The Best Maine National Parks – Everything You Need to Know

By Joshua Davis •  Updated: 01/20/23 •  17 min read

Way up in the far northeastern corner of this great country lies a state known for its stunning Atlantic coastline, majestic mountains, and dense forests – Maine.

Acadia National Park from the summit of Cadillac Mountain.

And while Maine has but one congressionally designated national park, the National Park Service steward’s a total of 6 service sites in the Pine Tree State.

Besides Acadia National Park, the NPS also oversees the natural gems of Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Furthermore, the NPS collaborates with non-profit organizations to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of the region.

This collaboration has resulted in historical sites such as Saint Croix Island International Historic Site, Roosevelt Campobello International Park, and Maine Acadian Culture.

And so, without further ado, let’s get to the Maine attraction!

That’s a pun, y’all.

The 6 Maine National Parks and Service Sites

Camping. Hiking. Backpacking. Horseback riding. Water activities. Stargazing. Wildlife viewing. Cultural and historical heritage sites … whatever your passion, Maine’s national parks and service sites have it all.

1. Acadia National Park

The 48,000-acre Acadia National Park has a rich cultural heritage and breathtaking natural beauty that leave visitors in awe. Located on Mount Desert Island, Acadia is home to rugged coastline, lighthouses, deep forests, and captivating granite peaks.

Rated as one of America’s top 10 most-visited national parks, it hosts over 4 million visitors a year!

Known as the “Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast”, this area was once a getaway for only the wealthy. Today, it’s a natural paradise for all Americans looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Created entirely from private land donations, the park is full of carriage roads, hiking trails, and jaw-dropping scenery.

Camping in Acadia National Park

Camping in Acadia is an unforgettable experience. Site options include two campgrounds, Blackwoods and Seawall, on Mount Desert Island, and another located on the Schoodic Peninsula.

More remote camping is available off the mainland – five lean-to shelters situated along Duck Harbor on Isle au Haut.

Courtesy of the National Park Service.

These campgrounds are only open seasonally and fill up quickly. However, there are plenty of other ways to camp within close proximity of the park.

Check out our post Best Camping Areas In and Near Acadia National Park where we list the top spots with all the details.

Popular Destinations in Acadia National Park

First things first: stop by the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, Acadia National Park’s “Maine” visitor contact station in Bar Harbor. Here, stock up on info and maps.

While you’re there, explore Bar Harbor, the “gateway” to Acadia. You’ll find plenty of restaurants, shops, boutiques, galleries, and other things to do.

And the seafood! The best!

If you’re an early bird and want to experience being the first person on the North American continent to see the sunrise, hike the Cadillac Mountain Summit Loop Trail.

The first peek at the morning sun from Cadillac Mountain.

For incredible views (and an adrenaline rush), take the exhilarating Beehive Trail to the top of Champlain Mountain.

To experience the “wild side” of Acadia, visit Jordan Pond and Eagle Lake – where you can canoe or kayak.

Spend a day taking a ferry to Isle au Haut and exploring in solitude. Or take the scenic Park Loop Road to see some of the most iconic spots in Acadia National Park.

Hike the trails of 2,366-acre Schoodic Peninsula and soak up the world-class scenery (and relative lack of crowds).

Visit the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse (best at sunset) for a photographer’s dream and a taste of iconic Maine.

Bar Harbor Head Lighthouse

And there’s a TON more. Check out Earth Trekkers’ complete guide on Acadia National Park when planning your visit.

Hiking in Acadia National Park

With over 150 trails, hiking in Acadia is a must! Choose from mellow nature walks along coastlines and through forests to strenuous summit hikes and cliff walks. There is something for everyone.

National Geographic Acadia National Park Trail Map
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For thrill-seekers, Acadia presents an exceptional draw. A large number of trails feature ladders and metal rungs installed along precipitous ledges and sheer cliff walls. These turn a typical trail into an adrenaline-inducing obstacle course!

Prefer to keep your feet on wider terra firma? Why not take a summit hike or amble along the coast? The possibilities are endless when it comes to exploring nature and enjoying breathtaking views!

Bicycling and Horseback Riding in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is a great place to explore on two wheels. With over 45 miles of carriage roads, it’s the perfect spot for both novice and expert riders to enjoy.

These scenic roads are also open to hikers and horseback riders. Make sure you keep an eye out for other visitors as you explore.

