With numerous forested areas and some 230 miles of coastline, Maine has a lot to keep outdoor enthusiasts happy. There's no question that hikers have many options when exploring the Pine Tree State. But in our opinion, these are the most stunning hikes in Maine.
1. Cliff Trail
The scenery in Harpswell is spectacular, and it feels as though there is a gorgeous water view at every turn. The town owns some 200 acres, much of it dedicated to mixed forest areas.
The Cliff Trail is a popular route for hiking along a creek, taking in a gorgeous water overlook, discovering tiny fairy houses, and more. There are lots of birds to hear, along with some challenging but fun hiking. The trail has roots galore, so wearing sturdy boots with grips and lots of support is a must.
Depending upon the season, you may see vernal pools, a quiet salt marsh, lots of shrubbery, mosses, and ferns. But whenever you go, make your way to the high ridge, where you can look down the cliff into a peaceful waterway that includes the Long Reach Preserve, dedicated to maintaining this beautiful area. Be sure to check out the Fairy House Zones, where you will discover some creative construction projects bound to make you smile.
2. Fore River Sanctuary White Trail, Fore River Sanctuary
Fore River Sanctuary is a gorgeous 85-acre preserve with many special features perfect for an outdoor adventure. Among them is Jewell Falls, Portland’s only natural waterfall.
The White Trail is a favorite, especially in the spring. Nature lovers can enjoy native plants, wildflowers, butterflies, and lots of birds. As you continue along the trail, you will encounter Jewell Falls. There are a variety of trails in the network blazed in different colors. If you want to go a bit longer, you can explore more of the diverse habitats that extend throughout the preserve.
If you’re interested in taking your dog with you, some of the areas do allow responsible owners to bring their canine companions. Check the signs as well as the digital maps so that you know where you’re heading and what the rules are in that area. Take your time and enjoy the many pleasures of this beautiful oasis in the city of Portland.
3. Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail, Acadia National Park
It’s hard to imagine more stunning views than those at Acadia National Park. Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, and the summit vistas are nothing less than spectacular. The mountain gets the first morning sun in America for half of the year, a treat that many are willing to get up early to enjoy.
While there are a variety of ways to get to the summit, including the easy drive to the top, those who love the challenge of a great hike will want to take the Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail. The 7-mile trail is moderately difficult and features woodlands, a peaceful pond, and several spots above the treeline to appreciate gorgeous views of the outlying islands and the ocean. Because much of the south ridge is exposed granite, you will be able to see vistas all around. Take some time to appreciate the panoramas. The stunning views from the summit, especially during an unforgettable sunrise, are worth the trek.
Depending on whether or not you have a vehicle, you may have to pay a fee to enter the park. Free admission is offered on some holidays, so check the website before you go.
4. Moxie Falls Trail
For something a little less challenging, the Moxie Falls Trail offers a rewarding but easy hike of just over a mile. The best thing about it is that there are some gorgeous scenic areas and a beautiful waterfall as well as some lovely places to go for a swim. Moxie Falls drops nearly 90 feet, making it one of Maine’s highest waterfalls. Other plunges and pools make a great treat for water lovers traveling along this picturesque trail.
On the first half of the trail, you’ll encounter woodlands and pretty flat terrain. You’ll also see a welcome sign letting you know you’re nearing the falls. There’s a little more up and down the rest of the way, but it’s quite manageable for most hikers. Wooden observation decks offer a variety of spots from which to view the falls. The streams are fine for splashing around, and if you follow them down a bit farther, you’ll find some great fishing holes filled with native brook trout.
Just a few miles away is one of the best whitewater rafting rivers in Maine, the Kennebec. So if you crave a variety of outdoor adventures, you can plan a fun day rafting on the river and hiking to the falls.
5. Knife Edge Trail, Baxter State Park
Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park is the highest point in the state and the north end of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. If you’re looking for a dramatic mountain peak, you won’t find better than this stunning mountain.
Although just over a mile in length with an elevation gain of 365 feet, the Knife Edge Trail is a technically difficult trail fully exposed to the elements. The spectacular route traverses the ridge from Baxter Peak to Pamola Peak, encompassing four peaks, a wide plateau, and a serrated ridge that in some places is only a few feet wide. This is a trail for serious hikers, and because of the exposure, you will want to be sure that the weather conditions are good before you go. That said, if you’re up for it, this is one of the most exciting and spectacular hikes you will ever enjoy.
When you arrive at the top, you will see 360-degree views that are simply breathtaking. The focal point of Baxter State Park, Mount Katahdin, stands 5,267 feet high with dense forests and a 400-million-year history shaped by glaciers. Looking out over the landscape from the peak of the Knife Edge Trail is a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
6. Giant’s Stairs Trail, Bailey Island
This is our pick for the best hike in Maine. Check out TravelAwaits’ picks for the best hikes in all 50 states here. Dramatic coastal scenery, crashing waves, interesting geologic formations, and marine animals certainly make for a spectacular hike. The Giant’s Stairs Trail has all this and more. The trail gets its name from the large rock formations that look like steps down to a secret sitting spot at the water’s edge, where waves continue to crash against the stones. These rock formations have been shaped along this coastline for some 500 million years.
The land that this trail is on has been a work in progress for many years, each addition making available more spots for exploring and enjoying. The Giant’s Stairs Trail is a rustic footpath that traverses rocky ledges along the beach with beautiful views of the coastal area, including Pinnacle Rock and Thunder Hole, intriguing geologic features that bear the marks of the natural evolution of the landscape.
Carefully crawl down the Giant’s Stairs and sit watching the waves and sea life below. It’s not unusual to see local harbor seals, dolphins, and ducks looking for a meal or playing in the water. You’ll love this easy stroll filled with unique natural features, stunning views, and a few friendly critters.
7. Aroostook State Park
Aroostook State Park, Maine's first state park, now consists of nearly 800 acres in beautiful northern Maine. Plenty of trails in the area give visitors the opportunity to explore the beauty of the park.
One of the most popular is the 3-mile Quaggy Jo Loop. It includes the South Peak Trail, North-South Peak Ridge Trails, and North Peak Trail, which offer a variety of gorgeous views of the park and surrounding areas. Quaggy Jo, a Native American name meaning “twin peaked,” is a small mountain in the park that, along with lakes, forests, and fields, offers great hiking and views. The trails are moderate but well marked, so you’ll earn bragging rights for trekking to the two summits and taking in the stunning vistas. There are steep gorges, beautiful overlooks, flowing brooks, and birds and wildlife to see along the trails.
There is a small fee for day use, but if you’d like to take more time to enjoy the park, check out the small campground and picnic areas, beach, canoe and paddleboat rentals, boat launch, brook trout fishing areas, birding opportunities, and more.
Pro Tip: Maine is one of the most exquisite places to hike on the planet. Of course, there’s nothing quite like the fall leaves in New England. If you go to see the fall colors, try to get out early in the morning to beat the crowds. That way, you can take it slow and relish every step, because that's what makes hiking in Maine so special.
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