Many of my fondest Maine memories were formed on hiking trails: A pre-wedding, backpacking trip with my best friend in the western mountains. High-fiving my wife at the Deasey Mountain lookout on the International Appalachian Trail. Winter hiking with my sister to build a snowman atop Mount Megunticook. A glorious, impromptu hike up Katahdin after a nearby appointment fell through. Whether you want to spend two weeks in the backcountry or a short afternoon on a waterfall stroll, there’s a trail in Maine to accommodate you. The Appalachian Trail is obviously an American classic, reaching its northern terminus atop mile-high Mountain Katahdin, and a guy could wear out a pair of Bean boots wandering the hills of Acadia. These and a handful of lower-profile Maine hikes ought to be on any serious granola-muncher’s bucket list. Before you head out, remember to check weather conditions, bring plenty of water, and make sure you have enough battery power on your camera phone.
Long known as the most arduous section of the Appalachian Trail, the 100-Mile Wilderness takes its name from the approximate distance between towns on either side. This is remote country, and as the trail follows the slopes of wooded mountains and scoops of lake-speckled valleys, hikers get an authentic taste of the Maine northwoods—complete with moose, lynx, loons, and other wild creatures.
Knife Edge Trail
The Appalachian Trail thru-hikers complete their 2160-mile journey by ascending Katahdin’s western face. On the east face, meanwhile, is a dramatically exposed ridge known as the Knife Edge, which rewards the bold (and sure-footed) with 360-degree views of the mountain slopes and valleys below, and a butterfly inducing, eye-on-the-prize view of the knobby summit. It’s not for beginners, but oh-so-worth-it for the mountain-hardened.
Angel Falls Trail
These ribbon-y, 90-foot falls are perhaps Maine’s tallest, depending who you ask, but it’s hard to see how the braided silver cords could be anything but the most photogenic. The trailhead is 18 miles south of Oquossoc on an old railroad grade called Bemis Road. The hike is short— just a mile—but a bit steep, and requires a few stream crossings. The payoff is sublime.
Cadillac South Ridge Trail
Sure, you can drive up Cadillac Mountain, the tallest peak on the Atlantic coast and the first spot to see the sun rise on the U.S. But why do that when this moderately challenging, 3.5-mile path weaves through the woods, then ascends to open rocky ledges leading to the summit? Start at Blackwoods Campground (or pitch your tent there and have s’mores supplies waiting for your return).
Bigelow Fire Warden’s Trail
The five-mile Fire Warden Trail climbs (sometimes steeply) up Maine’s sixth highest mountain, which actually boasts six separate peaks. The Bigelow Preserve gets less attention (and less traffic) than big parks like Baxter and Acadia, and as such, you won’t have too much company in the cool hardwood forests and on the rocky ridges on the way up.