you need to plan, prepare and reserve your Baxter backpacking trip, visit Baxter State Park at Still have questions? Call the helpful staff at (207) 723-5140.