5 Maine National Parks

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A showcase of the state’s natural beauty, Maine’s national parks are incredibly scenic. With excellent hiking trails, a rocky coastline and amazing fall foliage, there are plenty of good reasons to get active outdoors. The recreation areas, national monuments and national parks in Maine offer various recreational activities, gorgeous landscapes and amazing panoramic views.

National Parks In Maine

1- Acadia National Park

national parks in maine acadia in the fall
Acadia National Park is a stunning national park in Maine to visit in fall.

Acadia National Park sits along the rocky shores of Maine’s coast.

Most of its 47,000 acres (19,000 ha) is spread across Mount Desert Island, with sections on the Schoodic Peninsula and Isle au Haut.

With shimmering lakes, rolling mountains, and lush forests, Acadia is one of Maine’s most spectacular national parks.

George B. Dorr and Charles W. Eliot made the park a reality through land donations and advocacy at the state and federal levels.

They understood the threats that overdevelopment would pose to this coastal treasure and acted quickly to prevent it.

Philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., further aided the park’s expansion by constructing carriage roads.

In 1916, President Woodrow named the area the Sieur de Monts National Monument, but it was renamed Acadia National Park a decade later, making it the first national park established from privately donated land.

maine national parks camping two sets of sneakered legs Resting at the top of a mountain in Acadia National Park
Hiking in Acadia National Park, Maine, is a fun activity.

Wetlands, forests, mountains, freshwater lakes and ponds are among the ecosystems found in Acadia National Park.

The park is covered with trees and shrubs, with over 1,100 plant species, including mosses, mushrooms, lichens, ferns, wildflowers, and even freshwater and marine plants.

It has a diverse range of wildlife. Bats, beavers, coyotes, foxes, deer, otters, raccoons and bobcats are just a few of the animals that have been spotted.

In the park’s intertidal zones, you can find crabs, sea stars, whelks, urchins, periwinkles and mussels.

Seals, dolphins, whales and other marine mammals frolic in the waters off Mount Desert Island’s shore.

Several reptiles, amphibians and bird species live in the park, including peregrine falcons, songbirds, sea birds, herons and harlequin ducks.

Things To Do In Acadia National Park

Climb Cadillac Mountain
national parks near portland maine Female mountain bike cyclist riding downhill along Cadillac Mountain road
On a clear summer day, cycling or driving downhill along Cadillac Mountain road offers a panoramic view of Acadia National Park’s landscape of lakes.

Cadillac Mountain, at 1,530 ft (466 m), is not only the park’s highest peak but also the highest peak along the North Atlantic seaboard.

It is known for its beautiful sunrises, and from late fall to early spring, it’s the first place in the country to see the sunrise.

The short, paved Cadillac Summit Loop Trail, which affords stunning views of the glaciated coastal and island environment, allows visitors to feel the sun’s rays while ascending to the peak.

Drive The Park Loop Road
best national parks in maine The Beehive Cliff Trail from above
A scenic view on the Beehive Cliff Trail in Maine’s Acadia National Park.

One of the best ways to enjoy Acadia National Park is to drive the 27-mile (43 km) Park Loop Road.

It connects the park’s attractions and natural wonders, beginning near the Hulls Cove Visitor Center on the island’s north shore in Bar Harbor.

A challenging climb to the peak of Cadillac Mountain is among the highlights, as are other attractions like Sand Beach, Great Head, Thunder Hole, Otter Point and Jordan Pond.

Explore The Carriage Roads
national parks maine acadia
Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park, Maine, USA.

The Carriage Roads are a 57-mile (92-km) network of paved roads built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. between 1913 and 1940.

The paths circling Jordan Pond, Bubble Pond, and Eagle Lake are still popular today for hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and carriage rides.

They highlight the park’s most beautiful views.

Vehicles are not allowed on these carriage roads, which are kept open in winter for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing.

Explore Schoodic Peninsula
maine national parks
The sun setting along the rocky coast in Maine is a stunning sight.

The scenic Schoodic Peninsula is on a separate peninsula and to the north of the rest of the park, which is mainly on Mount Desert Island.

Despite having features similar to Mount Desert Island, this area is a less visited and more secluded peaceful environment.

It has a rugged landscape of granite headlands, a craggy shoreline, and several hiking trails that take hikers through pine and spruce-fir forests.

Listen To The Waves At Thunder Hole
national parks in maine rock and water
Thunder Hole is a natural rock inlet where waves crash with a thunderous boom in one of the top Maine national parks.

Thunder Hole is a spectacular location in Acadia National Park, where you can hear the thunderous sound of the waves crashing against the Maine cliff walls.

The sound occurs when the waves crash into a natural entryway carved into the rocks, colliding with the air entering the cave as the waves recede.

