Baxter State Park is a wilderness lovers’ paradise with more than 220 miles of hiking trails and over 40 mountain peaks, including Mount Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain.
Visitors to Moosehead Lake will find more than enough to do right here at the lake, no matter when or how long you are here. That being said, those looking for even more of a wilderness experience should consider taking a day-trip to Baxter State Park.
The park, like Moosehead Lake, is one of Maine’s premier outdoor destinations, with more than 200,000 wooded acres to explore. Where Baxter Park truly differs, however, is in its sheer, undeveloped, back country wildness.
Baxter State Park has no electricity, no running water, and no cell service. Camping is in designated areas only with no pets, RVs, motorcycles, or ATVs permitted. The park is carry-in/carry-out, with no stores or services, and it’s remote. Really remote. Baxter Park is reachable from Moosehead Lake via a 2.5-hour ride on a dedicated logging track known as the Golden Road.
Despite these challenges, those looking for a true Maine wilderness experience will find no better destination than Baxter State Park.
Visiting the Park
The drive to Baxter Park from Lodge at Moosehead Lake may take two hours or more but is generally an enjoyable experience with lots of wildlife and scenery. If seeing wild moose is on your list of desires, you’re on the right road.
Much of the travel is on the Golden Road, a wide, dirt road used primarily by logging companies but also for recreation. Best of all, if you head north on Lily Bay Road, the street our Moosehead Lake bed and breakfast is on, it turns into the Golden Road leading to Baxter Park!
Visitors coming from this direction enter Baxter Park via the Togue Pond Gatehouse. Be sure to stop by the Togue Pond Visitor Center for a park map and to check current weather conditions and any other official cautions or notifications.
If you are a Maine resident, visiting Baxter Park is free, while non-residents pay a fee of $15 per vehicle. Those looking to do some camping will need to plan in advance, as sites must be reserved four months in advance.
Hiking Baxter State Park
Baxter Park is home to more than 220 miles of hiking trails, 46 mountain peaks, numerous streams, lakes, and waterfalls, and a plethora of wildlife.
Popular trails within the park include the easy, 2.3-mile round-trip trail to Big and Little Niagara Falls, on the Appalachian Trail. The trail leads through old-growth forest to two beautiful waterfalls where you can swim on a hot day and enjoy a picnic lunch.
Those hoping to see moose should try the Sandy Stream Pond Trail. This flat and easy 1.5 mile round trip along the shore of Sandy Stream Pond features eye-popping views of Mount Katahdin and, more often than not, moose.
Grassy Pond Trail is another great trail for moose spotting. It’s a flat 3.1-mile loop mostly on Appalachian Trail. You begin this trail from the Daicey Pond parking area in the campground.
Consult the park trail guide for more information on all the park’s many hiking opportunities.
18 of Baxter State Park’s 46 mountain peaks are over 3,000 feet (914.4 m) in elevation, but none reach as high as Mount Katahdin.
For many, Mount Katahdin’s lofty summit is the reason for visiting Baxter State Park, and who can blame them? This iconic and picturesque mountain is Maine’s highest peak and the “end” of the Appalachian Trail. The park sees hikers goal is to reach this destination. You can also hike this as a day hike with several different trails going to the top.
Though there are a variety of trails leading to the summit, the hike is challenging for even the most experienced of hikers. Katahdin’s summit trails have an elevation gain in excess of 4,000 feet (1219.2 m) and take 8 to 10 hours of hiking to complete.
You’re not even allowed to attempt the hike without first obtaining a pass from the park. Hikers attempting the summit should bring at least 2 quarts of water and be prepared for anything.