Sunday, September 20, 2020

Hidden Gem of Maine - Baxter State Park

Explorer Lens

Whenever we talk or listen about Maine, it is all about Acadia National Park and Lighthouses, but there is much more to it. As you go up North, you enter the more wild, untapped and pristine terrains of Maine which are stunningly beautiful, serene and full of wildlife (especially the Iconic Moose).

One of such large wilderness areas which was permanently preserved as state park is famously known as Baxter State Park. It is home to the largest mountain in Maine – Mt Katahdin, which is also the northern terminus of Appalachian Trail. If you are a hiker, it is like a dream to climb to the top of Mt Katahdin along the Knife’s Edge. If you are a wildlife photographer, it is a like a dream to capture the Bull Moose in its natural habitat. And if you are a nature lover, this is the place to get off from the hustle bustle of the city life and get peace of mind amid the mother nature.

We were only on a 4-day trip to Maine from New Jersey and were short of time, hence we couldn’t explore it completely. Also, amid the Covid 19, we decided to stay in Marriott rather than in a cabin at the Baxter State Park, which was not a wise decision.
From our experience and whatever we got to know from the locals, here is the list of activities that you should definitely do here.

1. Hike Mt Katahdin
Hiking Mt Katahdin is unlike hiking any other mountain, as you need a reservation for the same. Those who are camping the night prior in the park don’t need one, but others need to reserve a day use parking spot at one of the Katahdin trailheads. If you don’t get a reservation, try to get as early as 5:00 a.m. at the Togue Pond Gate so that you might get lucky if there are no-shows. If you have a reservation make sure you reach the park before 7:00 a.m., as that is the max time till the park officials hold your reservation for.
There are 6 different trails to get to the summit :
- Abol Trail (4.3 miles from base to the summit)
- Hunt Trail (5.2 miles from base to the summit)
- Helon Taylor Trail (3.2 miles from base to the summit)
- Chimney Pond Trail + Saddle Trail (3.3 miles to Chimney Pond and from there 2.5 miles to Baxter Peak)
- Chimney Pond Trail + Cathedral Trail (3.3 miles to Chimney Pond & from there 2 miles to Baxter Peak)
- Chimney Pond Trail + Dudley Trail (3.3 miles to Chimney Pond, 1.4 miles to Pamola Peak and from there via Knife Edge to Baxter Peak).

As we were not camping in Baxter State Park, we missed our chance to get to the top of Mt Katahdin.
The entire hike of Mt Katahdin is around 10-12 hours, so make sure you carry ample of food and other resources with you and come prepared.

2. Spot a Moose and other wildlife
Moose is the largest and the heaviest species in the deer family. The bull Moose can be of 10 feet height and weigh around 1500 lbs. Watching the tallest mammal of North America is a treat. Maine has the largest Moose population in USA and Baxter State Park is one of their prime homes.
There are many beautiful ponds like Sandy Stream Pond, South Branch Pond, Grassy Pond, Daisey Pond, Elbow Pond and Tracy Pond, where you may get lucky to spot a moose.
The moose are mainly seen during the dusk and dawn hours. May -July and then the fall season is the best time to spot them.


3. Kayak or Canoe
There are many ponds in Baxter State Park where you can experience the beauty of the park from the waters. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent at $1/hr at every lakeside campground in the park.

4. Enjoy the Baxter State Park Scenic Drive
Baxter State Park Scenic Drive is a 44-mile drive which goes between the North and South gate of the park and is also known as Tote Road. In case you are not camping at Baxter State Park and don’t get any parking reservations, you can hit this scenic road for some great views of the Park and Mt Katahdin. The speed limit is 20 miles/hr

Finally, some useful tip before planning your visit to Baxter State Park:
1. Get to the park early if you are hoping to see a wildlife or getting a daily use parking spot.
2. Be prepared for slow and bumpy rides, as the roads are not paved. The speed limit in Baxter State Park is 20 miles/hr.
3. The park is remote in every sense. There are no facilities or services, which means no gas station, no ATM, no mobile service, no restaurants and no restrooms, so come prepared.
4. Look for wetlands for the best opportunities for spotting moose. Best times are during Dusk and Dawn.
5. The entrance fee of the park is $15 in cash and is not covered in “America The Beautiful” pass which can be used at National Parks across USA. So, carry some cash with you.

Exploring Baxter State Park is one of the unique experiences which you won’t get at any National Parks in USA, so highly recommended!!

Explorer Lens / Author & Editor

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