Experiencing this phenomenon requires good timing, and when the tide is high, water can spray as high as 40 feet (12 m) into the air.

How To Get To Acadia National Park

maine national parks acadia road with autumn trees on either side
Beautiful fall colours in Acadia National Park in Maine.

The park is approximately 160 miles (257 km) from Portland, Maine, and about 50 miles (80 km) from Bangor, Maine.

Fly directly to Hancock County–Bar Harbor Airport, about 10 miles (16 km) from the park, or Bangor International Airport, about an hour away, where you can rent a car.

national parks maine
Scenic view of the awe-inspiring landscape in Acadia National Park

2- Katahdin Woods And Waters National Monument

mount katahdin
You can see Mount Katahdin when you drive the Katahdin Loop Road in this Maine national park.

The National Monument in Penobscot County is a relatively new addition to the National Park Service and was only established in 2016.

This 87,500 acre (35,400 ha) national park offers ample opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to explore Maine’s pristine wilderness, with beautiful scenery of mountains, rivers, streams, forestland and a diverse range of flora and fauna.

Although more recreational opportunities are coming in the future, this natural region is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a peaceful environment.

It is rich in biodiversity, with forests containing many tree species, including maple, beech, birch, hemlock, pine, fir, spruce, tamarack, oak, ash and aspen.

Wildlife found here include moose, black bear, white-tailed deer, snowshoe hare, bobcat, bald eagle, bat and Canada lynx.

Various bird species, including bald eagles and owls, are known to nest here, while the waters are home to Atlantic salmon and brook trout.

Things To Do In Katahdin Woods And Waters National Monument

Drive The Katahdin Loop Road
katahdin maine north woods
Katahdin Woods And Waters National Monument is a Maine national park worth visiting.

The 17-mile (27-km) Katahdin Loop Road offers an excellent view of the monument’s southern section.

This path winds through the centre of the monument, past trailheads, ponds and scenic overlooks.

Mount Katahdin, located in nearby Baxter State Park, can also be seen from here.

Each mile is marked with a post to make exploring easier and drivers can easily tell how far they’ve driven and what’s nearby.

Go Hiking
knife edge trail woman hikier with a backpack sitting down on rocks admiring the view
HIking the Knife Edge Trail on Mount Katahdin is one of the things to do in this national park in Maine.

It’s a fantastic place for hikers, with some existing paths to enjoy and new ones coming down the line, ranging in difficulty from beginner to intermediate.

The Barnard Mountain Trail, just off the Katahdin Loop Road, is a popular picnic spot with spectacular views.

Deasey Mountain Trail leads to Deasey Mountain, the monument’s highest point, and the Orin Falls Trail provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.

The International Appalachian Trail extends for 30 miles (48 km) through the monument, so hiking that trail is another option.

Other Things to Do
national parks near maine Penobscot Narrows Bridge across the river
A tranquil scene of Penobscot Narrows Bridge.

During the winter, visitors can enjoy 16 (26 km) miles of groomed cross-country ski and snowshoe routes starting at the Katahdin’s north gate.

There are also 17 miles (22 km) of groomed snowmobile trails.

Paddling the East Branch Penobscot or Seboeis Rivers, which run through the monument, is another excellent way to enjoy the park.

Canoeing and kayaking are available to visitors, and anyone with a Maine state hunting license is allowed to hunt just east of the East Branch of the Penobscot River.

There are campgrounds, lean-tos and shelters.

How To Get To Katahdin Woods And Waters National Monument

The national monument is roughly an hour’s drive north of Bangor in north-central Maine.

The main access route is Maine Road 11, commonly known as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Scenic Byway.

Visitors can fly into one of the nearby airports and then rent a car to the monument.

3- Appalachian National Scenic Trail

maine national parks Appalachian Trail Mount Katahdin
Mount Katahdin is one of the stunning sights on the Appalachian Trail in Maine.

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a 2,200-mile (3,540 km) trail that runs from Springer Mountain in northern Georgia to Mount Katahdin in northern Maine.

This trail was completed in 1937, crosses 14 states, and is a world-famous hiking trail that offers hikers a variety of outdoor activities.

It’s a popular trail among casual hikers looking to walk a short section and those who relish the challenge of hiking from end to end.

The trail is managed by several agencies: the National Park Service, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the United States Forest Service, various state agencies and volunteers.

There are numerous landmarks throughout the trail, and you will find some impressive scenery along the 282-mile (454 km) section that cuts through Maine.

The Appalachian Trail’s “100 Mile Wilderness,” which runs between Abol Bridge and Monson, just south of Baxter State Park, is the trail’s wildest and most challenging section.

