Maine

14 Best Hikes in Maine for Exploring the Great Outdoors

by Liz Dengler
Updated April 25, 2022

best hikes in maine
Photo: Shutterstock

A small state tucked up in the most northeastern point of the U.S., Maine is an unassuming spot to find some of the best hikes in the country.

However, with rocky coastline, craggy summits, and expansive forests, Maine is host to many outdoor activities and some stupendous hiking.

From easy strolls through the woods to rocky scrambles up craggy summits with ocean views, Maine has trails suitable to every type of hiker. If you’re spending a bit of time in Vacationland, check out some of these top hikes across the state.

Related Read: 11 Amazing Maine Swimming Holes & Swimming Beaches

1. Cadillac Mountain

cadillac mtn maine hike
Photo: Doug Lemke

Why you should go: For a stunning introduction to the Maine coastline with epic views.

  • Nearest town: Bar Harbor
  • Distance: 4.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 1,300 feet

Cadillac Mountain, located in Acadia National Park, is the quintessence of Maine hiking. Hiking the mountain offers forest strolls, rocky traverses, and epic ocean views. For half the year, Cadillac Mountain is the first spot in the continental U.S. to get the sunrise each day.

If you can handle a bit of wayfinding by headlamp, it’s a great hike to do in the wee hours and watch the sunrise from the top. Try the loop hiking up the Gorge Trail and down the North Ridge Trail. For an easier option, do an out and back on the South Ridge Trail.

Related Read: When is the Best Time to Visit Acadia National Park?

2. The Beehive

the beehive maine hike
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: Experience a hiking trail with a via ferrata feel in Acadia National Park.

  • Nearest town: Bar Harbor
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 550 feet

At only 1.4 miles and 550 feet of elevation gain, you may think the loop up The Beehive isn’t much to write home about. However, with metal rung ladders, steep cliff edge scrambles, and a few metal bridges over gaps, the Beehive feels a little like a via ferrata!

Once at the top, enjoy views of the ocean and Sand Beach below. The Bowl, a small pond on the backside of the Beehive, is a nice spot to have a quick snack before returning to the trailhead. If you’re not great with exposure or heights, this probably isn’t the best option as the Beehive Trail is one-way only. Once you start, you can’t turn back.

Related Read: 14 Best Hikes in Acadia National Park, Maine

3. Great Head Trail

great head hike maine
Photo: Donna Carpenter

Why you should go: A beautiful loop right off of Sand Beach in Acadia National park.

  • Nearest town: Bar Harbor
  • Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 300 feet

If you’re spending the day at Sand Beach, but you also want to get a little bit of exploring, Great Head is a fantastic option.

The trail starts right off of the beach and scrambles up the rocks to the point. From there, enjoy views of the ocean. You may even catch a glimpse of rock climbers on Otter Cliffs! From the point, wind through the woods back to the beach.

Related Read: 12 Unique Airbnbs Near Acadia National Park, Maine

4. Mount Katahdin / Knife Edge Trail

mount katahdin maine hike
Photo: Jesse Azarva

Why you should go: An iconic but strenuous hike up one of Maine’s premiere summits.

  • Nearest town: Millinocket
  • Distance: 9.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Elevation gain: 3,785 feet

In Baxter State Park stands the grand Mount Katahdin — the tallest mountain in the state and also the start (or end) of the Appalachian Trail (AT).

The route takes you across the iconic knife’s edge ridge — a very narrow, mile-long section of trail that is rugged and exposed; you’ll also have to navigate the tricky keyhole notch that is quite scrambly. Daunting, yes, but the views from the summit of Katahdin are expansive in all directions.

As you stand on top, you can admire that this is either the beginning or end of the AT. The way down is much kinder — there is also a great place to camp at Chimney Pond Campground, complete with huts and shelters.

Related Read: The 10 Best Pet-Friendly Cabin Rentals in Maine

5. Moxie Falls Trail

moxie falls maine
Photo: Jon Bilous

Why you should go: A beautiful trek to a waterfall that is good for the whole family.

  • Nearest town: Moxie Gore
  • Distance: 1.7 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 225 feet

Standing 100-feet high, Moxie Falls is the tallest and most accessible waterfall in Maine. The trail isn’t too difficult — there are only a few rocky steps and roots to look out for, making it a good option for the whole family, kids and all. This is a great hike any time of year, even in the winter when the falls are frozen (just bring the traction devices for slippery trail conditions).

In the autumn, the woods shroud the falls in a plethora of colors, while in the spring, the water is at its peak flow. Explore downriver of the falls to find supreme swimming and fishing holes.

Related Read: 9 Must-See Waterfalls in Maine You Can Hike To

6. 100-Mile Wilderness

100 mile wilderness hike maine
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: A remote and stunning section of the Appalachian Trail.

  • Nearest town: Monson
  • Distance: 93 miles
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Elevation gain: 14,972 feet

Right near the end (or beginning) of the Appalachian Trail is a section of the hike that is remarkable. Often done as a thru-hike, the 100-mile Wilderness is one of the state’s most remote sections of trail.

You’ll wind up and over mountains, past lakes, and through extensive forest systems. You may see other hikers, but this section of trail is much quieter than other trails in the state.

Related Read: 8 Spectacular Glamping Spots Near Acadia National Park, Maine

7. Gulf Hagas Gorge

Gulf Hagas Waterfall
Photo: Wade H. Massie

Why you should go: Journey down a gorgeous brook past numerous waterfalls.