Speaking of horseback riding, you can bring your own horse or take a guided tour.

For a truly unique experience, check out the equestrian adventure tours offered at Carriages of Acadia on Park Loop Road. It’s an unforgettable way to explore Acadia!

Stargazing in Acadia National Park

If you happen to be visiting Acadia during a new moon (or before moonrise and after moonset), grab your red-light-equipped headlamp, some snacks, and a blanket.

Got a lightweight telescope? Grab that, too!

Head to Cadillac Mountain, the shores of crystal-clear Jordan’s Pond, or stake a spot along Ocean’s Path or Sand Beach.

Dark skies studded with diamond stars put on a show in Acadia National Park.

On clear nights, the stars above Acadia can be spectacular! From planets like Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn to major constellations like Ursa Major and Minor, Draco, Cepheus, and Cassiopeia …

You won’t want to miss out on this beautiful sight.

Although the International Dark-Sky Association has not recognized the park as a Dark-Sky Place, the skies here have been known to be some of the darkest in all of New England.

Water Activities in Acadia National Park

If you visit Acadia during the Summer, you’re in for a treat.

From swimming and tidepooling to kayaking and boating, there’s a whole range of aquatic activities you can enjoy.

If you plan on spending time in the water, be sure to know important safety tips before you set off.

The park features several lakes, ponds, and beaches that are ideal for swimming or paddling – with many breathtaking views along the way.

2. Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Georgia to Maine)

The iconic Appalachian Trail stretches for 2,185 miles along the Appalachian Mountains ridgeline from Springer Mountian in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

Mt.Katadhin: The Appalachian Trail’s 5,269-foot terminus (or trailhead depending which direction you’re headed).

It passes through 14 states, including some of the most scenic forests and mountains in the country. And 282 of it’s most challenging miles run through Maine.

Keeping the full stretch of the Appalachian Trail in prime condition is made possible by an army of volunteers, supported and organized by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

From painting blazes to constructing new shelters, these clubs have their hands busy with a variety of tasks such as keeping existing trails intact and even excavating trail reroutes.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail In Maine

Exploring the Appalachian Trail in Maine offers a unique and thrilling experience, filled with awe-inspiring views, demanding terrain, and an extraordinary sense of accomplishment.

Beginning (or ending) at Maine’s highest peak, Mount Katahdin, a thru-hike will take you 282 miles over trails ranging from easy to difficult and elevations from 490 feet to 5,267 feet.

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Maine stands out amongst the other states due to its remarkable difficulty, robust terrain, and seclusion. If you are looking for a true outdoor adventure along the A.T., Maine will exceed your wildest expectations.

It will also test your grit and navigational abilities.

In Maine, adventurers are delighted with the rare sightings of wildlife such as moose and loons alongside crystal-clear lakes.

Its fame, however, comes from its notoriously difficult Mahoosuc Notch: touted to be the toughest mile on the A.T! It goes without saying – hiking the Maine segment of the trail successfully and safely requires strategic preparation and planning.

To begin planning your hike along the AT in Maine, visit the National Park Service. For more in-depth information, check out the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website.

3. Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

You’ve heard of Burt’s Bees, right?

In 2001, the co-founder of Burt’s Bees, Roxanne Quimby, and her foundation began buying up land close to Baxter State Park with the intention of it one day becoming a second Maine national park.

Political friction ensued when she approached the Fed for approval. Without getting too much into the weeds about it, it was designated as a national monument, approved by President Obama under the Antiquities Act in 2016.

Quimby donated the land valued at $60 million plus another $40 million to get it started and keep it running. Thus, the 87,500-acre Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument was born!

Baxter State Park, next door neighbor to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Located in the heart of Maine, Katahdin Woods and Waters offers stunning natural landscapes including mountains, rivers, forests, and more.

Crowned with majestic views of Mount Katahdin, Katahdin Woods and Waters offers much to explore: from its rivers, streams, and woods to wildlife and geology. Not to mention a starry night sky that has inspired humans since time immemorial.

Things to Know About Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

As a work of public philanthropy, Katahdin Woods and Waters is open to the public free of charge.

In fact, while camping in one of the monument’s 24 campsites, lean-tos, or huts requires a reservation, these don’t require a fee either! Campsites can be reserved up to 6 months in advance via

As a new addition to the national park service, information about the monument’s trails is relatively scant (though, I hope to be contributing to this pool of knowledge sooner than later).

