By BJ Bangs
Mount Blue State Park is a great place for camping, hiking, fishing, paddling and having that rustic tenting experience. That, combined with the innovative Nature Center and educational activities make it a favorite for people of all ages.
Located in the mountainous region of Western Maine, Mount Blue State Park is not the most visited state park in Maine, but it’s the largest, encompassing approximately 8,000 acres. It’s almost two parks in one, being separated by about 15 miles, across the expanse of Webb Lake. The lakeside area hosts the 136 well-spaced campsites, designed for tents or trailers, complete with a picnic table and fireplace. Shower, bath areas are strategically located for camper’s convenience.
Sandy Webb Beach is ideal for swimming and paddling. Canoes, kayaks and paddleboats are available to rent. Adjacent to the beach area is a playground for the kids, and nearby is a docking area for motorized and non-motorized boats. One will also find the Nature Center, complete with everything from a two-inch striped turtle, to snakes, and educational activities, including the popular night owl walk.
Kids can cycle around the campground, and for those diehard mountain bikers, there’s access to some very challenging trails along the ATV trail system on the other side of Webb Lake. A second more secluded picnic area, Center Hill, is located on the opposite side of Webb Lake near Mount Blue on 7,300 acres. A self-guiding nature trail around the top of Center Hill provides awesome views. Keep going and you’ll get to the entry way for the 5.5-mile Mount Blue Trail that will provide a challenge. This is where most of the winter activities take place,.
Hiking is also popular. Within 15 miles, people can gain access to the Appalachian Trail which crosses Route 4 and 17 north of Weld. Even though the Tumbledown Range is technically not in the park, it’s protected by the Maine Bureau of Public Lands, and is nearby. Park supervisor Bruce Farnham explains that from 1999 through 2002, the Maine Department of Conservation worked with the Tumbledown Conservation Alliance to expand key sections of Mount Blue State Park, protect critical buffer lands, and conserve significant portions of the Tumbledown Range. Thanks to the hard work of these partners, the state was able to protect approximately 30,000 acres. that guarantees the future of the popular hiking on Tumbledown.
The Brook Trail is an easy climb to the top, which proves popular because of Tumbledown Pond at the top. The Loop Trail is a challenge even for the most experienced hiker. The easiest hikes would be Bald Mountain and the Brook Trail up Tumbledown; Mount Blue and Blueberry Mountain would be considered in the middle. Tumbledown’s Loop Trail and Little Jackson would be considered the most challenging.
Mount Blue State Park was one of the pioneers in the educational element for the kids, constructing the Nature Center back in the ’60s. The outdoor amphitheater offers nature movies or educational lectures weekly.
They arrange for carpooling to other locations including gold panning along the Swift River or wildlife viewing. People volunteer to drive, and it’s kind of a car caravan, where one person leads and the others follow.
For Tom Weeks and TJ Pooler of Oakland, who were taking down their tents, they came here for the first time because their friends recommended it.
“This is out in the middle of nowhere, and it’s pretty cool. It’s quiet. We came out to hang out for a day. We’re going to do some fishing today.”
Being able to have a personal group site is a big plus for Trisha and Roland Depalma of Clinton, who make camping a family affair. They chose to get married at Mount Blue State Park two years ago, renting one of the group sites. That makes coming back even more special. When the kids were younger, we’d take them to amusement places like Story Land. Then, we started checking out state forts. Now, it’s the state parks.
“We always tent. There are a few that bring in a camper. But to us camping is when you blow up the mattress and put the stakes in for the tent. … We found everything we were looking for here and have kept coming back for the past six to seven years.”
Dan Brown of Kingfield comes to Mount Blue State Park to fish and to camp with their trailer. “We could do this from home, but it’s not the same. It’s a lot of work to go camping, but it’s worth it.”
His father-in-law, Donald Tranten of Kingfield has been coming here every year for 51 years. That in itself is a statement about why people want to come back year after year, he said.
Farnham explains it was during the Great Depression in the 1930s, the federal government purchased 51 parcels of marginal farmland under the U.S. Resettlement Administration Land Utilization Project. The Federal Works Progress Administration hired workers and began to build the infrastructure of roads and buildings that would become Mount Blue State Park. The U.S. Department of Agriculture transferred the property to the state in 1955 for $1.
Mount Blue State Park is open and fully staffed from May 15 through Columbus Day, but visitors are welcome year-round. Park hours are 9 a.m. to sunset. Earlier openings vary with the season; call ahead for these and campground hours. Reservations are recommended.
Contact the State Park Reservations Office: 1-800-332-1501 in Maine; 207-624-9950 from outside Maine; or make your own reservations online at www.campwithme.com.
To contact the park office directly at 299 Center Hill Road, Weld, call 207-585-2347, in the summer, or 207-585-2261 in the winter.