Aroostook State Park: A local gem located just minutes away for all outdoor enthusiasts

17 years ago

The time has finally come! The sunny, warm weather of early summer has made an appearance in Presque Isle, and it seems as though the weather is here to stay. It’s time to pull out those hiking boots that gathered dust all winter long; check the canoe or kayak for any leaks; and grab that can of bug spray.
    Though many residents in Aroostook County choose to live here because they enjoy activities outside, it seems as though we all need a reminder of what we have here in Presque Isle to offer to outdoor enthusiasts.
Route one is the county’s most traveled road, but just off this road is a hidden gem that residents often forget about. It’s always been there, with access to Echo Lake and Quaggy Jo. Without having to travel a long distance, county natives can hike, fish and camp on any sunny day this season. That means no detailed planning is really necessary, unless camp sites are being reserved on a busy weekend, and the location encourages spontaneous adventures here in the Northern Maine Woods.
Just five miles south of Presque Isle, Aroostook State Park was created after citizens donated 100 acres of land in 1938, in hopes of establishing Maine’s first state park. In 1939, the park was officially opened and additional donations increased the acreage of the camp to it’s present size at more than 700 acres.
Rising up above the nearby potato farm lands is Quaggy Jo, which has been adapted from it’s Native American name of “QuaQuaJo,” or “twin peaked.” These twin peaks are referred to as the North and South Peaks, and trails have been created to please hikers of all levels.
The North-Peak Trail is 1.25 miles long and starts at the day use parking area. It boasts scenic views through hardwoods and conifers. This trail is the most popular at the park. The North-South Peak Ridge Trail is one mile long and follows the ridge between the two peaks in diverse forest floor vegetation.
The South-Peak Trail may only be three-quarters of a mile, but it is the steepest and most rugged trail available. The trail starts at the campground and takes hikers through rocky grounds up to the peak of the mountain. It is recommended that hikers wear sturdy footwear while on this trail.
Open year-round for hiking and cross country skiing is a four-mile trail that takes it’s travelers outside of park property at times. Nearby landowners have given permission for the use of their property to build the trail, and the park boundaries are marked with bright orange paint.
When hiking gets too warm, or it’s not a big personal draw, then Echo Lake offers a place to cool off and relax. Aroostook State Park has plenty of space for parking, launching and docking. The park has a handicap accessible lakeside picnic area with tables, charcoal grills, a swimming area and changing facilities. Canoes and paddle boats can be rented at the Control Station with life jackets and paddles included.
The in season (May 15-Sept. 15) day-use fees for the park are $2 per person aged 12 and older, children ages 5- 11-years old are $1; and children under five and adults over 65 are free. Boat rentals are $3 per hour and the boat-launching fee is the per person day-use fee or $5 per vehicle, whichever is less.
If pitching a tent or parking a camper is an interest, Aroostook State Park has campsites to offer as well. For all Maine residents, the fee is $12 per night and $15 per night for non-residents. Any camp reservations that are made on a Friday or a Saturday require a two-night stay. The park offers 22 campsites that must be reserved, six sites that are non-reservable, first-come-first-serve, and a small group site.
Near the campsites are restrooms, showers, a playground and a place to fill up that water bottle before starting that next hike. Next to the shower station is a kitchen shelter, open to campers in the area.
Organized group rates are also available, with a $10 non-refundable reservation fee. Groups of campers pay $3 per person, per night with a minimum group camping fee of $30 per night. Some organized programs may be exempt from paying the fee, with approval from the Maine Department of Conservation Bureau of Parks and Lands.
Camping reservations can be made for dates between May 20-Sept. 15, and should be made at least three days in advance. Sites can be reserved by calling (800)332-1501, within Maine, or (207)287-3824, outside of Maine. To make online reservations, visit www.campwithme.com, where interested campers can read a description of the campsites prior to booking. If reservations are being made within three days of the visit, or if an organized group is interested in reserving a site, interested parties should call the park directly at (207)768-8341.
This park has a lot to offer to local residents and is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy our natural environment. Not only does the park give nature enthusiasts a chance to be active outside, but it is also a great place to introduce the younger generation to all that this county has to offer. So the next time there’s a bright, sunny day, pack up the car, a picnic basket and some camping gear and head south — to Aroostook State Park.