Explore More of Maine - The Maine Highlands

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At the heart of our beautiful state is The Maine Highlands. Featuring the state’s highest mountain, Mt. Katahdin, largest lake, Moosehead, and the longest river, the Penobscot, and hundreds of thousands of acres of undeveloped wilderness. Central Maine is also dotted with vibrant small towns, including the great town of Milo and its surrounding lakes, rivers and trails.

Explore More Ambassador Jenna Valente of Cumberland, ME, shares her favorite to-dos in the Milo region while taking the time to explore some new places she had never visited before in the area.

LOCATIONS VISITED: 

  • Milo
  • Brownville
  • Schoodic Lake
  • Ebeemee Lake
  • Jo-Mary Lake and Campground
TIME OF YEAR VISITED: Mid-June 2022

DURATION OF STAY: Two days. I drove up from the Portland area around mid-day on Friday, explored the area on Saturday, and drove back home Sunday morning. 

WHERE TO EAT NEARBY (IF APPLICABLE):

  • Milo: Bissell Brothers: Three Rivers Brewery & Taproom, Elaine’s Café & Bakery, Pats Pizza Milo  
  • Brownville Junction: North & Southeats 

THINGS TO DO WHILE VISITING:

1. Gulf Hagas

Lovingly referred to as “The Grand Canyon of Maine,” this area is part of the Appalachian Trail corridor, which is federally owned and managed by the National Park Service. The network of trails spans 11.8-miles and is suitable for hikers that are comfortable with advanced to difficult terrain. During the warmer months, this trail is heavily trafficked, especially on weekends. People flock to this remote location because they are drawn to its sheer beauty. Namely, the part of the trail where the West Branch of the Pleasant River descends 400-feet through Gulf Hagas over the course of 4-miles in a series of waterfalls. Please note that there is a section of this trail where you must ford a 100-foot stretch of river so be sure to bring an extra pair of dry socks. There is an option to skip this section of trail but it requires advanced planning. Please visit Maine Trail Finder to learn more and explore your options.

2. Schoodic LakeSchoodic Lake - water in foreground with treeline on the right side and clouds in the sky

Just an hour-and-a-half outside of Bangor, Schoodic Lake is one of the largest lakes in the Maine Highlands Region and is one of the state’s premier fishing areas. It is great lake for swimming, boating, and stargazing. Because of the depth of this lake (reaching 188-feet in places), please take caution when swimming as it often takes longer than most lakes to warm up. Abundant fish in the lake are as follows: brook trout, smallmouth bass, perch, and sunfish. There are two public boat launches along the 32-mile shoreline of this lake, the rest is privately owned so be sure to map out the boat launches in advance of your trip. 

3. Ebeemee Lake

Just outside of Brownville, Ebeemee Lake is made up of a series of four ponds: West Pond, East Pond, Horseshoe Pond, and Pearl Pond. The ponds cover a total of 905-acres. It is a fairly shallow lake, with the maximum depth hovering around 47-feet and the mean depth at 8-feet. This is an incredibly secluded and quiet area that offers spectacular mountain views. Moose, loon, and other wildlife sightings are common here. This area promises plenty of activities in all seasons, including hiking, fishing, boating, hunting, golf, swimming, 4-wheeling, and snowmobiling. Ebeemee Lake is about 30-minutes from Baxter State Park and its crown-jewel, Mount Katahdin. It is even closer to Katahdin Ironworks access road to Gulf Hagas and historic site, which was originally built in 1843. The historic site now features a 17-acre park where you can enjoy a picnic or stroll around and view the historic blast furnace and beehive-shaped charcoal kiln. 

blue lake with green mountain ranges in the background

4. Jo-Mary Lake, Campground, and surrounding area

Jo-Mary Campground offers 70 campsites along the shore of Jo-Mary Lake, most of which have views of Mount Katahdin. There are boat launches, showers, flushing toilets, a dumping station, as well as amenities like firewood, a laundromat, ice and propane available at the check-in building. Located at the campground is a pristine, white sand beach offering views of Katahdin and the surrounding mountain ranges. This lake is perfect for swimming and fishing. People fishing can expect to catch landlocked salmon, brook trout, white perch, and lake trout. Please note that dogs are not allowed on the beach. 

 brown log cabin with a sign that says jo-maryWoman standing on a beach with mountains and a lake in the background

