TOP 25 ATTRACTIONS OF
MILLINOCKET & THE KATAHDIN REGION
Welcome to the Bigroads.com guide to the top 25 attractions of Millinocket and the Katahdin region of Maine.
The Millinocket and Katahdin region is one of our favorite areas of Maine, and my wife and I try to spend at least 2-3 days there each year. With close access to Baxter State Park plus hundreds of miles of logging roads that lead to excellent trails, lakes, and ponds, there's plenty enough to keep us coming back each year.
This area tends to be over-shadowed by other high-tourism areas of Maine, such as Acadia National Park/Bar Harbor and other spots along the fabulous Maine coast. But you are doing yourself a serious disservice by not checking out what this scenic and untrampled region has to offer.
With that, here is our opinionated list of the top 25 attractions of Millinocket and the Katahdin region. Enjoy and please let us know if you have any feedback or updates on any of the attractions we've described below (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Take note that the attractions listed below are in no particular order.
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WHITEWATER RAFTING THE PENOBSCOT RIVER
One of the biggest attractions of the Millinocket and Katahdin region of Maine is whitewater rafting the (class V) West Branch of the Penobscot River.
There are three rivers that are commonly rafted in Maine (the Kennebec and the Dead are the other two), and the West Branch of the Penobscot River is arguably the most scenic. Even if you have already whitewater rafted the other two rivers, we highly recommend rafting this one as well. It's a wild ride, especially through Ripogenus Gorge and over Nesowadnehunk Falls.
More than a hundred people typically raft this river on a daily basis from late-May through September. If you're lucky and water levels are optimal, your rafting guides may bring you to a natural waterslide on Nesowadnehunk Stream, where you'll exit your boat and slide down smooth rocky surfaces into a pool below.
The premier rafting guide companies for the West Branch of the Penobscot River are Northern Outdoors and the NEOC. Both offer day trips seven days per week during the rafting season.
Other guide companies in the area include: Three Rivers, North Country Rivers, Maine Rafting Expeditions, Penobscot Adventures, and Moxie Outdoor Adventures.
Most of the guide companies listed above offer campgrounds and/or lodging/cabin rentals so that you can easily stay and enjoy the region for a few days if you wish.
Whitewater rafting on the West Branch of the Penobscot River, Maine
HIKING GULF HAGAS
One of the crown jewels of Maine, and often called the "Grand Canyon of Maine", Gulf Hagas offers a plethora of scenic waterfalls and swimming holes. You can see them all on an 8.6 mile hiking loop, or you can visit the first few (like Screw Auger Falls) on a far shorter hike. To visit these falls, you'll need to cross lands that are managed by the North Maine Woods (a per-person access fee is currently required).
On your drive to the trailhead along the Ki-Jo Mary Road, don't forget to stop and peruse around the historic Katahdin Iron Works. You can also camp in this area as well (visit the website of North Maine Woods for information about that.
You can find more information about visiting Gulf Hagas on the New England Waterfalls website.
Screw Auger Falls, Gulf Hagas, Maine
Katahdin is, by many accounts, the finest mountain on the eastern half of the USA.
A network of trails (all of which are difficult) surround the mountain. Hiking this mountain is a right of passage for many hikers, but don't underestimate the challenge of doing so. This mountain is tough and hiking in bad weather is not recommended.
The most famous route on Katahdin is the "Knife Edge". This trail is rated class II+ (arguably class III in one short section called The Chimney) and itoffers significant exposure. Those with a strong fear of heights probably won't appreciate this trail.
If you want a good sense of what hiking the Knife Edge is like, watch this GoPro video on YouTube.
For more information about Katahdin's hiking trails, visit our online guide to Hiking Katahdin.
A hiker approaching the end of the Knife Edge on Katahdin, Baxter State Park, Maine
EXPLORING THE REST OF BAXTER STATE PARK
There are more than 200 miles of hiking trails within Baxter State Park, and most hikers, guidebook authors, and blog writers would probably classify nearly all of these trails as "highly recommended". How many other state parks in the USA can boast that claim for that many miles of trail? Not many...
