Article Overview: Maine National Parks
While it’s true that Maine only has one congressionally designated national park, the state is home to six National Park Service sites (technically fewer but we’ll get into that later) as well as countless state parks and outdoor destinations.
So while the state may not be Utah in terms of it’s quantity of national parks, forests, and other federally managed and protected public lands, Maine is still a uniquely beautiful and worthy outdoor destination state.
So read on and let’s dig into Maine’s National Park Service Sites!
Why Listen to Us About Maine National Parks?
It might be helpful to know that I didn’t just make this list up out of thin air. I’ve spent my entire adult life exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
I’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues.
The work my brother and I have produced as part of More Than Just Parks has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
I’m Jim Pattiz, and along with my brother, Will, we’re collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
About My Travels to Maine
My brother and I visited Acadia in back in October of 2015 with a friend to make our film on the park.
This was our first trip to Maine and we were definitely blown away. The fall color was beyond spectacular and our introduction to Maine’s wild beauty was nothing short of amazing.
Since then I’ve spent a great deal of time in the state visiting numerous state parks, revisiting Acadia, and exploring the coast.
It’s amazing to me how wild and beautiful Maine has managed to remain despite being on the often-crowded eastern seaboard.
Anyway, there’s a very good reason they call Maine “Vacationland” and I’m happy to share my insight with you.
Maine National Parks
Things to Know Before You Visit a Maine National Park
Entrance Fees: At Acadia it’s $30 per vehicle, otherwise it’s typically free, though some state parks will charge admissions. We always suggest you go ahead and purchase the America the Beautiful Pass (which can be found at the entrance gates to most national parks). This pass gets you into all National Parks, Forests, Monuments, and more including 2,000 sites for free after a one time $79 fee (good for one year).
Sunscreen: Depending on the park and the time of year you’re likely to be exposed to plenty of sun. Seriously, some of these parks can zap you if you don’t wear sunscreen. We happen to like this one because it works AND it’s not full of a bunch of chemicals.
Leave No Trace: We’re big fans of Leave No Trace, here at MTJP.
Insect Repellent: The mosquitoes in Maine can be brutal in the summer depending on where you are in the state. The forests seem to be swarming with them from June through August so be prepared. The bugs aren’t *as* bad on the coast, especially if you get lucky with the weather.
Needless to say, if you’re going in the late spring or summer we highly recommend you carry around an Eco-Friendly Insect Repellent with you and apply it liberally.
Dogs are not allowed on trails in most national parks due to their potentially disruptive presence with the natural ecosystem. The basic rule is they are allowed where cars can go so be sure to check before bringing along your furry friend.
How Many National Parks Are In Maine?
As mentioned, Maine only has one congressionally designated national park. However the state is home to 6 National Park Service sites (technically fewer but I’ll get to that later) and many great state parks and other outdoor destinations.
Maine also shares the beautiful White Mountain National Forest with neighboring New Hampshire – one of my absolute favorite National Forests in the country.
What’s the Deal with Maine’s Public Lands Anyway?
Maine has a unique history of preserving lands for public access that has created an interesting and exciting combination of lands available for the public to explore.
While Maine has 6 National Park Service sites (technically 5, more on that later), 32 State Parks, 10 National Wildlife Refuges, and 1 National Forest, these lands only represent a small fraction of lands available for the public to recreate on.
There’s 10 Million Acres Of Lands Open To Public Recreation
That’s right! About 10 million additional acres of forest land in Maine is open to public recreation even though it’s privately owned.
In Maine, unless otherwise posted, it’s actually legal to access private forest lands. It’s something known in Maine legalese as “implied permission”.
This tradition of implied permission allows the public to recreate on huge swaths of the state’s forests that would otherwise be off-limits.
I should note that it’s still strongly encouraged that you ask the landowner before camping out on their land.
Maine also has about 500,000 acres of what’s called Public Reserved Land, which are basically wilderness areas with no development or facilities of any kind that are available to the public to hike and explore.
