Baxter State Park is located deep in the heart of Maine. It’s home to not only the highest point in the state, but also the end of the Appalachian Trail. Although the park is most famous for Mount Katahdin, there’s plenty of other hikes with a total of 40 peaks and 220 miles of trail. If you’re looking for a more off-grid experience and less touristy option to explore, Baxter is truly one of the best options in the northeast. Although it’s a bit more remote than other parks in the area, it’s well worth the travel for such a unique change of pace compared to other campgrounds and parks in the Northeast.
Outlined below is everything you will need to know to be the most prepared for an unforgettable trip to Baxter. Search below to find detailed information on best activities, reservations, parking, accommodation options, amenities, cost breakdown, and official park resources.
SAVE THIS POST FOR LATER!
Baxter State Park’s first priority is ‘wilderness first, recreation second’. A lot of work goes into maintaining and protecting the grounds. Due to this, the park is not a place where you can decide to show up on a whim for a fun weekend trip. You should look into booking campgrounds in advance; if you want to hike Katahdin, you will also have to book a parking space if you are not staying in one of the Katahdin trailhead campgrounds. Don’t worry, more on that will be explained below!
- Headquarters and Visitors Center: 64 Balsam Dr, Millinocket, ME 04462
- Phone Number: +1 (207) 723-5140
- Office Hours:
- Summer season (mid-May to mid-October): 8AM – 4PM, everyday
- Winter season: 8AM – 4PM, Monday – Friday
- 2 Main Arrival Gates:
- Togue Pond Gate (South): Baxter Park Rd, Millinocket, ME 04462
- Matagamon Gate (Northeast): Grand Lake Rd, Patten, ME 04765
- Gate Hours:
- Open: 6AM
*If you need to leave the park before 6AM, you can manually open the gates to let your car out and then close them
- Close: 8:30PM
- Open: 6AM
- Park Layout + Streets:
- The park runs in one big loop. It can take more than 1-2 hours to get to certain places in the park.
- The streets are unpaved and very narrow – maneuvering is common to pass other cars. The park has a 20MPH speed limit throughout all of its roads.
BEST ACTIVITIES IN BAXTER STATE PARK
- Mount Katahdin
- Katahdin is hands-down the most popular activity in the park. It’s not only the highest point in Maine, but also the end of the Appalachian trail. A very in-depth article including trail options, preparation, and parking can be found here.
- Doubletop Mountain
- Doubletop is a lesser-known hike in the park, but is well worth a visit. The trail is extremely low-trafficked, offers stunning views of Katahdin and the outlying area, and has an awesome stream to hangout in. More information on distance, trailheads, and more can be found here.
- Other hikes
- Baxter State Park has over 40 peaks within its grounds. It’s worth doing research on what trails and peaks are closest to whichever campground you chose to stay at.
- Rent canoes or kayaks at Kidney Pond or South Branch Pond
- If hiking isn’t your favorite activity, Baxter has plenty of other things to do. Canoes and kayaks can be rented for $1/hour, or $8 for an entire day. Well worth the price for a relaxing and no doubt serene activity.
- Moose sightseeing
- Maine is home to many moose, which means Baxter definitely has plenty roaming its grounds. They tend to stick around wetland areas, and can be found in earlier hours when people have not started making noise around the roads. Other people definitely have more in-depth articles on how to increase the likelihood of spotting moose in Baxter if you’re passionate about seeing one!
- Fishing season runs from April 1 – September 30. A vast majority of the more than 50 lakes and ponds are available for brook trout fishing.
PARKING AND DRIVING
Out-of-State Gate Fee: $15
– Can be purchased online or at the gate with cash only.
Day Use Parking Reservation (DUPR): $5
– If you plan on hiking Mount Katahdin and will not be in the park the night prior, you will need to purchase this to reserve a spot for you at either Roaring Brook, Abol, or Katahdin Stream.
– These are available for purchase up to 2 weeks before the hiking date. It’s recommended to purchase as soon as possible as they are quick to sell out.
– IMPORTANT: The reservation will expire if you do not arrive before 7AM the day of. Be sure you arrive on time.
