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Baxter State Park Guide — Hiking, Wildlife, and More 

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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Baxter State Park was gifted to Maine by Percival P. Baxter, the state governor from 1921 to 1924. His dream to provide a park for the public became a reality in the 1930s. Ever since, the park has offered endless opportunities for visitors and locals to enjoy the natural beauty, wildlife, and adventure that Maine has to offer.

Each year, the park attracts over 60,000 visitors who want to enjoy wildlife viewing, hiking, rock climbing, paddling, and more.

How To Get to Baxter State Park

Where Is Baxter State Park?

Baxter State Park is in the North Woods wilderness in northern Maine. The closest town to the park is Millinocket, Maine, which is about 30 minutes away. This park stretches over 200,000 acres and features sparkling streams, verdant forests, rushing rivers, and majestic peaks.

Baxter State Park Opening Hours and Seasons

This state park is open year-round, but most of the park is completely restricted in April, as this is mud season and the weather is impossible to predict. The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The main office is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the winter and 7 days a week during the summer.

Nearest Airports to Baxter State Park

The closest major airport to Baxter State Park is Bangor International Airport (BGR). It takes about 2 hours to get to the park from the airport. This airport provides numerous daily direct flights to cities to major cities in the U.S. like Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Tampa, and Washington, D.C.

Many popular airlines, including Allegiant, American, Delta, and United, serve this airport. Once you arrive, you can rent a car to make the final leg of your journey to the park. 

Driving to Baxter State Park

Driving to Baxter State Park
Image Credit: daveynin via Flickr (license)

Driving to this park is an enjoyable experience. The park is 85 miles north of Bangor, Maine, where many guests travel in from. Take Interstate 95 to exit 244 at Medway and head west for 11 miles on Route 11/157 to Millinocket, the closest town to the park. From this town, you can follow the signs to the park entrance.

Taking the Train to Baxter State Park

There is no train service to this state park.

Taking the Shuttle to Baxter State Park

There is a licensed shuttle service that offers transportation to the park. Appalachian Trail Hostel and Outfitters is a seasonal service that runs from late May to late October. This service is geared toward helping hikers who plan to climb the Katahdin Trail. It is primarily for guests who stay at the AT Hostel, but non-guests can make arrangements to use it.

Getting Around Baxter State Park

The best way to get around Baxter State Park is to drive and explore on foot. A scenic drive winds through the park, and several parking areas are available. The hiking trails also offer outstanding opportunities to appreciate the park’s flora and fauna.

What To See and Do in Baxter State Park

This park covers over 200,000 acres and offers endless recreation opportunities. From hiking to rock climbing and fishing to hunting, there’s something for every visitor to enjoy at this amazing park.

Fishing

Fishing Baxter State Park
Image Credit: Baxter State Park

Anglers are in for a treat when visiting Baxter State Park. There are many opportunities to reel in a great catch here. Many visitors love fishing at Kidney Pond, but there are over 50 lakes and ponds within the park’s premises, so you aren’t limited to just 1 place. Some commonly caught species include blueback trout, brook trout, salmon, arctic char, and lake trout.

You must have a current Maine fishing license, which can be purchased at the visitor’s center, at any ranger station, or at the gatehouse. The fishing season begins in April and ends in September.

Hiking

Over 220 miles of hiking trails are available at this state park, and 16% of those are on the Katahdin, the tallest peak in the park. Baxter State Park also has part of the Appalachian Trail running through it. The hiking opportunities are phenomenal here.

Avid hikers are eager to hike the Katahdin Trail, which has an elevation gain of approximately 4,000 feet and is considered a strenuous climb. This trail takes 8 to 12 hours and is for experienced hikers.

Several day hikes are available here that are shorter in distance and time, from an hour and a half to 4 hours. These hikes include the Knife Edge Trail, Dudley Trail, and Cathedral Trail. While shorter, these hikes are still considered strenuous.

Bottom Line:

No matter which trail you take when hiking in this park, you can see the wildlife and plants of the park, as well as the spectacular views.

Hunting

Hunting and trapping are permitted in just 25% of the park. These activities can be enjoyed in the Scientific Forest Management Area, which consists of 1,000 acres in the park’s northwest corner. The most frequently hunted animal here is deer. Many visitors ask if they can hunt moose, but it is strictly prohibited at this state park. Hunters must follow the state rules and regulations and have a valid hunting license if participating in this activity.