I recommend venturing away from the campground to explore the surrounding area because Jo-Mary Campground is located within the 170,000-acre Katahdin Ironworks/Jo-Mary Multi-Use Forest. All visitors must register to enter the area and are welcome to explore at their leisure. Please note that all locations in this area, including Gulf Hagas, the Appalachian Trail, Gauntlet Falls, and more than 70 remote ponds and lakes are accessible by a dirt road where, in many places, there is no cell phone service. Please plan accordingly. 

waterfall over large rocks in the foreground, river with surrounding trees in the backgroundGauntlet Falls, Photos by Jenna Valenta

TRAVEL TIPS AND WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE VISITING:

  1. Travel Distances:
    1. This area is about 3-hours north of Portland. It’s an easy drive, mostly on I-95. 
    2. Milo is about 1.5 hours south of Baxter State Park.
    3. Milo is about an hour from the Gulf Hagas Trailhead.
    4. Milo is about 40-minutes from Jo-Mary Campground.
  2. Limited Cell Service: This trip includes quite a few dirt roads and places where cell service is limited or not available. Please carry a map with you, plenty of water, food, warm clothes, and let people know your travel plans. 
  3. Please drive with caution. Take those moose crossing signs seriously.
  4. Bugs: During the months of May and June, black flies, ticks, and mosquitos can be intense in this area. Dress accordingly and carry bug spray. 
  5. Lodging: Hotel lodging can be tricky to find in this region. There is plenty of camping available. I recommend Jo-Mary Campground. If you’re looking for a more comfortable experience with amenities, exploring Airbnb options for Schoodic and Ebeemee Lakes will likely result in some options as many people have camps in this region that they do not use year-round.

More from our Explore More Ambassador: Generations of roots planted in Milo

painting on side of a building that says welcome to Milo Living in Maine, it’s common to hear people quip, “you can’t get there from here,” while offering directions that require you to back track before making progress toward your destination or while offering their best impression of a true Main-ah. However, it feels to me like the adage should be amended to say, “you can’t get there from here, unless you go through Milo.” 

For decades, my family has shared laughs over a running joke that all roads lead back to Milo, both because we have generations of roots planted there and also we feel like everyone we meet has some connection to this tiny, old train town. Just as the town is crisscrossed with railroad junctions, I’m convinced that, if you live in Maine, some junction of your life path connects through Milo.   

I chose to share this location because it’s a place that I know and love because my family and a few of our extended family members have camps on the lakes in the area. It is a nature lovers dream, with its wealth of hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing opportunities - for anyone interested in spotting a moose, this would be a great region to explore.

In the spirit of exploring more this summer through this ambassadorship, I added a few places I had never visited in the area to my itinerary during my last trip.

a beer with a sticker with mountains and trees that says explore more leaning on it 

Whenever I visit this region, my go-to first stop is always Bissell Brothers: Three Rivers Brewery & Taproom to recharge after the hours-long drive from the Portland area. This place is an absolute gem and, in addition to the best beer around, also offers the best food also. They often welcome guest chefs to their kitchen and have local musicians playing on their outdoor stage in their sizeable outdoor seating area. Typically, I will eat there, grab some beers, and order some takeout food to bring to camp to eat at a later time because there are not a ton of restaurant options in the area. 

From there I make my way to camp, settle in and decompress for a cozy evening of lake living. Having a home base is a great option if you’re someone that likes a warm bed, shower, and hearty meal at the end of a day of exploring. You can also leave all of your belongings at camp and travel lightly while you’re off on your adventures. If you prefer camping, there are countless campgrounds with hiking, fishing, swimming, and boating opportunities all within walking distance or a short drive. 

My favorite thing about this region is that, no matter how many times I visit, there is no possible way for me to see everything there is to see. There is always something new to explore. The best part of this particular trip was visiting Jo-Mary Lake. Part of Jo-Mary Campground included a white sand, crescent-shaped beach that perfectly frames a view of Mount Katahdin in the distance. I had the beach entirely to myself while I was there, although I’m told that during the warmer summer months, finding solitude on the beach is rare. The day I visited Jo-Mary, I saw two moose before noon. It’s always a joy to see these majestic creatures – and incredibly humbling to be reminded of just how massive they are. 

Reclaimed Maine Co. was founded on a deep love for nature with hopes of inspiring others to give back to the environment and explore as often as they can. Whether you've recently reclaimed your love for the outdoors or you've been a nature-lover your whole life, we want to hear about your adventures. We're looking for like-minded people who are looking to explore new places and share their experiences. Learn more here or shop our Explore More Collection.  


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