Happy New Year! We’re not ones for resolutions…but we love a good bucket list! Below is a list of 19 must-do activities for 2019. If you’ve been thinking about a trip to the heart of Maine this year, start here. We’d also love to send you a free copy of our guidebook…just let us know where to mail it!
Here we go!
#1 Explore Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
New trails will be opening in the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in 2019. The new trail construction will improve access to scenic ponds, like Deasey Pond and Lynx Pond, and other natural highlights. Work began in October 2018 by the Appalachian Mountain Club and will continue in the late spring and summer of 2019.
Plans include improving the trail up Barnard Mountain and expanding the Esker Trail and parking area. Two new trails will be created: Deasey Pond Trail and Lynx Pond Trail. All of these trails are off of the Katahdin Loop Road. The Lynx Pond Trail will be wheelchair accessible that meets ADA standards. This trail ends at a platform that is a popular birdwatching spot.
#2 Snow Tubing
Remember how much fun sledding was when you were younger? Hermon Mountain has improved the sledding experience at their family friendly mountain!
Grab your snow tube and let the rope tow glide you up the hill. At the top you can choose to slide down alone or with friends…depending on the number of people and hill conditions. Race your friends to the bottom! This is a fun outdoor winter activity for all ages!
#3 Visit Gulf Hagas
This hidden wonderland is known as “The Grand Canyon of Maine.” These beautiful falls are located inside of the Katahdin Iron Works Forest and is a National Natural Landmark. This heavily wooded gorge is part of the 100 Mile Wilderness and is carved through slate bedrock. The canyon goes as deep as 400 feet!
The entire Gulf Hagas trek is an 8 mile intermediate loop located near Brownville Junction. It makes for an excellent day trip.
#4 Train for the Millinocket Marathon
What started as an idea by runner and entrepreneur Gary Allen to help a struggling mill town get back on its feet has turned into a huge event. Fifty runners crossed the finish line during the inaugural race. Four years later, in 2018, about 1,300 runners completed the full or half marathon.
Runners from all over the country come to participate in this free marathon. Sarah Mulcahy of Fort Kent is the only person to run in all four marathons. She recently qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic women’s marathon trials.
The town of Millinocket pulls out all the stops to welcome thousands of runners and their friends and families to northern Maine. You don’t have to be an experienced runner to take part in this event.
#5 Hike Mount Katahdin
Maine’s shining gem, Mount Katahdin, is and will always be one of Maine’s most majestic sights. Maine’s highest mountain peaks at near a mile. Named by the Penobscot Indians, Katahdin means “Greatest Mountain.” The first recorded climb belonged to Charles Turner, Jr. in 1804, and one of Katahdin’s most famously documented trips comes from author and explorer Henry David Thoreau in his travel book, The Maine Woods.
There are several trails that are both beautiful and challenging. Mount Katahdin is noteworthy for being the most northern point of the Appalachian Trail and the starting point for the International Appalachian Trail.
Before you go there are things you must know about hiking Katahdin. The Baxter State Park website has a whole lot of tips, rules, and trail information that is important to read over before heading out on a hike.
#6 Attend the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival
The Whoopie Pie is one of Maine’s most famous treats. From the classic chocolate to red velvet to lemon…the flavor combinations are endless. Plan on spending the entire day in downtown Dover-Foxcroft at the one and only Maine Whoopie Pie Festival. You’ll get to sample whoopie pies from more than 20 different bakers. Vote for YOUR favorite! You can also take part in the craft fair, listen to live music, and have the kids bounce around on one of the bounce houses.
Spend the night or weekend camping at Peaks-Kenny State Park or staying at the modern Mill Inn & Café. From Dover-Foxcroft you can go swimming or boating on Sebec Lake or head to Gulf Hagas for a waterfall hike (see #3 above).
#7 Camp in our State Parks
The Maine Highlands ha two wonderful state parks with well-kept campgrounds.
Lily Bay State Park
Lily Bay State Park encompasses more than 900 acres, many of which are located along beautiful Moosehead Lake. With leaf peeping, hiking, swimming, fishing, and boating as some of the many outdoor activities, it’s no wonder this state park is a popular spot!
Peaks-Kenny State Park
Peaks-Kenny State Park makes for a great, secluded camping spot. The campsites are set far apart, so this state park is a great choice for families looking to unplug and unwind. Campers and day trippers alike flock to the lovely beachfront along Sebec Lake for swimming, boating, fishing, and other water sports.
Don’t forget to grab your Maine State Park Passport and have it stamped at each park! You can pick one up at any State Park entrance gate.
#8 Take a Ride on the Steamboat Katahdin
If you’ve ever wanted to explore majestic Moosehead Lake in a unique way, hop aboard the historic steamboat Katahdin. A National Historic Site, the steamboat Katahdin, more than any other remaining piece of Moosehead’s history, truly reflects the many eras, interests and businesses of the region’s past and present. Built in 1914 by the young shipyard Bath Iron Works, the Katahdin was later converted to diesel. Affectionately called the “Kate”, she’s a beautiful vessel and a step into the past.
#9 Catch a Summer Concert along the Penobscot River
Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion is home to Bangor’s Waterfront Concerts music series each summer. There is nothing better than listening to your favorite band play outside under the stars! Make a trip to Bangor this summer to listen to live music. Past concerts have included Kenny Chesney, Pentatonix, Ray Lamontagne, Dolly Parton, and Imagine Dragons. Scheduled shows for summer 2019 include Ozzy Osbourne, Train, and the Goo Goo Dolls!