Interpretive Programs

Baxter State Park offers a variety of programming throughout the year. Most of the programs take place in the summer, but there are a few events in the winter and spring months as well. Guided hikes, birdwatching events, and history nights are just some of the programs offered here. Park rangers lead the programs and offer guests a wonderful opportunity to learn about the park’s natural and cultural history.

Paddling

Paddling Baxter State Park
Image Credit: Jim Liestman via Flickr (license)

With more than 50 bodies of water within the park, it’s no surprise that paddling is one of the most popular activities when visiting. Kidney Pond, Daicey Pond, and Russell Pond are popular areas for canoeing and kayaking. For visitors who want a more thrilling experience, whitewater canoeing is available in Webster Stream and Grand Pitch. If you don’t want to bring a boat, rentals are near the ponds.

Whether you prefer a serene float on a lake or pond or an exhilarating rush down the rapids of a stream, there’s a perfect paddling option for every adventurer.

Rock Climbing

This state park offers some of New England’s most remote and technical climbing opportunities. Bouldering and multi-pitch climbs are among the many types of climbing experiences offered here.

The climbs offered in this park range from moderate to extreme, so this activity should be enjoyed by climbers with plenty of experience. The climbs, as are the breathtaking views from mesmerizing heights, are always well worth the reward.

Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife Viewing Baxter State Park
Image Credit: Baxter State Park

A wide variety of animals call Baxter State Park home. The most commonly seen animals here include the white-tailed deer, moose, and black bear. Additionally, the park is a haven for hundreds of types of birds. The park provides a bird list for birdwatching enthusiasts to record the species they see during their visit.

The best time to view the animals in the park is during summer, especially early morning and evening. They can be seen in every area of the park, but if you are hoping for advice on where to look during your visit, you can ask park staff at the visitor center, campgrounds, and gatehouses about recent sightings.

Hot Tip:

Remember to bring your binoculars and camera to see these creatures up close and capture photos to take home as souvenirs.

Best Times To Visit Baxter State Park

This park is an incredible place to visit most of the year. Certain times are better than others if you hope to experience a particular event or activity.

Best Time To Visit Baxter State Park for Ideal Weather

Weather can greatly impact a vacation, so planning around typical weather trends is wise. For a visit with ideal weather, plan to come in August. The temperatures range from the upper 40s to the high 60s, and there is less chance of rain than in the other summer months. Even though this is the ideal time to visit for great weather, be sure to plan for rain showers, as these are very common in this area of Maine.

Best Time To Visit Baxter State Park To Avoid the Crowds

This park is busiest during the summer months. For travelers who seek a more solitary experience, September is the best time to visit. This is one of the least crowded months, as schools have returned to session and summer visitation has dwindled. The weather at this time of the year is quite comfortable, with temperatures ranging from the high 30s to the upper 50s.

Cheapest Time To Visit Baxter State Park

The cheapest time to visit this state park is in mid-August. This is when flights and accommodations in nearby cities are at their lowest throughout the year. An August visit to Baxter State Park can potentially save you hundreds of dollars in traveling expenses.

Annual Events in Baxter State Park

This park hosts various programs throughout the year for visitors of all ages. Some of these events include birdwatching programs, guided hikes, and campground talks. These programs mostly take place in the summer months. At this time, no events occur on an annual basis.

Where To Stay in Baxter State Park

Whether you stay in the great outdoors or a hotel nearby, there’s a lodging solution for every visitor.

Inside the Park

The only options for lodging within the park boundaries are camping and staying in one of the cabins. These are considered primitive and offer excellent opportunities for an immersive stay in nature.

Cabins and Bunkhouses

Cabins and bunkhouses are available inside this park’s premises. These are perfect for visitors who want to sleep under a roof instead of the stars. These cabins have beds and mattresses, firewood, and some of them have fire rings. The cabins are near the campgrounds, Kidney Pond, and Daicey Pond, but they are considered wilderness cabins, so you will need your own bedding, gear, and food. Reservations can be made in advance by calling the park.

