Maine is a great place to take a vacation especially if you love the outdoors. Here are 10 incredible hikes everyone in Maine should take at least once in their lifetime.
This is my favorite hike in Maine. This circuit hike can be strenuous at times, but the scenery is so worth the effort.
This hike is within the 100-mile wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail.
This remote hike through the “Grand Canyon of Maine” goes along the Pleasant River through a 400-foot gorge that is over 4 miles long. There is a series of waterfalls throughout the gorge area.
The trail can be accessed in two areas. If you use the Gulf Hagas parking area the trail will merge after .2 miles with the Appalachian Trail and you will have to ford the West Branch of the Pleasant River, as there is no bridge. This is what we did and the water in August was past our ankles and in spring it can be up to your knees.
To avoid this you can go to the Head of the Gulf parking area to access the trail. Here there is a bridge that crosses over the river.
About a mile passed the river you join the Rim Trail (blue-blazed) which provides numerous overlooks of the gorge in multiple locations.
Depending on how long of a hike you want to do, you can take a shorter 3.5-mile round trip and turn around at Screw Augar Falls.
If you continue on the Rim Trail through the whole gorge you can return by the Pleasant River Tote Road for an 8-mile hike from the Gulf Hugas parking area or an 8.6 mile from Head of the Gulf Trail parking area.
Although the trail is pretty flat, its very rocky with rough footing so it will take you longer than expected.
In addition, sturdy hiking shoes are needed and if you are crossing the river I would recommend hiking sandals to keep your boots dry. You will NOT be able to cross this river barefoot. A walking stick can also be handy on this hike.
Mount Kineo Fire Tower
Mount Kineo is in the middle of Moosehead Lake in northern Maine. Getting to this trail is part of the fun as you need to take a boat.
There is a golf course on Mt. Kineo. They operate a boat shuttle from Memorial Day Weekend to Columbus Day weekend. The cost is $10 road trip for adults, $5 for children 5 to 10 years old and free for ages 4 and under. The shuttle leaves from the Rockwood town dock. During the summer it runs every hour. For more information on the shuttle please call 207-534-9012.
This 3.4-mile loop includes 3 different trails. You start off on the Carriage Trail that you get by the dock at the golf course. From there you take the Indian Trail.
This trail is steep and can be difficult at times as you ascend 1000-foot elevation to the top of the summit of Mt. Kineo. You will reach the fire tower where you can climb up to see stunning views of Moosehead Lake.
The fire tower is a metal structure that can be scary to climb especially if you are afraid of heights but once on the top you won’t regret the views. To continue on the loop, you will descend down by the Bridle Trail until you reach the Carriage trail that will get you back to the golf course where you can take the shuttle back to Rockwood.
When waiting for the shuttle, the gulf course has a snack bar that serves ice cream and beverages.
The first time we visited Moosehead Lake, I read that you can canoe across the lake to hike Mt. Kineo. When we got there and saw the whitecaps on the lake, we decided to take the ferry. I’ve seen the lake rough with 5-foot caps and as smooth as glass. I just wanted to mention it as an option for the more adventurous of you.
Sandy Stream Pond, Baxter State Park
Sandy Stream Pond is an easy hike in Maine’s true wilderness, Baxter State Park.
This 1.5-mile road trip hike starts near the Roaring Brook Campground. You walk through spruce and fir forest until you reach the shore of the pond. The area is wet and there are narrow wood bridging along the trail. During this hike, you get a great view of Mount Katahdin in the background.
The pond is only 3 to 4 feet deep and has good plant vegetation. The shore of the pond is rocky giving you areas to sit and relax and if you’re lucky enough, you may even see a moose.
Moose passes are available at the ranger station (free of charge) during busy seasons for hiking Sandy Stream Pond. This is so the flow of people to the pond can be controlled, giving you a better opportunity to see moose.
I’ve hiked this trail many times and have always seen moose in the pond.
Note: Although a flat trail, hiking boots are recommended due to the wetness of the area and the rocks at the pond.
Check out this post for more information on Baxter State Park.
Acadia National Park, Ocean Path, Thunder Hole, Otter Point and Otter Cliff Trails
Depending on how long you want to hike, this is a beautiful spot in Acadia National Park.
Ocean Path is the easiest access to the ocean. This flat 2-mile hike takes you to some of the most beautiful scenery on Mt. Desert Island. You can get to see Thunder Hole, Otter Cliff, Sand Beach, and Otter Point.
Otter Point is an easy trail that takes you along the flat rocks for a view of the ocean, Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff. This is a great trail for kids as the tidal pools that wash up between the rocks usually have starfish in them. Depending on the tides, you can literally see hundreds of starfish along the way.
Thunder Hole is .7 miles on the Ocean Path Trail. This easy hike leads to the Atlantic Ocean where the waves hit the rocks. Over the years a hollow was made in the rocks.
