The beginning or end of the Appalachian Trail is Mount Katahdin, Maine's highest point. Across from Katahdin sits South Turner Mountain, a summit offering vistas of Baxter State Park and majestic Katahdin, which is why so many through hikers cherish the day to summit this peak. Though South Turner Mountain only sits 3,100 feet above sea level, it offers a stark climb up from Sandy Stream Pond to challenge all types of hikers. The trailhead is accessed at the Roaring Brook Campground in the Southeast section of Baxter State Park. The campground day-use area fills very quickly because this campground is a popular start for many who are looking to summit Katahdin. For this reason, Baxter State Park offers online reservations, but they are not required.
Leaving from the Ranger Station at Roaring Brook campground, the South Turner Mountain Trail is accessed via the Sandy Stream Pond Trail. This initial trail is an easy 0.7 miles of relatively flat terrain circumventing the pond's southeast side. Sandy Stream Pond is a favorite hangout for moose and photographers alike as many are seen acoss the pond through out the year with Katahdin's majesty as a backdrop to the west. At the waypoint 0.7 miles from the ranger station, follow the South Turner Mountain Trail to the right and begin the climb; the Sandy Stream Pond trail continues past this intersection to wrap around the pond and return to the station. The distance from this waypoint to the summit is approximately 1.3 miles. This stretch is predominantly straight up with few switchbacks, but there are several opportunities to stop and view the valley below where Sandy Stream Pond sits between South Turner and Katahdin.
With less than a quarter of a mile to the summit, the timberline is reached and Mount Katahdin can easily be viewed as well as Rum Mountain and Abol Mountain to the south and west. South Turner's summit is fairly rocky with sections of loose stone followed by large boulders and crevices, so take care in foot hold selection. Finally, reaching the summit rewards all hikers with beautiful vistas and several flat portions from which a break can be enjoyed. Looking away from Katahdin to the east, Katahdin Lake and East Turner Mountain can be seen close by, and to the far south, Trout Mountain is viewed near the town of Millinocket. Several bogs and lakes can be seen down the valley that splits South Turner and Katahdin, and the proper lens may afford further moose sightings. Do not forget to look to the skies, either, as eagles are abundant in this region.
Returning to Roaring Brook Campground, many hikers choose to return via the west side of Sandy Stream Pond, as mentioned before, which is approximately 1.1 miles. Baxter State Park is, in fact, not a state park but a land trust donated by Percival P. Baxter, 53rd governor of Maine. The park is maintained and managed independently, so please abide by all rules and respect the benefits afforded by this backcountry park.