Maine’s diverse natural landscape is home to more than 6,000 lakes and ponds, cool and refreshing gems scattered about the state from York County to Aroostook, the western mountains to Down East that offer plenty of options for recreation and relaxation in the summer sun.
Little more than a bathing suit, towel and tube of sunscreen are required to enjoy a day at the lake splashing about in the clear blue waters with friends and family. Add a canoe or kayak to the mix, and you’re ready for some great paddling. Launch the motorboat for hours of cruising or, if you’re an angler, fish for salmon, trout or bass.
Take a break from the lake, strap on your day pack and strike off on miles of hiking trails leading to mountaintop vistas. Tackle the single-track trails on your mountain bike or pedal the quiet back roads for some scenic exercise. And have the camera and binoculars ready for those picture-postcard scenic shots and photos of that big moose, bald eagle or loon. Day trips are fine, but there’s nothing like a weekend or a week in a comfy campsite tucked into the pines on or near a lake or pond, with the tent or camper as your home away from home, the camp chairs set up around the fire pit, a hearty meal cooking on the grill, a cold drink at the ready, and good company all around.
Ahh, summertime fun in Maine, so many lakes and ponds, so little time it seems between the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Make the most of it and head to the lake with all your toys and enjoy. Here are a handful of Maine’s best lakes just waiting for you to visit.
The western side of Mount Desert Island is often referred as the “quiet side” of the island, removed as it is from the hubbub of Bar Harbor and the main part of Acadia National Park. That’s where you’ll find picturesque Echo Lake, just off Route 102 and a few miles outside of Southwest Harbor.
The big draw is the south end of the lake and Echo Lake Beach, a compact man-made beach and the most popular swimming spot in Acadia National Park. Unlike the bracing ocean waters at Sand Beach, this freshwater lake reaches comfortable summertime temperatures and offers superb swimming.
Nestled beneath the soaring Beech Cliffs, the scenery is as wonderful as the swimming and relaxing in the sun. Several hiking trails lead a short distance to the top of the cliffs, which afford spectacular views over the island. Launch a canoe or kayak at Ike’s Point just up the road to enjoy sublime paddling. Camp in the park at Seawall Campground or at one of several privately operated campgrounds in the area of Echo Lake.
Flagstaff Lake in Franklin and Somerset counties ranges some 20 miles from west to east, from the village of Stratton in Eustis Township to Long Falls Dam at the end of Long Falls Dam Road. The 45-foot dam impounded the Dead River in 1950 and submerged the river valley and the little towns of Flagstaff, Dead River and Bigelow.
The 36,000-acre Bigelow Preserve occupies most of the southern shoreline of Flagstaff Lake. Miles of hiking trails, including a chunk of the Appalachian Trail, traverse the five high alpine summits of the Bigelow Range. Six boat launch sites allow access for canoes, kayaks and motorboats, while a dozen drive-in and water-access campsites provide overnight camping options.
The Flagstaff Hut of the Maine Huts & Trails system on the east shore of Flagstaff Lake offers not only a grand wilderness view of the Bigelows, but backcountry accommodations and delicious meals. At the other end of the lake, camp and recreate amid the famously fragrant 300-acre plot of red pines encompassed by Cathedral Pines Campground.
Bigelow Preserve: www.maine.gov/dacf/parks, 207-778-8231
Maine Huts & Trails: www.mainehuts.org, 207-265-2400
Cathedral Pines Campground: www.gopinescamping.com, 207-246-3491
Sugarloaf Area Chamber of Commerce: www.sugarloafchamber.org
Maine’s Lakes & Mountains Tourism Council: www.mainelakesandmountains.com, 888-688-0099
Maine’s largest lake ranges more than 30 miles in a north-south direction along the western edge of Piscataquis County from tiny Seboomook to the town of Greenville. Ten miles wide and encompassing 280 miles of shoreline, sprawling Moosehead Lake is the headwaters of the Kennebec, West Branch of the Penobscot, Piscataquis, Pleasant and St. John rivers.
Greenville, considered to be the gateway to the Maine’s famed North Woods, has a nice variety of shops, eateries and lodging. Hire a float plane for a fantastic bird’s eye view of the lake and the surrounding wild country, or hop aboard the historic steamer “Katahdin” for a three-hour cruise on the lake.
