In 1959 the Maine Legislature passed a resolution naming all of the mountains in the state "The Longfellow Mountains", after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, poet and Maine native. However, despite its official status, this name has little currency among travellers and mapmakers, probably because the Appalachian Mountains in Maine are, at best, an irregular, disconnected, random series of ranges, ridges, and peaks. Indeed, topographically and geologically, the Longfellows are just the less concentrated northeastern extension of New Hampshire's White Mountains, and the boundary between the two ranges is not clear. For example, this site considers the state line-straddling Mahoosuc Range part of the Whites, which not everybody does.
However, even though the Longfellow Mountains might not really exist, there are still some truly fantastic peaks scattered throughout northern Maine. Katahdin (5267') is probably the most awesome single peak in the eastern United States, the ridges of
Saddleback are among the
finest in the northeast, and countless other summits lie hidden in the deep north woods that blanket the most-forested state in the nation.
The principal distinguishing feature of Maine's mountains is their remoteness. Maine is as big as the rest of New England put together, and many people driving, for example, from New York to, say, Katahdin, discover that Maine is not a state that you can just buzz across in a couple hours. You will meet plenty of other outdoorsmen here on a summer weekend, but not nearly as many as in the White Mountains or Adirondacks.
Another big difference between the Longfellows and practically every other range in the country is a relative lack of public ownership. There is no federal land--National Parks or Forests--to speak of here (Acadia National Park is out on Maine's Atlantic coast), and the only sizeable protected area is Baxter State Park surrounding Katahdin. There are many "Maine public reserves" on the higher summits, but most of the gigantic Maine north woods is owned by paper companies. Access is not really a problem, though. As long as you stay away from logging operations and don't mind the occasional sound of chainsaws through the forest, an outdoorsman can pretty much go wherever he wants. The Appalachian Trail, for example, is fairly well-protected.
Many people familiar with timberline in the Whites or Adirondacks may scoff at the elevations of some of Maine's mountains, but their northern position lowers timberline to sometimes as low as 3500 feet, as on Baldpate Mountain (3812'), well above timberline. This peak, plus Katahdin, Saddleback, Abraham, and Bigelow, together have above-timberline acreage that exceeds what is found in the Adirondacks.
The views from these open summits, plus the many, many others crowned with fire towers, are unique, alluring, and one of the great attractions of Maine's mountains. The incredible number of lakes of Maine's north woods,
ranging in size from huge Moosehead Lake to thousands of little ponds, all scattered on the deep evergreen forests, produce an effect that Thoreau likened to a shattered mirror as he gazed out from Katahdin. And since many of Maine's peaks are isolated and not part of a range, the view from any one is often of a huge expanse of flat or rolling green countryside, dark blue lakes, and other monadnocks rising in the distance. The view of Katahdin from nearby mountains is especailly awesome.
Maine, being deep north woods country, suffers from severe swarms of insects, especially in spring and early summer, much like in the upper Midwest. Moose range throughout the Longfellows, and you will undoubtedly see one if you spend any time at all in these mountains. For those willing to travel the few extra hours to seek out these outstanding peaks, the rewards are well worth the extra time.
Please note that the isolated monadnocks of the Maine lowland, including the peaks of Acadia National Park, are covered as part of the New England Upland range.