Where is Baxter State Park?
Tucked away in the northern most coniferous forests of Maine lies Baxter State Park; a permanent designated wilderness area part of the Maine state park system. The park’s geography consists of Maine’s north woods, several bodies of water including Grand Lake Matagamon, and a cluster of mountains known as Katahdin. Wildlife in the park is abundant as well as grand views and vistas. Baxter State Park is 175 miles from Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, Maine. Portland, Maine is further south and sits about three and a half hours away.
How large is Baxter State Park?
Baxter State Park sits entirely in Maine and covers more than 200,000 acres or about 300 square miles. The highest point in the park is Mount Katahdin at 5,269 feet. At the summit of Mount Katahdin also lies the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The total mileage of trails inside the park is 215 miles; about the same distance from the park to Portland.
Weather in Baxter State Park
The weather in the park, mostly due to its size and location can be incredibly unpredictable. There are often very distinct differences between the weather in the mountains and in the woods. The park receives visitation year-round, but late spring to summer temperatures are often cited as the best. In summer, temperatures peak around 80-90 degrees whereas winter temperatures have been recorded as low as -45 degrees Fahrenheit. Fall is a popular time for the park due to its vast array of changing foliage. Deciduous trees in the park reveal their colors from September to October. The first snowfall in the park normally is present around November. Snow can and has lasted through April.
When did Baxter State Park become a State Park?
Baxter US State Park was formed through the years of 1931 and 1962. The land is a culmination of 28 land donations from Percival P. Baxter who saw the park as his life’s work. The park is solely operated and maintained by the Baxter State Park Authority. The park is independently funded through trusts, grants, and its own revenue; such as user fees.
Things to do in Baxter State Park
There is an endless list of things to do in Baxter State Park. Below are some of our National Park Visitors Guide favorites, as well as when it is best to seek them out!
Mount Katahdin is the highest point in the park and the highest point in Maine. The summit lies at 5,269 feet. The hike up Mount Katahdin is quite strenuous and requires an elevation gain of 4,000 feet. The hike takes 8-12 hours round trip. Parking is also limited at Katahdin and has to be reserved through the park’s online portal.
The fall colors of changing leaves bring waves of visitors to the park. The forest seemingly overnight can go from rich hues of green to a scattered fall display. Deciduous trees peak around mid-September and last through the first week of October.
Canoes and kayaks are available for rent from all of the park’s pond side campgrounds. The rentals run on the honor system and only cost $1/hr.
The Appalachian Trail is one of the premier trail’s in the country. The trail spans 2,190 miles, with 10 miles and the northern terminus of the trail residing in the park.
The largest waterfall in the state of Maine, Katahdin falls is a popular sight every year in the park. The waterfall can be accessed from the Katahdin Stream campground.
The park’s fishing opportunities are endless. The park features several ponds which one can drive up to and fish and several other bodies of water that require a hike to access. A Maine fishing license is required and can be purchased at any Ranger station.
Wildlife within Baxter State Park
The park is home to a diverse wildlife population; including moose, black bears, and white-tailed deer. These three are often spotted from roadways in the summer months as they become active. Other species found in the park include muskrats, bobcats, beavers, and many more.
Camping in the Park
Baxter State Park offers 337 campsites. These sites range from cabins to primitive backcountry tent sites. Reservations can be made through the parks website. It is recommended to reserve a site at least four months in advance.
Percival P. Baxter
A trip to Baxter State Park is not complete without learning a little about the park’s creator. Percival P. Baxter thought of this park as his life’s ‘magnificent obsession.
Hiking Trails in Baxter State Park
Three seasons of the year, trails in Baxter offer a plethora of hiking opportunities. In Winter, the trails offer wide expenses to be explored by skis and snowshoe.
When to go to Baxter State Park
Baxter State Park draws visitors during every season. Though, visitation peaks in Summer and Fall. In 2018, over 67,000 visitors entered through the park’s gates. June, July, and August are the park’s busiest months. The hiking trails are busiest during summer and fall foliage draws people to the park in September and October. Wildlife viewing is most prevalent in Spring and Summer. Winter activities peak after the first snowfall normally in November or December. Before planning any trip to the park be sure to check the park’s website for seasonal closures.
Must Have Things to bring to Baxter State Park
Every trip outdoors requires planning and a trip to Baxter State Park is no exception. Supplies List of Parks feel are the most pertinent for a successful trip are below.
For any trip outdoors, water is always necessary. In summer months, the park can be deceivingly dehydrating. It is recommended that an adult bring 1 liter for every four hours they will be hiking (children: 1 liter for every four to eight hours).
Hiking in the park, particularly summiting Khatahdin, can be energy draining. Bring beef jerky, fruit, trail mix, and other easy but energy filled snacks along on your hike with you.
Sturdy Hiking Boots
The terrain of Baxter State Park varies. In parts it can be seemingly level and in others treacherous. A good, sturdy pair of hiking boots will be your best friend. Always bring extra socks as well in case your feet get wet.
Thunderstorms in the park are common and at times unpredictable. Its best to bring a lightweight rain jacket with you even if the forecast is completely sunny and clear. A solid rain jacket can prevent hypothermia and keep you comfortable on a rainy hike.
Temperatures in the park can change suddenly. Mountainous hikes can also vary in temperature as you ascend. If you wear multiple lightweight layers you can always remove one or two if you get hot and put them back on as you ascend.
Sunglasses and a Hat
Whether hiking in the dense woods or on the peak of a mountain, sunglasses and a hat are two must haves. They will each protect you from the sun and provide comfort.
To appreciate the parks sweeping views as best as you can, binoculars are a must. These will also come in handy if you plan on taking some time to scout out a moose or other wildlife.
A headlamp is not only a worthy investment for anyone planning to spend a night in Baxter State Park, but also for anyone going on an extended hike in the park. You never know what situation you will find yourself in, and you could be hiking back in the dark.
Bug Spray and Sunscreen
Bug spray and sunscreen are great additions to any hiker’s backpack. They each will provide you with comfort from the park’s elements. Bugs are not terrible in the park, but can be a problem in spring and summer.
Visit any ranger station upon arriving at the park and a park employee will provide you with a park map. Additional trail maps can be purchased online or in person.
Where to stay in Baxter State Park
The park features several magnificent campgrounds. Several of these campgrounds have views of Mount Katahdin or water access. These sites do fill fast, so reservations through the park’s website are a must. In the park’s surrounding cities you will also find various motels and Airbnb options. The nearest “large” city is Bar Harbor, Me.
Food Nearby Baxter State Park
Maine is best known for its lobster cuisine, and while you will find food around Baxter state park to suit you on your camping trip. A true Maine experience is awaiting you in Bar Harbor or Portland, where various restaurants offer several different craft lobster dishes.
Airports near Baxter State Park
There are two international airports located somewhat near Baxter State Park. Bangor International Airport is the closest and is about an hour and half away. Portland International Airport (PWM) is further south and about three and half hours away.