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Hidden places to visit in Maine - 10 Best kept secrets

Baithole Millinocket Hiking Wildlife Trail Maine Ponds and Lakes Reflections
"And every year, come harvest, the autumn winds rain gold down from the Canadian border - in silken, sugar maple ribbons over the great north woods... "

Experiencing fall in New England is a must if you are on the East coast and so, we chose October to visit Maine. The quiet, hidden beauty of Maine is hard to capture in words. It's one of the most sparsely populated states of the US and there lies one of it's greatest appeals.
Experiencing fall in New England is a must if you are on the East coast and so, we chose October to visit Maine. The quiet, hidden beauty of Maine is hard to capture in words. It's one of the most sparsely populated states of the US and there lies one of it's greatest appeals. A huge percentage of the land in Maine is wilderness - a priceless commodity today. Partly thanks to the logging industry, with roots deep in history, the face of this region has slackened in keeping up with the urban culture of the developing world.
 

First Roach Pond Kokadjo Greenville Maine Highlands Moosehead Lake Region
A view of the First Roach Pond from Kokadjo, near Greenville Maine

    The lights die out as you move inland from the Atlantic shores. The roads start to loose themselves among the wayward highlands and river ways. Ponds and lakes fan out over the land like fisherman's nets... enmeshed among them the darkest nights and fleeting auroras of the northern skies. And every year, come harvest, the autumn winds rain gold down from the Canadian border - in silken, sugar maple ribbons over the great north woods.   

The receding glaciers from the last ice age have carved out thousands of pristine ponds and lakes, creating ideal habitat for the largest member of the deer family, the majestic Maine moose. The untamed landscape can seem daunting to a foreigner wishing to explore. Even Google seems to have a hard time charting what's beyond the lively cities of coastal Maine. The highest point on the eastern US coastline - Mt. Cadillac in Acadia National park - receives the first ray of sunlight to hit the country; everyday. The park boasts a million visitors each year. But what of the rest of this hauntingly beautiful state? Let us show you (in no particular order) some of the best kept secrets and hidden places we found in Maine.


Grafton point state park

Screw Auger Falls Maine Waterfalls Grafton Notch State Park Attractions
Screw Auger Falls
 This is a small notch in the mountains you can drive through offering spectacular vistas along the road. The place is home to the Screw Auger falls. The waterfall plunges down a rocky gorge in tiers providing great photo ops. Keep in mind that you will need to get up on a rock to look down into the gorge because the fencing doesn't allow for the best views. The water level was a little low in October but the place did not seem very crowded and was pretty easy to overlook! This being the focal attraction, secondary options to explore nearby include the Mother walker falls, the Moose cave and hikes (we opted to skip these). We highly recommend that you expand on this route up to Errol in New Hampshire and follow the NH Rte16 south - through 'The 13 mile woods' area. More about this in our article on NH, coming up soon! I will add a link to the article when it's up. If you would rather be notified directly, please subscribe to this blog.


Sunday river covered bridge AKA the Artist's bridge, Newry

Sunday River covered Bridge historic Maine Attraction Artists Bridge
Sunday River (Artist's) covered bridge

Covered bridges are iconic in their beautiful craftsmanship and historical significance. This bridge was built in 1872 and has a reputation for being the most photographed. The quaint wooden structure can be found just north of Bethel on Sunday River road. Parking here is limited. But it is far removed from crowds and highways, making it a nice peaceful place to rest by the stream.  Absolutely gorgeous in the fall, there can be little doubt as to why it's named the way it is. It is well maintained but vehicles are not permitted to drive over, given it's age and condition. Take a walk across the wooden planks and you can almost hear the sound of horse carriages rolling by.