Here are some of the premier day hikes in the park. We've broken the list down by the two entrances to the state park. Take note that this intentionally excludes Katahdin, since that mountains is mentioned elsewhere on this page:
- Big & Little Niagara Falls - 3.0 miles round-trip; easy/moderate but parking can be limited at the trailhead (Daicey Pond)
- Chimney Pond - 6.6 miles round-trip; moderate but a parking permit is required (Roaring Brook)
- Cranberry Pond - 1.2 miles round-trip; easy
- Daicey Pond Loop Nature Trail - 1.5 mile loop; easy but parking can be limited at the trailhead (Daicey Pond)
- Doubletop Mountain - 7.6 miles round-trip; difficult
- Katahdin Lake Trail - 6.6 miles round-trip or 7.5 mile lollipop loop; moderate
- Katahdin Stream Falls - 2.2 miles round-trip; easy/moderate but a parking permit is required (Hunt)
- Little Abol Falls - 1.6 miles round-trip; easy but a parking permit is required (Abol)
- Mount O-J-I - 9.0 miles round-trip; difficult
- North Brother - 9.0 miles round-trip; difficult
- Roaring Brook Nature Trail - 1.2 mile lollipop loop; easy but a parking permit is required (Roaring Brook)
- Sandy Stream Pond - 1.4 miles round-trip; easy but a parking permit is required (Roaring Brook)
- South Turner Mountain - 4.0 miles round-trip; difficult and a parking permit is required (Roaring Brook)
- The Owl - 7.0 mile; extremely difficult and a parking permit is required (Hunt)
You can find information about these hikes and many more on the Maine Trail Finder website.
- Howe Brook Trail / Home Brook Falls - 6.0 miles round-trip; moderate
- The Travelers - 10.0 mile loop; extremely difficult
Backpacking is also outstanding in Baxter State Park. Some of the premier backpacking destinations include Chimney Pond, Davis Pond, Katahdin Lake and Russell Pond, but there are many others. Most backcountry sites involve staying at a lean-to that is exclusively reserved for your party. There are also a few backcountry bunkhouses available for rent. Since this is undoubtedly one of the finest places to go backpacking on the East Coast, it can be difficult if not impossible to snag permits for the more popular areas. Maine residents get the first crack at scoring these permits, which often leaves out-of-staters empty-handed.
To visit Baxter State Park, you can either drive in for the day or you can stay within the park. There are several campgrounds and also some cabins for rent within the boundaries of the park.
For information about obtaining backpacking permits and parking permits for trailheads in Baxter State Park (e.g. Roaring Brook, Hunt, Abol), please visit the website of the Baxter State Park Authority.
Appalachian Trail sign near Daicey Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine
Shin Fall is only a short detour from Grand Lake Road, which is the driving route that ultimately leads to the northern entrance of Baxter State Park. Privately owned, the landowners are gracious enough to allow the general public to visit these falls. The main drop of the falls (shown below) is 30 feet, but the total drop is 44 feet.
Reaching the base of the falls is fairly difficult and is not recommended for children or those who are not comfortable with scrambling on steep terrain.
You can find more information about Shin Falls on the New England Waterfalls website.
Shin Falls, Maine
KAYAKING & CANOEING
There are dozens of places that you can go kayaking or canoeing in and around Millinocket and the Katahdin region.
Here is a list of many of the popular spots:
If you don't have your own boat, you can rent them and set out directly from the docks at these locations:
- Ambajejus Lake
- Daicey Pond, Baxter State Park
- Dolby Pond
- East Branch of the Penobscot River
- Grand Lake Matagamon
- Kidney Pond, Baxter State Park
- Lower Togue Pond
- Millinocket Lake
- Lower Shin Pond
- South Twin Lake
- Upper Togue Pond
- West Branch of the Penobscot River ("Nesowadnehunk Deadwater")
- NEOC: River Driver's Restaurant & Pub on Millinocket Lake - we love eating an early dinner here and then renting a kayak or canoe from them
- Baxter State Park: Daicey Pond, Kidney Pond, South Branch Pond, as well as many other drive or hike-to ponds
- Shin Pond Village
NEOC Center behind the River Driver's Restaurant & Pub, Millinocket, Maine
EXPLORE THE ICE CAVES
The Ice Caves are one of the adventure highlights that explorers can find off the Golden Road, which travels from Millinocket to Greenville.
