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Baxter State Park, Maine

Baxter State Park is a year-round North Maine outdoor oasis that is best known for containing Katahdin, Maine's highest mountain. More than 40 peaks and ridges neighbor Katahdin in the park, which also is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Former Maine Governor Percival Baxter founded Baxter State Park over a period of three decades to designate a section of land especially for the people of Maine. But with historic hiking trails, outstanding hunting, and a slew of fresh water ponds, the locals aren't the only ones who've come to covet this rich tract of land.

Home to Maine's largest mountain, Baxter State Park boasts some of the finest hiking in the region. More than 200 miles of hiking trails transect some of the wildest landscapes of New England, some of which have been traveled for more than 100 years. A local favorite is The North Traveler Trail, which begins near South Branch Pond and scales North Traveler Mountain. The peak opens great views of the nearby ponds and surrounding woodlands. Don't be intimidated by the Slaughter Pond route. There's no danger here-only fun. This trail passes several small ponds and ends at Nesowadnehunk Stream. The Twin Ponds trail begins at Two Ponds and gains elevations as hikers skirt around East Turner Mountain before ending at the pristine Katahdin Lake, a great place to take a dip, especially in the peak of summer. No trip to Baxter would be complete with hiking part of the Appalachian Trail, the 2,184-mile mega trail. You only need to hike a few of the miles that traverse the park to appreciate how challenging it is to hike it in its entirety.

Baxter State Park is dotted with bodies of water-there's dozens of lakes, ponds, bogs and marshes braided across this primal landscape. Grab your rod and try to hook some brookies, the most common fish in the park. Yellow perch, bullhead and cusk are also relatively common. About a quarter of the park is also open to hunting and trapping. Permits are required for both. Discover why Maine is teeming with wildlife at the Scientific Forest Management Area, a popular hunting spot.

Baxter's lakes and ponds are perfect for paddling. Rent a canoe or kayak at one of the local concessions and head out on the smooth water. You'll feel at one with nature here, amid the evergreens and wildlife that inhabit this largely untouched ecosystem. If you're lucky, you'll spot some of Baxter's iconic creatures: moose, which thrive here (they are protected from hunters), black bears, bobcats and otters. Remember to keep a safe distance, especially from cow moose with calves and bull moose during the mating season. As docile as they may seem, they can be highly aggressive. Adrenaline junkies should head to Webster Stream for its Class III rapids, or Grand Pitch whose Class V rapids churn after the winter melts off.

Take Maine by storm at the New England Outdoor Center. This outfitter offers everything from whitewater rafting to snowmobile rentals and hunting trips. Katadin Outfitters leads canoe, kayaking and fishing trips. They're a 25-year established Allagash wilderness outfitter.

Besides guided trips, the New England Outdoor Center is a great lodging spot at the end of the day. Their lakeside lodges offer a private escape into the wilderness or eco-friendly Coveside Guesthouses. For more rustic accommodations, try the Big Moose Inn. There's lakeside and trailside cabins, or keep it down-to-earth at their campground.

Don't forget to take your PAG240T-7 along for the ride. Its digital compass and altimeter are extremely useful if you plan to scale the tallest mountain in Maine. Its barometer will be helpful in planning your activities around Maine's notoriously unpredictable weather. And the five daily alarms will keep all your vacation plans on track.

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