Coos canyon, Byron

Coos Canyon cascades Maine waterfalls Rocky Gorge Natural Wonders Maine
Coos Canyon is a delightful rocky gorge
This is a small scale geographical wonder - take a moment to cool your feet here! Cascading waters, swimming holes  and shady trees lend this boulder strewn gorge an allure all its own. The place is designed to be a rest pull off, with picnic tables, restrooms and a trail that runs beside the stream. During the summer when the water levels are high, deeper sections of the canyon walls allow for cliff jumping. Depending on which direction you are coming from, there is a narrow bridge across the canyon that effectively hides it from view until you are there. The bridge offers a higher viewpoint.


Height of land, Rangeley  

Height Of Land Rangeley Attractions Maine Lakes Mountains Natural Landscape
A panorama of the Rangeley hills with lake Mooselookmeguntic in focus

While we think the town of Rangeley may not live up to the hype surrounding it's name, this lookout point just south of it certainly does. There is adequate pull off area along the curve of a hill that provides sweeping views of the countryside all around including a huge lake with a funny mouthful of a name - “Mooselookmeguntic”. Say that aloud and try not to sound like a silly moose :) For the rest of our trip, our tongues were battling this ancient Abanaki word. It's native American origins is believed to mean "portage to the moose feeding place" or "moose feeding among the trees". And while there isn't anything earth shatteringly unique about the lake itself, it's an extremely picturesque section of  Maine's lakes and mountains region. If you would like to get on the water, try the Rangeley Lake state park or the Stephen Phillips Preserve nearby.


Greenville 

Moosehead Maine Wildlife Watching Moose in Maine Greenville Attractions
Moose cow and calf in a pond, Greenville
Is a small town on Moosehead lake famous for the relatively high concentration of moose in the surrounding remote lands accessible only via gravel back roads (and canoes). The main attractions besides the moose are seaplane rides and a historic steam boat (The Katahdin) that offers cruises around the region. Savor the local cuisine on the deck at Kelly's Landing overlooking Moosehead lake, enjoy seaplanes taking off and landing and loons diving in the water. There is also an island that allows for camping at the foot of the very prominent Mt. Kineo. Accessible from Rockwood by boat, it is said the views are phenomenal from the viewing tower on top – an opportunity we had to pass up because it required a good 6 hour hike. But we did find out that the guides at Northwood Outfitters are great people to wander the woods with. Northeast Whitewater is another equally popular service in Shirley, a couple of miles south of Greenville. The guides are very knowledgeable about secret places the moose love. But hold on, we will make that part an article on it's own :) 



First roach pond (Frenchtown road)

Most people who wander up the Maine highlands probably drive up to Greenville and head back. Having no idea what they're missing out on. Kokadjo might confuse a traveler ... it's a one stop-shop at the end of Lily-bay road. There is a great view of the first roach pond opening up from the grounds that may seem like the beginning and the end of Kokadjo. Don't be fooled, follow Frenchtown road down the south side of the pond (which is almost a lake by the way) till you see a sign for the South Inlet campground – made up of a few RV sites on the sandy shore. Get out on the sand bar extending into the middle of the pond and feel the wind whip up your hair. It's quite something when the water levels are low enough, you are surrounded by water on 360 -1 degrees. The mountain views can't be beat either. If you are extremely adventurous, ATV into the back roads and go startle some moose. Just kidding! Please be respectful of the moose - they are facing exceptionally hard times these recent years. Sad train of thought, so moving on.


Lazy Tom bog, Kokadjo

Lazy Tom Bog Kokadjo Maine Mountains Big Spencer Little Spencer Moose Watch
A view of Big and Little Spencer mountains from Lazy Tom Bog, Kokadjo


A mile north of Kokadjo, we braved the gravel of Sias Hill road (also known as Baxter state park road). A short distance after turning off the first left onto Spencer bay road, we came to a bridge saddling the Lazy Tom creek. The view from here across the Lazy Tom bog at 7:30 AM was a beautiful spectacle. The fog lingered over the waterway leading up the sunlit face of Big Spencer mountain. The sky was still pink. We badly wanted to jump out of the van and snap a pic, but unfortunately could not stop and had to come back at a later time. It is said the moose love it here - hmm... wonder why (don't miss the sarcasm). By the way, if you want to rest for a while and take it all in, don't stop by the roadside or on the bridge, drive across it and on the right is a small path leading down to a clearing in the brush near the water - you can park here and walk out to  explore the bog if you like.


