3 Life-List Outdoor Destinations in Maine

Planning for summer adventure? Now's the time to locate—and book—your exciting destination of choice. If you're thinking of heading north to Maine, here are my top three recommendations to consider.

Baxter State Park
There is no other mountain like Katahdin in the Northeast. Rising a mile high, this granite monolith features two distinct peaks—Baxter and Pamola—that are joined by the airy Knife Edge, New England's only true mountain arête. It is tops on my life list of Maine destinations (and New England for that matter).

A range of camping opportunities are available in the park, but the most exceptional (and exceptionally popular) is found at Chimney Pond.

A hiker ascends the Cathedral Trail on the flanks of Katahdin. Chimney Pond is out of sight and below to the right. Photo: Matt Heid
Nestled adjacent to its namesake pond, below the granite cliffs of Katahdin, this backcountry campground features nine lean-tos and a 10-person bunkhouse, and makes a fabulously scenic base camp for tackling Katahdin itself.

Camping reservations at Baxter State Park operate on a four-month rolling schedule; you can start making reservations four months in advance of your camping start date. So, for example, you can start making reservation for August 1 starting April 1 (hint, hint). The time to book is now—late July and August will be opening up for reservations in the coming days and weeks!

Unlike the park's drive-in campgrounds, which can be reserved online, Chimney Pond and other backcountry campsites can only be reserved by phone (207-723-5140), in person, or by mail. The park office opens at 8 a.m. (weekdays only until Memorial Day weekend, then daily until Columbus Day).

When it comes to climbing the mountain, I personally recommend ascending the Cathedral Trail from Chimney Pond, traversing the Knife Edge, and then descending via the Dudley Trail—a triumvirate of unforgettable hiking experiences.

The rockbound hide of Isle Au Haut. Photo: NPS
Isle au Haut
This is the greatest Maine destination I've never been to, and near the top of my personal to-do list for New England adventures.

Located 10 miles from the mainland and accessible only by a small ferry, most of Isle au Haut is actually part of Acadia National Park. A bastion of rockbound serenity, it receives radically fewer visitors (roughly 8,000 a year) than Mount Desert Island and the Bar Harbor area (where more than 3 million visitors descend annually).

Isle au Haut features 2,700 acres of national park land and 18 miles of hiking trails that explore wave-battered cliffs and boulder-strewn beaches. The National Park Service operates tiny Duck Harbor Campground on the island, which offers five lean-tos for a multi-day stay.

Reservations for Duck Harbor Campground can be made by mail only and must be postmarked April 1 or later.

Cutler Coast
You can't get much more Down East than the Cutler Coast. Located at the farthest end of Maine’s coast, it is a very long drive away. It's also often muddy, foggy, and wet. But it offers New England's only opportunity to backpack along the coast and experience a distinctly different slice of the Northeast. A 9.2-mile loop hike tours spongy maritime forest, traverses high above the sloshing sea, and visits three first-come, first-served overnight campsites. 

I will say no more. Indeed, I hesitated to even mention this destination for fear of overwhelming it with additional hikers. But if you're motivated to make the drive to get there someday, it's worth it.

Enjoy the summer!

“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.