Top 10 Things to Do in Millinocket Maine: A Comprehensive Guide
By: Ted Tibbetts, Northern Outdoors River Guide
Millinocket, Maine is a picturesque town located in the heart of the Pine Tree State. Known for its stunning natural beauty and outdoor recreational activities, Millinocket offers a variety of experiences for visitors to enjoy. If you’re planning a trip to Millinocket and wondering what to do, we’ve got you covered- from hiking to rafting (of course), fishing to exploring the town’s rich history, here are our top recommendations to help you make the most of your visit. So, without further ado, let’s dive in and discover the best of Millinocket!
Outdoor Activities in Millinocket, Maine
While some folks defer to the tropics, Millinocket is THE paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with plenty of activities to suit all interests and skill levels! Whether you’re looking for a leisurely hike or an adrenaline-fueled adventure, there’s something for everyone here. Here are some of the top outdoor activities to try in Millinocket:
1. Whitewater Rafting the Penobscot River
The mighty West Branch of the Penobscot River weaves its way through northern Maine, pools in Chesuncook Lake, then cascades through McKay Station, the Ripogenous Gorge, and alongside Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain. This tumble creates one of the world’s best commercial white water rafting rivers. It’s exciting…two Class V rapids in the first 30 minutes of the trip. Here’s a bonus- the hard granite of the gorge doesn’t hide any dangerous undercuts or retentive holes famous in southeastern rivers, making the Penobscot one of the safer rivers on the East Coast. Not to mention, Northern Outdoors’ team of full time Penobscot River guides are some of the most experienced in the state, with over 60 years of combined guiding experience.
Farther downstream you get to experience one of the world’s most unique whitewater features: Nesowadnehunk Falls! Nesowadnehunk is a 12-foot, Class IV waterfall. What’s remarkable about this feature is that although a 12-foot drop into a massive wave is exciting, the large recovery pool at the bottom makes the rapid a veritable white water playground with fairly low consequences. Plus…for the adventurous…you can often carry the raft back up and do it again and again! Where in the world can you find another feature like that?! The spectacular scenery dotted with eagles, osprey, the occasional moose, and other local wildlife, round out the trip making the Penobscot River one of the MUST-DO activities for outdoor lovers visiting the Millinocket area.
2.Hiking in Baxter State Park
One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of Millinocket is on foot. There are numerous hiking trails in the area, ranging from leisurely strolls to lung-burning climbs. One popular option is the hike up to the summit of Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, the highest peak in Maine. The trail is steep and rocky, but the views from the top are well worth the effort. If you’re looking for something with less sweat, consider a moose-seeking stroll around River Pond Nature Trails or a shorter hike up North Turner Mountain.
3. Fly Fishing and Spin Casting
The clean and varied waters of Millinocket and the Katahdin Region make for outstanding fishing, no matter what species or style of fishing you prefer. For fly fishing, the West Branch of the Penobscot River offers fly anglers an opportunity to catch landlocked salmon and brook trout all summer long. The West Branch of the Penobscot is fed by the deep waters of Chesunkook Lake so it maintains relatively cool temperatures to maintain both Landlocked Salmon and Brooktrout fisheries, even in the first week of August. The Salmon of the West Branch are both acrobatic and strong fighters once they are hooked. Most guides in the area provide all the equipment needed, and some, like Kennebec River Anglers and Horizon Line Adventures, will even take time to teach you how to catch a fish on a fly rod, guaranteed!
For Spin Casting, many of the ponds and streams of Baxter State Park are general regulations. Check the law book, or with your local ranger before you start casting to make sure you know the rules and where you are. But, if you are looking to make a trout dinner out of a can of worms Baxter State Park has plenty of places to plunk a worm. Among my favorite bass spots include the Dolby Flowage and Millinocket Steam. These areas are filled with smallmouth bass, and every once in a while, a salmon or brook trout. The East Branch of the Penobscot, upstream of Medway contains some fast-action bass fishing as well.
4.Scenic Drives on Back Roads
Millinocket, Maine, is surrounded by stunning landscapes, making it the perfect destination for scenic drives. Here are some of the most beautiful drives to explore in the area:
The Golden Road: This 97-mile stretch of wilderness thoroughfare is privately maintained and runs from Millinocket all the way to the Canadian border crossing in St. Zacharie. The road is mostly dirt, but sometimes paved, and offers breathtaking views of the forest and mountains. (It’s dirt! Seriously consider a compressor and a tire patch kit for this dirt road adventure!)
Baxter State Park Loop: This 52-mile loop takes you through the heart of Baxter State Park, home to Mount Katahdin, the highest peak in Maine. The drive offers scenic views of the park’s lakes, forests, and wildlife.