Metal bars have been installed to allow adventures to descend into the cave. The first part of the cave is spacious and fairly easy to get into, but you'll need to do some crawling and/or scrambling to visit the other smaller chambers within the cave. Take note that foot traction (e.g. Microspikes, Hillsounds, etc.) can be extremely helpful in the cave (even in summer). On our last visit over Labor Day weekend in 2019, there was still quite a bit of ice present in the cave.
Driving directions: From Millinocket, head northwest towards Baxter State Park. Bear left onto the Golden Road, which heads towards Greenville. You probably won't see a sign that explicitly states "Golden Road", but a crossover road is obvious and there should be a sign that points towards Greenville. Continue driving northwest along the Golden Road for about 10-15 minutes until you reach Abol Bridge. Cross Abol Bridge and turn left (south) onto a semi-rough direct road about 0.1 mile later. Drive 3.7 miles south on this road (bearing left after about 3.1 miles to stay on the correct dirt road) and park at the trailhead at the end of the road.
Hiking instructions: From the trailhead, it's a 1.1 mile moderate hike with semi-rough footing to the ice caves. The trail is a bit rocky and full of roots, but still generally family-friendly. Once you arrive at the caves, you can climb down into them. A headlamp (or a flashlight) is highly recommended if you want to explore the cave beyond the initial chamber.
While hiking to the ice caves, you will also see two short spur trails. We recommend taking them both so that you can: (a) ascend to see the fine scenic view called "The Lookout" (0.1 mile each way); and (b) descend to visit the rocky shoreline of First Debsconeag Lakes (0.2 mile each way).
Entrance to the Ice Caves, Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area, Maine
FINE ART GALLERIES
There are two fine art galleries that you can visit in downtown Millinocket:
Both of these galleries display exceptional work by local artists. Both are in the downtown Millinocket area..
- Moose Prints Gallery and Gifts (featuring the landscape and wildlife photography of Mark Picard and Anita Mueller) - link
- North Light Gallery (featuring the artwork of Marsha Donahue plus more than two dozen other artists from New England) - link
Moose Prints Gallery and Gifts, Millinocket, Maine
About 3.0 miles west of the Abol Bridge on the Golden Road, looking for a parking pull-off on the left. Across the road, a path will lead you about 300 feet down to the edge of the Penobscot River. There you will find a short but wide and scenic "block" style waterfall, along with partially-obstructed views of Katahdin if you look downstream.
If you time your visit strategically (12:00pm-1:00pm is recommended), you can watch whitewater rafters float over the northern side of the falls. This is quite a sight to behold, especially if some boaters get ejected out of their boats due to the turbulence.
On one of our visits, a bald eagle was circling above the falls.
You can find more information about Nesowadnehunk Falls on the New England Waterfalls website.
Nesowadnehunk Falls, West Branch of the Penobscot River, Maine
KATAHDIN WOODS & WATERS NATIONAL MONUMENT
This national monument was a "gift to the nation" by Roxanne Quimby, founder of the Burt's Bees company. Still in an infancy state, the monument will take a few years to grow to its full potential.
All of these activities along the 17-mile Katahdin Loop Road are ready to be enjoyed and are highly recommended:
You can find more information about the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument on the NPS.gov website.
- Drive the entire 17-mile Katahdin Loop Road. Make sure to stop at all of the various unofficial viewpoints as well as the officially-designated scenic overlook. From late May through early October, this dirt road should be passable to most vehicles. 4WD/AWD is not typically needed.
- Hike 4.4 miles round-trip to the top of Barnard Mountain. The first 2/3rds of this hike is along logging roads and the final 1/3 is a fairly gentle climb on a woods trail. The top offers prime views of Katahdin Lake as well as Katahdin itself. You can mountain bike the first 2/3rds of this hike if you wish.
- Walk the short Lynx Pond Nature Walk, which ends at a wooden platform with unobstructed views of the pond.
- Mountain bike some of the old logging roads (there are some good ones in the areas surrounding Barnard Mountain and Orin Falls)
View of Katahdin Lake & Katahdin from the summit of Barnard Mountain, Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument, Maine
MOOSE WATCHING AT SANDY STREAM POND
One of the best places in all of Maine to spot a moose is at Sandy Stream Pond within Baxter State Park. The prime viewing times are 1-2 hours after sunrise and 1-2 hours before sunset.