One of these, Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land, offers spectacular overnight backpacking opportunities along the wild and rugged Maine coastline.
Maine National Parks & National Park Sites
1. Acadia National Park
Along the rocky shores of Maine’s coast you’ll find this easternmost national park.
Once the exclusive domain of the gilded age elite, a few civic-minded residents decided to make Acadia’s beauty available to all Americans by donating the land to the national park service – and boy am I glad they did.
With rounded mountains, shimmering lakes (called ponds here) , rugged coastline, and forests dotted with old stone roads and trails this New England national treasure is the crown jewel of Maine’s outdoor destinations.
Crowds can be a real issue here, particularly in the summer, so be sure plan accordingly. Parking can be very limited and the park roads can be very congested.
Also campgrounds and hotels are very hard to come by during the busy summer months.
Fall offers a slight reprieve from the summer crowds, but not much as it’s no secret that Acadia is a world-class leaf-peeping destination.
Best Time To Visit Acadia National Park – Seasons & Weather
Fall is without a doubt the best time to visit Acadia National Park. Around the first week of October usually brings peak fall color.
Get out on a trail amidst the dense hardwood forests around you and watch the crowds melt away and lose yourself in this autumn postcard park. The vivid colors here will boggle the mind and are sure to challenge your previous fall color record holder.
Best Things to Do at Acadia National Park
- Go Leaf Peeping – Acadia National Park is a world-class leaf-peeping destination that draws people from all over the world to see its vivid autumn colors. The best time to go is usually in early October.
- Take in the Sunrise atop Cadillac Mountain – (Reservations are required) You can be among the first in the United States to greet the sun from atop Cadillac Mountain, oh and enjoy breathtaking views!
- Drive the park loop road – Acadia is a great park to relax and go for a scenic drive. The roads wind along spectacular ocean views and through beaufitul forest with countless overlooks and opportunities to pull off and take in the views.
- Lobstah! – No trip to Acadia, or Maine, is complete without some lobstah! You’ll know you’re close when you see the boiling cauldrons outside!
Stargazing At Acadia
If it’s the stars that you’ve come out to see then Acadia has them. The best stargazing opportunities are at Jordan Pond, Ocean Path, Sand Beach and Seawall.
The National Park Service recommends that you bring a flashlight, something comfortable to sit or lie on and a star map (or stargazing app).
Boating & Swimming At Acadia
Acadia National Park has two beaches popular for swimming in the summer: Sand Beach and Echo Lake Beach. There is also a small beach for swimming at Lake Wood.
Where to Stay – Acadia National Park Lodging & Camping
Duck Harbor Campground is the most remote and primitive campground in the park. Located on Isle au Haut, this campground is only accessible by boat. You must have a reservation to camp at one of the campground’s 5 primitive sites. Open from May 15 – October 15.
Seawall Campground is a what we might call a full service campground with flush toilets, running water, picnic tables, and fire rings provided. The sites are reservable 3 months in advance and are located in a quiet wooded part of the park with easy walking access to the coast. There are shower facilities and a camp store located a mile away. Open late May to early October.
Blackwoods Campground is a popular wooded campground located on the coast halfway between Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor. The campground has flush toilets, running water, picnic tables, fire rings, and RV dump stations. Regular sites are $30. Open early May to mid October.
Schoodic Woods Campground is a relatively new campground and has terrific facilties including flush toilets, running water, picnic tables, fire rings, and RV dump stations. The campground is located on the more remote and quiet Schoodic Peninsula and provides a more peaceful setting away from the hustle and bustle of the park and Bar Harbor. The campground is open late May to mid October. Visit the park website for more information on campgrounds and camping.
Lodges & Hotels
- The Inn on Mount Desert (Bar Harbor)
- Bar Harbor Inn (Bar Harbor)
- Acadia Hotel – Downtown (Bar Harbor)
- Bass Cottage Inn (Bar Harbor)
- Balance Rock Inn (Bar Harbor)
- Bar Harbor Grand Hotel (Bar Harbor)
- Atlantic Oceanside Hotel (Bar Harbor)
- Harbour Cottage Inn (Southwest Harbor)
2. Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument
Katahdin Woods & Waters is a very recent addition to the National Park System, having been established in 2016 thanks to an incredibly generous donation of land and funding from Roxanne Quimby, the co-founder of Burt’s Bees. Thank you Roxanne!