Maine is also home to the “Mahoosuc Notch,” a mile of boulders that hikers describe as the trail’s most challenging mile.

With beautiful lakes, rugged terrains and wildlife such as moose, loons, black bears and deer, hiking Maine’s section of the Appalachian Trail is an activity to tick off your bucket list.

How to Get To Appalachian National Scenic Trail

You can access the trail from several states, but the closest airports in Maine are Bangor International Airport in Bangor, Maine and Portland International Jetport.

4- Saint Croix Island International Historic Site

Saint Croix is in the small town of Calais in Eastern Maine, about 90 miles (145 km) east of Bangor.

This 28-acre park showcases the relationship between early French settlers and Native Americans.

In 1604, Pierre Gugua and Sieur de Mons led a group of 79 French explorers accompanied by Samuel Champlain to an island in the Saint Croix River.

They intended to take control of the territory and profit from trades with the local Indian tribes.

Unfortunately, the winter of 1604-1605 on Saint Croix Island was harsh, killing nearly half of the men on the French expedition.

When spring arrived and the health of the survivors improved, they abandoned their settlement and relocated to a more favourable spot, establishing the settlement of Port Royal in the Annapolis Basin in Nova Scotia.

Although the expedition had been disbanded by the summer, French exploration and expansion in North America continued.

Saint Croix Island became an International Historic Site in 1984 and is jointly protected by Parks Canada and the US National Park Service.

The site provides a tranquil environment where visitors can enjoy a picnic while admiring the landscape.

There’s a short interpretative trail with displays that explain the area’s history.

Exhibits, ranger-led tours and short films provide additional opportunities for visitors to learn about the region’s history.

How To Get To Saint Croix Island International Historic Site

Saint Croix Island International Historic Site is on US Route 1, about 8 miles (13 km) south of Calais, Maine. It is accessible via Route 9 from Bangor or US Route 1.

The closest airport is 103 miles (166 km) away in Bangor, where car rental services are available.

5- Roosevelt Campobello International Park

Roosevelt Campobello International Park is somewhat unusual as it’s located on Canadian soil while being jointly administered by both the US National Park Service and Parks Canada.

Roosevelt Campobello International Park is on Campobello Island is in the Bay of Fundy region in New Brunswick, 120 miles (193 km) east of Bangor.

The park pays homage to America’s 32nd President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Canada’s long-standing close relationship with the United States.

Franklin D. Roosevelt spent his summers as a child on Campobello Island, where he enjoyed exploring the island.

The cottage on the island where he spent his childhood summers was built in 1897 and expanded to 34 rooms; he later shared the same activities he enjoyed as a child with his wife, Eleanor, and their children.

After Roosevelt became the 32nd President of the United States in 1932, he only visited the island three more times before his death in 1945.

Although Roosevelt visited Campobello Island less frequently after becoming president, his cottage and its beautiful surroundings remained close to his heart.

On 22 January 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson and Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson signed an agreement to establish the Roosevelt Campobello International Park.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt summer cottage and the Park’s Visitor Center are open from the last week of May to early June each year.

The natural environment and park grounds, however, are open all year.

Things To Do In Roosevelt Campobello International Park

Step Back Into History At Roosevelt Cottage

Roosevelt’s summer cottage is filled with historical items from his time in Campobello and is open to the public for tours.

Knowledgeable tour guides can answer questions and interpret everything about the house, from its design and construction to the family’s daily lives.

Visit The Visitor’s Center

You can view exhibits about Franklin D. Roosevelt at the visitors centre and take a guided tour of the grounds to learn more about the Roosevelts and the history of Campobello Island.

A short video about the park titled Outer Island is also available.

Explore the Park

Drive along the park’s 8.4 miles (13.5 km) of carriage roads, hike through 8 miles (13 km) of hiking trails, or picnic at one of the many scenic spots while admiring the scenery.

There are four lighthouses in the Bay of Fundy and opportunities for bird watching and whale-watching.

Learn about Eleanor’s life at “Tea with Eleanor,” take the “FUN Tour,” or dine at the historic Prince Café, which overlooks Friar’s Bay.

How To Get To Roosevelt Campobello International Park

The park is on the border of Lubec, Maine, and New Brunswick, Canada. The Frank Delano Roosevelt Memorial Bridge connects these two locations.

The closest airport is in Bangor, Maine, where visitors can rent a car to drive to the park.

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Christina Pfeiffer is a writer, photographer and video blogger based in Queensland, Australia. She has lived in three continents and her career as a travel journalist has taken her to all seven continents. Since 2003, she has contributed travel stories and photographs to mainstream media in Australia and around the world such as the Sydney Morning Herald, CNN Traveller, The Australian and the South China Morning Post. She has won many travel writing awards and is a full member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.