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6 (EPIC) Maine National Parks For Your Next Visit to the Pine Tree State

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Maine National Parks

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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 Me 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.

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The Pattiz Brothers, Will (left) and Jim (right) at Acadia National Park

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

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My brother Will & I travel America so that we can make these stunning films celebrating our nation’s parks and forests

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.


Planning a Trip To Maine’s National Parks & National Park Sites

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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?

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Baxter State Park, Maine | Maine National Parks

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

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Acadia National Park

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.


Overview of Maine’s Public Lands

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Some of the most lighthouses in America are to be found in Maine | Maine National Parks
National Parks of Maine:
National Park Service Units of Maine:
Maine National Forests:
State Parks of Maine:
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.

The Best Time to Visit Maine’s National Parks & National Park Sites – Seasons & Weather

acadia national park more than just parks
Acadia National Park |Maine National Parks Seasons & Weather

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 & National Park Sites

Biking in Acadia National Park | Maine National Parks

Maine’s National Parks and National Park Sites are listed in order of my favorites here

A quick note: I'm ranking Maine's National Park Service sites here. So you won't find other popular outdoor destinations like Baxter State Park, since it's a state park and not federally managed. Maine's state parks are certainly worth checking out and you can see a full list of them in my overview of Maine's Public Lands above.

1. Acadia National Park

More Than Just Parks Acadia | Maine National Parks

Description

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When it comes to Maine, I’m a bit biased. I live in the Bangor-area so this is a state that I love to call home.

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.


The History Of Acadia National Park

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George B. Dorr at an overlook in Acadia National Park | Courtesy of the National Park Service  

Like so many other places, the story of Acadia National Park is about the foresight and generosity of one person. For Acadia, that person was George Dorr. He first visited the area in 1868 as a young boy and quickly fell in love with it.

Dorr’s wealthy parents build a home there in the ensuing decade and lived next door to Charles William Eliot who happened to be the president of Harvard University. Eliot’s son (also named Charles) floated the idea of protecting the area as a nature preserve.

This spurred Dorr to action. He spearheaded the campaign to create a national park at Acadia.

There’s George Dorr And So Much More

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George B. Dorr and Charles W. Eliot on the shore of Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park | Courtesy of the National Park Service  

George Dorr, Charles Eliot and others established the Hancock Country Trustees of Public Reservations in 1901 for the purpose of ” . . . acquiring, owning and holding lands and other property in Hancock County free for public use.”

Dorr spent most of his own fortune acquiring the land around Mt. Desert Island. Along with generous donations from others, the Hancock County Trustees eventually amassed over 6,000 acres.

A Political Battle

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President Woodrow Wilson protected the land by creating the Sieur de Monts National Monument | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Maine Legislature learned about what was being done. Some in the legislature objected to the removal of so much taxable property. They wanted to have the non-profit status of the trustees revoked.

This action would have made it to expensive for Dorr and the other trustees to keep the land. Dorr traveled to the state capitol to wage a spirited battle to defeat the measure. He succeeded, but understood that the only viable long-term solution was to have the federal government protect the land.

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Dorr snowshoeing through a winter wonderland in Acadia | Courtesy of the National Park Service

Saved to future generations as it has been to us, in the wild primeval beauty of the nature it exhibits, of ancient rocks and still more ancient sea, with infinite detail of life and landscape interest between, the spirit and mind of man will surely find in it in the years and centuries to come an inspiration and a means of growth as essential to them ever and anon as are fresh air and sunshine to the body.

-George Dorr

In 1929, the name of the park was changed to Acadia to honor the original French Settlement which had included Maine.


Sieur de Monts National Monument

Early Acadia National Park
The man most responsible for Acadia becoming a national park would fittingly be appointed as its first superintendent. Here is George Dorr pictured with the supporters of Acadia National Park. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

With George Dorr there’s still more! Dorr made a gift of 5,000 acres to the federal government in 1916. President Woodrow Wilson used his gift to create the Sieur de Monts National Monument. Full park status came three years later.