That said, if you’re seeking a hiking adventure, the monument is home to several short and long-distance trails that start from trailheads on Katahdin Loop Road and Messer Pond Road.

Until such a time as I have the opportunity to set foot on these trails, I’ll defer to those who have.

4. Saint Croix Island International Historic Site

A memorial to human grit and determination in the face of hellish odds, Saint Croix Island International Historic Site is where the first French colonization attempt in North America took place.

It didn’t go well. Half of them died of scurvy.

In 1604, Pierre Dugua de Mons and Samuel Champlain landed on the small island located at the mouth of Maine’s St. Croix River to establish a settlement with 40-60 colonists. Learning and growing stronger from their experience as well as good relations with the native peoples, they went on to found Port Royal (Nova Scotia).

An exhibit of the early Acadian settlers along the self-guided trail at St. Croix Island Historical Site. Courtesy of the NPS.

Life subsisted on hunting, agriculture, and fur trading even as they ran afoul of the English settlers from Jamestown and British Crown’s claim to the region in 1621.

Ultimately, this area became a huge tug-of-war match between the French and English. But, ultimately, it thrived. Ultimately, in 1755, in what is known as Le Grand Dérangement, the British implemented a mass deportation of all the French Acadians, resulting in over 10,000 being displaced from their homes.

Even today, a great deal of controversy shrouds this historical event.

What To Do At Saint Croix Island International Historic Site

Um, let’s just say it will be a brief visit.

There’s birdwatching, for one. While I have yet to develop a solid appreciation for this pastime, a good set of binoculars will treat your peepers to sightings of the majestic bald eagles and ospreys as well as lesser-known species such as buffleheads, semipalmated sandpipers, and hairy woodpeckers.

Hairy woodpeckers? Hm …

From the mainland, the Historic Site looks out upon the island, excursions to which are prohibited due to its fragile ecosystem.

So close; and, yet, so far. A view of St. Croix Island from the end of the guided tour. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

However, when visiting this rather diminutive 35-acre national park service site, visitors are invited to take a stroll along its 0.2-mile interpretive trail. Admire bronze sculptures depicting French settlers and Passamaquoddy people and gain further insight into these early settlements.

Moreover, you can join informative ranger-guided programs, explore interactive indoor exhibits, and artifacts and keep your children entertained with the Junior Ranger program.

5. Roosevelt Campobello International Park

Roosevelt Campobello International Park represents the unique spirit of friendship between Canada and the United States – with both countries coming together in collaboration, providing staff and funding to maintain the park.

The illustrious summer home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt is maintained on Campobello Island, New Brunswick in a unique indoor museum blended with an outdoor nature park – offering visitors a beautiful glimpse into the past.

Touring the Roosevelt Home and Historic Cottages

Come explore the awe-inspiring 34-room summer home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt at Roosevelt Campobello International Park! There is plenty for the whole family to enjoy, from 2,800 acres of natural beauty to a variety of restored historical cottages.

Come and explore the “summer cottage” of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, which has been carefully preserved in its 1920s glory. With an organized tour guided by a specialist interpreter, you will be able to traverse both levels of this memorabilia-filled dwelling.

The Roosevelt summer cottage on Campobello. Yes, I said cottage. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

Not only is the iconic Roosevelt summer home preserved at this historic site, but an additional trio of turn-of-the-century cottages is kept up and managed by the Park. These charming abodes can be explored on their first floors – including places such as Prince Cafe, and a dedicated space for special programming.

These programs are available daily during the park’s seasonal operational hours from May to October.

Hiking or Taking a Scenic Ride on Roosevelt Campobello Island

Don’t miss out on the chance to take in all of the breathtaking beauty that Roosevelt Park’s Natural Area has to offer.

Spanning an expansive 2,800 acres, this area is home to a variety of remarkable sights and habitats such as coastal headlands, cobble beaches, sphagnum bogs, and more!

Map of Campobello. Courtesy of Roosevelt Campobello International Park.

If you’ve ever been curious why the Roosevelts chose Campobello as their summer retreat, come experience it for yourself by going on hikes and bike rides along nine trails and three carriage roads! Explore every corner of this park and enjoy a picnic like the Roosevelts always did.