Parking for the trailhead is at Roaring Brook, which has limited parking and requires a parking permit. Scoring a parking permit can be confusing if you've never gone through the process before (tip: go on the website of the Baxter State Park Authority several weeks prior to your trip). The good news is that you can sometimes score a "day of" permit for the late afternoon if you arrive at the southern entrance of the park around 4-5pm. The park has a limited number of these "day of" permits, which are set aside for exactly this purpose. The Roaring Brook trailhead and the trail to the pond should be accessible from late-May through early-October.
Hiking to the Sandy Stream Pond and back is fairly easy and is 1.4 miles round-trip. While here, you can also hike the Roaring Brook Nature Trail. Both trail are considered family-friendly.
Young Moose at Sandy Stream Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine
BREAKFAST AT THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL CAFE
The best breakfast in the region (by a landslide) is the Appalachian Trail Cafe in downtown Millinocket. The blueberry pancakes might be the best you can find in Maine, especially if you compliment them with their pure maple syrup. There's also a small area within the restaurant that sells Appalachian Trail-related merchandise.
If you visit the cafe from August through early October, odds are high you'll see at least one hiker celebrating their completion of the 2,100+ mile Appalachian Trail. Many of these trail completers will inscribe their names into the ceiling tiles of the restaurant. It's very cool to see and feel all that hiking history in one place.
Downtown Millinocket isn't the prettiest of areas, but it absolutely has a lot of potential. We are optimistic that the downtown area will eventually be revitalized and that the cafe will help to anchor it.
Appalachian Trail Cafe, Millinocket, Maine
KILLER VIEWS OF KATAHDIN AT ABOL BRIDGE
Unwilling or unable to hike Katahdin? This view of Katahdin will still knock your socks off. Drive 19 miles (30 minutes) northwest from downtown Millinocket and park at the Abol Bridge Campground & Store on the Golden Road. Get out of your vehicle and walk 200 feet west to score a killer view of Katahdin from a pedestrian-only section of Abol Bridge. The Penobscot River will be at your feet and the Katahdin massive will be towering over it. It's a view you won't soon forget.
After you are done absorbing the view, drive 3.0 miles west along the Golden Road and check out Nesowadnehunk Falls. There's an unmarked pulloff spot that serves as the trailhead. See separate section on this page for more information about these falls.
View of Katahdin from Abol Bridge, Golden Road, Maine
If water conditions are favorable AND you are able to score one of the limited parking permits for Ledge Falls within Baxter State Park, you can enjoy one of the finest natural waterslides in New England. Here's a Youtube video to show you the fun that's possible here.
Ledge Falls, Baxter State Park, Maine
Also known as the "Keep Maine Beautiful" rock, you can find this large and photogenic boulder about 14.5 miles (20 minutes) northwest of downtown Millinocket on Baxter Park Road. If you are driving north towards the southern entrance of Baxter State Park, you can't miss it.
Painting rocks is generally frowned upon by hikers and conservation-minded individuals, but this rock is extremely well-done and franklly it's tough not to like.
Pockwockamus Rock, Baxter Park Road, Maine
THERIAULT FLIES & CONNIE'S ROCK SHOP
Part fly shop, park rock shop. This store is surprisingly large and impressive (with great prices to boot). The shop is also set far back on a rural property, to the point you might wonder what exactly you are doing there as you park in someone's backyard for the shop.
This is one of the better rock shops we've ever been to (and we are guilty of of stopping at probably a dozen or two of them across the USA over the years).
Address: 21 Lapidary Lane (ME 11), Stacyville, Maine
Connie's Rock Shop
EAT SOME HAND-CUT FRIES AT NOAH'S ARK
We're obsessed with the hand-cut french fries at Noah's Ark in Medway! No matter what feeble dieting kick we may be on at the moment, we will undoubtedly land here every time we visit the area.
This little establishment (perhaps it could be called a food truck?) serves delicious greasy food. It's an 11-mile drive (15 minutes) from downtown Millinocket , and so it is probably best-visited as you are traveling to and from I-95.
Location: 289 Pattagumus Road in Medway (ME 116). Approximately 5 minutes from I-95.
