At Shin Pond, Route 159 morphs into Grand Lake Road, the gateway to the East Branch of the Penobscot River, the northern sector of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and just beyond to Grand Lake Matagamon and the northern entrance of Baxter State Park.

Cruising west along Grand Lake Road time and again over the years, headed for fun and adventures in Baxter or more recently, the new national monument, I never gave much thought to other recreation possibilities in the area. But last year I discovered two other awesome spots for hiking, camping and paddling.

Northeast of Baxter State Park is the 9,092-acre Scraggly Lake Public Lands unit in the unorganized township of T7 R8. The big draw is Scraggly Lake, a pristine 836-acre expanse of brook trout and landlocked salmon, surrounded by thick woods and bumpy hills.

Several other remote ponds, numerous brooks and 1,400 acres of wetlands are found at Scraggly Lake. There’s also a stand of hemlocks ranging from 20 to 35 inches in diameter — some thought to be over 300 years old, and a number of similarly large sugar maples nearby.

According to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, “the vision for the Scraggly Lake Unit … is to provide a quiet and remote recreational setting supporting a variety of recreational activities … (and to) to protect exemplary ecological features and wildlife habitat …”

Having spent a little time at Scraggly, I can assure you this special place truly lives up to its billing as a remote and beautiful destination, and further that state officials are doing a fine job of keeping it that way.


To get to Scraggly Lake, travel west from Shin Pond on Grand Lake Road for 6.7 miles to the Scraggly Lake Road (just beyond the Seboeis River). Follow this gravel-surfaced road for 9.3 miles to a small parking area for the Owl’s Head Trail.

Less than a mile beyond the trailhead, the road leads to a primitive campground with 11 sites, privies and a boat launch. There’s a drive-in campsite further along at Green Pond and just opposite, a walk-in site at the west end of Scraggly Lake, which also features three water-access campsites.

My reason for the trip to Scraggly was to hike Owl’s Head, but next time I’m coming back with the camper and kayaks for an extended stay to enjoy a few evenings with the loons, the dark skies and bright stars, and a crackling campfire.

It used to be that the only way to access Owl’s Head was by water from the boat launch. But several years ago the state constructed a new trail from Scraggly Lake Road, which now makes for an outstanding hike of 3.5 miles round-trip.

The walk along the east shore is easy up to and around a shallow cove, which affords a fine look at the prominent crag ahead, Owl’s Head. At the old water-access trailhead is the loop junction. Turning uphill, the path gets rocky and steep. Several spurs lead to ledge lookouts before the 930-foot top is reached.

The craggy ledges atop Owl’s Head afford far-reaching views of the vast forest. Carey Kish

The vistas from Owl’s Head take in the summits of Katahdin and the Traveler in Baxter, the rugged ridges of Deasey and Lunksoos mountains, and shapely Sugarloaf. Other than that, it’s a vast sea of glorious unbroken forest and a whole lot of peace and quiet, something to ponder as you complete the loop over the backside and return to your car.

Back on the Grand Lake Road at the Seboeis River crossing, look for a little sign that reads “Seboeis River Trail.” This outstanding walk hugs the east side of the river for 1.3 miles to the gorge and roaring falls at Grand Pitch. Just below, Shin Brook empties into a huge pool that is perfect for a swim.

A 300-foot swath on each side protects the wild Seboeis River for four miles south of Grand Lake Road and four more to the north, a total of 700 acres, thanks to the Butler Conservation Fund. Plans this year call for extending the Seboeis River Trail another five miles south to Philpot Bridge. For more information and trail maps for both Scraggly and Seboeis, visit

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island is the author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast and author/editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow Carey’s adventures on Facebook @CareyKish. 

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