Founded in 1939, Aroostook State Park is home to the North and South peaks of Quoggy Joe Mountain (QuaQuaJo in the indigenous language, “twin peaked”), along with the small but lovely Echo Lake. Accessed via US1 in northern Maine just south of the University of Maine’s Presque Isle campus, this park includes thirty campsites (including a few with electric hookups), several hiking trails on and around Quoggy Joe, and boat access to Echo Lake. My pal Steve and I decided to spend a week here so that we could play the much-heralded Aroostook Valley Country Club golf course. Here’s a look at our campsite, typical of those at this state park; note that those with fifth-wheels or big rigs would find it tight here (the Little Guy trailer is 21 feet long):
Aroostook Valley Country Club is perhaps unique in that it straddles the international border — the parking lot and the pro shop are in the United States, but the course itself is in Canada. The onset of the covid-19 pandemic in 2020 drove the club to impressive lengths of ingenuity, because it significantly raised the level of border security in the region. Before the pandemic, this golf course (located as it is just three miles from downtown Fort Fairfield, Maine) was easily accessible from Fort Fairfield, a ten-minute drive at most. Americans could drive to the course parking lot without crossing the border, and then just walk from the pro shop across the international border and on to the first tee! Now, due to pandemic regulations, Americans wishing to play this course must access the official border crossing at Perth-Andover, New Brunswick, show a passport, and submit to a customs inspection — and then go through the same process to return home — a process that makes access to and from Aroostook State Park an hour-long drive each way.
The first hole on the course (“The International”),
straddles the international border, marked by these unique obelisks:
The flags on the putting green reflect the international location of this golf course.
But the access road is INSANE! After crossing the border, one must first travel the Transcanada Highway for one exit, and then drive a circuitous route over roads of ever-diminishing quality, until (in the last three miles) one must scan the side of the road for two triangle-shaped stones; and at this point you DRIVE OFF THE ROAD AND INTO A POTATO FIELD!!
The mile-long drive through the potato field ends at a quonset hut, which houses a fleet of golf carts. Park at the quonset hut, put your clubs on the cart of your choice, and then follow the signs along a border road another quarter-mile to the course! Those who wish to play this outstanding course should definitely ask the clubhouse for directions from the border crossing to the potato field in question (and write them down!). Note that the club pro STRONGLY discouraged us from trying to skip the border crossing and just driving the border road back into Fort Fairfield! Apparently this road is regularly patrolled by the US Border Patrol and the penalties for illegal entry are severe!
But the course itself is one of the top five I have played in Maine (or, in this case, right nearby!). Scenic views of farmland and rolling hills frame every hole, and the course itself is scrupulously maintained and in fabulous condition.
Here’s two views of the same hole, one from the fairway and one from the green:
And just as an aside, what (in my experience) are the top five courses in Maine? Sunday River in Newry, Sugarloaf in Rangeley, The Samoset in Rockland, Kebo Valley in Bar Harbor, and now Aroostook Valley near Fort Fairfield. Belgrade Lakes is equally highly regarded, by the way, but I personally have never played it.
Anyway, we arrived here on Monday afternoon, played Aroostook Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday, and on Thursday we climbed the two peaks of Quoggy Joe. These peaks range in height from about 1200 to 1400 feet, nothing much when compared to Katahdin or the higher peaks in western Maine — but these trails are STEEP. I’m in okay shape but there were sections which nevertheless required me taking a breather every thirty yards or so. The upside, of course, is that you quickly arrive at scenic views. The next three photos were taken from the summit of South Peak (from a platform built there as an Eagle Scout project!), the trail for which is accessed behind campsite #18 at Aroostook State Park. Note that the trails across the two peaks of Quoggy Joe form a circle, most convenient for anyone camping at the state park; depart at campsite #18, climb the mountains and then return to the boat launch. However, it is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that you start at campsite #18 and ascend South Peak first, so that you are climbing UP the steepest sections of the route. In other words, traverse the circle in a clockwise direction, first heading west to South Peak, then north from there across the saddle to North Peak, and then finally south and west back to the campground. Trying to climb down the trail from South Peak to the campground would be extremely difficult, if not actually dangerous, in my opinion — and attempting it in the rain when the trail is wet would be suicidal.
There is a very nice lean-to shelter, almost a cabin really, on the trail between the two peaks, complete with outhouse and a really lovely view.
Here are two views from the shelter:
This shelter is about three-quarters of the way between the two peaks. Below are some photos of the view from the North Peak, the taller of the two.
The trail, though steep and tree-covered (read: climbing over roots and rocks!), is well-maintained and reasonably well-marked. Someone put a lot of effort into installing these boardwalks over the soggy spots on the trail down from North Peak:
Unlike most Maine state parks, Aroostook does not have an actual beach. Rather, the lakeshore is a grassy picnic area — but one could certainly swim there, just step off the lawn and into the lake!
In conclusion, Aroostook State Park is (in my opinion) primarily a hiking and camping park. There is a basic playground (two sets of swings), lots of hiking trails (not just over Quoggy Joe), and perhaps the most well-maintained bath house I have seen at a Maine State Park. For our purposes (traveling to play golf), it was the perfect camping spot — accessible yet rustic but with all the necessary amenities AND a lovely mountain to hike in the bargain. And Aroostook Valley Country Club is a course that we will visit again and again!