With more than two million visitors passing through the gates of Acadia each year, it’s safe to say that the secret is out on Maine’s spectacular—and only—national park. So rather than share the shores of Frenchman Bay with a flock of cruising day trippers, consider retreating to one of Maine’s 38 state parks to fish in pristine lakes, climb secluded mountain ridges, and walk untamed ocean shorelines.

Whether you’re a hiker, a solitude-seeker, a lighthouse lover, or a beach-goer, you’ll find something to love among our 10 favorite Maine state parks.

Aroostook State Park

Echo Lake Maine
Echo Lake | Photo courtesy of Phil

It seems only fitting to begin this list with Aroostook State Park, which opened its gates as Maine’s very first state park in 1939. Tucked away in the state’s northeasternmost reaches, this 898-acre park encompasses the grassy shores of Echo Lake, the twin peaks of Quaggy Jo Mountain, and a gorgeous woodland wilderness just 15 miles from the Canadian border. Take a swim, launch a canoe, spread out a picnic on the lakeshore, and set out on foot or snowshoe to reach the scenic summit of Quaggy Jo.

Baxter State Park

view of Mt. Katahdin
Mt. Katahdin | Photo courtesy of Jim Liestman

With more than 40 peaks and ridges, 215 miles of hiking trails, and 200,000 acres of forested wilderness, Baxter State Park is the crown jewel of the Maine Highlands. Beloved among backcountry campers and backpackers, the park comprises the northern terminus of the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail, which comes to its grueling end atop the 5,268-foot summit of Mt. Katahdin. You won’t find running water, electricity, or paved roads in the shadow of Maine’s tallest peak, but you will encounter black bears, moose, and some of New England’s most impressive mountain scenery.

Bradbury Mountain State Park

fall leaves changing color in Bradbury Mountain
Bradbury Mountain | Photo courtesy of Paul VanDerWerf

Only 20 miles north of historic downtown Portland is the modest summit of Bradbury Mountain, a peak under 500 feet carved over eons by glaciers. But this mountain—and the surrounding 730 acres of Bradbury Mountain State Park—is a magnet for birders, mountain bikers, and leaf peepers alike. Time your visit for spring to catch the annual Hawkwatch between March and May, or climb the summit in autumn to see migrating eagles amid a rainbow of fall foliage.

Camden Hills State Park

view from the top of Camden Hill
Camden Hill | Photo courtesy of Rene Rivers

With a picturesque harbor and downtown district framed by the silhouette of coastal hills, the town of Camden enjoys one of the most scenic positions in Midcoast Maine. This beautiful backdrop is courtesy of Camden Hills State Park, where the peaks of Mt. Megunticook and Mt. Battie offer sweeping views of West Penobscot Bay. Hike the Megunticook Trail to gaze at Camden Harbor, take a leisurely drive to the Mt. Battie lookout, and admire autumn leaves that rank among the most colorful in New England.

Lily Bay State Park

view of Moosehead lake
Moosehead Lake | Photo courtesy of Dana Moos

It’s hard to know where to begin a visit to Moosehead Lake up in the wilderness of the Longfellow Mountains. After all, Maine’s largest lake offers 74,890 acres of islands and inlets, as well as hundreds of miles of shoreline for anglers, boaters, and cross country skiers. But if you visit the shores of Lily Bay State Park in Beaver Cove, you’ll find a trailered boat launch, a two-mile walking path, thriving populations of salmon and trout (especially in May and September), and quiet trails for skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers, and ice fishermen.

Popham Beach State Park

Ocean tide at Popham Beach
Popham Beach | Photo courtesy of Paul VanDerWerf

In a region of the Midcoast celebrated for its craggy ocean shoreline, the soft sand of Popham Beach State Park is something quite special. This spot where the Kennebec and Morse Rivers meet the open Atlantic Ocean is an ever-shifting wonder, where beach-goers can gaze at Fox and Wood Islands offshore. Take a swim under the watchful gaze of summer lifeguards and walk out to Fox Island at low tide—just be mindful of occasional undertows and tides that can swiftly rise again.

Rangeley Lake State Park

Rangleley Lake in Autumn
Rangeley Lake | Photo courtesy of mark_stoffan

In the 1860s, it was the humble brook trout that first drew anglers, sportsmen, and vacationers to Rangeley Lake in Maine’s Western Mountains. More than 150 years later, Rangeley Lake State Park protects 870 acres of this tranquil landscape, where visitors can still find salmon and trout and photographers can snap some awe-inspiring fall foliage. You’ll hike, you’ll fish, and you’ll dip your toes in the lake’s cool waters—all with a view of Saddleback Mountain to the east.

Reid State Park

ocean at Reid State Park
Reid Park | Photo courtesy of Paul VanDerWerf

When Georgetown resident and businessman Walter E. Reid donated a swath of land to the state in 1946, he created the very first state-owned saltwater beach in Maine. Today, Reid State Park is as beautiful and wild as it ever was, with its wide sandy beaches and dunes, sheltered nesting areas for least terns, and spectacular island and lighthouse views. Take a walk on Mile and Half Mile Beaches, keep your eyes peeled for piping plovers, and admire vistas that reach the Seguin Island Light Station, the Cuckolds Light, and the Hendricks Head Light from Griffith Head.

Sebago Lake State Park

Sebago Lake State Park at dusk
Sebago Lake | Photo courtesy of Paul VanDerWerf

A 30-mile drive north of Portland will lead you toward the foothills of the great White Mountains, where one of Maine’s five original state parks sits on the shores of the state’s deepest lake. Sculpted over millions of years by glaciers and rivers, the granite basin of Sebago Lake State Park encompasses 1,342 acres of sandy beaches, ponds, bogs, and dense woodlands. It’s a wonderful place to swim, hike, fish, or don some water skis to explore a lake that covers more than 45 square miles.

Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park

Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park
Wolfe’s Neck Woods | Photo courtesy of Mike Timberlake

The town of Freeport has long been defined by L.L. Bean, whose flagship store has stood on Main Street for more than a century. But just five miles south of Freeport’s outlets are 244 acres of salt marsh, white pine and hemlock forest, and rocky bay and river shorelines. Here on the edge of Casco Bay and the Harraseeket River, you can walk the length of the Casco Bay Trail, view ospreys nesting on Googins Island, and learn about these fascinating birds from an onsite park naturalist.

So come spring, summer, autumn, or winter—there’s a Maine state park just waiting to be explored!

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Author: Maura O'Brien

Born and raised in Northern California and now based in Portland, Maura credits her mom with her sense of adventure. Maura has a special affinity for national parks, the Greek island of Folegandros, and a three-month trip across Europe with her sister that opened her eyes to the magic of travel.