Camping

Camping Baxter State Park
Image Credit: Baxter State Park

Baxter State Park offers several types of camping options, including tent sites, lean-tos, and group sites. Camping in the park is primitive, so you will need to bring everything with you. The only amenities are natural water sources and outhouses.

Towns Near Baxter State Park

This state park is in a fairly remote part of Maine. The closest town is about a half hour away, and the closest major city is 2 hours away.

Bangor, Maine

Bangor is one of the closest major towns to Baxter State Park. It is approximately 90 miles from the park and a 2-hour drive, and most travelers will fly there when visiting. Bangor makes an excellent home base near the park as it has plenty of options for dining, lodging, and recreation.

The accommodations in this city are more traditional than some of the smaller surrounding towns. There are many places to stay, and most of those are well-known hotels. The dining options range from locally owned unique cafes and diners to popular chain restaurants. For entertainment and recreation, there are historic sites, museums, theaters, shops, and landmarks to take in.

Millinocket, Maine

Millinocket is a town that is approximately 30 minutes from the park. This town has inns, bed and breakfasts, and campgrounds available for visitors who want to set up a base camp near the park. The dining options here include several bars, cafes, and diners that serve cuisine ranging from local fare to fresh seafood.

Bottom Line:

For recreation, the town offers outdoor adventures like rafting and mountain climbing. You can also visit several theaters, historic landmarks, and boutiques during your stay.

Where To Eat in Baxter State Park

There are no places to dine within the boundaries of Baxter State Park. There are several options within a short drive from the park.

Appalachian Trail Cafe

Appalachian Trail Cafe is located in Millinocket, Maine, just 30 minutes from Baxter State Park. On weekends, it serves breakfast and lunch, including gourmet creations like donut French toast and home-cooked favorites like omelets, biscuits, and gravy. This cafe is one of the top-rated restaurants near the park and is loved by locals and tourists alike.

River Drivers Restaurant

River Drivers Restaurant is a top-rated restaurant in Millinocket, the closest town to Baxter State Park. This restaurant serves lunch and dinner each week from Friday to Monday. The restaurant offers direct views of Mount Katahdin and has a family-friendly atmosphere. The menu features American fare made with local, fresh ingredients.

Sawmill Bar and Grill

Sawmill Bar and Grill is also located in Millinocket. This restaurant combines delicious food with an exciting environment where you can catch the big game and relax with a nice cold beer. The menu here features burgers, pizza, sandwiches, and a variety of spirits. Sawmill offers dinner, drinks, and desserts from Thursday to Sunday each week.

Baxter State Park Facts

Baxter State Park
Image Credit: Clay Banks via Unsplash

1. It Was Established in 1931

Baxter State Park was established when Gov. Percival P. Baxter donated the first portion of land to the park system in 1931.

2. The Park Features a Great Mountain

Mount Katahdin means Greatest Mountain in the language of the Penobscot people.

3. A Dangerous Feat

Thousands of people have come to Baxter State Park to climb Mount Katahdin. Over 60 climbers have died trying to climb this mountain. These events are detailed in the book Death on Katahdin by Randi Minetor.

4. Mount Katahdin Is Maine’s Highest Peak

Maine’s highest peak, Mount Katahdin, is within Baxter State Park. This peak stands at 5,269 feet tall.

5. Baxter State Park Is a Mountainous Park

Katahdin gets most of the attention when it comes to this park, but there are over 40 peaks and ridges other than Katahdin in the park. It’s no wonder why climbing is one of the most popular activities in this park.

Final Thoughts

Baxter State Park has a wealth of activities for visitors to enjoy. From rock climbing to fishing, from participating in ranger-led interpretive programs to camping, there are incredible opportunities for every visitor to enjoy. Book your trip to this state park today and discover what captivated Gov. Percival P. Baxter nearly a hundred years ago.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to visit Baxter State Park?

A fee of $16 is collected when entering Baxter State Park.

How much time should I plan to spend at Baxter State Park?

You should spend a minimum of a full day exploring this state park. This will allow for climbing, picnicking, and fishing during your time visiting the park.

Can I bring my dog with me to Baxter State Park?

Pets are prohibited at Baxter State Park.

Are there any nearby attractions I should check out when I visit Baxter State Park?

Some popular attractions near Baxter State Park include the North Light Gallery and the Katahdin Nordic Center.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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