Camden Hills State Park: The Complete Guide

Camden and Penobscot Bay from Mount Battie in autumn
Hal Beral / Getty Images
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Camden Hills State Park

Address
280 Belfast Rd, Camden, ME 04843-4519, USA
Phone +1 207-236-3109

Maine's Acadia National Park is unrivaled, but if you're looking for a less crowded alternative and would also like to shave 100 minutes of driving time off your trip from points south, consider a visit to Camden Hills State Park. This "mini Acadia" has the same mountains-meet-the-sea appeal. Reaching the summit of Mount Battie, on foot or by car, is the chief aim of most visitors, and from this high point, you might even spy Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park—the highest peak on the U.S. east coast—on a clear day.

Years before this hilly coastal tract officially became a Maine state park in 1947, climbers found the summit of Mount Battie enchanting. The view also charmed writers. Maine-born poet Edna St. Vincent Millay immortalized the summit's panoramic view in her acclaimed 1912 poem, “Renascence.”

In this guide to Camden Hills State Park, you'll discover not only your options for experiencing this beloved view but also some of the overlooked features of this 5,710-acre outdoor recreation area on the shores of Penobscot Bay.

Things to Do

This year-round park also has areas for off-road biking and horseback riding, as well as a full range of winter sports. There's also no shortage of wildlife and birdlife to observe. That said, you'll want to see the famous view from atop Mount Battie so first, choose whether you'll drive or hike to the summit. The 1.1-mile paved auto road is short and scenic, and in no time, you'll be admiring the historic windjammers and other boats in Camden Harbor as well as those three poetic islands in the bay.

A key attraction at the summit is a photogenic stone tower that dates to 1921. It stands on the spot where the 1898 Summit House hotel once welcomed guests. Climb to the top of the 26-foot tower for enhanced aerial views, which are at their finest in the fall when these forested hills turn rich shades of orange, red, and gold. 

Some hikers choose to walk the auto road, but be sure to wear brightly colored clothing and exercise extreme caution on the road. A better option, if you are up for the exertion, is to climb the moderate, half-mile Mount Battie Trail on the mountain's south-facing side. There are some steep sections along this short hike, and you'll need to scramble over rocky areas, but you'll have the pretty town of Camden and island-dotted Penobscot Bay in view along your trek. Another route to the top follows old horse-drawn carriage roads. Considered a moderate hike, the half-mile Carriage Trail climbs through woodlands and intersects the Carriage Road Trail, which will take you the additional 0.8 miles to the summit.

Mount Battie Stone Tower in Camden Hills State Park
Chris_Soucy / Getty Images

Best Hikes & Trails

Camden Hills State Park's more than 30 miles of well-mapped trails offer many other opportunities for avid hikers. Whether you want to take your family on an easy walk or challenge yourself with a strenuous climb, there's a hike in Camden Hills State Park for you. Some of the most popular outings include:

  • Megunticook Trail: Climb nearly 1,000 vertical feet on this mile-long, moderate trail that cuts a direct path up the highest mainland peak in Main: Mount Megunticook. When you reach Ocean Lookout, you'll be rewarded with one of the best views in all of Maine, looking down at Mount Battie, the picturesque town of Camden, and all of Penobscot Bay from Monhegan Island to Acadia. You might even be able to make out New Hampshire's Mount Washington to the west on a clear day. Allow at least two hours round-trip.
  • Maiden Cliff Trail: Designated, like the Megunticook Trail, as one of Maine's Natural Heritage Hikes, the moderate, 1-mile Maiden Cliff Trail will elevate your pulse rate and touch your heart as it culminates at a park landmark: the towering steel cross that honors 11-year-old Elenora French, who perished here in 1862. Bring binoculars, as this is one of the park's best birdwatching trails. Although you're not likely to see rare species, you will likely spot wood thrushes and turkey vultures.
  • Nature Trail: One of the park's easiest hikes, the 1.2-mile Nature Trail begins near the campground and travels through a forested habitat.

