ACADIA NATIONAL PARK might be the most popular spot in Maine. With its rocky coastline, granite peaks, and refreshing lakes, how could it not be one of America’s most favorite national parks? But it gets quite busy during the height of the summer with tons of tourists coming from near and far to catch the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain.
While a visit to Acadia National Park is an absolute must do, if you want to skip the crowds, head to one of Maine’s state parks for a little R&R or a challenging outdoor adventure. Maine has 32 different state parks spread across the state. From pristine ocean beaches to the Appalachian Mountains to freshwater lakes surrounded by dense pine forests, Maine has a state park for everyone.
Baxter State Park
Mount Katahdin is the major highlight of Baxter State Park. Standing at over 5000 feet, Mount Katahdin is Maines highest mountain.
In 1931, former Maine governor, Percival Baxter, donated 6,000 acres to the State of Maine for “those who love nature and are willing to walk and make an effort to get close to nature.” Thanks to the generosity of Governor Baxter, Baxter State Park is New England’s best state park with over 210,000 acres of wilderness sprinkled with 46 granite peaks and ridges laced with over 215 hiking trails just waiting for you to explore them.
Maine’s highest peak and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, Mount Katahdin, is in Baxter State Park. If you’re camping in the park, book months in advance online and if you’re hiking Mount Katahdin, you want to be waiting at the gates for when they open at 6 AM. Hiking Mount Katahdin is a strenuous activity. The most popular trail with stunning views is the Hunt Trail, but the most trail everyone wants to bag is Knife Edge. If you’re terrified of heights, skip this trail!
Top Things to Do: Hike Mount Katahdin; search for moose; fish in the backcountry ponds and lakes.
Where to Stay: Roaring Brook Campground or Cabin at Kidney Pond Campground.
When to Go: Summer for the long days and warm temperatures; Fall for the colorful changing leaves.
Camden Hills State Park
Nestled along Maine’s midcoast region, Camden Hills State Park is located where the mountains meet the sea. Just a few minutes’ drive from quintessential Maine town of Camden, Camden Hills State Park offers stunning panoramic views of Camden, Penobscot Bay, and the surrounding islands from the top of Mt. Battie.
Camden Hills State Park is popular amongst campers and hikers. In the park, you’ll find over 20 different trails for multi-purpose use year-round. Most people choose to hike Mt. Battie for the views or Mt. Megunticook, the highest of the Camden Hills.
Top Things to Do: Watch the sunrise from Mt. Battie; cross-country ski or snowshoe in the winter.
Where to Stay: Camden Hills State Park Campground
When to Go: Summer for the weather; Fall for the colorful changing leaves.
Allagash Wilderness Waterway
Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a unique federally protected- state managed wild river in northern Maine. You can spend a week canoeing and camping through 92 miles of lakes, ponds, and rivers.
While not an official state park, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a protected waterway by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and open for the public to enjoy its 92-mile-long ribbon of lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. For over 50 years, Mainers and visitors, like Henry David Thoreau, have enjoyed “The Allagash.”
As America’s first federally protected-state managed wild river, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway is truly an incredible place to visit. Located in Maine’s dense northern woods, it’s not for the people who need modern facilities. Expect remote campsites with outhouses. If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a canoe and paddle the 98 miles from Telos Lake to the town of Allagash.
Top Things to Do: Canoe; find the old locomotives at Eagle Lake; fish.
Where to Stay: Allagash Wilderness Waterway campsites throughout the Waterway.
When to Go: May to October for the best canoeing conditions.
Mt. Blue State Park
Mt. Blue State Park and its adjoining Mt. Blue/Tumbledown Public Lands is one of the most popular state parks in Maine. Nestled in Maine’s Western Mountains, Mt. Blue State Park is a four-season destination for outdoor lovers. The park is also Maine’s largest state park encompassing over 8,000 acres.
Opened year-round, you can enjoy the many hiking trails or fishing on Webb Lake during the warmer months and cross-country skiing and snowmobiling during the winter months. Stay at the campground on Webb Lake and hike Tumbledown Mountain and Little Jackson with 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains the following day
Top Things to Do: Hike Tumbledown Mountain or Mount Blue; canoe around the lake; snowmobile during the winter.
Where to Stay: Mount Blue State Park Campground.
When to Go: Summer and Fall for the best hiking weather and January and February for winter activities.
