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Cobscook Bay State Park: Maine
WHY HERE? Grab one of the park's 34 secluded tent sites on Cobscook Point ($16 a night), and you'll be surrounded on three sides by quiet Whiting and Cobscook Bays and perched among the fir and black-spruce forests near Maine's eastern tip. From this vantage, you can quietly slip your kayak into the still, early-morning water, spincast for mackerel and flounder, paddle along the undeveloped shores of Cobscook Bay, and experience the rise and fall of the highest tides in the United States (24 feet) while searching for harbor seals and the occasional moose. For an arduous day hike, lace up your boots and tackle the 11-mile Bold Coast Trail just a few miles south of the park gates.
INDULGE IN: Canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, fly-fishing
WHY HERE? Smack in the middle of Adirondack State Park sits the Moose River Recreation Area, a 50,000-acre sanctuary of grassy riverbanks, steep whitewater, and wild ridges. Base yourself two miles from your car on the northern shore of Cascade Lake, where you can camp in the leftover clearing of a 1940s-era girls' summer camp with views of the quiet lake and the rolling, pine-covered Adirondacks. For paddlers, the surrounding watershed boasts dozens of put-ins for stillwater and whitewater alike. Test your combat roll in Class V+ rapids like Froth Hole and Mixmaster on the Lower Moose River or the Middle Branch's Class III chops, or take a five-mile flatwater paddle across Big Moose Lake, where great blue herons, kingfishers, and ospreys frequent the shoreline marshes. Swapping paddles for pedals, you can work your quads on the deep sand and ratty roads of the 80-mile Black Fly Challenge (the route of the longest NORBA-sanctioned destination race in the East), and when it's time for a duff day, the nearby West Canada Lakes Wilderness offers mellow hikes and fishing holes packed with pint-size brookies and monster lake trout.
BONUS: For spectacular views of the Moose River (and fall foliage), take a day trip on the 109-year-old Adirondack Scenic Railroad at Thendara Station in Old Forge (315-369-6290).
ACCESS: 250 miles northeast of NYC. Turn north off New York 28 onto Old Moose Road outside of Inlet and look for the Cascade Lake trailhead. You can pitch your tent for free anywhere around the lake for up to three days.
RESOURCES: Moose River Recreation Area, 518-648-5616; www.adirondacks.org. Route 28: A Mile-by-Mile Guide to New York's Adventure Route, by Rob Scharpf (Big Pencil Publishing; $20).