Visit the Roosevelt Campobello International Park website or the National Park Service to plan your visit.

6. Maine Acadian Culture

Despite suffering vitriolic animosity at the hands of the British in the 17th century, some French settlers, who, for the record, got here first, managed to survive and even prosper in the region of northeastern Maine.

These are the Acadians, the descendants of the French explorers who first landed on the tiny island of St. Croix and miraculously managed to survive the tough conditions of the new land, even going on to create a unique culture and language.

Our Lady of Assumption Chapel in Acadian Village. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

Centuries later, this heritage is still proudly preserved in St. John Valley, a picturesque river valley at the northern tip of Maine, bordering the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick, Canada.

Here, the Maine Acadian Culture hosts attractions privately operated by non-profit organizations (and supported by the National Park Service) that are part of the Maine Acadian Heritage Council.

These places and more are cultural windows into Maine’s French-speaking heritage:

Musée Culturel du Mont Carmel

Open mid-June to mid-September: Sunday through Friday, 12 – 4 p.m.

Musée culturel du Mont-Carmel

993 Main Street

Grand Isle, Maine 04746


This awe-inspiring former Roman-Catholic church stands among the most well-preserved, architecturally impressive wooden churches remaining in the Saint John River Valley.

Musée Culturel du Mont Carmel. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

Constructed in 1909 by Edmundston contractor Léonide Gagné, the church was designed according to plans by renowned architect Theo Daust. Adding a touch of grandeur were two Baroque-style belfries sculpted in 1908 by Quebec artist Louis Jobin that featured archangels blowing trumpets.

Today, the church stands as both a museum and an organization committed to protecting, strengthening, and showcasing Acadian and French-Canadian culture within the St. John Valley area.

Acadian Village

Open daily June 15 – September 15: 12:00 – 5:00 pm.

Acadian Village

U.S. Route 1

Van Buren, Maine


Nestled in the heart of Maine lies The Acadian Village, an authentic slice of history that has been recognized by both the National Register of Historic Places and as a Historic National Landmark. It is renowned for being one of the largest historical sights in the Pine Tree State!

Perched atop the St. John River, a picturesque collection of 17 structures remains as a tribute to the Acadian settlers who arrived in the mid-eighteenth century; this is known today as The Acadian Village – an enduring reminder of their cultural heritage and legacy.

Restored historic Acadian homes in Acadian Village. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

The settlement was designed to encompass the Acadians’ innate talents, such as fishing, logging and shipbuilding.

The Morneault house and Acadian barn represent the historic Maine-Acadian influence with its signature ship knees, which are recurrently used as structural supports in construction. These dwellings remain significant to this day due to their distinctiveness with regard to architecture.

Notre Héritage Vivant/Our Living Heritage proudly owns and operates the village, where all buildings were either relocated or constructed.

Fort Kent Blockhouse State Historic Site

Open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Fort Kent, Maine


At the junction of the Fish and Saint John Rivers stands Fort Kent, a remaining testament to American military might erected during the Aroostook War with New Brunswick.

The blockhouse is an impressive two-story fortress, comprised of enormous square-hewn cedar logs – some reaching up to 19 inches in width.

The nigh-inpenetrable Fort Kent blockhouse. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

Although certain slight modifications have been made to the building’s design and structure, keeping with its current use as a museum, it remains an outstanding example of early 19th century military architecture.

In 1969, the fort was honored by being placed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1973 it was designated a National Historic Landmark.

The Maine Acadian Heritage Council stewards many more fascinating and beautiful places, depicting Maine’s French-speaking culture and heritage. Check out their website for more info!

Que Dieu Vous Bénisse et Adieu

That’s French, y’all!

When it comes to Maine, national parks may be few in number; but, they’re certainly rich in beauty and grandeur as well as history and culture.

So, load up your gear, pack your bags, and head out to explore the amazing places that Maine has to offer!

From granite coastal cliffs and seaside forests to historical museums and rustic villages, there’s something for everyone. You’ll be sure to come away with a deeper appreciation of the state’s past and its enduring culture while creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Now, get out there!

Joshua Davis

Being outdoors is freedom! Being outdoors with my wife and two boys is LIVING! Whether in my backyard or getting lost in a National Park, there’s nothing I’d rather do than explore, discover, and experience the paradise that surrounds us. Give me my family, a backpack, and a trail and my life is full!