8 Classic Maine Mountain Guide Hikes

June 27, 2018
Maine Mountain Guide hikes
Robert Vaiciulis, Carl Gasowski/AMC Photo ContestChamplain Mountain (left) and Chimney Pond are two of the classic Maine Mountain Guide hikes in the book’s new edition.

The very first Maine Mountain Guide, a svelte sky-blue volume, appeared in 1961 as a spinoff of AMC’s longstanding Katahdin Guide, itself an offshoot of the original White Mountain Guide. At a scant 190 pages, the book was hardly the definitive compendium we rely on today. Nonetheless, each of the Maine Mountain Guide hikes below appeared in that first edition and still rise to the top today, in the brand-new 11th edition, available now.

While some things have stayed the same, the newest Maine Mountain Guide isn’t a simple retread. Like the 30th edition of its famous sibling, this revision adds at-a-glance icons for all suggested hikes—including the eight below, described by the book’s editor, Carey Kish—as well as redesigned stats for all trails, charting cumulative distance, elevation gain, and time between waypoints. You’ll also find 175 new trails, 50 new mountains, and 13 new in-text maps, capturing Maine’s booming trail building and expansion during the past five years.

In other words, you’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Get out there!

1. Chimney Pond via Chimney Pond Trail | Baxter State Park
Scenic Chimney Pond isn’t the highest point on Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. But it is a doable day trek for most competent hikers, and it’s especially amenable to those with a fear of heights. Here, the vertiginous views—the towering walls of Katahdin’s South Basin—loom up rather than down.

Head west from the ranger cabin at Roaring Brook Campground (1,489 feet), along the south bank of Roaring Brook. After the half-mile mark, the trail bears away from the brook and begins to climb more steeply. You’ll reach Lower Basin Pond at 1.9 miles then, at 3.0 mi., a small clearing and a day shelter. From here, the trail proceeds gently downhill through Chimney Pond Campground (2,914 ft.) to the ranger cabin and, just ahead, the pond itself. This vantage point offers magnificent views of the Great Basin, formed by the sweeping rock walls of Katahdin, from Pamola and Chimney Peak to South and Baxter peaks.
Difficulty: Moderate
Round trip: 6 miles
Elevation gain: 1,425 feet
Estimated time: 4:00

2. Mars Hill via the International Appalachian Trail Northbound | Aroostook County
This hike is as much about the journey—traversing a section of the International Appalachian Trail, or IAT—as it is about the destination, where you’ll have extensive views southwest to Katahdin and east into Canada.

From the Bigrock Mountain ski area parking lot (650 feet), follow Outer Orbit ski trail to the right of the chairlift and up to the lift’s top. There, take Hooch ski trail to the left. When you reach a fairly large clearing, look left (northeast) for a trail marker identifying the first of four switchbacks, all with signs. After the fourth switchback, continue onward to a footpath, on the right, and follow it to a gravel multiuse trail near the base of a wind tower. Take this multiuse trail to the summit of Mars Hill (1,748 feet), where you’ll find a lean-to and views that extend across forests and farmland in all directions.
Difficulty: Moderate
Round trip: 2.4 miles
Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
Estimated time: 1:45

3. Champlain Mountain via Champlain North Ridge Trail, Champlain South Ridge Trail, and Bowl Trail | Acadia National Park
Why wait for a rewarding view when you can have them all the way up? This hike over Champlain Mountain, in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, provides ocean and mountain vistas for most of the route.

From Park Loop Road (200 feet), 0.2 mile east of the entrance to Bear Brook picnic area, follow Champlain North Ridge Trail up the mountain’s north slope, through a mixed forest of birch, pine, and spruce. After the 0.5-mile mark, you’ll emerge from the forest canopy, with outstanding views of Frenchman Bay and Schoodic Peninsula to the east. At 1.1 miles, the trail reaches the mountain’s open, rocky summit (1,058 feet); continue on Champlain South Ridge Trail to Bowl Trail and its terminus, the Bowl, a picturesque mountain tarn. Return the way you came.
Difficulty: Moderate
Round trip: 6.6 miles
Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
Estimated time: 5:00

4. Tunk Mountain via Tunk Mountain Trail | Downeast
You’ll pass several small ponds en route to panoramic views of Downeast Maine from a spot that feels worlds away from high-season Bar Harbor.

Much of Tunk Mountain Trail lies within The Nature Conservancy’s Spring Lake Ecological Reserve, and hikers are asked to stay on the trail to minimize damage. From the parking lot on ME 182 (250 feet), take the trail to the right of the kiosk, following the blue blazes past the first junction with Hidden Ponds Trail. (Opt in to the 1-mile loop trail for a closer view of Salmon Pond, which you can glimpse through the trees, to the right.) After the second junction with Hidden Ponds Trail, you’ll drop down to the western shore of Mud Pond then begin climbing a steep, winding staircase of rock steps followed by a series of switchbacks.