Katahdin Woods And Waters National Monument is a paradise for those who love the natural wonders offered by the wilderness. There is an incredible landscape of rivers, streams, woods, flora, fauna, geology, and the night skies. A gift to those who covet spectacular views.
The monument thus far has little by the way of facilities or developed recreational opportunities, though it’s working on adding more, but it’s unquestionably beautiful and well worth a trip if you’re in the area.
Visitors can enjoy activities including: canoeing, kayaking, hiking, bird watching, fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling on designated trails.
I recommend beginning your visit with a drive along the Katahdin Loop Road. There you will be treated to a 17-mile loop which offers you a great opportunity to see the southern portion of the monument and includes pull-offs with scenic views.
If you’re interested in hiking, there are several short and long-distance hikes from trailheads on the Katahdin Loop Road and Messer Pond Road. Hiking trails range in level of difficulty from easy to intermediate.
There’s an excellent six mile hike along the Orin Falls Trail. You take old logging roads along Wassataquoik Stream. Along the way, you will have an excellent opportunity to see the wild flowers and the wildlife.
Best Time to Visit Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument?
The best season to visit Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument is in the fall when the weather is cool and crisp and the oppressive mosquitoes and biting insects have packed it in for the season.
Fall in Katahdin brings some rain and unpredictable weather, but it also offers stunning displays of fall colors.
Best Month to Visit Katahdin Woods & Waters
The best month to visit Katahdin Woods & Waters is October for peak leaf viewing, weather, and bug conditions.
3. Roosevelt Campobello International Park
Franklin Delano Roosevelt served as President from March 1933 to April 1945, the longest tenure in American history.
He may have done more during those twelve years to change American society and politics than any of his predecessors in the White House, save Abraham Lincoln.
While technically not in Maine as it lies on an island in New Brunswick, this unique National Park Service Unit is a must-see for American history buffs.
Roosevelt Campobello International Park lies just across the United States – Canada border and is jointly administered by the National Park Service and Parks Canada.
The park preserves Franklin Roosevelt’s beloved summer home on Campobello Island where he spent a great deal of his time prior to his polio diagnosis enjoying the immense beauty that surrounded him.
Things To Do & See At Roosevelt Campobello International Park
The Visitor Center
A trip to Campobello should begin with a visit to the visitor center. There you will find exhibits about FDR. There’s also a wonderful short film: “Outer Island/Beloved Island,” produced by the Roosevelt Campobello International Commission.
A small bookstore features a limited selection of memorabilia.
Visitors can tour the home and see artifacts from Roosevelt’s time at Campobello. Guides are stationed throughout the Roosevelt Cottage to answer questions.
Rooms that are on display include the following: (1) President Roosevelt’s office from his 1933 visit and his bedroom, (2) Mrs. Roosevelt’s writing room, (3) living room, dining room, and kitchen, (4) laundry and Nursery and (5) family bedrooms.
Other Things To See At Campobello
There are 8.4 miles of driving roads located in the park’s 2,800 acres, and eight miles of walking trails. You can wander the trails individually for a short hike or combine them for longer hikes. You can see bogs, forests, shoreline, beaches, and more.
Getting to Roosevelt Campobello International Park
The park is located just across the border where Lubec, Maine meets New Brunswick, Canada and is connected by the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Bridge. All typical border crossing requirements are in place and you’ll need a passport if you’re not Canadian.
Entrance Fees – Roosevelt Campobello International Park
There are no entrance fees to access Roosevelt Campobello International Park!
4. Appalachian National Scenic Trail
It’s America’s Grandfather Trail, the people’s path, the bucket-lister, the one and only AT. I made those up just now, but I’m sure I wasn’t the first, needless to say we all know about the Appalachian Trail.
