There’s not much we can say about hiking in Maine that doesn’t speak for itself once you’re on the trails. While hitting the great outdoors in the summertime is great, there’s something extra-special about fall hiking. Between the cool air and the colors of the leaves, fall is arguably the best time of year to hit the trails here.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Narrow Gauge to Poplar Stream (Maine Hut Trail), Carrabassett Valley
This is a must-do because it will provide exposure to one of our favorite things in the state - Maine Huts and Trails! The Poplar Stream Falls trail system is part of the overall Maine Hut Trail system. You'll start this hike at the Gauge Road Trailhead in Carrabassett Valley, then to the Maine Huts Trail. Once here, you'll head towards the Poplar Stream Falls Hut. The huts along the trails offer water and toilets to day visitors for free. If you'd like to stay and eat, they offer food and lodging for a reasonable fee.
2. Step Falls, Newry
Step Falls earns a spot on this must-do list for its beauty and grandeur. This moderately easy 1-mile trail will bring you directly to the base of the falls, which are among the highest in Maine. For a different vantage point, take the slightly more challenging (though not difficult) hike up to the top. The trail follows along Wight Brook and offers opportunities for wildlife viewing and swimming.
3. Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge Trails, Caribou
If you want to see some of the best wildlife in Maine, you better put this one on your list! Within the refuge are over 5 miles of trails, all focused around Chapman Pond and Greenlaw Brook. There are three distinct trail heads and each trail is maintained and relatively flat, making these hikes great for beginners and kids. In addition to hiking, running, snowshoeing and skiing are all allowed in the area.
4. Klondike Mountain Preserve, Lubec
This off-the-beaten-path trail (if there is such a thing) makes the list because the network was built by a dedicated group from Downeast Coastal Conservancy and the Cobscook Community Learning Center. This trail is one of the more "outdoorsy" ones on this list. While it's only about a half-mile, the route is slightly more difficult in that it takes you up to the summit of Klondike Mountain. Once you're there, you'll love the views of the bay and over to Lubec, Campobello and Eastport.
5. Moxie Falls Trail, Moxie Gore
Our love for Moxie Falls is seemingly endless, which is why we think you should make it a part of your must-do list. Part of its beauty is the sheer magnitude, being one of Maine's highest waterfalls. One of the most amazing features is the single vertical drop of 90 feet. The hike to reach it is fairly easy and really more of a walk.
6. The Eastern Trail, Various
You can't beat the ease of hopping on this trail, which is why it earns a place on this must-do list. The Eastern Trail is one part lovely area to explore and one part work-in-progress. It is being created along the old Eastern Railroad Corridor, which once played home to the first railroad to connect Boston to Portland, in operation from 1842 until 1945. Currently, The Eastern Trail winds its way through and around many parts of Southern Maine, including Scarborough, Saco, Portland and Kennebunk to name just a few. It's best for people who are looking for a leisurely walk which we absolutely think counts as hiking!
7. Ocean Path, Acadia National Park
This one is a favorite at Only In Maine! It makes the must-do list because it will take you through some of the most beautiful parts of Acadia! If you think Acadia National Park is only for the serious hiker, think again. It's absolutely possible to explore the classic Maine forest and coastline using your own two feet - even if you are not a seasoned hiker. Hiking Ocean Path will give you views of what many believe to be "classic Maine" - from coast to forest. There are many stopping points which make it a relaxing hike for those who don't want to have to constantly scramble uphill over rocks. The trail will take you past Thunder Hole and will end at Otter Point with views of Cadillac and Dorr Mountains. The trip is 4 miles one way, about 8 round trip and will take anywhere from 3-5 hours depending on how many times you stop and enjoy the journey.
8. The Coastal Trail, Quoddy Head State Park, Lubec
Make this one a priority if you like a challenge. While this trail is shorter in distance, it's one of the hardest on this list. It's steep in places with some small areas to place your feet. But, 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 worth it!
9. South Bubble Mountain and Jordan Pond: Mt. Desert, Acadia National Park
If you love strange rocks perched in stranger places, put this hike at the top of your list! The South Bubble hike of the Bubble Mountains is one of the more accessible endeavors in Acadia National Park. Once you've reached the top you'll see the famous perched rock, left by glacial activity centuries ago.
10. The Southern Bangor and Aroostook Trail
This simple trail makes the must-do list simply because it's...simple! Winding between Houlton and Phair Junction, this 37-mile trail is just about the longest multi-use trail in the state. Primarily gravel, it connects the towns of Monticello, Bridgewater and Mars Hill to larger towns like Presque Isle and Houlton. Paralleling Route 1, the trail runs along an old train corridor that used to be used to transport timber and potatoes. A trip on this trail will take you past farmlands, woods and wetlands. Keep in mind that it's fairly remote, so only those confident in being in the wilderness should tackle this one - just in case anything should go wrong.
11. Cascade Stream Gorge Trail, Sandy River Plantation
Put this on your list before it's too late! This relatively easy 1-mile loop follows the path of the Cascade Stream gorge. The hike offers picnic opportunities, and the stream is great for swimming on a hot day. The hike is located within the 50-acre Cascade Stream Gorge Conservation Area, which is on the Maine Registry of Critical Areas. It's a truly beautiful place.
12. Tumbledown & Little Jackson Mountains, Weld
Tumbledown Mountain is located in the western region of Maine, North of Weld. It is often associated with Little Jackson Mountain, with which it shares its trail network. It's not the tallest mountain in Maine, but exploring the area will provide some incredible views, beautiful plants and even a near-summit pond. The area is best for moderate to advanced hikers, but as with any hike, caution should be exercised to hike safely.
13. Pleasant Mountain Trail, Bridgton/Denmark
The reward at the end of this hike is making it to the top of the highest peak in Southern Maine. With over ten miles of trails included in this system, there are lots of different options for hikers looking for a hearty hike. While most trails aren't terribly long, they'll require some hiking experience. The good news is that making it to the summit will provide wonderful views of the White Mountains.