The Maine mountains might be the most underappreciated and intimidating natural wonders of the state. The best part about them is that they are open secrets, offering the serenity that we seek but rarely find.
First-time Maine visitors often overlook places like Mount Katahdin or Sugarloaf Mountain in exchange for a spot on the sand or rocky shore. In 2022, only about 20% of tourists said that “enjoying the mountain views” was one of their top activities.
While most people crowd Kennebunkport or adventure around Acadia National Park, the tallest mountains in the state are places where nature thrives in undeveloped glory and roads weave along the most epic road trips in the nation.
The best time to visit the Maine mountains is in the fall when the palette of colors from summits and scenic roadways sweep over you and have you craving pumpkin spice something. Also, you have several entrance points to the Appalachian Trail (or the AT, as it’s most commonly called).
There’s a lot of love in Bridgton Maine. Seriously, “LOVE” is carved into the mountains of the ski resort, a gesture dating back to the 1930s by town residents.
Hikers can summit Bald Pate Mountain or hike Hacker’s Hill Preserve to see 360-degree views of other mountains. That’s in addition to one of the most charming and cherished mountain community downtown corridors with plenty of restaurants and places to stay in Bridgton Maine.
The region around the mountain town of Bethel covers seven small towns that surround popular scenic stunners, such as Sunday River with four seasons of outdoor adventures from the water to the summit.
Also, Bethel is a gateway to White Mountain National Forest, which straddles the New Hampshire state line. Less than an hour across that state line, you get more mountain experiences at Mount Washington, Wildcat Mountain, and Mount Eisenhower in New Hampshire.
The Maine Mineral & Gem Museum in Bethel holds everything from sparkly gems dug from the depths of Maine to meteorites and the largest piece of Mars on Earth. Plus, you’ll find fantastic Bethel hotels, inns, and other lodging options.
While the name of the area might be Rangley Lakes, it’s the mountains that perfect the jaw-dropping views, with the kingpin being Saddleback Mountain.
Rental cabins and homes dot the landscape with plenty of breathing room and private beaches, most of which are handed down from generations of Rangeley families. Visit Bald Mountain while you still can before erosion finishes its task.
Enjoy the mountain views from one of six major lakes and dozens of smaller ponds. In fact, Rangeley Lake State Park offers mountains and beaches over nearly 900 acres.
Eustis & Stratton Maine
Eustis and the village of Stratton combine into one place to visit along the Maine High Peaks Scenic Byway. And, Eustis is the gateway to the Bigelow Preserve with one of the top 10 summits in the state.
A must-see is Sugarloaf, a mountain resort that evolves each season with new activities and a tagline stating, “Your life will never be the same.”
Water lovers can skip the saltwater and immerse in Flagstaff Lake’s crystal-clear water activities. The Dead River offers slow flows and some of the best white water rafting, with Maine waterfalls on top of all that! You’ll have several small towns throughout the Carrabassett Valley to explore as well.
DEAD RIVER? The name comes from the nearly invisible current on parts of the waterway and describes the “stillness,” not anything macabre. Massacre Pond in Scarborough is a different story, though.
Bingham is a stop on the AT and on the Old Canada Road National Scenic Byway, which starts just 8 miles south in Solon. You’ll find plenty of lodging options in Bingham Maine so that you have time to explore the area as much as you want.
In spring, the Houston Brooks Falls go full-steam at the end of a short hike into the nearby mountains. Skiing is available seasonally at Baker Mtn. Ski Tow Club right about the time the whitewater rafting season heats up.
The Forks Maine
The Forks is a multipronged outdoor adventure haven in any season where the Dead River and Kennebec River meet.
Whether you want to see a 90-foot waterfall at Moxie Falls or watch the fall leaves change along the landscape of mountains, this wilderness is developed enough for indoor plumbing and climate control at The Forks hotels, inns, and rentals.
You can choose a basecamp resort for adventures — like Northern Outdoors Adventure Resort — take a long drive on the Old Canada Road National Scenic Byway, or choose a rafting trip with Adventure Bound that’s designed for the safety of family and children.
Greenville & Rockwood Maine
Located on the shores of Moosehead Lake — the largest lake in Maine — this is the mountain-meets-lake getaway you’ve been dreaming about. It offers plenty of outdoor activities in every season, from a strenuous climb up Mount Kineo to the shoreline of Lily Bay State Park.
Check the events in Greenville and Rockwood, and don’t think winter slows down the fun! After the spring thaw, a whole new season of Moosehead Lake cruises starts at Katahdin Cruises & Moosehead Marine Museum. And, you have numerous lodging options to choose from.
KNOW THE LINGO: The phrase “Ice Out” means that a body of water is thawed enough to move from one end to the other. Ice might still be present, but the lake isn’t frozen over.
Most people who make their way to Millinocket have their eyes on the tallest mountain in Maine — Mount Katahdin. Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument is as beautiful during the day as it is at night as the first International Dark Sky Place designated in Maine.
“Man is born to die. His works are short-lived. Buildings crumble, monuments decay, and wealth vanishes, but Katahdin in all it’s glory forever shall remain the mountain of the people of Maine.”Percival P. Baxter (1876 – 1969), Politician and Philantropist
Baxter State Park is the actual home to Mount Katahdin, along with 200,000 acres of growing trails. Dog sledding, sky diving, white water rafting, and ATV routes are among dozens of outdoor activities throughout the region.
Plus, Millinocket hosts multi-seasonal events, including Winterfest and the Trails End Festival. With so much to do, you’ll need Millinocket hotels and other lodging options to make the most of your time here.
Bar Harbor Maine
Bar Harbor isn’t really a Maine mountains town, but it’s close to mountainous terrain to explore. More than 4 million visit Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor every year, and Cadillac Mountain is one of the top state destinations. Other Acadia National Park summits and hiking trails dot Mount Desert Island and the Schoodic Peninsula.
Cultural activities like ghost walks and historic tours help tell the story of this famed island. You can even hop on a Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. boat for whale-watching, lighthouse, and water tours of Acadia.
Bar Harbor has tons of activities and offers all the amenities too, including cafes, eateries, and other restaurants to keep your energy up all day. Additionally, there are numerous accommodations in Bar Harbor.
Although mostly considered a coastal town, Camden has the luxury of being a mountain town too. Camden Hills State Park is home to Mount Battie, which makes up for its lack of height (780 feet above sea level) with views that inspired poetry.
“All I could see from where I stood, Was three long mountains and a wood;Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Renascence” inspired by Mount Battie summit view
I turned and looked another way, And saw three islands in a bay.”
The Coastal Mountains Land Trust protects 10,000 acres in and near Camden, including the mountainous island of Fernalds Neck, which is surrounded by Meguntiook Lake. Meanwhile, the Camden Snow Bowl offers one of the closest ski resorts to the Mid Coast Maine coastline.
Discover More Towns in the Maine Mountains
Whether you’re looking for the most scenic mountain in Maine or want to discover the biggest — Mount Katahdin — the trails are closer than you think and farther away from the crowds than you can even imagine.
The Maine mountains and surrounding parks, land trusts, and preserves are protected from development, leaving this expanse of summits ready whenever you are. However, the towns in these areas are developed just enough to provide all of the amenities that you need.
It’s also worth noting that the 2024 total solar eclipse will sweep across the Maine mountains, woods, and highlands. That could be your perfect excuse to head for these mountain towns.