The Ki-Jo Mary Multiple Use Management Forest encompasses 175,000 acres of privately owned commercial forestland that ranges roughly from Greenville east to Brownville Junction and north to Millinocket — about one-quarter of what is commonly known as the 100-Mile Wilderness. While the area within these bounds is a working forest actively managed for the production of wood fiber, there are also many opportunities for day hiking, backpacking, car camping and other recreation.

Nearly 50 miles of the Appalachian Trail meander through the Ki-Jo Mary Forest, crossing two major mountain ranges and nine high summits and winding in and around many of the more than 50 lakes and ponds and 100 miles of streams and rivers in this scenic landscape. Complemented by a healthy network of other trails, there are at least 100 miles of hiking.

The Ki-Jo Mary Forest is a consortium of private and public landowners formed in 1986 to address increasing public demand for recreation and use of the commercial forest roads in the region. The organization contracts with North Maine Woods Inc., a professional forest management firm responsible for some 3.5 million acres of Maine forestland, to manage recreation.

Markedly different from a state or federal park, Ki-Jo Mary Forest’s amenities are few and primitive for the most part, highlighting the appeal of this area for those seeking a wilder outdoor experience. There are no rangers, official water sources or RV hookups. Roads and bridges are maintained for logging truck traffic; private vehicles must yield the right of way.

There are three access points into the Ki-Jo Mary Forest: from Greenville through the Hedgehog checkpoint, and from Route 11 through either the Katahdin Iron Works or Jo Mary checkpoints. For Maine residents, the current daily land use fee is $7, and the camping fee is $10.

It is a must to enter the forest at Katahdin Iron Works and a visit to the namesake historic blast furnace and charcoal kiln just opposite the KIW gate. The operation produced pig iron from 1843 through 1890.

Drive-in car camping is allowed at more than 60 sites scattered throughout the property. Campsites are first-come, first-served and include a fire ring, picnic table, privy, and a whole lot of privacy. Campers should come well-prepared with food, water, camping gear, plenty of bug dope and perhaps a good spare tire.

The Appalachian Mountain Club owns 66,500 acres in the Ki-Jo Mary Forest, so for those desiring more creature comforts there are private log cabins, home-style meals, hot showers and a sauna at Gorman Chairback and Little Lyford Pond lodges. The AMC’s trail system is open to visitors and guests alike. Paths that connect to Gulf Hagas climb the ledges on Indian Mountain and lead to Monument Cliff on Third Mountain in the rugged Barren-Chairback range.

Campers can also enjoy Katahdin views from Jo Mary Campground on Upper Jo Mary Lake, which accommodates tents and camper trailers and features showers and flush toilets.

At Gulf Hagas, the West Branch of the Pleasant River drops 500 feet in three miles through a spectacular 150-foot deep slate canyon with six named waterfalls. The five-mile loop on the Rim Trail and Pleasant River Tote Road should be on every hiker’s bucket list. Just east of Gulf Hagas on the north bank of the Pleasant River is the Hermitage, an impressive 35-acre grove of old-growth white pines.

North and east of Gulf Hagas, you can day hike to Gulf Hagas Mountain via the AT or the Alpine summit of Whitecap Mountain via White Brook Trail, or tackle the entire range on a two-day backpack trek. Beyond Whitecap there’s plenty more to see — Little Boardman Mountain, Cooper Brook Falls, the old Antler’s Camps site on Lower Jo Mary Lake and blueberry-rich Potaywadjo Ridge. For more information, visit or call 435-6213.

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow Carey’s adventures in his Maineiac Outdoors blog at: blog/maineiac-outdoors

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.