  • Nearest town: Monson
  • Distance: 11.3 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate / Challenging
  • Elevation gain: 1,330 feet

Right off the Appalachian Trail and 100-mile Wilderness is the legendary Gulf Hagas Gorge. The trail is one of the most popular areas and, as such, can be very crowded, so plan accordingly.

This is a good option for families as you can make it a little longer or shorter depending on how you’d like your hike to be. Enjoy the brook, forest, and stunning waterfalls as you traverse this route.

Related Read: 11 Amazing Maine Swimming Holes & Swimming Beaches

8. Mount Kineo

mt kineo hike maine
Photo: Isaac Crabtree

Why you should go: A beautiful summit overlooking Moosehead Lake.

  • Nearest town: Greenville
  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 900 feet

A huge rock bluff crafted during the age of glaciers, Mount Kineo stands majestically over the crisp blue waters of Moosehead Lake. A popular spot, you’ll need to plan ahead for this hike.

There is no road access to Mount Kineo, and you’ll have to take a commercial boat shuttle to get there. However, there are plenty of trails on the island, eventually all of which lead to the summit. Take your time and explore this spot.

Related Read: The 9 Best Hikes Near Portland, Maine

9. Mount Battie Trail

mount battie maine hike
Photo: E.J. Johnson

Why you should go: A short summit hike to beautiful ocean views.

  • Nearest town: Camden
  • Distance: 1.1 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 600 feet

On the edge of Camden Hills State Park, this short summit is a lovely, but sometimes steep, hike to gorgeous views of Camden, the ocean, and the harbor. At only one mile round trip, the Mount Battie Trail may seem like a quick trip out. However, with quad-busting climbs, and sections of extreme scrambling, you’ll want to have at least some hiking experience.

If you’re looking for something a little longer, the hike up Mount Megunticock is a bit more intermediate in skill but also longer. However, it offers up the same stunning views as Battie.

Related Read: 10 Super & Secluded Maine Cabin Rentals

10. Old Speck Mountain

old speck mtn maine hike
Photo: James Dillon

Why you should go: A great spot for birding and scrambly trails.

  • Nearest town: Newry
  • Distance: 7 miles
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Elevation gain: 2,725 feet

Right off the main drag is the start of an amazing trail to explore Grafton Notch State Park. This seven-mile out-and-back hike takes you to the top of Old Speck via a series of cable rails, iron rungs, and a metal ladder. The trail is a ledgy scrabble and, at times, quite exposed, but the views are great!

From a fire tower on the summit of Old Speck, you can get amazing panoramic 360-degree views. Make sure to pack your binoculars and get some birding in! If you’d like to have a much longer backpacking hike, you can extend your trip by taking the 28-mile Grafton Notch Trail.

Related Read: 12 Epic Hiking Camps & Summer Backpacking Trips

11. Tumbledown Mountain

Tumbledown Mountain maine hike
Photo: Jodi R. Casavant

Why you should go: A great spot for birding and scrambly trails.

  • Nearest town: Weld Corner
  • Distance: 5.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Elevation gain: 2,023 feet

Make sure you don’t actually tumble down! Busy on nice summer weekends, Tumbledown Mountain is a popular hike with great views from the summit. You’ll follow the babbling brook all the way up to Tumbledown Pond. Here, take a nice rest to enjoy the pond after a long steep climb.

From the pond, many people return to the trailhead; however, it’s only about a mile to the summit, and the grade is not as steep as up to the pond. Enjoy the views as you traverse rocky outcrops. This hike is particularly stunning in autumn when all the leaves are changing.

Related Read: 9 Must-Do Hikes in New Hampshire

12. The Range Trail / Bigelow Mountain

avery peak maine
Photo: John Hayes

Why you should go: A great remote backpacking trip near Flagstaff Lake.

  • Nearest town: Stratton
  • Distance: 16.3 miles
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Elevation gain: 6,111 feet

Located in Western Maine is the grand Bigelow Range. There are several summits along the range, including Avery Peak, West Peak, The Horns, Cranberry Peak, and Little Bigelow Mountain. Both Avery Peak and West Peak offer up 360-degree views, including great views of Flagstaff Lake.

You mostly follow the Appalachian Trail over the crest of the range. You can do this as an out and back, or drop a car at the far end of the range, to make it a point-to-point trip. Given its remote nature, the Range Trail is a great place to get out backpacking and enjoy the wilds.

13. Bradbury Mountain

Bradbury Mountain maine hike
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: A great remote backpacking trip near Flagstaff Lake.

  • Nearest town: Freeport
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 240 feet

Bradbury Mountain State Park, located just north of Freeport, is one of the most popular hiking spots around. With 18 miles of trail, it’s a great spot for picnicking, hiking, camping, and biking—the park is a hotbed of activity.

Though there are plenty of trails to choose from in the park, a popular route is a small loop to the top of Bradbury Mountain, where you can enjoy lovely views. It is especially beautiful in the autumn when the forest is awash in the color of changing leaves.

Related Read: 12 Best Spots to See New York’s Fall Foliage

14. Ecotat Gardens and Arboretum

 

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Why you should go: A family-friendly outing with great birding opportunities.

  • Nearest town: Bangor
  • Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet

With only 1.5 miles of trails, this is a quick hike. However, Ecotat Gardens and Arboretum is a wonderful place to explore with the family. Enjoy an afternoon exploring the trails, learning about the plants, and relaxing in the beautifully-maintained gardens.

As a beautiful flourishing garden, the arboretum is the perfect place to spend some time birdwatching. Find a nice tree or bench to sit on and wait for the plethora of sparrows and warblers to flit about.

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