Best of Maine: Unsung Hikes

Carey Michael Kish, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, share his favorite hikes you may have never heard of.

A hiking guide for the Maine Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club, Carey Michael Kish has been exploring Maine’s forests and mountains for more than forty years. He is the editor of the AMC’s recently updated Maine Mountain Guide (amcstore.outdoors.org), beloved by hikers for its detailed no-nonsense trail descriptions and full-color topographical maps. Added to the tenth edition are more than two hundred trails that are either relatively new or often overlooked. We gave Kish, who loves them all, the tough task of recommending ten.

Traveler Mountain

Baxter State Park, Millinocket

“Traveler Mountain, with three peaks over three thousand feet, is on par with Katahdin for the physical exertion it requires. The entire circuit is a little over ten miles, so you want to prepare for a long rugged day, but the rewards are incredible. You’ve got lots of open alpine terrain and you see a huge part of the park that you don’t see from Katahdin.”

Debsconeag Backcountry Trail
Nahmakanta Public Reserve Land, between Brownville Junction and Millinocket

“In the heart of the One Hundred-Mile Wilderness, this twelve-and-a-half mile trail goes by a series of ponds and Nahmakanta Lake. You’ll see moose and lots of other wildlife. There is not a lot of rise, so you can easily do it in a day, or you can use the Appalachian Trail to make a longer loop of three or four days.”

Grafton Notch Loop Trail
Grafton Notch State Park, Newry

“This thirty-eight mile loop, almost all new in the last six years, makes a terrific three- to five-day backpacking trip encompassing several peaks. There are primitive campsites with simple privies along the way. You also can create a two-day hike by just doing the west or east section or take a day hike on Puzzle Mountain (3,133 feet).”

Maggie’s Nature Park
Greenwood

“Maggie’s Nature Park has six color-coded trails on eighty-six acres, and they’re all great little hikes. Ring Hill Trail takes you up to some nice ledges overlooking Mount Abram. It’s easy walking, just a little over a mile. Peaked Mountain (1,230 feet) is another easy trail with pleasant woods walking. And from Route 26, you’d never guess the great view to be had from Mount Christopher (1,200 feet), a little forested knob on the other side of Bryant Pond.”

Kennebec Highlands
Rome, Mount Vernon, Vienna, New Sharon

“The Kennebec Highlands is a beautiful joint conservation project of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance with lots of great hiking. There is a 4.5-mile loop around Round Top Mountain (1,100 feet); the rest of the trails are short. You get views of the hill country around Belgrade Lakes, as well as the lakes below. You’d never know you were so close to I-95; you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere.”

Bauneg Beg Mountain Conservation Area
North Berwick

“This eighty-six acre preserve is just a stone’s throw from downtown Sanford, yet it’s got nice hiking, old stone walls, an interesting area of cliffs and boulders called the Devil’s Den, and three peaks on Bauneg Beg Mountain (860 feet), the only mountain in southern Maine that doesn’t have a radio tower.”

Whitten Hill 
and Goose Ridge
Montville

“The Northern Headwaters Loop Trail, about three-and-a-half miles, climbs Whitten Hill (850 feet) and follows the headwaters of the Sheepscot River. It’s a terrific meandering trail through beautiful forest and past old stone walls. It passes the Goose Ridge Trail, another fabulous walk through woods and fields with far-reaching views of the midcoast’s mountains. You won’t see a lot of people, but you will very likely see a lot of wildlife.”

Caribou Mountain Loop Trail
Donnell Pond Public Reserved Land, Township 9 Southern Division (near Franklin)

“To reach this trail, you first have to climb Black Mountain (1,094 feet), a great hike through a dark, cool spruce forest with trees that will amaze you. From the summit, you dive into the heart of the preserve, crossing ledges with amazing blueberries in summer and views south to Black and Schoodic mountains and east across Tunk Lake. Be prepared for a five- or six-hour hike of about nine miles.”

Western Mountain
Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island

“What can you say about Acadia that hasn’t already been said? It has some of the most beautiful trails in the world. You can get off the beaten path by hiking Western Mountain, on the quiet side of Mount Desert Island. It has the Acadia ocean views, the Acadia forests, and the Acadia feel without all the people. There are two summits, Bernard Mountain (1,010 feet) and Mansell Mountain (938 feet), and several different trails.”

Quoggy-Jo Mountain
Aroostook State Park, 
Presque Isle

“Aroostook County is a trek for most Mainers, and Quoggy Joe is a must-do if you make the trip. Aroostook State Park is easily reached from Route 1, and it is Maine’s first state park, founded in 1939. The three-mile loop goes over North Peak (1,213 feet) and South Peak (1,150) and the ridge in between takes you above Echo Lake, where you can take a dip after your hike.”

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