#10 Take a Moose Safari
Having a well-trained, registered Maine guide can be a great advantage to your moose finding excursion—by water or land! Guides know the best spots to find these majestic creatures, and how close you can get to them. The Maine Highlands’s rich environment and natural terrain offers some of the best spots in the state to see a moose. A moose safari is a family-friendly adventure that practically guarantees you access to Maine’s most majestic mammals.
#11 Go Whitewater Rafting
The West Branch of the Penobscot River is one of the most popular rivers to raft in the state…and for good reason! It’s technical, challenging, and provides an adventure like no other. With class IV and V whitewater, this river provides exciting descents from McKay Station to Pockwockamus Falls, through the Class V Ripogenus Gorge and Cribworks. This trip is 14 miles long, and you are guaranteed the thrill of your life!
Not quite ready to tackle the rapids but still want to get out on the water? Try a family-friendly floating trip that is less strenuous but still packed full of fun.
The whitewater rafting season starts in late April and lasts until October. The following rafting businesses would be happy to help you plan your 2019 rafting adventure:
#12 Take a Scenic Floatplane Tour
A scenic floatplane tour is a unique way to see The Maine Highlands from a different perspective. It truly is a great way to appreciate the enormity and rage of geography in our region! Many companies offer fall foliage tours, sunset tours, and wildlife watching tours.
The Maine Highlands is also home to the International Seaplane Fly-In, which is held in Greenville annually the weekend after Labor Day.
#13 Eat Real Bean Hole Beans
Traditional baked beans are made the old fashioned way – in a bean hole! Beans are soaked overnight and boiled the next day in a cast iron bean pot. Salt pork, molasses, sugar, mustard, salt, pepper, and onions are added. The pot is lowered onto a bed of hot coals in a hole in the ground to cook for 8 hours. It’s not glamorous, but it is delicious.
There are two places where you can experience these beans in The Maine Highlands. The Riverdrivers Supper at the Lincoln Loon Festival is one. The other is during Living History Days at Leonard’s Mills in Bradley. Both events are fun and family-friendly!
#14 Hike Borestone Mountain
One of our favorite hikes in The Maine Highlands is Borestone Mountain. It’s one of the six peaks in the Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit. Located near Monson in Willimantic, the mountain is a part of Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary.
The first part of the hike is along a bumpy road up to Midday Pond. Sign in here at the cabin and enjoy the view! The trek takes you around the pond before going vertical and scrambling to the top. Don’t stop at the first peak you find…you’ll have to descend a bit to the highest peak.
To the east you’ll see the Penobscot River. To the west you’ll see the western Maine mountains and, a little further, the Quebec border.
#15 Plan a Winter Hike
Hiking isn’t just a warm weather activity. Winter hiking opens up a whole new landscape to explore! Many of the trails in The Maine Highlands are maintained all year long, and there are several winter hikes that are part of the Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit.
Whether you’re looking to summit a mountain or take a fun, leisurely stroll (or snowshoe) through a winding wooded path, you need to take precautions. Read our blog post all about winter hiking and start planning YOUR winter adventure!
#16 Discover Downtown Bangor
If you’re looking for a walkable city with great restaurants and shopping opportunities, head to downtown Bangor. The Queen City is home to a bevy of downtown boutiques, breweries, cafes, and restaurants. Grab a coffee and browse locally owned stores for a memento of your trip! Dining options include Indian food, Pho, seafood, wood-fired pizzas, farm-to-table bistros, Mexican cuisine, rustic Italian, and more. Restaurants are small and quaint, and most of the owners will welcome you through the door.
Catch a performance at the historic Bangor Opera House or Cross Insurance Center. Darlings Waterfront Pavilion is home to national music tours during the summer. Cozy bars offer live music and trivia every night of the week. Local breweries abound, and you could spend a happy afternoon walking from tasting room to tasting room.
Try the world famous wings at Geaghan’s Pub, brunch at Timber Bar & Grill, and a romantic dinner at Fiddlehead. You won’t be disappointed!
#17 Take Part in the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race
The Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race, held annually on the third weekend of April, is the largest paddling event in New England and one of the largest in the country. Hosted by the Bangor Dept. of Parks & Recreation, the 16.5 mile race begins in the Town of Kenduskeag and ends near the confluence of the Penobscot River in downtown Bangor.
Although the number of paddlers varies from year to year, as many as 1,500 contestants have participated in a single race during the mid-1990s. Since 1967, over 28,000 paddlers have participated in the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race.
This is a fun event each year, and many participants dress up and paddle a themed canoe.
#18 Go Snowmobiling
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to own a snowmobile to explore the trails. Many businesses in The Maine Highlands will rent you everything you need-and even guide you on a ride. There’s no excuse not to try snowmobiling this winter!
Our rural landscape and well groomed trails entice adventurers from New England and Canada. A snowmobiling adventure is easier to take than you think, and if you’ve never tried it…this is your year! Check that off of your Maine winter bucket list!
#19 Get Away From it all at the AMC Wilderness Lodges
Life can be stressful. Unwind in the wilderness by spending some time at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Maine Wilderness Lodges. Located near Moosehead Lake, Medawisla, Little Lyford, and Gorman Chairback Lodges and Cabins are the perfect retreat any time of year.
In warmer months you can hike or take your fat bike between lodges, and in the winter you can snowshoe or cross country ski! Cozy up in the main lodge and play board games in front of a roaring fire or sip a glass of wine on your front porch.
Written by Melanie Brooks