It starts in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia and ends atop Mount Katahdin in northern Maine. Along the way hikers are treated to some of the most spectacular scenery our great country has to offer.
The original concept for the Appalachian Trail was the brainchild of Benton MacKaye. MacKaye was a forester, planner and social reformer who wrote a 1921 article in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects first proposing it.
5. Saint Croix Island International Historic Site
Saint Croix Island International Historic Site commemorates the 1604 site of the first French attempt to colonize the territory they called l’Acadie. It is one of the earliest European settlements in North America.
Among those who wintered on the island during 1604-1605 was the famed explorer Samuel de Champlain.
Champlain was a French colonist, navigator, cartographer, draftsman, soldier, explorer, geographer, ethnologist, diplomat, and chronicler best known for founding Quebec.
The noted author and historian David Hackett Fischer wrote a wonderful biography of Champlain’s explorations titled Champlain’s Dream.
Congress authorized the establishment of Saint Croix Island National Monument in 1949, which became effective on June 30, 1968, and designated it as an international historic site on September 25, 1984.
About This Site
This small National Park Service site tells the story of the interaction between early French Settlers and Native Americans in what would mark the beginning of permanent European settlement in North America.
St. Croix Island itself is in the middle of the US – Canada boundary and is jointly protected by both countries, there is no public access allowed on the island due to dangerous currents and for the protection of the island.
The small National Park Service site is located in Calais, Maine and overlooks the island with a short interpretive trail and and places to sit and enjoy the scenery.
Things To Do at Saint Croix Island International Historic Site
It’s a very small site and frankly there isn’t a whole lot to do, but it’s well worth checking out if you’re in the area.
- Walk the Interpretive Trail – The historic site has a very nice paved 0.2 mile interpretive trail with signs and statues telling the story of the area.
- Bird Watch – The area is great for bird watchers and provides opportunities to see bald eagles, ospreys, and a number of other interesting birds.
- Have a Picnic – Sites like this are the perfect quiet spot to enjoy a picnic lunch and take in the scenery.
Check Out Nearby St. Stephen & St. Andrews Too
In nearby St. Stephen and St. Andrews, you will find a variety of museums and historic sites, recreational opportunities, restaurants, shops, and hotel accommodations.
6. Maine Acadian Culture
The Acadians were the descendants of the French who settled in America during the 17th and 18th centuries. Acadia National Park was named to honor their heritage and contributions to the region.
Acadia was located in what is now Eastern Canada’s Maritime provinces, as well as parts of Quebec, present-day Maine to the Kennebec River, and on the West coast of Newfoundland.
Though it is officially part of the National Park System, none of the sites are operated by the National Park Service. Instead they are run by the Maine Acadian Heritage Council (a local non-profit) with support from the National Park Service.
The 17 buildings overlooking the St. John River in the Acadian Village retain the cultural heritage of the Acadians who settled in the St. John Valley during the mid-eighteenth century.
The management of Maine Acadian Culture is technically overseen by Acadia National Park (though Maine Acadian Culture is its own unit and not part of Acadia National Park).
Though this management oversight appears to be in name only and the jurisdiction appears to fall to Acadia National Park purely due to its proximity.
Places To Be Explored
Among the places to be explored are the following:
- Acadian Landing & Tante Blanche Museum
- Acadian Village
- Allagash Wilderness Waterway
- B & A Caboose and Green Water Tank
- B & A Railroad Turntable
- Fort Kent Blockhouse
- Fort Kent Railroad Station
- Historic Governor Brann Schoolhouse
With so many interesting places, I recommend that you research the ones of particular interest to you before you depart on your adventure.
Developing an itinerary or a plan of attack will give you the opportunity to get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to exploring.
A National Park Unit?
If you’ve read my What Exactly is a National Park article then you’re familiar with the myriad of designations, levels of protection, and types of administration that exist throughout the National Park System. Well here’s another head-scratcher to add to the list.