President Wilson signed legislation creating Lafayette National Park. The park’s first superintendent was none other than George Dorr.


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 – Acadia National Park

MTJP Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park | Maine National Parks
  • 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!

If You Like Bird Watching Then You Have Some Famous Company At Acadia

If you like birdwatching then you may be interested to know that a world famous ornithologist, who happens to be the namesake of the world’s most famous secret agent, got his start at Acadia National Park | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Birdwatching is rooted inside the history of Acadia National Park and has played a crucial role in the history of natural exploration on Mount Desert Island. James Bond, an early twentieth-century ornithologist, famous for his explorations in the Caribbean.

I’m sure you recognize the name and it’s no coincidence. He was the namesake for Ian Fleming’s secret agent, as a child summered with his uncle on Mount Desert Island.

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The same 1960s edition of the book by Ornithologist James Bond that appears in the Bond film SPECTRE was also seen in the 1989 Bond film GoldenEye (the book can be clearly seen in a screenshot above) | Courtesy of You Only Blog Twice

In his biographies, James Bond credited Mount Desert Island as the place that inspired him to be an ornithologist. (Source: National Park Service)

For bird watching, the best places are Cadillac Mountain, Otter Point, Thompson Island, Jordan Pond and, of course, Mount Desert Island. If it’s good enough for James Bond then it’s good enough for you too!

RELATED: Look Familiar? 25+ CLASSIC Movies Filmed In The National Parks

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, un-surveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”

― Henry David Thoreau

Stargazing At Acadia

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Stargazing at Ocean Path | Courtesy of the National Park Service

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

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Boating is one of the more popular activities at Acadia National Park | Courtesy of the National Park Service

A number of lakes and ponds on Mount Desert Island permit boating. Each body of water has specific watercraft restrictions. All towns have launching areas for saltwater near town docks and municipal piers.

Canoes, kayaks, sailboats, and motorboats can be rented in surrounding communities.

A variety of commercial vessels offer ferry service, fishing, nature cruises, sailing, and whale watching excursions. (Source: National Park Service)

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.

RELATED: All 63 National Parks RANKED By Experts (Best To Worst)

Where to Stay – Acadia National Park Lodging & Camping

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Camping at Maine National Parks
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)
Lodges & Hotels

Check out our complete guide to Acadia National Park here!


2. Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument

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Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument | Maine National Parks

On August 24, 2016, President Barack Obama designated about 87,500 acres east of Baxter State Park as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (KWWNM).

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.

Description

Katahdin Woods & Waters | Courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior

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!

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.

So Many Different Activities

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Visitors can enjoy many different activities at the Katahdin Woods And Waters National Monument | Courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior

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.

Incredible Hiking Trails

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There are some incredible hiking trails in Katahdin

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.


When is the Best Time to Visit Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument?

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Katahdin Woods & Waters in the fall (courtesy NPS) | Maine National Parks
Seasons & Weather

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.

RELATED: 3 (EPIC) Vermont National Parks For Your Visit To The Green Mountain State


3. Roosevelt Campobello International Park

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Roosevelt Campobello International Park (courtesy NPS) | National Parks Maine

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.

“Under FDR, the American federal government assumed new and powerful roles in the nation’s economy, in its corporate life, and in the health, welfare, and well-being of its citizens.

The federal government in 1935 guaranteed unions the right to organize and bargain collectively, and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 established a mechanism for putting a floor under wages and a ceiling on hours that continues to this day. It provided, in 1935, financial aid to the aged, infirm, and unemployed when they could no longer provide for themselves.

Beginning in 1933, it helped rural and agricultural America with price supports and development programs when these sectors could barely survive. Finally, by embracing an activist fiscal policy after 1937, the government assumed responsibility for smoothing out the rough spots in the American economy.”

