The gorgeous landscapes and endless opportunities to mingle with nature make Maine a beacon for the outdoorsy adventurer hiding within us all. From (nearly) impossible mountain hikes and a carousel of great camping sites to famous canoe trails snaking through hundreds of miles of pristine wilderness, Maine is home to a series of unforgettable destinations ideally suited for the adventurous soul. With so many options, however, consider a few of these can’t-miss possibilities to get you started on an inspiring trek to the Pine Tree State. Here are a few of the most scenic adventures in Maine.
Biking Adventures in Maine from Bar Harbor to Acadia National Park and beyond
If you’re looking to have a biking adventure in Maine, look no further than Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. It’s nothing but you, the road, and a stunning combination of coastal and forest views after you hop on a bike in Bar Harbor and head out to see the sights. A cozy, 5,000-person town on Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor has long been a summer getaway and it has turned into a biker’s paradise thanks to the incredible list of bike-able destinations nearby, most notably Acadia National Park. There is no wrong way to do Acadia, yet some of the visitors having the most fun are always the ones on two wheels zipping through the park’s many miles of tall forests, old stone bridges, and majestic ponds and lakes.
On the Carriage Roads course, bikers have up to 57 miles of car-free biking paths to cruise through, 45 of which are a part of Acadia. Designed and financed by John D. Rockefeller between 1913 and 1940, Carriage Roads is now a timeless classic of Mount Desert Island and a draw for both experienced bikers and more casual sightseers.
While you can certainly spend an entire vacation just biking Mount Desert Island, another excellent way to go is to cross the bridge to the mainland and continue through a series of quaint towns that highlight some of the best of Maine living. A popular route is biking from to inn to inn from Bar Harbor all the way to Boothbay Harbor, a 118-mile jaunt filled with terrific sights and cozy accommodations. Even if you’re not up for the entire journey, there are plenty of worthwhile stopping points on the way, where you can pick up a car rental and complete the trip to Boothbay. However you choose to do it, the central coastal region of Maine has some of the very best biking you’ll find anywhere in New England, or the United States at large.
Go camping and stargazing nearly off the map at Cutler Coast
The adventures you can experience in Acadia National Park are so vast that many unfamiliar to Maine don’t realize how many other good camping sites there are throughout the state. A place that holds its own with anything you’ll find in Acadia is the Cutler Coast, a spec of immaculate land nearly all the way to the eastern tip of Maine. The Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land is ideal for truly getting away from everyday life and experiencing the world of Maine at its purest, and you won’t even miss that you don’t have much (or any) cell service while you’re gallivanting around the gorgeous terrain surrounding your campsite.
Take your friends to have a stargazing adventure in Maine. Cutler is also a wonderland thanks to its distance from any light pollution. Take your friends to have a stargazing adventure in Maine. Although campsites all over Cutler offer outstanding glimpses of the night sky, dog-friendly Cobscook Bay State Park is only a short drive away and is another renowned spot that brings out both locals and visitors with their telescopes. Tent sites at both places are very reasonable and can be booked far in advance online.
In addition to being a true getaway in every sense of the word, the Cutler area also has no shortage of great hikes and outstanding scenery thanks to a rugged coastline of vertiginous rocks and beautiful sea inlets, which has helped it earn comparisons to some of the most famous scenery in Ireland. For nature lovers, the opportunities for animal encounters are plentiful, especially for bird watchers who might love to catch the sight of a bald eagle soaring overhead.
Canoe the mesmerizing Northern Forest Canoe Trail
If you ever wanted to travel up to 740 miles by canoe (374 miles within Maine), the Northern Forest Canoe Trail is one of the best ways in the world to do exactly that. Opened in 2006, the trail starts all the way near the Maine-New Brunswick border at Fort Kent and doesn’t end until it hits the Adirondack Mountains in New York, taking canoers through dozens of rivers, lakes, and streams alongside many of Maine’s most beautiful natural features. Although the trail is gorgeous any time of the year, it’s nothing short of stunning in the early portions of fall with the classic Maine foliage hovering over the waterways.
Doing the entire trail isn’t practical unless you’re an extreme canoer. If you’re looking for a more tame canoeing adventure in Maine, there are plenty of worthwhile shorter trips that will give you a taste of what the trail has to offer. Section eight of the trail picks up at the New Hampshire-Maine border and pushes east from Umbagog Lake to Rangeley Lake, taking travelers through a wildlife refuge that is famous for its terrific birdwatching and overall sightseeing. Sections 10 and 11 – in central Maine – are also both on the shorter side while more adventurous types might head to the remote north country to tackle section 13 from Umsaskis Lake to St. John River.
If the Northern Forest Canoe Trail sounds a little too intimidating, there are other great areas perfect for relaxing on the water. Just east of Portland, Casco Bay, Cape Small, and Cape Elizabeth all have outstanding kayaking and boating options, as does Highland Lake, which is less than a half-hour from downtown Portland and is a popular spot for the locals in the summer.
Scale to the summit of Baxter Peak of Mount Katahdin
There are plenty of low-key adventures in Maine worth taking embarking on during a trip to Maine. Hiking to the top of Baxter Peak on Mount Katahdin isn’t necessarily one of them, especially if you plan to cross the terrifying Knife Edge for a once-in-a-lifetime thrill. The tallest point in Maine and the northern end of the famous Appalachian Trail, Mount Katahdin is about a mile above sea level and is an awe-inspiring bastion of granite jutting into the sky, complete with a variety of different hikes that tailor to all different hiking abilities.
While the Saddle Trail (near campsite Chimney Pond) is on the light and easy side for hikers headed to Baxter Peak, other hikes like the Cathedral Ridge Route and the Dudley Trail are not typically a good idea for inexperienced hikers. For the truly brave, the Knife Edge is an adrenaline-pumping pathway that takes hikers from Pamola Peak to Baxter Peak, offering dramatic mountain views throughout the most treacherous paths that most will traverse in a lifetime. Only a few feet wide at its most harrowing points, Knife Edge is for experienced hikers with good balance (and confidence), and it’s famous for yielding some of the most breathtaking views of Baxter Peak that you’ll find.
No matter which trail of you choose, you are sure to have an adventure. However, Mount Katahdin – like Maine as a whole – is well worth the hype for anyone who can’t get enough of the outdoors. If you’re looking for beautiful scenery, great hikes and plenty of biking paths, Maine might be the place for you to have your next adventure.