Reached by ferry from Rockwood, the iconic 700-foot cliff face of Mount Kineo and its hiking trails and carriage roads are a must-see. Little Moose Public Reserved Land is home to 15,000 acres of remote ponds and mountaintops, miles of trails and back-country camping. Climb Big Moose Mountain for a panoramic view of Moosehead Lake all the way north to Katahdin in Baxter State Park. Settle into a nice spot at Lily Bay State Park, where more than 240 campsites await, plus a wonderful beach for swimming and picnicking.
Moosehead Lake Region Chamber of Commerce: www.mooseheadlake.org, 207-695-2702
Mount Kineo State Park: www.maine.gov/dacf/parks, 207-941-4014
Little Moose Public Reserved Land: www.maine.gov/dacf/parks, 207-778-8231
Lily Bay State Park, www.maine.gov/dacf/parks, 207-695-2700
Seven miles across from tiny Oquossuc to the village of Rangeley, beautiful Rangeley Lake in Franklin County is one of the major headwater lakes of the Androscoggin River watershed and one of six large lakes in the region that also includes many other smaller lakes and ponds, rivers and streams.
Public boat landings in Rangeley and Oquossuc and at Rangeley Lake State Park provide access for motor and paddle travel on the waters, for pleasure as well as fishing. The 869-acre state park on the south shore also features 50 campsites and a nice swimming beach. Climb the easy mile to the top of Bald Mountain for 360-degree views ranging over the Rangeley Lakes region from Saddleback and the Bigelows west to the New Hampshire mountains.
Rangeley Lake State Park: www.maine.gov/dacf/parks, 207-864-3858
Bald Mountain Public Reserved Land: www.maine.gov/dacf/parks, 207-778-8231
Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce: www.rangeleymaine.com, 207-864-5571
Located 15 miles northwest of Portland, Maine’s deepest and second largest lake encompasses 45 square miles and spans six towns, from Standish, Frye Island and Windham to Raymond, Casco and Sebago, and serves as the heart of Maine’s Lakes Region in Cumberland County. Sebago Lake is the source of the Presumpscot River, which flows 26 miles to the sea.
Sebago Lake is popular with anglers for its prized landlocked salmon, as well as lake, brook and brown trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass and northern pike. There are five public boat launches.
Sebago Lake State Park on the north shore is one of Maine’s five original state parks. Established in 1938, the 1,400-acre park features a long stretch of sandy beach and excellent swimming, with picnic tables, grills and log pavilions in the adjacent piney woods. Miles of park roads and trails are perfect for walking and biking, while 250 campsites provide for overnight camping.
Sebec Lake spans 11 miles from east to west a few miles north of Dover-Foxcroft in the central highlands of Piscataquis County. Known for its trout, salmon and other game fish, the lake sports boat launch sites at Sebec and Greeleys Landing.
Peaks-Kenny State Park on the southwest shore is the most popular attraction on the lake. The park’s 839 acres feature boating, fishing, swimming, hiking and picnicking.
With a mile of lakefront, a sandy beach and several miles of pleasant hiking trails, there are plenty of ways to have a good time in the park. Peaks-Kenny also has camping on 56 sites.
Visit Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary to hike its Base and Summit trails for amazing vistas north into the rugged 100-Mile Wilderness.
The star attraction of Mount Blue State Park, more so than perhaps even its namesake mountain, is lovely Webb Lake. Five miles long and 2,100 acres in size, the lake is a wonderful place to swim, picnic, fish, canoe or boat.
Relax on the sandy beach or the grassy promenade and enjoy the striking view of the conical form of Mount Blue. Visit the exhibits and displays in the nature center, walk the wooded trails or bike the quiet park roads. A stone’s throw from Webb Lake is the park campground and 136 secluded sites.
Take a hike up Mount Blue and enjoy the views from the observation tower atop its 3,190-foot summit. For a milder hike, try the loop trail on Center Hill. More miles of hiking are found nearby on Tumbledown, Little Jackson and Blueberry mountains; all part of the 8,000-acre state park, Maine’s largest.