1. Coastal Trail, Lubec in Quoddy Head State Park
Sure, Maine is full of coastal hikes. But this one will make you feel like a true trailblazer. This rocky, steep hike is a challenge, but comes with some awesome ocean views. Along the way you'll be able to see from the Quoddy Channel to the cliffs of Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick Canada. It's about 4 miles and should take somewhere between 4 and 5 hours.
2. Elephant Mountain, near Moosehead Lake
Take a trip to honor members of our armed forces, true explorers in my mind.
On January 24, 1963, a United States Air Force Boeing B-52C Stratofortress went down over Maine while flying a training mission. Of the nine crew members, only the pilot and navigator survived. Elephant Mountain, near Moosehead Lake about six miles from Greenville, is the final resting place of its shredded fuselage. A half-mile hike will get you to the wreckage, where a stone memorial commemorates the seven fallen soldiers.
3. Maine Mineral Adventures in Woodstock
If you want a tangible souvenir of your exploration, visit Maine Mineral Adventures. Open since 2007, they've honed relationships with local mine owners which allows for special access to gem-rich areas. They stay open as long as the weather permits, but they're generally closed over the winter. If you're lucky, you'll unearth some tourmaline or aquamarine. Give them a call when it's warmer to check the schedule and reserve a spot: (207) 674-3440.
4. The Grand Canyon of Maine, Gulf Hagas
Located in Katahdin Iron Works State Park in central Maine, Gulf Hagas is known as the "Grand Canyon of Maine." You can brave the falls by kayak, or simply explore the surrounding area and feel awed by what nature has created.
5. Precipice Trail, Bar Harbor in Acadia National Park
You can always explore Acadia by seeing the more traveled areas, but if you're trying to call yourself an explorer do this instead! The trail isn't technically for "hiking" as the sign states when you arrive. It's a nontechnical climb and it's possible to fall to your death. That being said, you'll be able to see all the way to the harbor and beyond along the way. This guy rises more than 1,000 ft. in less than a mile, includes iron handrails and ladders, and requires some serious athletic prowess. Keep in mind that descending the Precipice is so dangerous that it's not advised. Return on the Champlain North Ridge. Lastly, don't take small children and avoid it when wet. Expect to be adventuring around 4 to 6 hours.
6. Kettle Cove and Crescent Beach in Cape Elizabeth
These two adjacent state parks offer incredible views of the Maine coast. The mile-long sandy crescent-shaped beach is perfect for easing into some more rocky exploration. At the eastern end, scramble among the rocks searching for tide pool oddities. You'll also come to a trail taking you through a meadow that with an abundance of milkweed. This plant is the only plant that its Monarch butterfly larvae can eat and the area attracts the gorgeous butterflies in late summer and fall.
7. Peaks Island, off Portland
For those of you who like your exploration in the form of ferry rides that end in ice cream, jump on one of the fourteen daily departures to Peaks Island. Once known as the Coney Island of Maine, it became an important outpost during WW II. Today you'll find and inviting community, home to everyone from artists to Portland commuters.
You can easily spend an entire day here and feel like you're miles away from the city. Start with a visit to Peaks Cafe for delectable treat, then try getting a sense of your surroundings by renting a golf cart at Island Tours. Stop just about any place for lunch and know you won't be disappointed. Then, enjoy the rest of the day exploring on foot, or rented kayak or bike from Brad and Wyatt’s Bike Shop. Check out the views from Backshore or from the high point of Battery Steele. Round out your adventure by walking along Island Avenue to visit the Gem Gallery and the world's only Umbrella Cover Museum. Then, as promised, get yourself some ice cream!
Add this to your in-season exploration list and have something to look forward to during these chilly days of winter.
8. The Allagash Wilderness Waterway
This one makes a lot of our lists simply because it's one of my favorites! Because it's not exactly easily navigated, it oftentimes gets traded for other areas to explore, but don't fall to temptation. Get out there! If you have the means, a great trip is one that takes you via boat on a multi-day trip. Grab some friends, some camping equipment and see the real Maine!
9. Rattlesnake Flume and Pool at Evans Notch
Plan for a hot day of hiking Blueberry Mountain in Evans Notch and make sure you stop off at Rattlesnake Flume and Pond near the end. The crystal clear pool is located just off Stone House Trail. You'll see a marker showing you the way via a small detour.
10. Asmara Restaurant in Portland
Who said exploring meant JUST Maine? You can explore the world without even leaving the state. The next time you're in Portland, skip the obvious Old Port haunts and make a trip to Asmara for some of the most authentic Eritrean food you'll find outside of Africa. Enjoy some house made honey wine and then dig in to just about anything on the menu. You'll be in heaven if you're a vegetarian! Be prepared to eat with your hands. They can be found at: 51 Oak Street, Portland / 207-253-5122.