-William E. Leuchtenburg

FDR & The Environment

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Franklin Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Elected in 1932 to combat an economic depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt also became the first president to use the power of the federal government to combat climate change. Roosevelt utilized a voluntary public works relief program, the Civilian Conservation Corps, to tackle a climate emergency.

By the mid 1930s, what became known as the Dust Bowl had ravaged much of the Midwest. It destroyed thousands upon thousands of farms while forcing families to flee for their lives. It would be left to the federal government to confront the science of a changing climate to find solutions to this emerging threat.

I propose to create the Civilian Conservation Corps to be used in complex work, not interfering with abnormal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control and similar projects.

I call your attention to the fact that this type of work is of definite, practical value, not only through the prevention of great present financial loss, but also as a means of creating future national wealth.

-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

RELATED: The First Green New Deal Happened 100 Years Ago-What Happened?

Description

Roosevelt Campobello International Park | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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 | Maine National Parks

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Roosevelt Campobello International Park Coastline | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

For many years, Franklin D. Roosevelt summered on Campobello Island. As an adult, he shared with his family the same active pursuits he enjoyed on the island as child. Although he visited less frequently after contracting polio, Campobello remained important to FDR.

Today Roosevelt Campobello International Park serves as a memorial to FDR and a symbol of cooperation between the U.S. and Canada. (Source: National Park Service)

The Visitor Center

While you’re at the island why not check out this amazing lighthouse | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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.

Roosevelt Cottage

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Dining Room at Roosevelt Home Campobello Island | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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

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Roosevelt Campobello International Park Trail | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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

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Appalachian National Scenic Trail (courtesy NPS) | Maine’s National Parks

Description

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.

Benton MacKaye & The Appalachian Trial

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The longest trail in the world was the brainchild of forester, planner and social reformer Benton MacKaye | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In MacKaye’s original vision, the Appalachian Trail would put back together the various parts of American life that were rapidly coming undone in the early 20th century.

It would fuse leisure and industry, environment and labor, community development and wilderness preservation into an interrelated project.

“Let us assume the existence of a giant standing high on the skyline along these mountain ridges, his head just scraping the floating clouds. What would he see from this skyline as he strode along its length from north to south?”

-Benton MacKaye

Giving City Dwellers An Escape

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Benton MacKaye wanted to give city dwellers an escape | Maine National Parks

MacKaye wanted to give city dwellers an escape from their humdrum urban existences. His bold proposal was nothing less than a wholesale reinvention of social life, economic organization, and land use.

The trail was built by private citizens and completed in 1937. It is managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, numerous state agencies and thousands of volunteers.

It’s a truly magnificent hiking trail traversing the scenic, wooded, pastoral and wild lands of the Appalachian Mountains.

You’re Never Too Old Or Young To Hike The Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail | Maryland National Parks
At 83, M.J. “Sunny” Eberhart has become the old person to complete the Appalachian Trail | Courtesy of the Associated Press

Think you’re too old for the Appalachian Trail? M.J. “Sunny” Eberhart strode into the record books as the oldest hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail. Eberhart is an 83 year old from Alabama who is best known for by his trail name Nimblewill Nomad.

At the other end of the age spectrum, we have five-year old Harvey Sutton who completed the Appalachian Trail over the summer. Nimblewill and Harvey prove that you’re never too old or young to complete this amazing trek.

Josh Sutton on the Appalachian Trail | Maryland National Parks
In July of 2021, five year-old Harvey Sutton became the youngest ever to hike the complete Appalachian Trail | Courtesy of Josh Sutton

5. Saint Croix Island International Historic Site

St Croix Island
St. Croix Island International Historic Site (courtesy NPS) | Maine National Parks

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.

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Buildings on Saint Croix Island circa 1613 | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Champlain’s Dream

Samuel de Champlain | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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.

Description

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 – Saint Croix Island International Historic Site

St Croix Island
Saint Croix Island International Historic Site (courtesy NPS) | Visiting Maine National Parks

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

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Pendlebury Lighthouse in the early morning, (also known as the St. Andrews North Point Lighthouse), Patrick Street, Saint Andrews | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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

Maine Acadian Culture
Acadian Village – Maine Acadian Culture (courtesy NPS) | Best Maine National Parks

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.

