Vanlife means exploring the country on your terms, on your schedule, and with minimal “baggage”. Every day is an adventure, and every adventure brings about new opportunities, challenges, and memories. A key component to vanlife is adjusting your travels to what the season offers. The heat of summer, for example, is an exceptional time to schedule a trip to New England and the Northeast.
This is an extraordinary part of the country that blends mountain roads, mature forests, small town discoveries, and rocky coastlines. If you enjoy setting aside a day or two to set out and enjoy a front-row seat to what Mother Nature has to offer, there’s nothing like hiking in Maine during the summer season.
Depending on your abilities, experience, and sense of adventure, here are ten of the top summertime hikes in Maine.
Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park
Where to Stay: Mount Desert Campground
Why It’s a Must See: Virtually every list of great hikes in Maine includes Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park. It is easy to understand why. First, while many drive to the peak, it is an easy 2.2 mile hike. This is one of the first places in the United States where the sun reaches land, and every sunrise is a bit of a festival. The granite peak itself offers nearly panoramic views, including those of Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor, and the Atlantic Ocean. For a moderate two to four hour hike, Cadillac Mountain offers a nice payoff.
Pleasant Mountain in Bridgton and Denmark, Maine
Where to Stay: Pleasant Mountain Camping Area
Why It’s a Must: Those in search of a moderate hike with exceptional views should check out Pleasant Mountain. Located just about an hour from Portland, this is Southern Maine’s tallest peak. There are actually six designated trails here, spanning over 10 miles. A 5.8 mile trail can be completed in 3 to 4 hours and provides frequent views of the summit of Pleasant Mountain and, if conditions allow, may even offer views of New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington in the distance. The 3.6 mile Ledges Trail provides the most direct route to the top and is also very popular with other hikers.
Mount Katahdin at Baxter State Park
Where to Stay: Wilderness Edge Campground
Why It’s a Must: If you are an experienced hiker, this is a trek that will fill an entire day. Located in the middle of Baxter State Park and at just over 5 miles in length, this is a challenging hike that can take an average of 8 to 12 hours to complete. Mt. Katahdin is noted for several reasons. It is not only the tallest peak in the state, but it is the location of the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The Hunt Trail, one of the most popular ways to Baxter Peak, pays off with views of the Katahdin Stream Falls and the foothills of Maine.
Gulf Hagas, Brownville
Where to Stay: Moose Creek RV Resort
Why It’s a Must: This area is located along the west branch of the Pleasant River and is known as “The Grand Canyon of the East”. While that may be a bit overstated, it is a three-mile long rock gorge that soars about 500 feet above the river below. The Gulf Hagas trail can be located through the Katahdin Iron Works Road in Brownville. The hike, which includes parts of the Appalchian Trail, is a moderate hike of about 8.2 miles and should take about 5 or 6 hours to complete.
Tumbledown Mountain in Weld
Where to Stay: Drummer’s Beach Campground
Why It’s a Must to See: In the Western Mountains of Maine, this is one of the most popular hikes in the state. The reason? It has an unusual and unforgettable payoff. At 2,800 feet, hikers are treated to views of an Alpine pond with 700 foot granite cliffs on the south face overlooking the pond. The Brook Trail is the easiest way to the pond, with an elevation of about 1,600 feet. The trail is moderate in difficulty and takes about 3 to 4 hours to complete.
Table Rock at Grafton Notch State Park
Where to Stay: Grafton Notch Campground
Why It’s a Must See: Also along the Appalachian Trail, Table Rock is a 2.6 mile hike up Bald Pate Mountain. Its payoff is not the summit but a vista along the trail that is exceptional. There is a part of the hike that does require some hand-over-hand metal steps. You will pass some intriguing caves along the way. This trail is located along Maine’s Western Fence, which borders New Hampshire.
Bigelow Mountain – Bigelow Preserve
Where to Stay: Balsam Woods Campground
Why It’s a Must See: Part of the Appalachian Trail, this is a more classic, strenuous hike that includes multiple, significant level changes, covering about six peaks and many smaller ones. This is a ridge-style hike. Footing can be a bit tricky, and the overall hike can be strenuous. The network of trails covers 16.3 miles, is well-marked and offers plenty of selfie opportunities.
Mount Kineo at Kineo State Park near Greenville, Maine
Where to Stay: Moose Creek RV Resort
Why It’s a Must See: This is proof that a hike in Maine doesn’t have to be challenging or difficult to be rewarding. Located on a peninsula on Moosehead Lake, Mount Kineo has 700 foot sheer cliffs that have it majestically overlooking the lake. Hiking trails encircle the entire mountain, but the surface of mostly gravel and crushed rock is easy to maneuver. You should know, however, that Mount Kineo State Park can only be reached by boat.
Dorr Mountain Acadia National Park
Where to Stay: Hadlery’s Point Campground
Why It’s a Must See: While not the most well known of Acadia’s peaks or trails, Dorr Mountain has much to offer. Summit views expand in all directions. Getting there, of course, is half the fun, and you will have four options for trails that lead to the top. The Ladder Trail is perhaps the most interesting for those capable of handling its ladders and metal rungs. This is not for the timid, so if you have a fear of heights or are not steady on your feet, you may want to choose another option. This is about a 3.5 hike up and down and can take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours.
Great Head Trail Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor
Where to Stay: Bar Harbor Campground
Why It’s a Must See: While many of Maine’s hiking trails offer views of mountains, mature forests, and rivers, the Great Head Trail at Bar Harbor offers something a bit different. This trail offers spectacular views of the ocean. Hikers will enjoy the coastal headlands and wooded areas. As an added bonus, the trail includes the remains of a 1900s tea house. The modest 1.7 mile loop is considered a moderate hike. This can be an invigorating trek.
Looking for more trails to hit this summer? Check out our blog.