When you reach a spur trail on the right, take it 100 yd. to a series of huge, sloping ledges and wonderful views south to the Gulf of Maine, Catherine and Caribou mountains, Spring River Lake, and the “hidden” ponds of Mud and Salmon below. Return to the main trail for a long switchback and some moderate to steep climbing, including steel rungs struck into the rock. As the trail gains elevation, the view south gets more expansive, now including Black and Schoodic mountains, and crystal-clear Tunk Lake. Scramble over slabs and follow cairns to the ridgecrest, on Tunk’s northeast shoulder, for great views to the north (1,100 ft.). Exhale.
Difficulty: Moderate
Round trip: 4.1 miles
Elevation gain: 850 feet
Estimated time: 3:10

5. Mount Battie via Mount Battie Trail | Midcoast
A short but steep hike to Mount Battie’s stone observation tower provides superb views of Penobscot Bay and its many islands—one of the most popular treks in the Camden Hills. From the Megunticook Street parking lot (210 feet), follow Mount Battie Trail steadily and then more steeply northward, emerging on open ledges for the last stretch to the summit tower (790 feet). The expansive view of Camden Harbor and the Penobscot Bay is a Maine coast classic.
Difficulty: Easy
Round trip: 1.0 mile
Elevation gain: 580 feet
Estimated time: 1:00

6. Mount Agamenticus via Ring Trail, Blueberry Bluff Trail, and Big A Trail | Southwestern Maine
Mount Agamenticus—actually a small ridge, also known as First, Second, and Third hills—rises distinctively above the coastal plain of southern York County. Due to its location, the mountain’s environment is a unique mixing ground for a number of southern and northern plant and animal species at the limits of their ranges. There are many, many trails up and over this conservation region, but this jaunt lets you circle the mountain before an easy sprint to its grassy summit and observation deck.

From the main trailhead parking area on Mountain Road (347 feet), follow Ring Trail into the woods. At 0.3 mile, take Blueberry Bluff Trail up the south ridge. You’ll encounter several switchbacks followed by ledges, steps, and slabs. Keep following the bedrock trail out of the trees, to an overlook and bench on the left. Here you’ll pick up Big A Trail, turning right just ahead to follow the loop counterclockwise up to the summit observation deck.
Difficulty: Easy
Loop: 2.7 miles
Elevation gain: 360 feet
Estimated time: 1:40

7. Baldpate Mountain via Appalachian Trail Northbound | Mahoosuc Range
Two for one: Make a complete traverse of this beast via the AT for outstanding Mahoosuc Range views from the East Peak and bag the more wooded West Peak en route.

The northbound AT leaves from the kiosk on the north side of the Grafton Notch trailhead parking area on ME 26 (1,450 feet). When you hit a fork, hang right to stay on the AT, soon crossing ME 26 and, at 0.1 mile, a brook on a log footbridge. Just ahead, the AT passes a first junction with Table Rock Trail. (Take this alternate route for a look at the eponymous ledge and is slab cave system.) At 0.8 mi., the AT passes the section junction with Table Rock Trail, climbing steadily then more steeply to Baldpate’s western knob, where there are vistas to the northwest.

At 2.3 mile, a side trail near a brook leads south to Baldpate Lean-to. Beyond, the main trail climbs steeply to West Peak and good views at 3.1 mile then East Peak at 4.0 mile, marked by a large cairn. Soak up the alpine summit’s extensive views of the western lakes and mountains. Now this is Maine.
Difficulty: Strenuous
Round trip: 8 miles
Elevation gain: 2,600 feet
Estimated time: 6:20

8. Big Spencer Mountain via Big Spencer Mountain Trail | 100-Mile Wilderness
The hike to the north summit and fire tower remains on Big Spencer—a prominent landmark that rises sharply from the countryside north of Kokadjo and First Roach Pond—is steep and challenging, but the outstanding wilderness vistas are worth the effort.

From the trailhead on Spencer Mountain Road (1,356 feet), start south up the old tote road, which rises gradually then moderately after 0.5 mile. You’ll reach a small brook at 0.7 mile and the site of an old fire warden’s cabin at 1.0 mile, where there’s a picnic table, a privy, and a big view north to Katahdin and the summits of Baxter State Park.

Beyond the cabin site, cross another brook on a footbridge and circle around a beaver pond. Just beyond, the trail becomes very steep, gaining more than 1,000 feet of elevation over the final 0.7 mile. Steep rock stairs and several wooden ladders aid your ascent beginning at 1.25 mile. At 1.9 mile, you’ll reach the north summit, home to the old fire tower base, a helipad, and a small communications building. The opposition of wilderness and infrastructure is hard to ignore, but the views are astounding.
Difficulty: Moderate
Round trip: 3.6 miles
Elevation gain: 1,850 feet
Estimated time: 2:45


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Carey Kish

AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.

AMC Outdoors

AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.