Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you. More details are here.

8 Places in Maine That Will Make You Forget About the Coast

 

When I tell people that I grew up in Maine, I usually get one of two responses: “We went there on vacation once!” Or, “Oh, I’d LOVE to visit Maine!” There’s a reason Maine’s nickname is Vacationland–it’s an awesome place to visit. But the majority of visitors have experienced just one small slice of Maine life: its rocky coastline and quaint seaside towns. They never see what is, in my mind, quintessentially Maine.

I grew up traipsing around the back woods of Maine. I learned to read our DeLorme Atlas practically by osmosis because it was simply how my family got around. It was always tucked away somewhere in our truck, torn and stained from frequent use. I think my dad refused to believe the popular Maine expression, “You can’t get there from here,” as we explored as many corners of the state as possible–hiking and camping in western Maine, searching for the best waterfall swimming holes, enjoying summer days at the lake, and otherwise living life in our rural town.

So if you asked me for advice about where to go in Maine, I’d offer a long list of places far inland. Don’t get me wrong–Maine’s coast is stunning and well worth the visit. Its renown is well-deserved. But if you want to soak up the the stillness found in the woods and mountains and enjoy nature without tripping over hordes of people, these 8 places will make you forget all about that icy saltwater and craggy shoreline.

Maine is more than lobsters & lighthouses. Head inland to these 8 spots & escape the crowds!Click To Tweet

 

Mount Kineo

Oddly juxtaposed with a golf course on what is virtually an island (a peninsula with no public road access), Mount Kineo State Park sits on the water’s edge on Moosehead Lake. The mountain appears small in size, but its foreboding rocky ledges tower over the lake as you approach on the ferry, hinting at the steep climb ahead.

For much of the hike, the sounds of Maine’s largest lake–rhythmic waves, motorboats, and float planes taking off–continue to remind you of where you are, even when you’ve lost sight of the water. When you reach the summit, you may momentarily regret the decision to climb the fire tower’s precarious stairs, but if you hold on tight to the railings and move quickly, you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of unspoiled Maine beauty.

Looking for the best things to do in Maine? If you’re craving a quiet, off-the-beaten-path adventure, check out this local's guide for 8 of the best spots in central and western Maine! New England travel | Maine vacation | nature and outdoor adventure @roamtheamericas

Looking for the best things to do in Maine? If you’re craving a quiet, off-the-beaten-path adventure, check out this local's guide for 8 of the best spots in central and western Maine! New England travel | Maine vacation | nature and outdoor adventure @roamtheamericas

View of Moosehead Lake from the fire tower on Mt. Kineo

 

Rafting on the Kennebec

If you want to head inland but still crave thrashing waves, whitewater rafting on the Kennebec River is the perfect way to spend a day in western Maine. The top section of the river is a thrilling ride for any adventure seeker, and the bottom section offers fun for the less intrepid. Instead of the steady rhythm of ocean waves, the white water rapids toss your boat as they wish. As you make your way through a rocky gorge flanked by pine trees, don’t get too distracted by the scenery, or you may end up swimming through Class III and IV rapids. Trust the guide, dig your paddle in hard, and enjoy the unpredictable ride.

 

Moxie Falls

The momma of all waterfalls in Maine, Moxie is a must-do after a day of rafting the Kennebec. The trail to Moxie Falls is fairly easy, but it will make you feel like you’re deep in the woods, surrounded only by nature. Because, well, you are. And that’s the beauty of getting away from the tourist traps on the coast–you’ll see Maine’s beauty in its natural state, away from the crowds.

 

Smalls Falls

One thing you should know about western Maine is that there are no highways. What many “outta-statah’s” would consider back roads are simply roads to Mainers–roads that they’re not afraid to drive down at 60 miles per hour, passing logging trucks as they keep an eye out for moose. But the best part of some of western Maine’s roads? It’s the way they meander along rivers and streams, begging you to pull over and jump into the first swimming hole you see.

Luckily for everyone, there’s an actual rest stop with a picnic area and easy waterfall access. Grab your bathing suit, fill your cooler, and head to Smalls Falls to spend a day enjoying one of the best swimming holes, natural water slides, and cliff jumping spots in Maine.

Looking for the best things to do in Maine? If you’re craving a quiet, off-the-beaten-path adventure, check out this local's guide for 8 of the best spots in central and western Maine! New England travel | Maine vacation | nature and outdoor adventure @roamtheamericas

 

Mount Katahdin

A list of western Maine’s incredible beauty wouldn’t be complete without mentioning its highest peak. When you see Mount Katahdin in person, you’ll understand why the Penobscot Indians gave it a name that means the greatest mountain. There are various trails and several peaks, as well as remote campsites throughout Baxter State Park. This is one spot on the list that is both well-known and well-traveled, but the crowds are somewhat restricted by limited day parking. Make sure you plan ahead and reserve a parking spot online well in advance.

Mount Katahdin getting ready for another day.

A post shared by Chris Bennett (@chrisbennettphoto) on

 

Want to know where to get #offthebeatenpath in Maine? Check out 8 of the best spots!Click To Tweet

 

Cathedral Pines Campground

Cathedral Pines is the campground by which I measure all other campgrounds. As the name implies, it’s built in a forest of towering pines that create a beautiful canopy overhead. Some birch and other trees are scattered underneath, but the only trees you’ll notice are the red pines, which make the campsites feel both spacious and private. The best campsites are on the waterfront where you can enjoy the call of loons as you go to sleep and the stillness of the lake in the morning. Cool off with a swim in the lake, ride your bike around the grounds all day, relax in a hammock with a book, go moose watching at dusk, or take a day hiking trip in the nearby Bigelow range.

