The Maine Woods Rambler bike festival in Millinocket includes a ferry crossing on Pemadumcook Lake. The Rambler will be held this year on Sept. 24. Courtesy of Bicycle Coalition of Maine

Summer and fall in Maine bring a jam-packed schedule of festivals every year celebrating things like art, blueberries and music. Many are along the crowded coast.

But if you look inland, many festivals have been launched in recent years to encourage visitors to embrace an outdoor lifestyle – whether by bike, paddle or through a telescope watching the night sky.

Active outdoor festivals are not new in Maine. The Maine State Star Party has been held at Cobscook Bay State Park in Washington County since 2006. For 16 years, the Thoreau Wabanaki Trail Festival in Greenville has offered seminars on natural history, moose-calling lessons and the lore of the Penobscot Nation. Over the past two years, the Wabanaki festival has expanded – now offering an optional two-night guided canoe trip along the Penobscot River led by a Penobscot guide for $400.

In the past five years, interior Maine have gotten busy with more active, hardcore and remote outdoor festivals. Here’s a sampling of some of the newer celebrations around Maine’s woods and inland waters:

The Bicknell’s thrush has been a big draw at the Rangeley Birding Festival, held in June. Jeanne Tucker photo


June 9-11, Rangeley


The fifth-annual Rangeley Birding Festival is one of Maine’s newest birding events, and unique in what it offers.

Located in the western mountains, the festival is focused on species of the boreal forest, such as the black-backed woodpecker, spruce grouse, boreal chickadee and the Bicknell’s thrush, a bird that breeds only in the boreal forest and only more than 3,000 feet above sea level. Birders stand a good chance to see the thrush on a guided day-long hike up Saddleback Mountain. Birders have come to the festival from as far away as Texas just to see the thrush.

The boreal species are a thrill for birders because the birds in the western mountains have stopped migrating and found a breeding ground to nest.

“Instead, the birds are singing to attract mates, finding building materials for nests, they’ll literally be staying within an area,” said Amanda Laliberte, the festival director. “Other festivals are hoping to catch these migrating warblers as they travel through – but Rangeley is their destination.”

The three-day event offers a dozen trips around the Rangeley lakes, led by four lead world-class guides. Trips are generally limited to 10 participants and two guides. Most trips cost $45 to $70, although some are free. Many of the trips already are sold out. For more information, go to



July 9-16, Greenville region

The Appalachian Mountain Club’s Medawisla Lodge and Cabins, a modern take on Maine’s traditional sporting camps, is located within the nonprofit’s 100,000 acres of conserved land to the east of Moosehead Lake. The AMC’s Medawisla Lodge and Little Lyford Lodge will host four festivals this summer and fall, including the inaugural gravel bike festival.

Elizabeth Ehrenfeld of Falmouth, a member of the club’s board of directors and an avid gravel rider, called the riding in the AMC’s conserved land in northern Maine “near world-class.” The gravel bike festival will feature guided group bike rides and time for riders to explore the scenery on their own. There also will be live music, clinics, and equipment demos.

“It’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors,” Ehrenfield said. “It’s full of wildlife. The conservation is the AMC’s central mission, but also recreation.” 

Attendees pay only for the cost of dinner at Medawisla Lodge, which for $35 includes appetizers, soup or salad, an entrée and dessert. For more information, go to the AMC Maine festivals website.

The Maine Woods Rambler bike festival in Millinocket features 31- and 62-mile rides for “seasoned riders” and a shorter ride to help introduce more people to gravel riding. Nick Hamilton photo



Sept. 24, Millinocket 

Now in its third year, the Rambler offers three gravel rides of various lengths that showcase the unique backcountry riding experience. The ride is organized by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, the New England Outdoor Center and the nonprofit Katahdin Area Trails, which benefits from the event’s proceeds. 

The coalition suggests the two longer rides are best for “seasoned riders.” The 31- and 62-mile rides will be joined this year by a 12-mile ride to help introduce more people to gravel riding, which is gaining popularity across the country. The terrain includes rough, dirt roads with some pavement riding.

The Rambler rides incorporate paved routes into about 20% of the two longer rides. In the thick forestland in the shadow of Katahdin, there are views of the big mountain. It’s not uncommon to see moose, deer or fox on the routes. The 62-mile ride has a ferry crossing across Pemadumcook Lake that promises a unique wilderness-like excursion.

Colleen Donohoe, event director for the Maine Woods Rambler, said riders use a range of bikes, from gravel bikes and hybrids to mountain bikes.

“It’s really hard to classify. It’s not a mountain bike ride, it’s not a road ride,” Donohoe said. “We call it an off-road adventure. Although part of it is on the road.”


Registration is $135 for the two longer riders and $75 for the 12-mile ride. Go to for more information. 

The second-annual See the Dark Festival, held at Medawisla Lodge and Cabins in the Appalachian Mountain Club’s conserved land, will take place from Oct. 15-22. Jamie Walter photo/Courtesy of AMC


Oct. 15-22, Greenville region

The second-annual dark sky festival at the AMC’s Medawisla Lodge charges attendees only the price of dinner ($35 per person) at the lodge. The AMC’s conserved land on the edge of the North Maine Woods was designated by the International Dark Sky Association as a Dark Sky Park, one of only a few on the East Coast. 

The festival offers experts and ample telescopes to view the night sky. John Meader, the director of the Northern Stars Planetarium and Educational Services and a guide for the festival, said event participants don’t simply take in the night sky and learn about the planets movements. The festival, he said, offers lessons on why a dark sky is healthy for wildlife and humans.

“A lot of computer lights can keep you awake. It’s unhealthy for us. It’s unhealthy for the natural world. Three-fourths of the birds migrate at nighttime. When they’re drawn to light, it negatively affects birds. We all need the dark,” Meader said. “I usually stay out for anyone who wants to stay out until 1 (a.m.).” 

For more information, go to the AMC Maine festivals website.

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