Today this culture is celebrated at the Maine Acadian Culture Center. Visitors to the center can explore some of the historical and cultural sites that preserve the heritage of Maine Acadians.

Places To Be Explored

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Shop and Morneault House, Acadian Village Museum, Van Buren, Maine. Courtesy of the National Park Service

Among the places to be explored are the following:

  1. Acadian Landing & Tante Blanche Museum
  2. Acadian Village
  3. Allagash Wilderness Waterway
  4. B & A Caboose and Green Water Tank
  5. B & A Railroad Turntable
  6. Fort Kent Blockhouse
  7. Fort Kent Railroad Station
  8. 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?
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National Park Units come in all shapes and sizes | Maine National Parks

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.”

Check Out Maine Acadian Culture

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Maine Acadian Culture Center | Courtesy of the National Park Service

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 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.


Maine Goes To The Movies

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Maine has served as a prime film location for some great stories about people and nature | Maine National Parks

Just as some national parks and national forests are hidden treasures, so are some films. If you love the great outdoors and you love a compelling story then how about the 2018 film Maine.

This movie was made in the Virginia Highlands section of the Appalachian Trail. To watch it is to feel like you’re along for the journey.

It’s a story built around a pair of hikers, but the real stars are the incredible scenery and the camera shots which make you believe you’re a part of this epic hiking trip.

Maine is short on dialogue, but long on the natural beauty of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

Imagine the journey as the story of two hikers who simultaneously experience the world around them and the world within them.

Art Imitates Life

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The Appalachian Trail Courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons | Maine Filming Locations

As for the film’s director, Matthew Brown, he discovered this magical place, which forms the backdrop of Maine, as a Boy Scout. His dream was to complete the trek as an adult, but a cliff jumping accident at sixteen made that dream an impossibility.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up where he left off. Why not travel a portion of the magnificent Appalachian Trail or, if you’re feeling up to it, hike the entire trail from Georgia to Maine.

With plenty of places to stop along the way, it could be the adventure of a lifetime. And, while you’re doing it, remember that both the Appalachian Trail and the movie Maine give new meaning to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous quote: “Its the not the destination, it’s the journey.”

RELATED: Look Familiar? 25+ CLASSIC Movies Filmed In The National Parks

Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

-Henry David Thoreau

Take A Deeper Dive With More Than Just Parks

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At More Than Just Parks, it’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey.

We’re More Than Just Parks which means we’re more than just parks. We believe that it’s not about the destination. Rather, it’s about the journey. And it’s a journey of the body and the mind which is why we love to give you the opportunity to take a deeper dive so you can learn about the history behind these special places.

With that in mind, we’ve got some wonderful book recommendations for you.

  1. The Story of Acadia by George Dorr.
  2. Blazing Ahead: Benton MacKaye, Myron Avery, and the Rivalry That Built the Appalachian Trail by Jeffrey H. Ryan.
  3. Campobello Island by Jim Harnedy.
  4. Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America by Douglas Brinkley.
  5. Frommer’s Maine Coast by Brian Kevin.

RELATED: 30+ National Parks Books

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

  1. Acadia National Park
  2. Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument
  3. Roosevelt Campobello International Park
  4. Appalachian Trail National Scenic Trail
  5. St. Croix National Historic Site
  6. Maine Acadian Culture

See Our Full National Park Rankings

We actually ranked ALL 63 National Parks from best to worst using the same point system featured in this article here. Curious to see how California’s parks stack up against the rest of the parks nationwide? Click here!


The Latest from More Than Just Parks

Catch up on all the latest posts from the crew at More Than Just Parks.

Jim Pattiz

Co-Founder of More Than Just Parks. Filmmaker, Conservationist, Public Lands Enthusiast

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