Baxter State Park, A True Wilderness Experience

Baxter State Park is a True Wilderness Experience. With over 200,000 acres, this special place is a hiker’s paradise to experience nature at its best.

There are 46 mountain peaks for you to explore of which 18 of them are over 3,000’ in elevation. The highest peak in Baxter State Park is Baxter Peak at 5,267’.

It’s a park you can get lost in so you should always have a good map with you. These can be obtained at the area campground, park headquarters in Millinocket and the Visitor Center at Togue Pond.

If you are a Maine resident the park is free for you. Non-resident fee is $15 per vehicle.

I have been very fortunate to have experienced the seclusion of this magnificent park many times. Maine is one of my favorite places to vacation and it’s true when they say, “Maine, The Way Life Should Be”.

Also, as I am a big moose lover and to see them in the wild is an experience of a lifetime. I’ve seen many moose at Baxter State Park, and I guess it’s one of the main reasons I love it so much.

View of Mount Katahdin, Maine

Baxter State Park  History         

Baxter State Park was a “gift” from Governor (1921 to 1924) Percival Baxter. He purchased around 6,000 acres in 1930 and gave this land to the state as a gift. His condition was that the land was to be used for public forest used for recreational purposes.

The park was named Baxter State Park in 1933 by the Maine Legislature. Baxter continued to purchased land and give it to the state until his last purchase of 7,700 acres in 1962. After his death, others purchased land and donated it to the state bringing Baxter State Park to its current size today.

Some Facts About Baxter State Park

  • There is no electricity in the park
  • Pets are not allowed in the park
  • It’s a carry-in/carry-out park
  • There is no portable water
  • No cell service of any kind
  • Camping is allowed in designated areas only
  • It’s very remote therefore any type of rescue could take a long time
  • You are not allowed to bring firewood into the park however there is firewood for sale
  • There are no stores or gas within the park, you will have to bring whatever you need with you
  • There are only outhouses with the park
  • No showers are available within the park
Keep Maine beautiful rock on the way to Baxter State Park
Big Rock near Baxter State Park

Baxter State Park Directions

There are three ways to get to Baxter State Park.

Millinocket Maine

Millinocket is located 11 miles off exit 244 on Interstate 95. It’s the last stop for supplies before heading to Baxter State Park. Although it’s only 18 miles away it will take you about an hour to the Togue Pond entrance.

Pattern, Maine

Pattern is off exit 264 on Interstate 95. It will be your last stop for supplies and gas before driving the 26 miles to Baxter’s north entrance, Matagamon Gate.

Greenville (Moosehead Lake area)

We stay in the Moosehead Lake area a lot and always go to Baxter from there. It’s about a 2.5-hour ride on one of the unique roads I have ever traveled on, Golden Road.

We enjoy the ride there just as much as Baxter State Park. You see, Golden Road is a logging road used by the many logging companies in the area. There are many spots on the road that are owned by the logging companies.

They allow access for recreational purposes only as the area has numerous lakes. Halfway between Moosehead and Baxter, there is a log cabin, literally in the middle of nowhere. This is where they collect a recreational fee.

This is mostly a wide dirt road with nothing around and no cell service. This road is how the logging companies get from Millinocket to bring their products to the mills. The road goes from Millinocket to Canada.

There are many reasons why I love this road but the main one is the moose along the way. Every time we have driven this road, we saw moose. The most we ever seen in one ride was 11.

Caution

Caution is needed when driving on this road not only because of the moose coming out at you at dusk but also for the large logging trucks. They have the right of way along Golden Road.

Baxter State Park Weather

Weather in Baxter State Park can change in a second so you must be prepared for any conditions. Weather is posted daily at all campgrounds and the visitors center.

I remember hiking to Katahdin Stream Falls one beautiful sunny warm afternoon w=without a cloud in the sky when suddenly a storm hit. It was the coldest rain I’ve ever felt and the temperature dropped by more than 30 degrees in a very short time.

So weather conditions must be taken seriously when hiking in the park especially if you are hiking any of the trails to Baxter Peak.

Tote Road

There is one main road traveling from the south entrance (Togue Pond) to the north entrance (Matagamon Gatehouse) totaling 41 miles. This road is a dirt road, very narrow and winding. RVs are prohibited in the park as you would never to able to drive one on this road.

Also, there are restrictions for vehicles as well as no motorcycles or ATVs allowed in the park.

There are four similar style roads off the main road. An 8-mile road goes from Togue Pond gate to Roaring Brook Campground. There is lots of hiking in this area.