 

Gulf Hagas

While the moniker “Grand Canyon of the East” might be a stretch, Gulf Hagas is certainly worthy of attention. Part of the 100 Mile Wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail and a national natural landmark, this 8-mile waterfall trail is a spectacular hike in western Maine that shouldn’t be missed. (And it gets bonus points from me because it’s where I got engaged!)

Pro tip: ditch your phone & get a DeLorme atlas for more adventures while while you #visitMaine!Click To Tweet

Any Lake, Anywhere

Maine summers aren’t complete without heading “upta camp.” Translation: going to a cabin on a lake. Just don’t actually call it a cabin. Or–please–a summer home. They will send you back to the coast if you ask about a summer home.

If you can’t find a family who will adopt you and invite you to their camp, you can still get a taste of lake life by going camping or just heading to the beach for the day. Days at the lake are simple, spent listening to the splashes of cannonballs and screams of kids pushing each other off the dock, the echoes of loon calls floating across the water, and motor boats buzzing around all day. It’s the stuff Maine summers are made of.

Looking for the best things to do in Maine? If you’re craving a quiet, off-the-beaten-path adventure, check out this local's guide for 8 of the best spots in central and western Maine! New England travel | Maine vacation | nature and outdoor adventure @roamtheamericas

 

Which of these off-the-beaten-path places in Maine would you most like to visit? Let me know in the comments!

 

You might also like:

 

Join the community & get practical resources for responsible travel, tips for authentic and respectful travel photography, and exclusive FREEBIES (like the Journey for Good Manifesto) every month!

  • Pingback: What Is Responsible Travel? - Roaming the Americas()

  • Eemma Iseman

    Spent my honeymoon in Maine! I had always wanted to go there since I was a little girl! We mostly hopped along the coast, so your post makes a good excuse to travel back!

    • Ohh that sounds lovely, Eemma! Where did you go? Hope you enjoyed your time there. 🙂 I visited a few spots on the coast last summer that I really loved and hope to write about them soon (though I think I’ll always be a freshwater girl!). Hope you get a chance to go back!

  • Love hearing that! Where have you been in Maine? There’s SO much to see–I still feel like there’s a ton I haven’t done (even with growing up there and spending a lot of time there as an adult). You could spend the whole summer there and still have plenty to see.

  • Thanks so much, @practicalwanderlust:disqus! 😀 Glad you enjoyed the post and the photos! The Mt. Katahdin photo is a fellow Instagrammer–isn’t it stunning? Sadly I haven’t been since I was a little girl–I tried to hike it last summer but didn’t realize you had to book a parking spot WAY in advance. Bummer. But in my research I found out about remote camping spots that you have to take a canoe to (the park has a canoe there waiting if you book the spot)–sounds pretty epic. Did you do the whole AT? Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Oh these are BEAUTIFUL! We went to Maine on a family vacation yearsss ago but it was mainly Portland and some other seaside towns, but these look amazing! Mount Katahdin looks absolutely stunning.

    • Thanks so much, Hannah! Yes–Maine’s inland is quite stunning, but I feel like it’s a well-kept secret! The coast is lovely, too, though. 🙂 And I haven’t explored Portland much as an adult, but from what I’ve heard it’s a pretty cool city. Lots going on there these days!

  • Patti Haus

    This makes me want to go to Maine so much! It’s officially on my bucket list.

  • Robbie

    I love this blog post. I’ve been to Mt. Kineo so many times, but I’ve never hiked it! Somebody also just recommended Gulf Hagas too for a good hike, so I definitely want to check it out. Mt. Katahdin leaves me in awe every time I see it from Moosehead Lake. I just love that area. It’s my second home, and if I could, I would live there, off the grid, year round! Most people think of Maine as a seaside escape, but it offers so much more!

    • Totally agree, Robbie! Western and central Maine are amazing. So glad to hear that you’ve been to so many great Maine gems. 🙂 Mt. Kineo is a nice hike! Not too long, but great views at the top. And if you take the long trail back down that leads you near a campsite, there’s a small pebble beach where you can dip your (tired) feet. Do you live in Maine or just visit often?

      • Robbie

        I just go there a lot. My family has a camp on Moosehead Lake ☺️ I’ve actually been to that Kineo beach!

  • Moosehead Lake is on our wish list, my boyfriend is obsessed with moose and anything moose named:) I love Katahdin and all of Baxter, glad to see it made your list.

    • Moosehead is a great area! And you’ll find lots of moose stuff, haha. My stepfather’s father has a pontoon plane and flies it from his camp up to Moosehead often. Actually the day I was hiking Kineo last year, my stepdad and his father were flying above it (my stepdad was texting me while I was hiking, lol). If you go, check out The Mill Inn + Cafe and Tomhegan Camps (I’ve got more info on those in my Central Maine guide: http://roamingtheamericas.com/responsible-travel-guide-central-maine-highlands/

      And I definitely want to get back to Katahdin now as an adult! I hiked it when I was about 8 or 9 and tried to go last summer, but didn’t make parking reservations in time. :/

  • Baxter is so much on our list- been to Maine few times but it has been mostly long weekend trips from Boston! Also love your IG feed- keep them coming 🙂

    • Thanks so much, @bharatsupriya:disqus! Appreciate the love. And while I haven’t been since I was younger, Baxter is pretty amazing! Now also on my list is the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument–it’s in the same neck of the woods and would be worth exploring if you make it up there. Thanks so much for commenting!

      • Oh yes! Just recently read about Katahdin and can’t wait to see it sometime. There’s so much to see!!

Menu