Depending on when you catch the tides, Thunder Hole can be mild (low tide) or raging (high tide). Actually, the best time to experience it is midway between low and high tides. This is when you can hear the best booming sounds of the waves hitting the rocks and water can get to be 40’ high at times of impact.
Note: There are steps and guide rails but always take caution when on wet rocks. Make sure you are always looking at the ocean to see what is heading towards you.
When at Thunder Hole you can see the views of Otter Cliff. If you want to hike an additional .8 miles, take the trail to Otter Cliff.
At 110 feet high, Otter Cliff is a spectacular place in Acadia National Park and one of the famous viewpoints of the park. You will be able to get stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Maine coastline here.
It is also known for rock-climbing, as there are cliffs for all levels of experience. If this is your thing, you must obtain a permit from the park service located at park headquarters.
Sand Beach is a stunning beach where you can put your feet into the Atlantic Ocean. The water is extremely cold even during the summer, so although a great place to go swimming many people just gets a feel for how cold the water really is.
This spot is also a great place to view the sunrise and sunset.
Kennebec River Rail Trail
This paved 6.5-mile-long (each way) trail parallels the Kennebec River and goes from Augusta to Gardiner. It’s a multi-use trail for biking, hiking, running, and cross-country skiing. Motorized vehicles are prohibited.
It’s on the line of the Kennebec and Portland Railroad. The tracks remain as the hope that one day the railroad will return.
There are four access points where you can park your vehicles and access the trail. These include Memorial Drive Bridge and Capitol Park in Augusta. The waterfront park in Hallowell and Maine Avenue in Gardiner. There are restrooms for your convenience at each parking lot except in Gardiner.
This is a short (2 miles) hike in the Rangeley Lakes area of Maine. This is a summit hike to the top of Bald Mountain and although it’s a lower summit than most of the other mountains around, it sits between Rangeley Lake and Mooselookmeguntic Lake giving you stunning views of Maine’s western lake region.
This trail has a vertical rise of 950’ but it’s a gradual increase throughout the trail except for the last .2 miles to the summit where it is steeper. For the best views of both lakes, just go a little past the summit on the south side.
This is a popular hike especially during peak season as it’s doable by most and the rewards are big for little effort.
Moxie Falls is an easy hike to one of the tallest waterfalls in Maine. This 2.5-mile round trip hike is mostly level beginning through woods than to a boardwalk going to Moxie Stream. The upper falls are to the right and the lower fall is to the left.
The upper falls are a series of step falls. There isn’t a “trail” going upstream but you can walk along the river bank.
If you continue on the boardwalk you reach the 89-foot lower falls. The falls are surrounded by a gorge wall. Continue around the rim to get the best view of the falls.
Grafton Notch State Park Step Falls Preserve Hiking Trail
This is an easy hike, good for all ages, to a series of small waterfalls, slides, and pools.
It’s a total of 1.1 miles, uphill on the way there and downhill on the way back. There are flags across the stream indicating the turnaround point as it becomes private property after that point.
There are natural water slides and small pools where you can take a dip on a hot day. This is really a fun hike with your kids, so pack a lunch and enjoy.
Tip: Bring water shoes and wear denim shorts as the rocks can be slippery and you won’t be able to be barefoot. Also, the denim shorts are stronger than a regular bathing suit which can rip on the rocks.
Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail
Cadillac Mountain in the best place to see the first sunrise of the day in the United States and is the highest mountain on the North Atlantic Seaboard. You can drive up Cadillac Mountain, however, hiking it gives you a totally different perspective.
The North Ridge Trail is a moderate hike but well worth the views of Bar Harbor, Frenchman Bay, and the Porcupine Islands. Part of this 2.1 miles (each way) trail parallels the Cadillac Mountain Road however most of the trail is quiet away from the noise of the cars.
This hike can be done with your kids, it just may take you a little more time but still well worth it.
Once you reach the summit, you will meet up with all the folks that took their cars to see this beautiful view.
You can descend the same way you came or take other trails such as the Gorge Path Trail or the South Ridge Trail.
Note: These trails and Cadillac Mountain get very busy during peak tourist season. The best time to go to Acadia is in fall for fewer crowds and fall foliage.
Cascade Stream Gorge Trail, Rangeley
This is a short trail (1-mile loop) that anyone can do to see the gorge area and pretty waterfalls and at the beginning, there is a spot to even go swimming.
The trail goes through the 90-foot gorge along Cascade Stream to a series of waterfalls. This is a great hike to do with kids. There are also picnic tables near the parking lot where you can enjoy your lunch and a dip in the stream pools.
I hope you enjoyed the places that I love to go hiking in Maine. It’s one of my favorite states to vacation in with so many things to do and see, especially if you love the outdoors.
For more information about a Maine vacation, check out the Visit Maine website.
What are your favorite incredible hikes in Maine?
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