How to Hike the 100 Mile Wilderness – Appalachian Trail

Last Updated: January 2021

Quick Trail Overview


92.5 miles

Time Needed

7 nights / 8 days

Elevation Change

14,970 feet

Start Location

Monson, Maine

End Location

Abol Bridge, Millinocket, Maine

Type of Trail


Difficulty Level




Permit Required


Best time to go

Spring, Fall

About the 100 Mile Wilderness

Are you looking for true solitude and a challenging hike? It’s hard to beat the beauty of hiking the 100 Mile Wilderness.

It is one of the most challenging sections of the Appalachian Trail (AT).  This is due to its navigational difficulties and sheer remoteness.

The 100 Mile Wilderness is the second-to-last section of the entire AT.  Located in East Maine, it is the most remote section of backcountry in all the Eastern United States. It covers a stretch of forest, rivers, lakes, and mountains in a 750,000-acre area.

Along the way, you’ll see dazzling waterfalls, pristine lakes, and gorgeous old-growth forest. Also, you get to look out on some spectacular vistas.

Depending on your fitness and hiking abilities, you can complete the hike between 5 and 14 days. Most people take between 8 and 10 days to complete the trek.

Appalachian trail hiking

How to Prepare to Hike the 100 Mile Wilderness Trail

Hiking the 100 Mile Wilderness deserves a difficulty level of “expert.” 

The terrain here is challenging, so it’s not a great first hike for newer outdoor enthusiasts.

You should be confident in your off-trail navigation skills, such as how to read a map, compass, and GPS.

You should be fit, healthy, and experienced in backcountry travel. Remember, you’ll be traveling through some of the most remote terrain in the eastern United States.

The 100 Mile Wilderness is not for the faint of heart. Experienced backcountry hikers should only attempt this. Also, have an exit plan prepared. This is for if someone in your group gets sick or injured.

What to Pack for the 100 Mile Wilderness Trail

Packing for any big hiking trip can be daunting. You’re preparing to head out into one of the most remote places west of the Mississippi River. You need to be sure you have everything with you.

Here are some of your must-have pieces of gear for hiking the 100 Mile Wilderness:


What We Used

Packing System


Pack liners

Dry bags





Sleeping System

Sleeping bag

Sleeping pad

Sit pad


Cooking System

Stove & Fuel




Hydration System

Water reservoir

Water storage

Water purification

Clothes & Footwear

Fleece mid-layer

Patagonia R1 Hoody

Puffy mid-layer

Patagonia Nano Air Hoody

Puffy Jacket

Rain Jacket

Wind jacket

 Patagonia Houdini

Sun shirt

Fly Free Bamboo Weekender Hoody

Baselayer pants

Hiking pants 

Rain pants

Hiking socks

Camp shoes

Hiking boots

Sun hat

Bug head net

Liner gloves

Other Gear and Accessories


Trekking poles




Altimeter watch



Lip balm


Power bank


First aid kit 


Repair kit


Maine Appalachian Trail Club maps 1 - 3

rock ledge overlooking lake and forest

What to Expect When Hiking the 100 Mile Wilderness Trail

Terrain Overview

The 100 Mile Wilderness is some of the most rugged on the East Coast. Most thru-hikers start in Springer Mountain, Georgia, and end at Mount Katahdin, Maine. Thus, the majority of AT thru-hikers will complete this section from south to north.

So, our terrain overview will go from south to north, too. Yet, it is worth noting that the northern section of the trail is flatter.

If you’re hiking the 100 Mile Wilderness as a stand-alone hike, consider starting out on flatter terrain as you have a heavy pack.

However, if you want to summit Mount Katahdin (the highest peak in Maine), it’s ideal to do it at the end of the trip. So, you’d want to hike south to north.

As mentioned, most people take between 8 and 10 days to complete the trek. Below is a day-by-day overview of what it all looks like over the course of 8 days.

Day 1 - Monson to Wilson Valley Lean-To

Starting in the town of Monson, your first day of hiking is somewhat gentle terrain. Next, you’ll need to cross several streams before you make it to your campsite at the Wilson Valley Lean-To.

If the shelter is full, there are plenty of other camping locations available nearby. Pick a nice spot to set up shop for the night.

This day tends to feel quite difficult since you’ll likely have a heavy pack. However, soon enough, you’ll get used to life on the trail.

Day 2 - Wilson Valley Lean-To to West Chairback Pond

The next day, you’ll want to get an early start. You'll have quite a bit of mileage ahead of you. You will start with a crossing of Long Pond Stream. Here, you’ll climb to the top of Barren Mountain to start your traverse of the Barren-Chairback Range.

Eventually, you’ll come to a selection of nice camping areas near the shore of West Chairback Pond.

Due to the large uphill hiking, most people feel pretty wiped by the time they get into camp at West Chairback. So it’s good to start early in the morning on this day.

Day 3 - West Chairback Pond to Carl A. Newhall Lean-To

On day three, you’ll finally finish the ups and downs of the Barren-Chairback Range traverse. Then you'll descend to the West Branch of the Pleasant River where you’ll cross the river. From here, make your way up to the summit of Gulf Hagas Mountain, following the Gulf Hagas Brook along the way.

You'll follow the brook up to the summit of Gulf Hagas Mountain. Then reach the beautiful old-growth pines of The Hermitage. This is one of the last stands of virgin trees (i.e., never cut or harvested) in North America.

Then you’ll make your way to the Carl A. Newhall Lean-to, where you can spend the night. Alternatively, you can make a slight detour and spend the night at the stunning AMC Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins. A little treat of luxury glamping for the evening.

