Maine, with its rugged wilderness and picturesque landscapes, is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, and one of the best ways to experience its natural beauty is through Overnight Canoe Trips. Offering a mix of adventure and tranquility, these 4-7 day Guided Canoe Trips provide an immersive experience in some of Maine’s most remote and undeveloped waterways.

In this article, we’ll explore the most popular Overnight Canoe Trips in the state, each offering unique characteristics and attractions for canoeing enthusiasts.

1. Allagash River Canoe Trip

The Allagash River, designated as a National Wild and Scenic River, is an iconic destination for canoeing in Maine. While paddling through this 92-mile-long river, you will camp in the Boreal Forest and paddle approximately 40 miles of lakes if you do the entire Allagash. During the shoulder months of May, June, and September, you may encounter strong winds on big lakes like:

  • Chamberlain Lake
  • Eagle Lake
  • Umsaskis Lake
  • Long Lake, among others.

Another option would be to only canoe the most northern section of the Allagash, which would be roughly 50 miles of river paddling with beginner-level rapids.

Depending on the time of the year, there’s abundant wildlife in this area, including:

  • Moose
  • Deer
  • Various bird species like bald eagles, common loons, great blue herons, ospreys, wood ducks, and warblers.

On this overnight canoe trip, you get to experience a scenic canoeing experience and camp under the starry skies. If it’s clear, you may even catch a view of the Milky Way like you’ve never seen before. The campsites are maintained by Rangers and each contains a picnic table, fireplace, and an outhouse. They are comfortable but rustic.

2. West Branch of the Penobscot River

The West Branch is a leisurely 4-5 day canoe trip with only very easy beginner-level rapids and no carries/portages. It is very popular for a first-timer’s overnight trip or a family canoe trip.

Most people put in at Lobster Stream and go up into Lobster Lake to stay for their first night, which has beautiful, natural white sand beaches. Then, you will have a few days paddling down the West Branch to the north end of Chesuncook Lake. You could end your canoe trip here at Chesuncook Village as there is now (unfortunately) road access.

Your other option is to continue down Chesuncook Lake, which has spectacular views of Mount Katahdin and the surrounding mountains in Baxter State Park. Wildlife commonly seen on the West Branch includes:

  • Moose
  • Bald eagles,
  • Beaver
  • White-tailed deers

3. East Branch of the Penobscot River

The East Branch of the Penobscot should only be undertaken by very experienced canoeists who are comfortable in Class 2 and, in high water, Class 3 rapids. In addition to the rapids, there are four mandatory carries in the first seven miles of this river trip, so you must also be in very good physical condition. The carries vary in length from ¼ to ½ mile.

As you wind your way down the river, the views of the mountains in Baxter State Park are truly spectacular. I have seldom encountered other groups on this river, likely due to its demanding nature.

When it comes to the river flow, the most reliable time is May and June, and possibly into July if it is a normally wet summer. On the East Branch, a water level of:

  • 300 to 500 CFS is doable, but it would be much better with a setting pole rather than a canoe paddle.
  • 550 to 800 CFS is ideal for paddling.
  • 800 to 1,100 CFS requires extra caution when approaching the mandatory carries because the river starts to become very pushy.
  • 1,100 to 3,500 CFS can only be handled by excellent paddlers who also know the East Branch very well.

Depending on where you take out on your East Branch trip, it can last 3-5 days. The most common take-outs are the logging roads at Whetstone Falls or just below the roadside rest area on Route 11 in Grindstone Falls.

4. St. Croix River Canoe Trip

A St. Croix River Overnight Canoe Trip can last 3-5 days depending on where you take out. The most common take-out points are Loon Bay and Kelleyland.

During this trip, you will most likely encounter Canadian canoeists on the St. Croix as the river forms the international border between the U.S. and Canada. On the left side lies New Brunswick, while Maine occupies the right bank. Moreover, don’t be surprised if a border patrol agent requests your ID somewhere along the way, as this occasional interaction underscores the shared sovereignty and security measures along the border.