Sebago Lake State Park
Sebago Lake State Park is one of Maine’s most popular state parks for camping and water sports.
Sebago Lake State Park is one of the original five state parks first opened in 1938. Situated on the forested shores of Maine’s deepest and second largest lake, Sebago Lake State Park encompasses 1,400 acres of sandy beaches, ponds, and extensive woodlands.
The state park’s 250-site campground is one of the most popular in the state with many sites booking out months in advance. Swimming, boating, and fishing are popular ways for families to unwind in this lakeside state park during the hot summer months.
Top Things to Do: Swim, fish, and relax.
Where to Stay: Sebago Lake State Park Campground.
When to Go: June through September.
Popham Beach State Park
Not all of Maine’s state parks are in the dense pine forests and the mountains. Quite a few parks are located along Maine’s rocky coastline. Popham Beach State Park showcases a dynamic and changing landscape due to its sand movement and location. Bordering the south side of the Kennebec River and the Morse River on the north, Popham Beach is a slice of beach heaven during the summer months.
Pack a picnic lunch and head to the beach for some fun in the sun. During the summer months, lifeguards patrol the beach, but undertows and rip tides aren’t uncommon here. Don’t go during high tide as there isn’t much of a beach to enjoy.
Top Things to Do: Swim; sunbathe; collect shells.
Where to Stay: Stonehouse Manor at Popham Beach.
When to Go: June through September.
Quoddy Head State Park
Quoddy Head State Park is Maine’s most eastern state park encompassing 541 acres on the tip of America’s easternmost peninsula. From the red and white candy-striped West Quoddy Head Light, you can enjoy views of the Quoddy Channel, which divides Canada and the US.
The park is known for being one of the best in the state for observing native wildlife and plants. During the summer you can spot humpback, minke and finback whales from the rocky cliffs and scenic lookouts. During the spring and fall migrations, you’ll see a wide range of birds near Lubec Flats and Carrying Place Cove.
Top Things to Do: Birdwatching; whale watching; hiking.
Where to Stay: Cohills Inn or Sunset Point RV Park.
When to Go: May through October.
Grafton Notch State Park
Looking for a challenge? Grafton Notch State Park contains 12 of the hardest miles along the Appalachian Trail. Don’t miss Old Speck either!
Grafton Notch State Park is home to 12 of the hardest miles along the Appalachian Trail and some of the most spectacular mountains in the Mahoosuc Range. If you want some challenging backcountry hiking trails, head to Grafton Notch State Park and you won’t be disappointed.
If you’re trying to bag all the 4,000-footers in Maine or New England then you’ll want to hike Old Speck who stands at 4,180 feet tall. If steep climbs aren’t your cup of tea, the park does have several shorter hikes leading to incredible waterfalls and gorges. And, keep your eyes out for deer and even black bears.
Top Things to Do: Hike Old Speck; birdwatching; fishing.
Where to Stay: Grafton Notch Campground or The Bethel Inn Resort.
When to Go: June through October.
Aroostook State Park
Aroostook State Park became Maine’s first state park in 1938 when citizens of Presque Isle donated 100 acres to the State of Maine. Now standing at over 800 acres, the Aroostook State Park is a great park to visit before exploring the Allagash Wilderness Waterway or crossing over the border to Quebec or New Brunswick.
The park is home to Echo Lake and Quaggy Jo Mountain making it a great destination for watersports and hiking. During the winter when much of “The County” is covered with snow, Aroostook State Park is a great place to enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.
Top Things to Do: Swim; hiking; cross-county ski.
Where to Stay: Aroostook State Park Campground.
When to Go: July through September for summer activities and January through March for winter activities.
Two Lights State Park
Opened in 1961, this 41-acre state park located just a short drive from Maine’s largest city, Two Lights State Park is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. Named after the nearby twin lighthouses at the end of Two Lights Road, unfortunately the lighthouses are not open to the public. But, the eastern light is still active.
Two Lights State Park has several walking trails along the shoreline perfect for those looking to enjoy the ocean breeze and spot the wildlife. Picnic tables are abundant in the park, especially near the lobster shack, so either bring a picnic lunch or try one of the best lobster rolls in the state at the Lobster Shack.
Top Things to Do: Eat lobster rolls at The Lobster Shack; enjoy seaside strolls.
Where to Stay: Inn by the Sea.
When to Go: May through October.