AMC Medawisla (100 mile wilderness - Second roach pond)

Roach Ponds AMC Medawisla 100 mile wilderness Great North Woods Maine Best Places In Maine
The road to AMC Medawisla through the Roach ponds wilds
The 100 mile wilderness surrounding this pond is managed by the AMC (Appalachian Mountain club) which has a resort on the shore. It honestly looks like the only sign of civilization around for miles. Public land access is free. Maybe worth mentioning that the color intensity of fall foliage in this region is unparalleled.  The remote chain of ponds on the Roach river are a favorite with fishermen. Be warned though, your sedan might have a rough time here. Remember the part about  roads loosing themselves at the beginning of this article? If you thought that was just a metaphor, think again. This is where it happens. Bordering the KI-Jo Mary forest land managed by the North Maine Woods Inc. (read entrance fee) and the Nahmakanta public reserved land; this is the gate into true wilderness. If you go, make sure you have the latest, most detailed atlas/map and do some research. Johnston pond road was off limits as per our plans. Had we an RV or camping gear, we'd definitely explore and rent a kayak/canoe while at it.



Bait hole, Millinocket

Baithole Millinocket Hiking Wildlife Trail Maine Ponds and Lakes Reflections
Pond reflections - Baithole, Millinocket Maine

One of the many wooded coves along the shore of Elbow lake, this one has been made more accessible to the public and is popular among nature lovers. Just a short drive away from the town of Millinocket, the multi use trails here are great for long walks, winter skiing and provide gorgeous sunset views across the water. Wildlife spotting (moose, beaver and loons) opportunities abound here as well. A railway track on the side opposite the lake marks the outer perimeter of the preserve. You can park in the lot by the roadside and cross the tracks to enter the preserve. The section of trails that hug the waterline held our interest among other things like the causeway, middle pond and beaver dams. Familiarize yourself with the map, there is ample parking – I found the signage a little confusing while we were there.




Golden road, Abol

The golden road lives up to it's name in autumn. In other seasons, we expect it's just a loooong dusty, bumpy old road. While being aware of a few potential spots we could turn off at or stop to see, the road and weather undermined our confidence in time and dictated that we move on. Some of these included the Ripogenus dam, a few unnamed moose wallows, Abol bridge campground, the Debsconeag lakes area (ice caves and an overlook) and a couple of river rapids. We will hopefully have another opportunity to make a well rested, clear day start on this road and really explore its offerings. Driving through just doesn't cut it. We briefly stopped at the river and compass ponds spanning across either side of the road south of Abol. It's a beautiful area, esp. if you're on the water. So befriending a boat would be a good idea.



Baxter state park


Sandy Stream Pond reflection Roaring Brook Trail Baxter state park Katahdin Maine
Sunrise at the Sandy stream pond in Baxter state park

Baxter state park isn't just a hidden gem; it's a whole treasure trove. As such, it's perfect for another article which will be out shortly. We've covered 10 of the best kept secrets Maine offers and Baxter state park is #11. So we will leave you with a teaser. This park has a notorious reputation for being hard to get into. In our struggle to find information about it, we actually wondered if there was a secret hush-up policy. Although that may be an exaggeration, it turns out the thought isn't too far from the truth. Having been there once now, we can definitely see why. Given our deep admiration of nature, we have immense respect for and support the forces that have chained Baxter.

Resourceful links

Scenic byways by region - http://www.exploremaine.org/byways/
Multiple use forest/public land info - http://www.northmainewoods.org/
Northwood Outfitters Greenville - http://www.maineoutfitter.com/

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