With its mountainous terrain and thousands of acres of wilderness, The Maine Highlands might seem like a formidable place to explore. But, visiting the state’s wild interior is easier than you’d think. It’s surprisingly accessible, and all types active travelers will find something to enjoy. Whether you’re looking for an outdoor adventure or  a quiet afternoon sitting by a lake, you’ll find it here.

Getting There

New England Outdoor Center
A popular destination is the New England Outdoor Center near Millinocket. Photo: Christopher Lawrence/NEOC

Reaching The Maine Highlands is actually pretty simple. If you’re driving up from any southern point, just pull onto I-95 and head north toward Bangor. This well-maintained highway can handle more traffic than the coastal routes, which can get crowded during the summer.

If you’re flying into Maine, Bangor makes a great launching point for a trip to the Highlands. During much of the year there are daily non-stop flights between Bangor International Airport and popular airports such as Charlotte, LaGuardia, Philadelphia International, and Washington D.C.’s Reagan National. And flights from additional cities are added seasonally.

While Bangor’s location makes it the perfect starting point for any adventure into The Maine Highlands, it’s also a great place to explore at the beginning and end of your trip. As Maine’s third largest city, it’s a cultural hub with a thriving arts and music scene and exceptional local cuisine.

Finding a place to stay in Bangor is simple, as most major hotel chains can be found in the area. If you’re looking to stay outside of the city, there are also plenty of options. An hour and a half drive gives you access opens to a wide assortment of rustic lodges and campgrounds. A couple of popular destinations are the New England Outdoor Center near Millinocket and The Lodge at Moosehead Lake in Greenville. Or, you can opt for the elegant Blair Hill Inn, a boutique hotel overlooking Beautiful Moosehead Lake.

Once you’ve reached The Maine Highlands, the opportunities for adventure are seemingly endless. The area is home to Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin, Maine’s highest point. There are thousands of miles of trails where you can hike, bike, and visit more than 200 waterfalls. The area’s lakes and rivers provide great opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, and rafting. Maine’s longest river, the Penobscot, offers world-class fly fishing for Atlantic salmon.

To help you plan a trip to The Maine Highlands, here are two suggestions on places to go and things to do.

Drive the Katahdin Woods and Waters Scenic Byway

Katahdin Woods and Waters
Along the Katahdin Woods and Waters Byway you’ll find beautiful areas for canoeing. Photo: Christopher Shane

The Katahdin Woods and Waters Scenic Byway is an 89-mile driving route where you can see plenty of wildlife and stop along the way to enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities. The byway begins at the southern entrance of Baxter State Park and runs along Route 157 through Millinocket. It then takes you north on Route 11 to Patten and finishes along Route 157 at the northern entrance of Baxter State Park. This can be driven in a single day or spread out into a multi-day adventure.

As you drive and explore the outdoors you’ll frequently have views of Mount Katahdin. It’s not unusual to see moose and eagles. As you drive the byway you’ll have access to trails for hiking and biking, plus swimming holes and places to paddle. The New England Outdoor Center and Wilderness Edge Campground in Millinocket offer canoe and kayak rentals and guided trips. Abol Bridge Campground off of the Golden Road in the Katahdin Region offers camping, whitewater rafting trips, and tubing down the Penobscot River.

Explore the Moosehead Lake Region

Downtown Greenville and Moosehead Lake
Moosehead Lake is an ideal destination for families exploring The Maine Highlands.

Perfect for a family trip, the Moosehead Lake Region has something to offer everyone. Covering nearly 120 square miles, Moosehead Lake is Maine’s largest lake. It’s speckled with islands for you to explore by canoe or kayak. One of the most iconic spots is Mount Kineo, which stands 1,789 feet tall and towers over Moosehead Lake. A short but steep hike to its peak provides a stunning 360-degree view of the lake and surrounding mountains. A historic 9-hole golf course also sits below Mount Kineo’s cliffs.

One of the biggest draws to the region each year is the spectacular fall foliage in early October. Hiking up Mount Kineo or touring Moosehead Lake by historic steamship in the fall puts Maine’s fall colors on full display. For a truly unforgettable experience, add a scenic float-plane tour for a bird’s-eye view of the brilliant forests displaying vivid shades of gold, red, and orange.

These are just a couple of the many possible adventures to be had in The Maine Highlands. While this is a remarkably wild region with dramatic landscapes, you don’t have to be a hardcore wilderness explorer to enjoy all that it has to offer. After an easy trip into Bangor and an entertaining stay in town, it’s not difficult to strike off into Maine’s interior. Once you’re in The Maine Highlands you’ll have easy access to a wide range of activities that suit all sorts of travelers, from thrill-seekers to families. After a few days in Maine’s interior, there’s a good chance you’ll fall in love with it. And, like so many others, you’ll understand that that getting there is easy, and the hard part is leaving.

Written by Erik Johnson for RootsRated Media in partnership with The Maine Highlands.