Hand-cut french fries @ Noah's Ark in Medway, Maine
LAKESIDE DINING AT THE RIVER DRIVER'S RESTAURANT & PUB
Many would argue that this restaurant on the shores of Millinocket Lake offers the finest food in the region. Just about everything we've tried on the menu has been good so far. Additionally, after your meal you can walk over to Millinocket Lake and enjoy the views or even the sunset.
The NEOC also offers kayak, canoe, and paddle boat rentals only 300 feet from the restaurant. You can also rent fat bikes too; there's a growing bike trail system in the area that you can ride them on.
More information about the restaurant can be found on the NEOC website.
River Driver's Restaurant & Pub, Maine
MOUNTAIN BIKE THE KATAHDIN AREA TRAILS SYSTEM
The Katahdin Area Trails ("KAT") system is still growing, but you can explore some of the trails that have already been built. Eventually, up to 75 miles of trails will be created, which will make it one of the premier mountain biking destinations in New England. We can't wait to see this system become developed.
More information about the Katahdin Area Trails system and renting fat bikes can be found on the NEOC website.
Mountain Biking the Katahdin Area Trails
KATAHDIN GENERAL STORE
Many people stop here for last-minute snacks and outdoor gear and supplies. There's also a small gift shop inside with t-shirts, magnets, and all the other items you'd typically find in a gift shop.
We think the true highlight of this store is their homemade whoopie pies, though. Whoopie pies are the "Official State Treat" of Maine and so you should probably try one if you've never had one. We personally recommend their molasses version.
SWIMMING @ UPPER TOGUE POND BEACH
Just south of the southern entrance of Baxter State Park ("Togue Pond Gate"), you'll find a parking area on the left (west) side of the road where you can have a picnic and do a little swimming. The edge of the pond is sandy and children will enjoy themselves here. There are several picnic tables onsite.
GUIDED MOOSE TOURS
The NEOC offers moose & wildlife tours, and odds are very high (probably 75% or better) that you'll actually see at least one moose. More information on these moose & wildlife tours can be found on the NEOC website.
Moose Woods Guide Service also appears to offer guided moose tours, but we are not too familiar with their operations yet. Here's a link to their website.
REMOTE CAMPING IN THE NORTH MAINE WOODS
Some of the best roadside campsites in Maine can be found within the private forests that are managed by the North Maine Woods organization. You can find a list of campsites on their website. A high-clearance vehicle may be required to reach some of the campsites, such as those at Hay Brook Falls.
Their website says advanced reservations cannot be made, but we have called and been able to book campsites in the past.
CROSS COUNTRY SKIING
There are a impressive amount of cross-country skiing opportunities in the region. Here's a link with a list of cross country ski trails.
There's a huge network of snowmobiling trails in this region, including connections from Millinocket to the famed snowmobile ITS Trail System. Here's an online map showing the impressive network of snowmobile trails.
Here are a few additional ideas for things to do in the Millinocket area:
Want even MORE ideas? Visit the "101 Things To Do Around Millinocket" page of the NEOC website.
- ATV-ing on the Katahdin Region Multi-User Trail ("K.R.M.U.T.") system
- Fishing or ice-fishing on nearly any pond or lake in the region
- Golfing at the Hillcrest Golf Club
- Large loon in downtown Lincoln (this is a "roadside attraction")
- Lumberman's Museum in Patten
- Maine Dog-sledding Adventures
- Picnic at the state-managed Grindstone Falls Picnic Area on ME 11
- Off-road driving on hundreds of miles of lodging roads
- Swimming at Jo-Mary Lake
- Walk around downtown Millinocket on the paved Mike Michaud Trail
ADDITIONAL HIKING OPPORTUNITIES
Here are few more hiking trail suggestions for the region:
The "bible" for hiking in Maine is the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Nearly all of Maine's great trails are described in detail within this legendary guidebook, including most if not all of the hikes we've listed above.
- Bait Hole Hiking & Biking Trails
- Day hikes near any of the three AMC wilderness lodges (there are several hiking trails accessible from each)
- Day-hike or backpack the Appalachian Trail or the International Appalachian Trail ("IAT")
- Hike Mt. Chase near Patten
- Horserace Pond Trail
- Rainbow Loop Trail
- River Pond Nature Trails.
- Sawtelle Falls near the northern entrance of Baxter State Park
- Tumbledown Dick Falls
Entrance sign of the 17-Mile Scenic Driving Loop within Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument
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