August 14, 2011

Hiking: Lily Bay one of Moosehead's gems

By CAREY KISH

There's no shortage of scenic locales on Moosehead Lake -- at 117 square miles it is New England's largest -- but by far one of the prettiest spots is Lily Bay, on the east side of the lake. And it's here that Lily Bay State Park occupies a 925-acre chunk of prime waterfront property, just nine miles north of Greenville.

click image to enlarge

The beach at Lily Bay State Park looks across Moosehead Lake to Big Moose Mountain. The park offers camping, fine hiking trails and great wildlife watching.

Carey Kish photo

PLANNING A VISIT

TO LEARN more about Lily Bay State Park, go online to www.parksandlands.com or call 695-2700 (May to October) or 941-4014 (November to April).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott Paper Company donated the land to the state in 1958, and in 1961 the park was opened to the public. Recreational opportunities abound and include camping, picnicking, swimming, boating, canoeing, fishing, sailing, hiking and wildlife watching.

"It's hard to beat the serene background of the lake and the mountains beyond," said Kevin Clapp, park manager at Lily Bay. "People come to enjoy the scenery and the peace and quiet."

The park offers 90 well spaced campsites in two campground locations: at Dunn Point on the west side and at Rowell Cove on the east side. There are sites to accommodate anything from a small tent to big campers and everything in-between. Thirty sites are close to the water, and there are 12 walk-in sites and four accessible sites as well. Each site features a picnic table and fire ring.

There are shower houses and restrooms in both locations, and water faucets and vault toilets located throughout the campgrounds.

Clapp takes great pride in the cleanliness of the park, from the restrooms and showers to the grounds, a fact noted by many visitors in the guest book kept at the entrance station.

"The rangers and volunteers care about the park, so things are well taken care of," Clapp said. "It's not just a job. We enjoy what we're doing."

Other amenities include a playground for the kids, horseshoes, volleyball net and a grassy promenade.

Just beyond is the beach, a long stretch of sand and pebbles with a lovely view across the lake to Big Moose Mountain. It's a great spot to relax and cool off on a hot summer day.

There are two boat launches, one at each campground, and 40 finger slips for campers needing a spot to moor their boats.

Visitors can also put their canoes and kayaks in to explore the shoreline and the islands between Rowell and Matthews coves.

Canoe and kayak rentals aren't available at the park, but if you check the kiosk near the entrance station, you'll find helpful information on local outfitters who will happily deliver equipment to you at the park, guide services and more.

But you don't need a watercraft or any other special gear to take part in the No. 1 activity at Lily Bay: wildlife watching.

"Where can I see a moose?" is the question most asked of park staff. The answer is an easy one: close by. Moose, deer and red fox make frequent appearances in the park, but should the action be on the slow side, you can always take a drive up the Lily Bay Road toward Kokadjo to hedge your bet for a moose sighting.

The park is open for day use and camping from May 15 through Columbus Day in early October. Camping reservations are recommended, but the park keeps some sites set aside just in case.

"We've never turned anybody away," Clapp said.

While there's certainly a lot to do right at Lily Bay, there's plenty more not too far away. In Greenville there are shops and restaurants. And you can also book a scenic float-plane flight or board the Katahdin steamboat for a tour of Moosehead Lake. Or take a drive up to Rockwood for the ferry to the iconic Mount Kineo.

For hikers, there are lots of trails to keep you and your boots busy, starting with a 2-mile walk through the park's pleasant woods along the lake shore.

Up by Roach Pond, there's a great hike to the fire tower on Number Four Mountain.

A little further north is Big Spencer Mountain, where a healthy scramble up its rugged slopes leads to extraordinary vistas.

On the west side of the lake is Little Moose Public Reserved Land and a network of trails that reaches a host of quiet wilderness ponds. And a steep climb to the top of Big Moose Mountain leads to the first firetower in the U.S. and more incredible views.

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is a freelance writer and avid hiker. Send comments and hike suggestions to:

MaineOutdoors@aol.com

 

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