In 2016, I backpacked 3000 miles through five states and out of all those states, Maine was my favorite. Why? Because Maine is one of the few places that I’ve been in my travels where you can actually get lost in the woods. This is a quality that I look for in a world where untouched places are so hard to find. So get ready for an adventure in the pine tree state, starting with:
10. Portland Head Lighthouse
When I flew into Maine with my buddy Harley, we landed in Portland. Since I had already prepared for Maine by thoroughly researching it, I knew that we had to check out the Portland Head Lighthouse. Why? Besides the fact that it’s one of the most photographed lighthouses in Maine, it also happens to be Maine’s oldest lighthouse. How old? It was first lit in 1791 and was commissioned by George Washington! So this incredible lighthouse that’s been keeping sailors safe for over 200 years, is a definite must see.
9. West Quoddy Head Lighthouse
I know what you’re thinking, another lighthouse? Well, this one has a special quality to it too. Aside, from the picturesque beauty, the West Quoddy Head lighthouse is one of the three areas that the sunlight first hits the U.S. So, if you catch the sunrise from March 7 to March 24 or from September 19 to October 6, you can know that you’re the first one in America that the light touches.
But I know what you’re thinking.
“It’s called “WEST” Quoddy Head Lighthouse. How is that going to be where the sunlight first hits the US?”
Well, don’t let the name fool you. The West Quoddy Head Lighthouse is actually the easternmost point of the US.
“But why don’t they call it East Quoddy Head Lighthouse instead?”
Because there’s another lighthouse by that name, that just so happens to be located on another site on this list.
8. Watch the Sunrise from Mars Hill
Notice chasing the sunrise is becoming a theme here? Mars Hill mountain is another area that the sunlight first hits the US. Specifically, from March 25 to September 18. But there’s more here than just an epic sunrise. It’s also a continuation of the Appalachian trail that extends in to Canada.
At the top, you’ll find a large lean-to that you can bunk in and a nice firepit. This was almost the starting point of my backpacking trip in 2016. However, I ended up starting in January in a warmer climate. But after a few months, I finally gotta catch that sweet sunrise.
7. Stephen King’s House
While I was hiking through Bangor, I came across Stephen King’s house. I saw a car parked behind the gates with the bats on them and found that I couldn’t cross the street. I grew up reading Stephen King and it wouldn’t be going to far to say that he’s my literary hero. After you read about someone long enough, you get an idea in your head about them and don’t want to risk losing that vison of them. I think that’s what happened to me. In any case, it was cool to see his personality in the features of his home.
6. Roosevelt Campobello International Park
You’ll need your passport for this one, but it’s worth it. It’s not well known, which means less people. There are some beautiful landscapes and interesting geological formations here, especially on the coastline.
Definitely, be sure to check out the Friar’s Head and Liberty point for some awesome hiking and incredible views. But besides the natural beauty of the place, you can also learn about how president Roosevelt went on vacation at his cottage here for some pretty cool history.
And also be sure to check out the East Quoddy Head Lighthouse, while you’re there 😉
5. The Desert of Maine
What happens when people don’t know how to take care of their land? Desert…desert happens. Similar to what happened during the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression, the Desert of Maine was formed by poor farming techniques and overgrazing by cattle. Without giving the soil a chance to recover by methods such as crop rotation, erosion was inevitable. However, this was only partially the cause. During the last ice age, as the glaciers moved and receded, they ground up rocks and boulders into a fine glacial silt. When the topsoil was completely eroded, this glacial silt was exposed and formed the Desert of Maine.
As you walk in to explore the sands that cover 40 acres of the park, a surreal feeling hits you as you go from a green forest to a legit desert. My friend Christine and I had a ton of fun geeking out on the biological history of the place. Especially, finding out that the coniferous trees that are growing there are actually much much taller than they appear to be because of the sand that’s covering them.
4. Cadillac Mountain
You can drive up it or you can hike it, but there is one thing you’ve gotta do when you get to the top. Can you guess what it is? WATCH THE SUNRISE!!!
It’s yet another spot that the sunlight touches first in the US (from October 7 to March 6). This mountain vista is also the highest point on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. But don’t worry, the summit is only 1530 ft.
My friend Harley and I ended up driving up it because we had already spent the day hiking all around the rest of Arcadia National Park. However, I did research the trails that you can hike to the top:
Cadillac North Ridge Trail (4 miles roundtrip)
Cadillac South Ridge Trail Loop (8 miles roundtrip)
3. Acadia National Park
There is so much to see and with incredible hiking trails throughout the park, it can be hard to know where to start. But let me help you out. I recommend the Beehive trail to begin. It’s a nice moderate hike with stunning views of the park and has a nice lake to cool off in when you get to the top. Another one I recommend is the Bubble Rock trail. The pictures alone are worth it.
The obvious one would be the previous number on this list. The not so obvious, would be the thunder hole, the otter cliffs, and the Precipice trail. If you manage all these, then you’re going to have some good memories for years to come.
2. Mt. Katahdin
Maine’s highest mountain (5,269 feet) and the end of the Appalachian trail (or the beginning depending on which way you’re going). Located in the deep woods of Baxter state park, Mount Katahdin’s grand prominence is truly something to behold. As you reach the summit, you can see clear across the state and then further.
To get to the top of my favorite mountain, here is the list of trails:
Abol Trail – This is the one we did to get to the top. It was filled with tons of loose rocks and boulders at an insane incline. Extremely strenuous and dangerous…I highly recommend it!
Hunt Trail – This is the most popular trail and is usually used by hikers of the Appalachian trail.
Helen Taylor + Knife Edge Trail – We really wanted to do the Knife Edge trail, but it was two snowy and dangerous. I highly recommend it to braver adventurers.
Chimney Pond + Cathedral Trail – Apparently, you can get to the top from here.
Chimney Pond + Saddle Trail – And here too!
1. Gulf Hagas
Located in the 100 mile wilderness of the Appalachian trail, this is about as deep into the woods as you can get in Maine. Once you ford the Pleasant River (bring sandals or shoes that you don’t mind getting wet), you’ll find that almost every trail leads to a breathtaking waterfall, with the most popular being Screw Auger Falls. However, if you continue to explore, you’ll find that Buttermilk, Billings, and Stair Falls are worth the extra footwork.
As you hike, you’ll also quickly come across the “Grand Canyon of Maine” – a 400 foot gorge that cuts through the west branch of the Pleasant River. It’s here where smell of pine and the sound of the river below fills your soul. Which is why in the serene solitude of this verdant forest, I consider to be my favorite place in all of Maine.
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