Both of these drives offers a unique perspective on the natural beauty of Maine. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely drive or an adventurous road trip, Millinocket has something for everyone.
5. Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is another popular attraction near Millinocket. This 87,500-acre national monument is located in the heart of Maine’s North Woods and offers breathtaking views of Katahdin, the highest peak in Maine. Visitors can enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife watching in this beautiful wilderness area.
6. Millinocket Historical Society and Museum
The Millinocket Historical Society and Museum is a great place to learn about the history of Millinocket and the surrounding area. The museum features exhibits on the town’s logging and paper mill industries, as well as displays on local Native American history and the town’s military history. Visitors can also see artifacts from the town’s early days and learn about the people who helped shape Millinocket into the town it is today.
7. Boreal Theater
Boreal Theater is a 48-seat black box community theater with a variety of events for any age, including concerts, storytimes for kids, art shows, and more. This is a great way to weave in a little arts and culture to your Millinocket trip!
Overall, Millinocket offers a variety of sightseeing opportunities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re interested in nature, history, or art, there’s something for everyone to explore in this charming Maine town.
Best Places To Eat in Millinocket Maine
8. Breakfast at The Appalachian Trail Cafe
210 Penobscot Ave, Millinocket, ME
While there are a few places a person can pick up a cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich or a slice of pizza, there is only one restaurant in Millinocket serving a sit-down breakfast. When you are craving a real diner breakfast, head into town and check out the Appalachian Trail Cafe, or AT Cafe for short.
The AT Cafe motif celebrates everything related to hiking the Appalachian Trail. You can find all sorts of memorabilia and signatures of hikers who have visited this little diner.
Famous from Springer Mountain to Katahdin for “chopped tots” with onion, homemade doughnuts and all of the pancakes, omelets, and french toast a person could ever ask for, but the AT Cafe isn’t just serving up the normal everyday breakfast. I encourage you to check out some of the amazing specials, like the Raspberry Fluff Stuffed French Toast if you have a sweet tooth.
If you are not into sweets, perhaps they can interest you in a special called “The Cure”, which consists of shaved steak, onion, chopped tots, cheddar cheese, eggs, and homemade hollandaise sauce. Or maybe The Big Eddy, I supposed you could call it a sandwich, made from a french toast brioche bun filled with bacon, cheddar, egg, and maple drizzled fried chicken.
Note, the AT Cafe is an experience that should not be rushed. Take a hint from the locals and slow down, take your time, and enjoy a little conversation with your coffee and breakfast.
9. Lunch at The North Woods Trading Post / Golden Road Crossing
1605 Baxter State Park Road
Call 207-723-4326 to place an order, here is a link to their Menu
If you are headed toward Baxter State Park for the afternoon, the Golden Road to search of a glimpse of a moose, or to the Penobscot River in search of Salmon, you are headed right past the North Woods Trading Post- now known as Golden Road Crossing. While there is a shortage of locations tourists can shop for a t-shirt, hat, local book, or art piece to take home with them, the North Woods Trading Post has a wide variety of quality wares. Pick up gorgeous photographs, carvings, mugs, fishing flies and more!
Owners Tom and Sandy have taken great care in creating something special on the Shores of Millinocket Lake. Tom grew up in the Katahdin Region, guide rafts on the Penobscot, worked at Sugarloaf USA in the winters, and even spent time working as the Chimney Pond Ranger in Baxter State Park. He’s a great source of information if you can catch him. As for the food, I don’t care what you order, it’s all amazing and it’s probably two meals’ worth of food. They do get really busy at lunchtime because even the locals will drive all the way out from town to order lunch here. I suggest calling to place an order for pick up!
Where to Stay During Your Millinocket Adventure
10. Cabins, Cottages, and Camping at the Big Moose Inn
If you’re looking for a more secluded and rustic experience, renting a cabin or cottage may be the way to go. The Big Moose offers a variety of cabins, cottages, and tent sites ranging from basic to luxurious. They are located at the dike connecting the beautiful Ambejejus and Millinocket Lakes. This is a beautiful location, situated between two lakes, within easy walking distance to Frederica’s Restaurant for dinner, or the above mentioned Golden Road Crossing for necessities! Be sure to book your lodging in advance, as Millinocket can get busy during the peak season. You can book your lodging along with your rafting by calling our team at (207) 663-4466!
Millinocket, ME is a great destination for those looking to enjoy the outdoors and experience small-town living. Whether you’re looking for a thrilling descent down the Penobscot River, a delicious breakfast at AT Cafe, or a foray into Baxter State Park, there are plenty of activities that will keep you busy during your stay in Millinocket. For accommodations, Big Moose offers cabins, cottages, and camping sites with varying levels of luxury so make sure to book ahead if you decide on this option. All in all, Millinocket has something special waiting around every corner!
See you on the West Branch!