Whether you want to explore Maine's coastline, trek through the woods, or climb a mountain, you can set your compass for the destination of your choice. Maine offers thousands of miles of trails to make it easy for everyone from beginners to experts to find their own favorite path. Many of these trails are open year-round and park staff can offer advice on how to be safe when planning a hike.
Mt. Katahdin and Baxter State Park
In Baxter State Park, you can find some of the finest day hiking in the state by following one of a dozen footpaths that scale Mt. Katahdin—Maine's highest peak at 5,267 feet. Your choices range from the moderate Chimney Pond Trail to very strenuous hikes such as the infamous Knife Edge Trail, which is only a few feet wide in some places. The park is also the place to spot moose, which are plentiful in this 210,000-acre park. With 200 miles of footpaths that take you to mountains, waterfalls and lakes, you could spend days here observing all of the park's wildlife.
Up in Aroostook County, three old-growth forests near the shores of Eagle Lake make for some awe-inspiring hikes. Some of the white pines on the eastern shore are over three feet in diameter and up to 130 feet tall. Among the tallest trees in Maine, they were already standing tall when Thoreau canoed by them to Pillsbury Island in 1857. Six miles away at the Ziegler Site, there is another stand of old-growth white pine with an understory composed of red spruce, white birch, northern white cedar and sugar maple (one of which is thought to be over 180 years old). Across the lake on the Pump Handle Peninsula, there’s a stand of old-growth hardwood trees easily reached by a scenic trail hike.
The Appalachian Trail
The Maine section of the Appalachian Trail runs over 200 miles from the Mahoosuc Mountains to Mt. Katahdin's summit. Much of these 281 miles are considered some of the Trail’s most difficult. The Whitecap Range offers several moderate to strenuous sections, including the moderate 4.2 mile White Brook Trail that offers outstanding views from the top of the range. Easier and less-traveled stretches can be found near Carry Pond and Sabbath Day Pond, which offers a comparatively easy walk over gentle, wooded terrain.
There are several old-growth forests along the Trail as well. Described as the “Grand Canyon of Maine,” Gulf Hagas is a deep forested gorge where rushing water continues to erode and smooth the slate walls that surround it. The Bigelow Preserve provides a fantastic ridge hike, though be prepared for a long, steep climb through the trees
Acadia National Park
For a beautiful view of Mt. Desert Island and the Atlantic Ocean, you can climb the mountain peaks of Acadia National Park. You can often see eagles and peregrine falcons soaring overhead, and if you look closely, you may spy seals and whales swimming offshore. You can also scramble over pink granite cliffs and ledges along the coastline, trek through deep gorges, or hike beside secluded brooks and ponds.
The White Mountain National Forest
You can follow dozens of trails through the 45,000 acres of the Maine section of the White Mountain National Forest, ranging from the easy climb of The Roost to the challenging traverse of Red Rock, Butters and Durgin Mountains in the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness. If you seek more lightly traveled peaks, you can climb Caribou, Speckled or East Royce Mountains.
Grafton Trail Loop
As part of a 39-mile hike through the Mahoosuc Mountains along the Grafton Loop Trail, you can traverse the rugged Grafton Notch and climb 4,180-foot Old Speck, Maine’s fourth-highest mountain. You can plan an overnight or weekend hike, or a four-to-five-day trip to travel the entire distance. You'll find campsites and shelters en route, complete with fire rings and water sources.
More to Explore
Maine owns more than a half million acres of public lands for you to explore, including Bradbury Mountain, Camden Hills, Grafton Notch and Mount Blue State Parks. You can also find plenty of solitude in the Public Reserved Lands, including Bald Mountain, Cutler Coast, Donnell Pond and Nahmakanta. More than 90 land trusts work to preserve Maine's natural areas as well. You can find little-known hiking gems on these lands, such as the rocky shoreline at La Verna Preserve, the view of Blue Hill Bay from Blue Hill Mountain, and the bird life and history of Salt Bay.