A Trail SIgn in the Snow
Maine IAT Trail Sign

My husband, Eric and I enjoy skiing in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument from Matagamon Gate to Haskell Rock Pitch during the winter months. This trek takes us along one of the routes used by IAT hikers in the other seasons of the year. Once temperatures drop and the snow falls to a skiable depth, we load the skis and poles into the truck and head south to KWWNM. We don’t always wait until the trail is groomed by the rangers, but it does improve the skiing when we don’t have to break trail!

This year we have been into the Monument three times, day trips on two occasions and one two-night stay in Haskell Hut.

We park our truck either at Matagamon Gate or the Baxter parking lot off route 159. On a clear day, the view along the IAT from the parking lot is gorgeous with views of Billfish, Bald, and Traveler Mountains covered in snow. The first one we pass is Billfish, then comes Bald, and finally Traveler. We know the best places to stop along the trail to take great photos. Sometimes this requires us to go off piste, but I am not giving away our secrets!

Once we get to Haskell Gate and head down toward the East Branch of the Penobscot River, the first falls we encounter is Stair Falls which requires skiing down the half mile carry trail to get the best view.  I took a header on the way in; the snow was so deep that it stopped me dead pushing my head into the snow!  After struggling to get up, the view of the steps in the falls was beautiful.  Next stop is Haskell Hut that can be used for a lunch spot on a day trip or can be reserved for overnight stays through https://www.recreation.gov/ where you can find a link to the Recreaton.gov app.  There is a government fee of $8 to reserve the cabin.  We spent two nights in January and have reservations for two nights in March as well. 

Haskell Hut in the snow

Haskell Hut has a wood stove with wood supplied, pots for melting snow, dishes, wooden planks for beds, a table and chairs, and an outhouse.  We bring our own cookstove, pots, utensils, dishes, food, candles, sleeping bags, pads, and extra clothes.  My husband hauls most of it in a sled as the trail is well groomed.  Once the fire is going, it makes a cozy home for three days of skiing and camping.  We are never cold; the cabin sometimes reaches 90 degrees when my husband tends the fire!  The nighttime sky is beautiful with the Milky Way sparkling; the morning sunrises can be seen out the cabin windows.  

 From Haskell Hut you can go on several short, day trips.  My favorite is Haskell Rock Pitch.  The falls is beautiful no matter what time of the year.  From here you can also ski to the IAT Grand Pitch Lean-to, Grand Pitch, Big Spring Brook Hut (which is closed this year), or if you are adventurous to the Look Out. However most of the trails beyond Haskell Hut are not groomed.

Animal tracks abound.  We have spotted coyote, moose, ruffed grouse, fisher, otter, weasel, deer tracks, and more on the trail, crossing the trail, or off the edge of the trail.  If you are lucky, you will see a moose, as we did on our last trip!

This is a beautiful area all four seasons of the year.  If you haven’t been to Haskell Rock Pitch, put it on your Bucket List.  If you would like more information about winter skiing in the Monument, you can contact me at elaine.hendrickson@gmail.com

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