The sun rises over West Quoddy Head Light, the easternmost point in the United States, the morning of Aug. 2, 2020. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

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If you weren’t one of the more than 3.3 million visitors to Maine’s state park system in 2021, we recommend you join the party this year. Maine state parks  set another attendance record in 2021, following up on a previous high mark in 2020 and record-setting totals in three of the past four years.

Clearly Maine’s state parks are getting even more popular, and for good reason. With 12 state park campgrounds and 48 state parks and historic sites across Maine, there is no shortage of opportunities to get outside and explore public lands. From sandy beaches to rocky mountains, from rolling hills to calm lakes, the state park system is almost an embarrassment of outdoor riches.

“It is great to see more people than ever enjoying our trails, campgrounds, beaches and ponds. Our beautiful State Parks are go-to destinations for Maine residents and visitors as they look to find accessible and welcoming outdoor recreation opportunities,” Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Amanda Beal said in a Jan. 6 press release. “On pace with increased park visitation are the number of compliments for our State Park staff, which is well-deserved as they have worked diligently over the course of this busy year to ensure an enjoyable experience for visitors!”

The more than 3.3 million visitors in 2021 represented an 8 percent increase from the prior year, when there were 3 million visitors, according to the state. The record years have coincided with a surge in the popularity  of outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You don’t have to take our word for it about the wonders of the Maine state park system. Consider the words from people who know these places best.

“Even after all these years of working in Maine’s northwoods, I often find myself staring up at the sky in wonder at God’s creation on a cool, cloudless night in the Allagash,” Matthew LaRoche, the former superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway,  wrote in the Bangor Daily News in 2019. He retired from that role in 2021 after a 44-year career.

See the stars in the Allagash, watch a sunrise at West Quoddy Head Light, climb Mount Blue, jump in Moosehead Lake. Those are just a few recommendations. A more exhaustive list of recommended parks to visit would pretty much include the entire system. There is so much good stuff to explore.

Along with a few recommendations, we offer a reminder: Baxter State Park, despite what its name might suggest, is separate from the state park system. It is administered by its own three-person park authority, and reservations are made through a different system. Percival Baxter’s “magnificent obsession” is every bit as worthy of a visit, but you won’t technically be visiting a part of the Maine State Park system.

Speaking of reservations, keep in mind that Maine State Park camping reservations begin opening on Feb. 1 for Sebago Lake State Park and for group camping across the state (group sites are larger and must be reserved over the phone). The other Maine State Park camping reservations open Feb. 4 and can be made online or by phone.  

Given how popular the state park system has been the past few years, it probably won’t hurt to start making those reservations as soon as possible.

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Opinion Editor Susan Young, Deputy Opinion Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked for the BDN...