Maine Acadian Culture (yes there’s no National Historic Site or park or monument in the name) is what’s known as an “affiliated unit (or area) of the national park system.”
Overview of Maine’s Public Lands
National Parks of Maine
National Park Service Units of Maine:
- Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument
- Maine Acadian Culture
- Saint Croix International Historic Site
- Roosevelt Campobello Island International Park
- Appalachain National Scenic Trail
Maine National Forests:
State Parks of Maine:
- Aroostook State Park
- Baxter State Park
- Bradbury Mountain State Park
- Camden Hills State Park
- Cobscook Bay State Park
- Crescent Beach State Park
- Damariscotta Lake State Park
- Ferry Beach State Park
- Fort McClary State Park
- Fort Point State Park
- Fortknox State Park
- Grafton Notch State Park
- Lake Saint George State Park
- Lamoine State Park
- Lily Bay State Park
- Moose Point State Park
- Mount Blue State Park
- Owl’s Head State Park
- Peacock Beach State Park
- Peaks-Kenny State Park
- Popham Beach State Park
- Quoddy Head State Park
- Range Ponds State Park
- Rangeley Lake State Park
- Reid State Park
- Roque Bluffs State Park
- Scarborough Beach State Park
- Sebago Lake State Park
- Shackford Head State Park
- Swan Lake State Park
- Two Lights State Park
- Vaughan Woods State Park
- Warren Island State Park
- Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park
Maine Public Reserved Land
- Maine has 37 separate public reserved lands managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. These lands offer a more rugged wilderness experience and are located in some of Maine’s most scenic areas. You can read up on them here.
Best Time to Visit Maine’s National Parks
Choosing the right season to visit Maine isn’t all that hard for me, but the calculations may be different for you depending on the types of seasonal activities you prefer.
You can either go in the summer and brave the swarms of mosquotoes and biting flies, or you can go in the fall when the weather is cool and crisp and the trees are draped in kaleadescopic fall color. For my money fall is by far the best time to visit Maine’s national parks & public lands.
For those of you who love the winter, Maine does offer a wide array of winter recreational activities throughout its parks and forests that make it a great destination during that time of year.
Maine National Parks Book Recommendations
We’ve got some wonderful book recommendations for you.
- The Story of Acadia by George Dorr.
- Blazing Ahead: Benton MacKaye, Myron Avery, and the Rivalry That Built the Appalachian Trail by Jeffrey H. Ryan.
- Campobello Island by Jim Harnedy.
- Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America by Douglas Brinkley.
- Frommer’s Maine Coast by Brian Kevin.
RELATED: 30+ National Parks Books
Maine National Parks Summary
That’s a wrap folks! I hope I’ve armed you with everything you need to plan a great trip to Maine’s national park sites!
Map of Maine’s National Parks & NPS Sites
See below map with the locations of all six of Maine’s National Park Sites.
List of Maine’s National Parks & National Park Service Sites
- Acadia National Park
- Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument
- Roosevelt Campobello International Park
- Appalachian Trail National Scenic Trail
- St. Croix National Historic Site
- Maine Acadian Culture
Helpful Related Articles
Acadia National Park Guide: An Epic Guide to Acadia National Park
Free Downloadable National Parks Map: LIST & MAP of National Parks By State (+ Printable Checklist)
Virginia National Parks: 30 EPIC Virginia National Parks Worth Visiting (Helpful Guide + Photos)
Pennsylvania National Parks: 22 EPIC Pennsylvania National Parks Worth Visiting (Guide + Photos)
Maryland National Parks: 27 EPIC Maryland National Parks Worth Visiting (Helpful Guide + Photos)
Mississippi National Parks: 9 EPIC Mississippi National Parks Worth the Visit (Helpful Guide + Photos)
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Massachusetts National Parks: 18 SURPRISING MASSACHUSETTS NATIONAL PARKS (+ Photos)
North Carolina National Parks: 12 Epic North Carolina National Parks Worth Visiting
South Carolina National Parks: 8 Epic South Carolina National Parks Worth Visiting
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