Boat camping on Farm Island.

Magical Moosehead

By Tom Richardson; Photography by Tom Richardson

There’s no place like Moosehead. I’ve visited Maine’s largest lake since I was five years old, and it never fails to delight. Through the 1970’s up to the time I went to college, our family would make an annual August pilgrimage to Lily Bay State Park campground, where my younger brother and I would fish, canoe, hike, swim and generally immerse ourselves in the many outdoors activities this natural wonderland has to offer. To this day, my heart beats a bit faster every time I crest the top of Indian Hill and see the big lake spread out before me.

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Moosehead chub are ready to please young anglers, but bigger game awaits.

I now visit Moosehead with my own family, and am happy to report that not much has changed since my formative years. The lake remains largely pristine and clean, with much of its shoreline free of development, save for scattered cabins and homes nestled amid the pines. Boat traffic is remarkably light for such a big, deep and accessible waterbody, and there are numerous islands and hidden coves where swimming, picnicking and nature-watching are possible, and where you might not see another person the entire day.

 

Sailboats are right at home on Moosehead's deep, wide waters.

Lovely Lily Bay

Lily Bay Sate Park, on the eastern shore of Moosehead, makes a great base for enjoying the lake and its surrounding countryside. The park offers tent and RV camping from drive-up sites around Lily Bay and Rowells Cove, and maintains two separate launch ramps and docks where trailer-boaters, for an additional fee, can leave their vessels.

 

Many Lily Bay campers bring or rent kayaks and canoes, as the surrounding waters comprise a paddler’s paradise. Several public islands close to shore make ideal rest-stops for picnics and swimming, while myriad shallow coves provide excellent protection on windy days. Loons, mergansers ad heron abound in this area, and if you’re lucky, you may even happen upon a moose or bald eagle!

 

Breakfast of champions: skillet-cooked eggs and hash.

On the opposite side of the lake is the town of Rockwood, centered around the Moose River. The Moose is a renowned fishing spot for landlocked salmon in the spring and fall, and many anglers find a welcome home at Maynard’s In Maine, a venerable sporting camp dating back to the turn of the 19th Century. Maynard’s offers rustic but comfortable cabins overlooking the river, “family-style” meals, and is open year-round (in winter it serves as a perennial stopover for snowmobilers).

 

Northwoods Outfitters in Greenville is the place for outdoor adventures and gear.

Mysterious Mountain

From Rockwood, boaters and paddlers can launch trips to Mount Kineo, the largest chunk of ryolite on earth and a sacred spot among the native Algonquin Indians, which used the flaky stone to make weapons, tools and trade goods. Once the summer retreat of railroad barons, Kineo squats over the lake like a bald, brooding troll, and its treeless, 1,800-foot summit makes an easy day hike for water-borne visitors who can dock at the southern tip of the peninsula. The mountain’s northern face is a sheer cliff that plummets into the deepest part of the lake. This 300-foot “hole” is a mysterious place, and known to harbor enormous lake trout.

 

Also within easy striking distance of Rockwood are a series of free wilderness camping sites, available on a first-come, first-served basis and only accessible by water. They come equipped with picnic tables and firepits, as well as nearby outhouses. Two such sites are located in Farm Island, where campers can enjoy the spectacular sunrise behind Mount Kineo.

Mount Borestone is one of many family-friendly hikes in the Moosehead Region.

Activity Hub

The largest town on Moosehead is Greenville, at the southernmost part of the lake. The town, once the endpoint for 1800s rusticators escaping city swelter, is home to several shops, restaurants, a grocery store and, most importantly for the outdoors-minded, Northwoods Outfitters. The staff here can arrange nearly any type of outdoors adventure, from moose-watching safaris to fishing to whitewater rafting to seaplane rides. They also sell and rent outdoor equipment, including clothing, kayaks, canoes, ATVs and mountain bikes.

 

Speaking of offroading, Greenville serves as a hub for ATV and biking enthusiasts, with an extensive network of dirt trails that wind deep into the surrounding forest. Indeed, it’s common to see dust-covered ATV riders cruising through town after a long day on the trails.

 

ATV trails afford access to many interesting spots. Photo AJ Derosa

White-Knuckle Rafting

But back to the water. Whitewater rafting is a big draw in the Moosehead area, as three major rivers—the Penobscot, the Dead and the Kennebec—are within easy striking distance, all of them offering thrilling Class 5 rapids. Several rafting companies in the area run half- and full-day trips, the latter featuring riverside camp-style lunches.

 

Hikers appreciate the Moosehead region for its variety of mountains, ranging from easy, kid-friendly climbs to more strenuous hikes. Nearby Borestone Mountain, about 40 minutes from Greenville, fits squarely in the former category, and children as young as five will have no trouble tackling the three-mile hike to the 1,981-foot summit, which offers a stunning 360-degree view of the rolling countryside. Other nearby peaks with well-marked trails include Big and Little Spencer, Doubletop, Mountain No. 4, and Little Moose.

 

From the lake to the mountains, Moosehead offers everything you need for an unforgettable summer adventure!

Numerous wilderness campsites are free for the taking—if you can get to them.

The RV Option

RV enthusiasts will find plenty of places to stay on and around Moosehead. Some options include:

Lily Bay State Park (lilybay.org): State-run facility offering bare sites. Firewood and outhouses available. No electric or water.

Moosehead Family Campground (mfcrv.com): Offers 20, 30, and 50 amp sites, with large, private wooded and open sites, all with fire rings and picnic tables. Pull-through sites can accommodate any length RV/trailer.

Seboomook Wilderness Campground (seboomook.com):  SWC affords a wilderness experience with tent sites, RV sites, cabins, and Adirondack lean-to shelters. Water and electric on site.

 

Many Moosehead campgrounds welcome RV's.