Because the St. Croix River is fed by a series of interconnected lakes, it often has good water flow even in a drier summer. There are numerous Class 1 and easy Class 2 rapids on the St. Croix, in addition to one technical Class 2 rapid (could be Class 3 in higher water) called the Little Falls.

I have not seen much wildlife (of the four-legged kind) on the St. Croix canoe trips I’ve done. Large mammal sightings seem to be scarce, although you will most likely see:

  • Bald eagles
  • Ospreys
  • Blue herons

I’m not a bass fisherman, but I’ve heard bass fishing on the St. Croix is pretty good in places.

5. Moose River Bow Trip

The Moose River Trip near Jackman, ME is one of the few canoe trips in Maine where you do not need to do a vehicle shuttle. This Overnight Canoe Trip usually takes 4-5 days and is mostly easy river paddling with a few lakes and ponds at the beginning and end of the trip.

To embark on the trip, the put-in for the bow can be found at the northern end of Attean Pond, where there is a public boat landing site. The trip starts with a delightful mix of lakes and ponds, offering a serene and picturesque setting to begin your adventure.

As you venture further, be prepared for a 1 ½-mile carry between Attean Pond and Holeb Pond, which adds an element of challenge and adventure to the journey, requiring some physical effort and careful navigation. When the river enters the south end of Attean Pond, you will encounter your most difficult set of Class 2 rapids called Attean Falls.

When it comes to wildlife, here is what you need to know:

  • Fishing for native brook trout can be pretty good, especially early in the season, and if you know the right spots.
  • Moose and other large mammals are fairly abundant in this remote part of northwestern Maine.
  • The mosquitos in June are world-class. My favorite times to do the Moose River are in May before the bugs or in the fall after a good soaking rain.

6. St. John River Canoe Trip

The St. John River is normally a 6-8 day Overnight Canoe Trip depending on where you put in and take out.

Common put-in options include:

  • Fifth St. John Pond
  • Baker Lake

Take-out options include:

  • The town of Dickey (which is the first possible take-out)
  • Allagash Village
  • Pelletier’s Campground (7 miles downstream from Allagash Village)

St. John starts as a small stream flowing out of Baker Lake with numerous Class 1 and 2 rapids in the first five miles. Then, for the next few days, the river varies between easy beginner-level rapids to quiet, calm stretches with no rapids.

Nearing the end of the trip, you will encounter the two biggest rapids on the St. John River known as Big Black and Big Rapids. These are normally technical Class 2, but can become Class 3 in higher water. Therefore, it is recommended that people have some whitewater canoeing experience before paddling the St. John River.

Wildlife is common along the river, including but not limited to:

  • Moose
  • Deer
  • Lynx
  • Coyote
  • Bald eagles
  • Ospreys

7. Downeast Lakes Bow Trip

The Downeast Lakes Bow Trip is an excellent choice for a beginner’s Overnight Canoe Trip. There are no rapids and only one short carry in this chain-of-lakes route. The water is crystal clear, and many of the lakes have a natural sandy shoreline making it ideal for swimming.

It is called a Bow Trip because you can make a big loop from the north end of Sysladobsis Lake to Pocumcus Lake, then north through Junior Bay to Junior Lake, then west to Bottle Lake boat landing, which is about one and a half miles from where you started.

The ideal time for this canoe trip is July and August when the lakes’ water has warmed up, offering perfect conditions for swimming and enjoyable water activities. During this time, you will also get strong, all-day winds that are more prevalent in the later summer months, adding excitement and a sense of thrill to your journey.

Moreover, if you have a passion for fishing, these lakes are renowned for bass fishing, providing ample opportunities to test your skills and enjoy the sport amidst the breathtaking natural surroundings.


Maine’s most popular overnight canoe trips offer a range of experiences, from serene and scenic journeys to thrilling adventures. This blog is meant to serve as a brief overview/summary of Maine’s most popular Overnight Canoe Trips. It is not meant to be a conclusive guide to any of these trips. For more information or resources about these trips, feel free to contact us at Mahoosuc Guide Service.