This hike and paddle from Kidney Pond to Lily Pad Pond to Little & Big Niagara Falls is one of my favorite adventures in Baxter State Park. This hike was highly recommended in Greg Westrich’s Hiking Baxter State Park book and in Aislinn’s 1-minute hike blog, and I was not disappointed! It’s about 5 miles of combined hiking and paddling from Kidney Pond to Big Niagara Falls and it will probably take you about 3 hours if you take several stops to take pictures. While we did not see any wildlife, the boggy area around Lily Pad Pond seemed like a prime area for moose sightings.
|3 Hours||4.8 Miles||912 ft||Easy|
This was my first time renting a canoe at Baxter State Park and I was a little apprehensive about how that worked but it couldn’t have been easier. At the South Entrance gate, ask the ranger for a key to the canoes at Lily Pad Pond and they’ll either give you one there or hold one for you to pick up at Kidney Pond Campground. You can also get a key for the canoe at Windy Pitch Pond if you would like to continue this hike past Little and Big Niagara Falls and paddle on that pond as well. You’ll also need to pick up paddles and life jackets at the Kidney Pond Campground unless you bring your own. The canoe rental rate is only $1 per hour. How great is Baxter State Park?!
The hike begins at Kidney Pond Day-Use parking where you’ll start on the Sentinel Mtn Trail that wraps around the west side of Kidney Pond and meets the Lily Pad Pond Trail after about a mile. You’ll be hiking with a paddle and a life jacket but don’t worry it’s a short hike. Alternatively, you could grab a canoe at Kidney Pond (no locks) and paddle across the pond to Lilly Pond Landing and leave the canoe there for your return trip.
The part of Sentinel Mountain Trail that wraps around Kidney Pond is flat but a little tricky in some places because you have to hop over rocks to get over a couple of small streams. The trail is very boggy and mossy and includes several boardwalks. Along the way, you’ll have great views of Mount Katahdin as well as Doubletop Mountain, Moose Mountain and Mount OJI. You won’t see any signs for Lily Pad Pond Trail until you get to junction but just stay left until you get to that trail junction, as there are a few other trail junctions where turning right would take you to Celia and Jackson Ponds or to Sentinel Mountain.
At the junction of Lilly Pad Pond Trail, you’ll take a right to follow that trail for 0.4 miles to the canoes. At the end of the trail, you’ll walk along a long boardwalk through a bog to reach the canoes. Remember, there are only canoes here so you must bring your paddle and life jacket. On the day we went, it had rained a lot in the last couple of days, so it was a bit flooded at the canoes, so wear waterproof boots just in case. Unlock your canoe and away you go!
You’ll paddle through a gorgeous meandering stream and then enter Lily Pad Pond. The water is gentle in both the stream and the pond and the views are spectacular, especially on your paddle back when you’re facing Double Top Mountain and Mount OJI. After entering the pond, stay left and look for the channel that you’ll paddle into to reach Windy Pitch Pond Trail. (See my map) Unlike the Lily Pad Landing, this landing was more remote and did not have a sign. We weren’t sure if we were in the right place until we saw the blue blaze on a tree up ahead. Pull your canoe into grass and begin the next part of this journey to Little and Big Niagara Falls on the Windy Pitch Pond Trail.
It’s an easy 0.3 mile hike to Little Niagara Falls and another 0.2 miles to Big Niagara Falls. We’ve seen these falls from the other side of the Nesowadehunk Stream on the Appalachian Trail. One day in September, the falls were relatively gentle, and people were swimming and sliding down the rocks. On another day in July after a rain storm, the falls were roaring. On this day in October after getting lots of rain after several weeks of drought, the falls were absolutely roaring again!
At this point we turned around because it was getting late in the day and it would be dark in 2 hours but if we continued another 0.5 miles we would reach Windy Pitch Pond where there is a locked canoe available to rent. I enjoyed this hike so much that I’m sure we’ll do it again.