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How about something different for your next adventure in the Maine outdoors? The northernmost state of the contiguous United States is one of the best places in the country for wildlife watching. The landscapes here are stunning, the Atlantic coast is gorgeous, and 80% of it is covered in thick, charming forests. Also, Maine is a kingdom of moose. This majestic animal is one of the state’s symbols. More than 75,000 of these animals live in the state, an impressive number that only Alaska rivals.
There are several places where the sighting is guaranteed, as well as companies that offer so-called “moose safaris” you can embark on. We’ve gathered a list of the best spots in Maine where you can encounter moose.
General moose watching tips for Maine
Although these animals can be seen in the state’s natural areas throughout the year, there are certain seasons when you have the best chance to encounter them. From May to July, the animals descend from the higher elevations to the marshes to feed, so this is the most popular time for a safari. Another great time for moose spotting is autumn. This season sees the male moose (also called bulls) grow impressive antlers, a sight to be seen.
Be aware that moose watching is quite a contemplative, slow-burning experience. Getting very close to the animals is not advised as they can get scared and, in some cases, even get aggressive. And you definitely don’t want to mess with a creature that is 7 feet tall and weighs more than 1,000 pounds. That’s why you should always keep your distance and show respect to these spectacular forest dwellers.
Keep in mind that it takes preparation and knowledge to get the most out of your time in nature. The great news is that the moose is not the hardest animal to spot, so you can expect that your forest escapades will likely end in success. However, it’s also worth noting that the best way to go moose watching is to be accompanied by someone who knows the area and has moose knowledge.
Usually, the state parks where moose watching is done are vast pieces of land, and you certainly don’t want to just aimlessly wander between the trees and the swamps. Fortunately, Maine has a great selection of specialized tour operators that organize moose safaris, so we strongly advise going into the wilderness with the professionals.
Finally, as with most wildlife-watching tours, it’s all about the journey, being out in the picturesque Maine outdoors, canoeing in the wild, and hiking the forest trails. Nature is unpredictable, and you don’t always get to meet with moose up close. It has a reputation for being an elusive animal. And once you do see the creature, taking an Instagrammable picture or recording a video could be a challenge, so be prepared for that. Still, such an encounter is a one-of-a-kind, unforgettable experience, so it pays off to just live in the moment.
Imagine driving in the wee hours of the morning, and the first sunrays are piercing through the darkness giving the sky a special hue. The road has the walls of a thick forest on both sides, and you haven’t seen another car in a while. And suddenly, you notice an almost dreamlike sight of a massive creature in the distance slowly stomping along the edge of the highway. That’s what you get by driving to the northernmost part of Maine, Aroostook County, where the wildlife outnumbers people. Here it pays to take early morning drives (as dawn is a great time to spot the moose). Several routes stand out for the best chances of an encounter. Try your luck by going either from Caribou to Fort Kent or from Caribou to Van Buren (on the Canadian border). Another good moose-watching journey would be Ashland to Patten road.
When a lake’s name has a “moose” in it, you know it is definitely a go-to place for coming close to this animal. And it’s true, this fantastic body of water, one of Maine’s most beautiful, can be found in the northern part of the state and is a must for spending the perfect time surrounded by untouched nature. You can rent a lakeside lodge for an even better retreat and embark on one of the moose safaris. Spring and summer would work best for wildlife spotting. However, in the autumn, you have the mind-blowing fall scenery. The shores of the lake are home to many campgrounds, so if you’re into this kind of outdoor adventure, you have a great selection of places to stay. Northeast Whitewater would be the best moose-watching operator in the region.
Baxter State Park
The jaw-dropping mountain scenery is reflected in numerous crystal-clear ponds surrounded by forest. Baxter State Park is such a ruggedly beautiful Maine park that you have to pinch yourself at times to be reminded that it is, in fact, a reality and not some fantasy movie. If you’re into the outdoors, this is the foremost Maine destination for you. The park has hundreds of trails, a few summits to conquer, plenty of campgrounds, and a variety of forest cabins. And then there’s his highness, the moose. This geographical area is this creature’s playground, and you’ve got amazing chances to spot them. What’s great about the Baxter State Park for beginner wildlife watchers is that there are specifically designated moose watching areas, like Sandy Stream Pond and Stump Pond. Of course, you can also book a special moose safari for experienced guiding and exploring off-the-beaten-track spotting areas.
There will be no shortage of fresh air in Kennebec Valley. Gorgeous land in the heart of Maine that surrounds the rapid Kennebec River and stretches up to the US-Canada border is for the magnificent outdoors. Also, these wide, unpopulated areas have long been the primary spots to see moose. You can generally encounter the animals along the Kennebec shores, but the biggest chance of spotting them will be around Jackson and next to the border areas. Here one of the coolest ways to try your luck at catching a glimpse of the elusive moose would be by taking a kayak or canoe and enjoying a refreshing sail. The moose love Kennebec River and come here for food, so the chances of meeting them are great. North Country Rivers has a great safari tour from Bingham that follows the Kennebec River Trail.
Rangeley Lake Region
A crown jewel of the Western Lakes and Mountains region of Maine, Rangeley Lake is one of the most popular camping destinations in this part of the state. It’s expansive, it’s breathtaking, and it’s also one of America’s most magnificent lake retreat escapes. Rangeley Lake State Park is a top spot to base yourself in for access to a myriad of outdoor activities like swimming in the clear waters, canoeing, or hiking around the shore trails. Oh, and how could we forget about our antler-wearing gigantic friends. Moose are profiting from these green corners of Maine too. Although it would be more of an exception than a rule, the locals know that moose can be seen along Route 16 (especially the Rangeley to Stratton stretch and near Wilson’s Mills) and Route 17 (Rangeley to Rumford).
Maine Wildlife Park
Sometimes you want everything at once, and it’s okay too. Also, long hikes in the wilderness and unpredictable Maine weather can be quite a challenge when it comes to traveling with children. That’s why it is great to have a backup plan and still be able to see the moose. Maine Wildlife Park, one of the best things to do in Portland, is the place. It provides a home to rescued animals, and they make it their mission to educate visitors about the wildlife and promote respectful treatment of the animals. And you will definitely meet moose here and get background information about their moose ways. Apart from moose, you’ve got more than 30 species of Maine wildlife, including the lynx, brown bear, coyote, beaver, and even a cougar. Located in the woods, Maine Wildlife Park is an excellent idea for a relaxing family outdoor trip.