– If you aren’t able to get a reservation, first-come first-serve starts to fill at 6AM from the Togue Pond Gates entrance. There’s a good chance of getting one of these, but no guarantee.
CAMPING AT BAXTER
Baxter has a total of 8 campsites throughout the park with a variety of accommodation options including tentsites, lean-to’s, cabins, bunkhouses, and groupsites. Before choosing a place, think about what you want to do in the park, what type of accommodation you want, and how quiet or crowded you want your spot to be.
Campsites are available for booking from mid-May to mid-October and from the beginning of December to the end of March. Reservations can be made up to 4 months in advance. You can reserve online, by phone (207-723-5140), or via mail. If you’re planning to stay at one of the Katahdin trailhead campgrounds, be sure to book as far in advance as possible as they will be quick to go.
– If you’re looking to hike Katahdin, book Katahdin Stream, Abol, or Roaring Brook for direct access to a trailhead
– For quieter campground options, go north to either Nesowadnehunk Field, South Branch Pond, or Trout Brook Farm
– Cabin options are located at Daicey Pond and Kidney Pond
– Backcountry campgrounds (no car access available) include Chimney Pond, Russell Pond, and Katahdin Lake
Click here for more detailed information about each campground.
You must arrive at the park before 8:30PM on the first day of your reservation. If you arrive after that time, you will not be able to get into the park until the following day. Check-in for reservations are at 1PM, and checkout is at 11AM.
If you miss the first day of your reservation, your spot will be held until 4PM on the second day. It will be forfeited after that time. If you don’t cancel more than 14 days before the start of the reservation, there will be a $15 fee.
SPECIFIC SPOT TIPS
The following recommendations were found on other sites, but no harm in sharing the inside info!
South Branch Pond Campground – Site 36 and 12; Lean-to 2, 1, or 3
Trout Brook Farm Campground – private and quiet; Lean-to 3 requires a walk over a wooden bridge and has a private beach; Site 2
Baxter has next to no amenities as its more of an off-grid experience compared to other campground experiences, such as those found in Acadia National Park. There are no stores, no running water, or service below treeline. The park also runs by ‘carry in, carry out’ which means you must take out everything you bring into the park. There’s no trash facilities available on the premises.
If you do happen to run out of water during your time in the park, you must treat any water you collect in streams or ponds. Rangers recommend to boil the water for at least 5-7 minutes. It’s also smart to have a portable water purifier with you on hikes in case you need to refill on water.
Firewood is available for purchase in the park for $3-4 a bundle. Wood should not be brought from anywhere outside the park. This helps to minimize the spread of tree pests and diseases.
Before arriving at Baxter, be sure that you are adequately prepared with anything you may need. The surrounding areas do have necessary camping items, but there is not as much of a selection that other parks tend to have.
Estimated costs are based on 3 days / 2 nights, 2 people on the trip, and summer season rates.
- $64: Lean-to / Tentsite (x2)
- $15: Car entrance for out-of-state
- $8: Firewood (x2)
- $8: Kayak rental for 4 hours (x2)
Total for 2 people: $95
BAXTER STATE PARK RESOURCES
ADDITIONAL RANDOM NOTES
- Each camp site holds 2 cars. Group sites will hold more, but it’s worth calling to confirm the exact amount.
- If you have more than 12 people in your party, you are considered a group which has different rules in the park.
- No pets are allowed on the premises.
- The flies in the summer months can be brutal. When you return to campsites after a sweaty long hike, they’ll swarm you like nothing else.
If you make it out to Baxter State Park, be sure to leave a comment below! I’d love to hear what your favorite part of the park was, and what campground you ended up staying in. And don’t be afraid to hike Mount Katahdin if you think you’re ready for it – Always Embrace the Adventure.
ARE YOU PLANNING YOUR OWN HIKING ROAD TRIP THROUGH NEW ENGLAND?
There’s plenty of articles and resources on the site to help you best prepare for your own adventure! Check out the 1-2 Weeks Ultimate New England Hiking Road Trip Guide to get a comprehensive look at the region, or read some article highlights below:
Want to make your own epic road trip adventure but don’t know where to start? Check out these
8 Simple Steps to Planning a Hiking Road Trip that will bring you from a basic concept all the way to your final checks before heading out.