Exploring the Park Loop Road in Katahdin Woods & Waters (KWW)

View of Katahdin from the I-95 scenic overlook.

Weekend Adventure

Treben and I decided it would be fun to take a trip up to the new Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument and see what the park has to offer.  In short, this place offers incredible views, lots of outdoor recreation opportunities, high potential for wildlife viewing and is definitely worth the trip!  On our way up, we decided to stop at the scenic overlook on I-95 and catch a view of Mt. Katahdin in the distance.

Paulie wasn’t the only one going to visit KWW! We found this road sign just after coming off I-95 in Sherman.

Off to a rough start

Unfortunately, our journey was off to a rough start, as we drove the wrong way on Route 11 and ended up Sherman Station.  Hopefully Paulie didn’t do the same.  I think I need to teach my co-pilot some map skills, asap!  We drove in through the Sherman Lumber Company Road, which was long and rough.  The road will definitely get you where you want to go, but I recommend heading in through Swift Brook Road in Stacyville.  The road is best traveled in a truck, SUV, or high-clearance vehicle because of the pot holes.  Definitely make sure you have a spare tire, tire iron, jack, and maybe even a flat repair kit and air pump.  If the roads have recently been graded there is a pretty high risk that you could end up with a flat.  Also stay to the right of the road as much as you can, and pull over when you see a logging truck coming up behind you and let them go by.  Logging truck drivers know these roads like the back of their hand.

It’s not always bad to go the wrong way

Treben got a kick out of all the frogs hopping around the Lunksoos Campsite.

As Treben and I found out, going the wrong way had its advantages.  We got to drive through two other sections of KWW and stopped at the Lunksoos campsite.  There is a map of the park on display there, and a boat launch on the bank of the East Branch Penobscot River.  Across the road is a lodge which has potable water and is part of the park.  We didn’t head over to check it out, and I’m not sure if it’s manned at the moment.  This is a great location to put a canoe or kayak in the water and check out the river, go swimming or fishing.

Here is a section of the map on display at Lunksoos that shows where we are heading.
This is a great interpretive panel about the park. Notice the mosquito on the panel after the last paragraph. Definitely bring bug spray!

There is a lodge right across the road from the Lunksoos Campsites.
Beautiful view of the Penobscot from Lunksoos!

 Follow the signs

Signs show you the way to the park.

If you head in through the Swift Brook Road in Stacyville you will find a sign pointing you in the right direction of the park at a fork in the road.  Stay to the left at the fork, as the sign recommends.  Going right (straight) will take you to the Seboeis Road, which is the way we came in, and the way to get to Lunksoos Camps.

Whitestone Falls

Not everyone is happy about the park, as you can see here from the bridge at Whitestone Falls.

Just before reaching the largest section of the park you will cross a bridge that spans the East Branch Penobscot River near Whitestone Falls.  This is a fantastic photo opportunity and is incredibly beautiful.  Again, keep in mind that this is a logging road.  Don’t walk on the bridge- logging trucks don’t slow down for much and they’re trying to work.  You can get great photos from the bank of the river.

Incredible rapids on the Penobscot.
Time to plan another canoe adventure…

Welcome to Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument

Entrance to Katahdin Loop Road.

The entrance to the park has an incredible view- the photo doesn’t do it justice.  There is a scenic lookout that you can hike, but only about enough space for two cars to park at the moment.  There wasn’t a sign that told us how long the hike was for the scenic lookout, so we didn’t check it out.  You will cross a small stream full of trout just before reaching the gate entrance.

Katahdin Loop Road

The Katahdin Loop Road is between 15-16 miles long, and the speed limit there is 15 mph.  Stick to the speed limit, as traffic can go either way, the road is quite narrow, and wildlife could be around any corner.  As of right now, there are lots of places where limbs are hanging in the road, so if you love your paint job, you might want to take a different vehicle.  The road has varied terrain, as it is still a work in progress.  There is one section of the road that goes up hill and has some loose gravel.  Drive the speed limit and you should be all set.  Mile markers show you where you are, and signs show you where the scenic lookouts are.  Many side roads are closed off from the loop road and are now hiking trails.

