Abol Trail, a popular hiking route up Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, is closed for the 2014 season due to landslide activity that would make hiking dangerous, park officials announced Thursday.
“We’re most worried about having someone get hurt up there and not being able to help them,” said Baxter State Park Authority Director Jensen Bissell.
Late in the winter, debris began moving on Abol Slide, resulting in a debris field that could continue to shift in months to come. Not just rocks, but large boulders are currently unstable along the trail.
“Hundreds of rocks now — that are the size of your car — they’re gonna move,” Bissell said.
“This is likely to be a longer term closure,” he continued. “We need to evaluate this through the year.”
Hikers found on the trail during this closure will be subject to summons by law enforcement, a $200 fine, and they will be billed for the cost of any search and rescue expenses incurred on their behalf, according to Baxter State Park Authority.
“As wilderness stewards, our philosophy is to protect the park’s resources and to provide accurate and complete advice and recommendations for safe and responsible travel in a wilderness environment,” Baxter State Park Authority posted on its Facebook page. “Abol Slide presents significant hazard not only to the individual hiker, but to other hikers in the vicinity, especially to any hikers downslope.”
Furthermore, existing hazards on the slide could limit or prevent search and rescue response in the area, according to the park authority, which sent small groups of search and rescue professionals onto the slide to evaluate conditions this spring.
“Of the three Katahdin trailheads, this is probably the one with the least traffic,” Bissell said. “But it’s always divided the traffic. And I like [Abol Trail]. It’s one of my favorite ascents up Katahdin. It’s not for everyone, though.”
Abol Trail, which starts at Abol Campground and ascends to Katahdin’s alpine Tableland, is the quickest (2.8 miles) and steepest way to the top of Katahdin. The route requires hikers to scramble over boulders, using their hands almost as much as their feet in some areas.
“As a route, it’s a slide, not really a constructed trail,” Bissell said.
“[Abol] slide originally came down in 1816. But it has always been active, and it’s still moving.”
This isn’t the first time Abol Trail has been closed. The trail was closed for several years in the 1930s and 40s due to activity on the slide.
“As people who manage this wilderness, operationally, there are some challenges there,” Bissell said. “We are invigorated by the fact that this wilderness is really alive and moving.”
Hunt, Knife Edge and Helon Taylor Trails on Katahdin are open for hikers, according to a notice posted Thursday on the park authority website. But all trails to and out of Chimney Pond remain closed for the time being.
Day use parking reservation capacity at Katahdin Stream and Roaring Brook Campgrounds have been increased by 15 spots to accommodate the closure of the Abol Trail — five spots have been added at Roaring Brook Campground and 10 at Katahdin Stream Campground, Bissell said.
“It won’t lower the use [of Katahdin], but those folks — like me — that had this as a favorite trail will have to give it up for a while,” Bissell said.
“We will be developing a plan for future options regarding this important and popular Katahdin access route,” Baxter State Park Authority stated on Facebook.
People who made camping reservations at Abol Campground with plans to hike Abol Trail this season will instead need to travel the park road to Roaring Brook Campground or Katahdin Stream Campground to hike Katahdin, and they should plan to be at either trailhead by 7 a.m., Bissell said.
The Park Tote Road is now open from Togue Pond Gate to approximately 5 miles north of Nesowadnehunk Field and from Matagamon Gate to Trout Brook Crossing. The South Branch Pond and Roaring Brook Roads are open. All park campgrounds except Chimney Pond are open. And the Traveler Loop is open.
Black flies are “active and plentiful,” park authority cautioned Thursday. To prepare for a comfortable and successful trip to the park, visit baxterstateparkauthority.com and be sure to learn park regulations. For more updates, follow the Baxter State Park Authority on Facebook at facebook.com/baxterstatepark.