There are two roads off of Foster Field, one to Daicey Pond Camps (1.5 miles) and one to Kidney Pond Camps (also 1.5 miles). The last road in the park is from Trout Brook Crossing to South Branch Pond campground (2.3 miles).

Baxter State Park Trails

There are more than 200 miles of maintained hiking trails in Baxter State Park. Some are easy and some are very difficult. Here are some of the hikes available for your enjoyment:

Waterfall Hikes

Little Abol Falls

A short flat hike from Abol Campground (.8 miles each way) that begins by going over Abol stream. After the trail has a slight uphill through the woods passing many small falls along the way. then you will see a 15′ drop over rocks into a pool (Little Abol Falls). This is the end of the trail and a great place for a snack or lunch.

You will be able to get a good view of Katahdin from this trail.

Note: There is an Abol Falls which is roadside off Golden Road as this hike is to Little Abol Falls.

Big Niagara/Little Niagara Falls

This is one of my favorite trails in Baxter State Park and a hidden gem. You start at the Daicey Pond Campground and take the Appalachian Trail.

It’s an easy to moderate 2.3-mile roundtrip hike. The trail takes you through old-growth forest and can get muddy when raining. You are rewarded with two beautiful waterfalls about .3 miles away from each other.

There is always a place to find a quiet spot for lunch and you can swim in the pools of Little Niagara on a hot day.

The first time we hiked this with our kids we spent the afternoon swimming. It was so much fun. You never know how the weather will be in Maine so take advantage if you can.

Katahdin Stream Falls

From the Hunt Trail (which is the Appalachian Trail) from the Katahdin Stream Campground hike 1.2 miles to his stunning waterfall. It sits at the base of Katahdin.

This hike is moderate with some steep areas. You are also going around some boulders. When you cross over the bridge you are also to the falls so kept going, it’s only a little further.

The falls are a great place to rest and have some lunch before heading back.

Ledge Falls

About an hour ride north on the Tote Road you will come to Ledge Falls. Really not a waterfall but rather a natural waterslide made up of many small rapids, mini-cascades and “swimming holes”.

On a warm day, this area will be crowded with children and pool toys and tubes. The pools below the cascades can offer hours of fun however caution is needs when water levels are high.

We planned on swimming here on a hot day on one of our many trips to Baxter State Park. However, mother nature had different plans as the sunny hot day became cold and wet without any notice.

Easy Hikes in Baxter State Park

Abol Pond Loop

For excellent views of Katahdin (on a clear day of course) this 3-mile loop is flat and easy to hike.

Moose in Sandy Stream Pond in Baxter State park
Moose in Sandy Stream Pond

Sandy Stream Pond

This is my favorite hike in the park. First of all, it’s a flat, easy hike that the whole family can enjoy but most importantly, you have a great chance of seeing moose. You see I’ve been here a few times and always saw moose.

You can get a “moose pass” at the Togue Gatehouse. These passes are issued for a 3 hours period and on a first come first serve basis. Although you are in the wild, the thought is that the quieter the better for a chance to see moose.

Grassy Pond

This is another great place to spot moose. 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.

Park Map

Baxter State Park Map
credit: Website Baxter State Park

Mount Katahdin

Mount Katahdin is the jewel of this park and Baxter Peak at 5576 is the highest mountain in Maine and also the “end” of the Appalachian Trail.

Every year the thru-hikers goal is to reach this destination. You can also hike this as a day hike with several different trails going to the top.

This hike is not for the beginners and is challenging for the most experienced hikers. Know your ability and not underestimate the mountain.

NOTE: All hikers attempting any of the Katadhin summit trails must obtain a pass from Togue Gatehouse prior to hiking.

Mount Katahdin, Baxter State Park Maine
Mount Katahdin

Trails to Katadhin’s summits

All trails leading to Katahdin’s summit are DIFFICULT and require 8 to 10 hours of hiking from the trails parking lots. Hikers need to take at least 2 quarts of water and be prepared for anything.

No matter what trail you decide to take your total elevation gain will be in excess of 4,000′. Here is a list of trails for your consideration:

  • Abol Trail (shortest route)
  • Hunt (Appalachian Trail and most popular)
  • Chimney Pond
  • Helen Taylor
  • Knife Edge (not recommend if afraid of heights)
  • Saddle Trail (easiest trail)
  • Cathedral
  • Hamlin Ridge
  • The Travelers Loop (leaves from the north section of the park)

Note: You can reserve a parking space at three trails for the day you hike to the summit. If you don’t reserve a space you may be able to get a space on a first come first serve basis beginning at 7.05 am. When all spaces are filled, you will not to able to hike these trails that day.

For more hikes in Baxter State Park visit their website.