A wooden bridge in the park.
Some of the dirt roads are wide like this one, while others are still relatively narrow. You’ll be looking at a lot more than just trees on this drive!
Grass grows in the middle of some sections of the loop road.

Katahdin Loop Road Trails

Most trailheads look like this along the loop road and are old logging roads.

There are many hiking trails along the loop road.  The number of parking spaces varies greatly within the park while it is being built.  Most don’t have signs that tell you the name of the trail, or trail distances.  The signage is limited as well, although it does give you access information.  We didn’t have a lot of time available when we visited the park, so we didn’t check out any of the trails.

THE Scenic Overlook

A must-see view for all visitors of KWW- don’t miss this turn!

When you see the fork in the road above with the sign that reads Scenic Overlook, go there!  It’s just a short drive to a wide-open space with many parking spaces and a million-dollar view of Mount Katahdin and the surrounding region.  There are picnic tables, facilities, and hand-carved maps interpreting the incredible view before you.  Millinocket Lake is to the far left of the view, and Mount Katahdin is right in front of you.  Again, the pictures don’t do it justice.  This won’t be the last time you see Mt. Katahdin.  As you follow the loop road it will keep coming into view at different points along the journey.

Panoramic view.
One of the interpretive carvings at the overlook.

Barnard Mountain Trail

Barnard Mountain Trail. I would love to sled down that in the winter!

At mile marker 12 you’ll find the trailhead to Barnard Mountain, which is clearly marked.  The trail is 1.2 miles long and is the new starting point for the International Appalachian Trail (for now).  This trail will also take you to Orin Falls which is beyond Barnard Mountain.  Orin Falls can also be reached from the Deasey Mountain Trail.  This was the only trail that we found that had a name and distance.

Continuing on the Loop Road

Katahdin comes into view several times after passing the scenic overlook.  Keep your eyes open for moose along the road as well, especially from mile marker 12 and on, which is where we saw the most moose poop in the road and some tracks.  BIG tracks!

Another great picnic spot along the loop road.
Views of Katahdin as you drive.
A more narrow section of the road, but still well-maintained.
There are places along the road to pull over and enjoy the view, although they aren’t designated parking spots yet.
Imagine this view in the fall!
Moose track we found on the road compared to a size 7.5 shoe!

Sandbank Campsite

Treben thought the view was pretty cool. It made us both want to go paddle!

After finishing the Katahdin Loop Road we stopped at Sandbank Campsite on our way out of the park.  This is also a nice spot right next to Sandbank Stream.  The site has facilities and water access, with another great view.  There are also picnic tables and fire pits at the site.  Treben and I also saw moose tracks here near the shore, so you may even get to see some moose while you’re there.

Welcome to Sandbank!
Treben exploring Sandbank. My Jeep is parked near the stream access.
The facilities are nice and have really cool toilet paper holders.
Sandbank campsite.
Beautiful view of Sandbank Stream.
Paddlers were here…

Worth the Trip

Our first visit to Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument was definitely a great one.  We are planning to go back again when we have more time and stay a few days.  There are lots of trails on the south end of the park we want to explore, including Barnard Mountain, Orin Falls and Deasey Mountain, which is the highest point in the park and has a fire tower at the top.  Another time we plan to head into the park through the north entrance and follow Messer Pond Road (River Road).  The northern trails follow the East Branch Penobscot River and pass by Stair Falls, Haskell Rock Pitch, and Grand Pitch.  There are so many beautiful places to explore in this region, and I can’t wait to see them all!

Until next time, enjoy Maine’s great outdoors and Stay Untamed!

 

Angela Quintal-Snowman
Stay Untamed

Angela Quintal-Snowman

Adventurer at Untamed Mainer
Angela enjoys exploring the many beautiful and unique natural places in Maine and sharing her outdoor experiences with others.When not out exploring Maine woods, trails, mountains and waterways Angela can be found plotting and planning her next adventure or buying another backpack.(Because you can never have too many).
Angela Quintal-Snowman
Stay Untamed

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