There is nothing better than seeing nature’s most magical places through the eyes of a child. For many lifelong outdoor enthusiasts, the chance to climb, hike, and explore with littles ones (or big kids!) is a dream come true. While tiny explorers have shorter legs and perhaps even shorter attention spans, there is still so much for families to see and do in AMC’s Maine Woods.
The trails in the Maine Woods are well-marked and offer a wide range of lengths, elevation gains, and terrain. Like many New England hiking trails, slippery roots and rocky terrain are not uncommon, so make sure your littlest hikers have a pair of sturdy hiking boots or shoes. We’ve put together a list of 10 hiking essentials you should pack for your adventure. Don’t forget the snacks!
Here are four hikes in AMC’s Maine Woods that can be enjoyed by all ages and abilities.
Nation’s Nature Trail
A day hike is the perfect way to acclimate your little adventurer to the outdoors. The Nation’s Nature Trail, named for longtime AMC member and volunteer Peg Nation, is an easy 1.3-mile loop hike that passes through wetlands, woodlands, a short climb up to The Pinnacle, and then down to the West Branch of the Pleasant River. The yellow-blazed trail covers mostly easy ground except for one short, moderately steep climb up to the Pinnacle. Along the river, the trail coincides with the Pleasant River Trail. Each area that the trail passes has distinct ecological communities, making it a wonderful place for budding naturalists to use binoculars, magnifying glasses, and a trail guide to identify existing flora and fauna.
Pond Loop Trail
The Pond Loop Trail circles the upper pond of Little Lyford Ponds and offers numerous side trails where you can watch for wildlife. The complete loop is 1.9 miles with minimal elevation and ample shade. Along the path you’ll discover a large old stone chimney marked Gerry’s Gazebo. While you might spy a moose or two here if you come in the early morning or dusk hours, you’re sure to see butterflies and chipmunks roaming the trail.
Families with older children or teenagers who are already experienced hikers will love seeing the “Grand Canyon of Maine”. The gorge has been named a National Natural Landmark. You can choose your own adventure with variations of this hike involving loops of 4-10 miles. You’ll be able to get a good look at every waterfall in the spectacular slate canyon on this scenic loop. The falls are particularly impressive in late spring during peak runoff. Adventurous hikers can cool off in one of the swimming holes on the trail.
Hinkley Cove Trail
Don’t discount the fun of a short nighttime hike. Bring your flashlights and pop on your headlamps as you walk this 0.8-mile trail which traces a route used by river drivers in the late 1800s to access the cove from the Second Roach Pond outlet dam. Hinkley Cove Trail leaves from the Medawisla Lodge guest parking lot and provides a wide gravel trail winding through the woods around Hinkley Cove. This region is one of the darkest places remaining on the East Coast and in 2021, the Maine Woods Initiative was designated as an International Dark Sky Park. City kids will especially love stargazing and discovering new constellations and planets that can only be seen in a truly dark sky. Don’t forget to wear warm clothes—even summer nights here can feel cold.
AMC’s Maine Woods property offers a year-round wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. With the nearby lodges, you can enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter, along with the seemingly endless trails alive with wildlife all spring and summer long. To extend the fun, join locals and travelers alike at one of the many festivals held in Maine each year. Let a family AMC membership be your passport to thousands of guided activities, as well as discounts on lodging, maps, and guidebooks. Have a great trip!