I’ve descended Hamlin Ridge three times, but never climbed it. Personally, I find it exhilarating. The views into Great Basin and the wall of granite behind it are spectacular. Look the other way and you can see down into North Basin—an untrailed wilderness. I guess I’ve always been too busy with the view to take time to get scared by the exposure and the cliffs.
The ridge is steep and narrow with lots of loose rock. In many places, you have to climb the face of boulders. For a person of my height, they’re no problem, but for shorter folks or kids they can be intimidating. My son Henry descended Hamlin Ridge when he was ten (with a backpack on). It scared him so much that he got physically ill. Earlier in the day, he’d hiked out of Northwest Basin—up the steep slope of loose rocks—and reveled in it. Hamlin was too much for him.
In many ways, Hamlin Ridge is a lot like Cathedral. It’s a steep, narrow spine of rock with unparalleled views. It’s almost the perfect climb. Exactly what I had in mind when I created WW25: it’s challenging and wonderful but not really scary.
To get to the hike, start from Roaring Brook Trailhead. About a half mile before you get to Chimney Pond, turn right and hike toward North Basin. About halfway there, turn left onto Hamlin Ridge Trail. The trail climbs the ridge, crosses Hamlin Peak and ends at Caribou Spring. From the trailhead to Hamlin Peak is 4.7 miles with more than 3000 feet of climbing. For fuller directions and description, check out hike 34 in Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park.
One of the best things about Hamlin Ridge is that it’s never crowded. You’ll meet the occasional hiker, but your solitude is likely to be broken only by the victory whoops of hikers over on Baxter Peak.