Baxter State Park Campgrounds

There are numerous places to camp (no RV camping) within the park. Each facility offers different accommodations including text sites, lean-tos, bunkhouses, and cabins. Some also have group sites.

Here is a list of campgrounds within the park:

  • Katahdin Stream
  • Roaring Brook
  • Russel Pond
  • South Branch Pond
  • Daicey Pond (10 cabins)
  • Kidney Pond (12 cabins)
  • Abol
  • Nesowadnehunk Field
  • Trout Brook Farms
  • Russell Pond (backcountry)
  • Chimney Pond (backcountry)
  • Katahdin Lake (backcountry)

Camping Reservations are a must and can be done 4 months prior to your planned trip. Campgrounds are open (depending on weather) from May 15 to October 15. Check here for reservations.

Canoe Rentals

Canoe and kayak rentals are available on a first-come, first-serve basis at every campground with a pond for $1 per hour. They are also available at backcountry ponds with trail access.

Backcountry lean-to sites that are on a pond came with there own canoe. Some have keys so please check when reserving.

Campgrounds Near Baxter State Park

Wilderness Edge Campground

Wilderness Edge Campground is a full-service facility that offers several different accommodations including tent sites with tents, tent sites that you bring your own gear, RV sites with water and electric hookup, RV rentals, camping cabins, and deluxe cabins.

They are located about 15 minutes from the south entrance of Baxter State Park.

For information refer to their website.

Matagamon Wilderness Campground

Matagamon Wilderness Campground is located 1.5 miles camping from the north entrance of Baxter State Park. They have tent sites and can also accommodate RVs up to 42′.

There are no hookups but a dump station is available for your convenience. There are only outhouses in this campground. They also have 6 cabins for rent.

From more information refer to their website.

Final Thoughts

Living on the east coast there are very few places like Baxter State Park. It’s real wilderness at its best to enjoy and discover.

Our trips to Baxter State Park are always wonderful no matter the weather, it’s a real chance to see stunning mountains and forest in its real untamed condition.

You haven’t lived until you hike to a pond and see a moose eating. This is what Baxter State Park is all about, a true wilderness experience.

Kathy xoxo

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moose in pond and Mount Katahdin

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15 thoughts on “Baxter State Park, A True Wilderness Experience”

  1. I love Maine but thus far have spent most of my visits on the coast. I’ve got to go inland and see this gorgeous park!

    1. I love Maine too and yes the coast is beautiful but Baxter State Park beats everything I’ve seen even when we go to the west coast there is nothing like Baxter anywhere.

  2. So pretty! I was not aware of Baxter State Park, it absolutely looks like a hidden gem. I’d love to hike the Abol Pond Loop and the Sandy Stream Pond.

  3. I am so happy to read this post. Being a native to Greenville with a family history in the logging industry, I spent a lot of time on the golden road while my family cut and hauled trees. I love your write up about the area and will be sharing with all my family and friends from my hometown. This post makes me miss home. I go up every summer but really that is not enough. Great post!!

    1. Thank you. Although I’m from New York, this area of Maine is very special to me, We have been going there for over 20 years and absolutely love it. Moosehead is my favorite and Lily Bay State Park. And driving along Golden Road is an experience all by itself. I am happy that someone who knows the area enjoyed this post.

      1. It truly is a magical land up there. I love taking my children up to visit and let them experience all the glorious untouched beauty. As a kid Lily Bay State Park was a very special place to us all. I have so many great memories from there. It was wonderful to read your post!

  4. The Sandy Stream Pond trail was an easy hike and led us straight to the moose. We had two big bull moose swimming and feeding in the pond in late afternoon. This place is so beautiful. Will definitely have to come back (to get better looks at those Spruce Grouse that flew across the Tote Road and disappeared into those dense woods), and to drive the Tote Road from one end of the park to the other (the center portion was closed due to poor road conditions). Thanks – this information was very valuable to us.

  5. We are headed to Baxter State Park the end of September and it will be our first trip to Maine.. We are so excited to do this on the way to Acadia NP . Your article is so helpful and informative. Thank you for posting it.. I have 2 questions. If you don’t have a parking pass for the trailhead is there other parking for the other trails like to Sandy Creek pond etc. ? What do you mean by a ” moose pass ” ?
    Thanks so much !

    1. “Moose passes” are given out at the gate for your hike to Sandy Pond. The park is trying to limit the number of people at the pond at one time. The time of year you are going you won’t need a pass only during peak season. Again you won’t have parking problems the time of year you are going, you will need a pass if you are planning on hiking one of the Katahdin trails otherwise you will be good. If you have time spend some time driving on Golden Road, you will love it! Enjoy your trip.

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