At the lodge, you’ll get a well-deserved rest from your hike up and down the Barren-Chairback Range. Nonetheless, the Newhall Lean-to is also a worthy shelter for the night.

100 mile wilderness Appalachian

Day 4 - Carl A. Newhall Lean-To to East Branch Lean-To

Day four brings yet another steep ascent, as you make your way up and over the White Cap Range.

After your morning of climbing, you get a slight bit of rest descending to the East Branch of the Pleasant River. This is where you’ll find your home for the night - the East Branch Lean-To.

You won’t feel too tired by the time you make it into camp for the night since it's mostly downhill in the afternoon.

Day 5 - East Branch Lean-To to Antlers Campsite

The next day, you get yet another climb up to the saddle that separates Big and Little Boardman Mountains.

From here, you hike up and over Little Boardman Mountain and continue on past Crawford Pond. After Crawford Pond, you pass by Cooper Pond. This is your last major landmark before you arrive at the Antlers Campsite at Lower Jo-Mary Lake.

Although you still cover a good amount of mileage on day 5, there is less up-and-down. Also, your pack will start to feel a bit lighter. As a result, you may still have energy left by the time you get to Lower Jo-Mary Lake.

Day 6 - Antlers Camp to Nahmakanta Lake

Nearing the end of your journey, on day six, you can enjoy a climb up to the Potaywadjo Ridge. From here, you walk past the scenic Pemadumcook Lake. Then descend toward the southern edge of Nahmakanta Lake. Here you will finally make camp for the night.

As some of the last major uphill walking of your trek, the morning of day six can feel quite challenging. Yet once you get to the Lake, it’s mostly downhill from there, so you can enjoy a bit of a rest as you walk.

Day 7 - Nahmakanta Lake to Rainbow Stream Lean-To

Day seven starts off the last true peak ascent of the trail as you head to the top of Nesuntabunt unless you decide to continue to Mount Katahdin.

From Nesuntabunt, it’s a long downhill from the alpine and down through the forest. The final night’s campsite is at the Rainbow Stream Lean-To.

A fitting name to end your last full day in the wilderness.

trail leading down to distant mountain ranges

Day 8 - Rainbow Stream Lean-To to Abol Bridge

If you’ve woken up in Rainbow Stream Lean-To, congrats! You’ve made it to the final day of hiking on through the 100 Mile Wilderness. From here, you get to meander through some beautiful forested terrain. You will pass through the Rainbow Deadwaters and past Rainbow Lake.

Then, you have a short uphill section to the top of Rainbow Ledges, your last stretch of walking to Abol Bridge. This should feel pleasant due to your light pack and the relatively flat terrain.

Once at Abol Bridge, you have a few options. If you want to hike to the summit of Katahdin, it's best to spend the night at the Abol Pines State Campsite or the Abol Bridge Campground.

The next day, you can continue your hike up to the top of Katahdin via the Abol Trail. This is a 7.2-mile out-and-back hike with 3,960 feet of elevation gain.

If arriving from the 100 Mile Wilderness, you need a free AT permit. The permit allows you to continue into Baxter State Park to hike Mount Katahdin.

Whether or not you choose to continue to summit Mount Katahdin if you’ve made it to Abol Bridge, congrats! You’ve hiked the 100 Mile Wilderness.

At this point, you’ve thought about how you’re going to get home unless you’re planning to do the 100 Mile Wilderness twice. You’re going to be quite a distance from where you originally started.

The best way to organize the logistics for this hike is to drop a car off at Abol Bridge. Then organize a shuttle service to bring you to the trailhead at Monson.

Many different outfitters that are willing to do this for a fee, such as companies like Shaws Hiker Hostel and Phil Pepin of 100 Mile Wilderness Adventures and Outfitters. Otherwise, if your group has two cars, leave one car at the finish line and drive back to Monson.

The best idea is to drop your car off at your ending location. This way, it’s okay if you’re running a bit behind schedule.

Alternatively, if you arrange a pick-up, your entire hike needs to run on time. You, also, could get stuck at your ending trailhead if you miss your pick up time.

trail looking towards alpine trees and mountain

Highlights of the 100 Mile Wilderness Trail

There are many fantastic highlights along the trail through the 100 Mile Wilderness. These include:

  • Little Wilson Falls - Located at mile 6.6 of the trail, this 60-foot waterfall is a marvel to behold.
  • Barren Ledges -  Once at the top of Barren Ledges at mile 17, you can get some fantastic views of the Barren-Chairback Range.
  • The Hermitage - If you’ve never seen towering virgin old-growth trees, the Hermitage is sure to be a major highlight of your hike.
  • White Cap Summit - From the summit of White Cap in the White Cap Range, you can get some stellar views of the surrounding area. On particularly clear days, you can see Katahdin.
  • Rainbow Ledges - On your final day of hiking, Rainbow Ledges is your only real uphill section. Once you get to the top, you can look back and get a bird’s-eye view of all the terrain you’ve covered so far!
  • Mount Katahdin - Okay, okay, we know that Katahdin isn’t actually in the 100 Mile Wilderness. However, if you choose to continue to the summit, it’s going to be a highlight of your trip.


In conclusion, the 100 Mile Wilderness Trail is wild and unpredictable. It is a fantastic trek for the experienced backpackers among us.

If you choose to enter the Wilderness, be ready for whatever the trail throws your way.

Come ready for an adventure and some of the most amazing hiking east of the Mississippi.

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