Winter Activities

A winter adventure in Camden Hills State Park can take many forms. The Mount Battie auto road remains open, weather conditions and staffing permitting (it's wise to call ahead), and the view of Midcoast Maine in its frosty glory can be stunning when blue skies contrast with fresh snow. Cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers own the park this time of year. A Ski Shelter is available to warm you; you'll find it on the aptly named Ski Shelter Trail.

Where to Camp

Camping right at Camden Hills State Park in your own camper or tent is an affordable way to stay and experience the park. There is an online map that will show you the variety of sites available, both with and without electric and water hookups. Wi-Fi coverage is available at most sites.

The main entrance to the campground is on U.S. Route 1 about 1.5 miles north of the center of Camden. Reservations are required and can be made online 24/7 or by calling 207-624-9950 weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. beginning the first business day in February through the second Friday in September and fees are higher for campers from out of state. In the winter, a rustic camping shelter can be reserved by calling the park.

If you prefer a private campground, consider either Camden Hills Community Campground or Megunticook Campground by the Sea: Both are in nearby Rockport.

Where to Stay Nearby

While you won't find chain hotels, Camden is home to some of the finest inns on the Maine coast including:

  • Hartstone Inn & Hideaway: A foodie's delight with its own gourmet restaurant and cooking school this inn offers 22 rooms with chic, romantic touches including some with gas fireplaces and/or jetted tubs. 
  • Camden Harbour Inn: This property is a luxurious Relais & Chateaux property just steps from restaurants and shops on the waterfront. With its own spa and fine dining at Natalie's Restaurant, it's the perfect soft landing place after a day of hiking at Camden Hills State Park.
  • The Norumbega Inn: A castle-like boutique inn just 1 mile from the park entrance. Its 11 rooms include some with bay views, and its well-traveled chef delights guests with three-course breakfasts.
View from Mount Battie overlooking Camden Harbor, Maine
leekris / Getty Images

How to Get There

Camden is roughly a four-hour trip from Boston and just under two hours from Portland, Maine. You can easily get to Camden by bus: The closest Concord Coach Lines station is in Rockport, 3 miles south of the entrance to Camden Hills State Park. You can also reach this destination in your own boat: Dockage is available at several marinas, such as Lyman-Morse. Having a car offers the most flexibility, however, and it will allow you to drive the Mount Battie summit road, as well as to explore this coastal region known for its lighthouses and lobster shacks.

The main entrance for Camden Hills State Park is at 280 Belfast Road (U.S. Route 1) in Camden, Maine. There is a year-round fee of $6 for adults ($4 for Maine residents), $2 for non-resident seniors, and $1 for children ages 5 to 11. Children under 5 and Maine residents 65 and over are admitted free.

Accessibility

Maine strives to make the outdoors enjoyable for all state park visitors, and this Guide to Accessibility provides a detailed and candid look at features within Camden Hills State Park that are and are not accessible. On the whole, the campground is accessible, but hiking trails and the picnic area are not. Vehicle access ensures that the park's highlight—views of Camden Harbor and Penobscot Bay from the summit of Mount Battie—can be appreciated by all sighted visitors. However, the stone tower at the summit has many steps. Call 207-287-3821 with any specific questions you may have about access for the disabled.

Tips for Your Visit

  • When you reach the summit of Mount Battie, signage will help you identify landmarks in your view.
  • Bring a sweatshirt or jacket, even in the summer, as it can be cool and windy on coastal mountaintops in Maine.
  • If you will be a frequent visitor to Maine State Parks this year, consider purchasing an annual pass, valid for unlimited admission to state parks and historic sites for you and occupants of your vehicle.
  • Leashed dogs are welcome at the campground and on park trails.
  • When the gate is not staffed, admission fees must be paid at the self-service station.
  • For up-to-date park conditions, particularly after storms, call 207-236-3109 during the summer season or 207-236-0849 after Labor Day.
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Camden Hills State Park: The Complete Guide