The Best Maine State Parks You’ve Never Visited
Take the path less traveled at some of Maine’s least-visited state parks and preserves.
Sure, there are the iconic parks everyone knows, like Baxter and Popham, but many of Maine’s 48 state parks, preserves, and historic sites are hidden gems under our noses. Take advantage of the last warm days of the season to discover the delights of some less commonly visited public lands, recommended by Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Lands director Andy Cutko.
1. Often overlooked on a trip to the downeast region, Eastport’s Shackford Head State Park is the perfect place to stretch your legs after a long drive, either on its beach overlooking the working waterfront or on forested trails that offer bird’s-eye views of the dramatic coast.
2. Maine state parks know how to do lake beaches, and Swan Lake State Park is a perfect example. It has the ambling grassy lawn, the sand beach and playground, and easy woodsy trails, as well as ample shade trees to lie under, all just a short drive from Belfast.
3. Fort Edgecomb State Historic Site’s octagonal blockhouse overlooks the town of Wiscasset, which it was built in 1808 to protect. Visit the unusual two-story structure and learn about the history of the region, once one of New England’s largest shipbuilding centers, then picnic in the grass on the waterfront while watching nesting osprey.
4. Tucked into the western mountains, Little Concord Pond State Park is a 64-acre undeveloped preserve. A half-mile walk from the parking lot brings you to the deep pond, which is ideal for trout fishing. For a more strenuous hike, the trail continues up Bald Mountain.
5. Escape the Kittery crowds at Fort McClary State Historic Site. Meander around the old granite wall and structure perched high above the Piscataqua River, including a unique hexagonal fort, and gawk at Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse below.
6. Brooksville’s Holbrook Island Sanctuary encompasses a shoreline along Penobscot Bay and a mile-long island that visitors can access by canoe, kayak, or boat. Home to several diverse ecosystems, the property allows you to explore wildflower meadows, upland forests, wetlands, sandy beaches, mudflats, and steep hills that 7were once volcanoes, all in one trip.
7. Eagle Island State Historic Site was the summer home of North Pole explorer Admiral Robert E. Peary. Catch a lift on a water taxi or charter boat to enjoy the stately home, now a museum dedicated to his life’s work, and the surrounding gardens, planted by his wife, Josephine—all sitting atop the rocky island affording dramatic views of Casco Bay.
8. Not only the northernmost state park, Aroostook State Park is Maine’s first, created in 1938. Camp on Echo Lake, where the trout are biting and canoe and kayak rentals are available. Three miles of trails range from easy to advanced, including a summit of Quaggy Jo Mountain.
9. Penobscot Bay’s Warren Island State Park, off the coast of Lincolnville, is only accessible by boat, but it is worth the trip to the secluded campsites on this spruce-lined 70-acre island. With no ferry transportation or phone access, this is the place to escape it all, especially for bird-watchers. You can meander along quiet trails and a rocky beach and explore remnants of the island’s old homestead.
10. Peaks-Kenny State Park in Dover-Foxcroft boasts one of the best views in Maine: stately Borestone Mountain perfectly centered over serene Sebec Lake. Easy hiking trails, campsites, and day-use picnic areas are all nestled among the trees. Choose either the sand beach or grassy lawn to lay your blanket and take in the view.
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