Beautiful fall foliage, seen along the water while hiking in Maine. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Fall Hiking in Maine

Maine has four very different and distinct seasons. All are very special to me, but fall is the most beautiful for hiking. It is not too hot and humid to be trucking up steep mountain slides. The ledges and bald mountains are not slippery and traitorous with ice and snow underfoot, and you don’t have to bundle up to go into the mountains and view the beautiful scenery. The trails are not as muddy and slippery as in the spring.

Fall has all the good reasons to hike. The air is cool, crisp, and clean. Underfoot, the trail is firm and dry, and the sound of the crackling leaves as you step on them is part of the fun of hiking at this time of year. The foliage is a sight to behold. Wherever you are on the trail, there is something special to see. Hiking in the fall is so rewarding, especially when the sun illuminates a deciduous tree along a brook or by a pond, as in my photo at the top of this post. When you reach a summit or are up high for a view, it is like heaven on earth.

John Gibson wrote Fifty Hikes in Maine a long time ago (in the 70s), and I often used that as a guide for my short hikes in Maine. In recent years, computer access and GPS have become available. During the fall months, I try to hike once or twice a week, repeating some of my favorite hikes and adding a few new ones each year. I have done most of the 50 hikes mentioned in Gibson’s book, and many of them were hiked in the fall.

Years ago I took my Cub Scout Troop to the Camden Hills. It is a steep climb, but the views of the Camden Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean are grand. The boys were great hikers, but a few of the parents were huffing and puffing! Mount Battie rises up from the shoreline; as you near the top, you come out of the woods onto ledges, and there is a stone tower that marks the summit. This was a great fall hike, and a fun way to start the school year with the boys and their families.

The Mount Blue Region is an area of hiking I did every summer with our family. Later, after the children were grown, I would hike there in the fall. Although steep, Mt. Blue is the shortest and easiest. It is 3.25 miles round trip, with a vertical rise of 1,800’. We climbed Tumbledown Mountain, with a pond just below the summit. This pond is a great incentive to climb with children and then go swimming, but in the fall, there were other things I liked about this area. There were usually peasants, partridges, and other birds to see and hear. I climbed Blueberry and Little Jackson in the fall season in the Mount Blue area, too. The hiking loop is longer and more beautiful above the tree line.

Another area that is great to hike in the fall is Acadia National Park. There are the carriage trails, which are flat and very well maintained. Then there are numerous mountain trails with views of the Atlantic Ocean. Cadillac Mountain has hiking trails and also a road to the summit.

We camped, hiked, and biked in summer, and in the fall, we hiked different trails. Only once did we hike in winter in Acadia National Park, and that was on New Year’s Eve, 1999. On that very cold winter night, we rang in the New Year and new century on top of Cadillac Mountain. It is the first place the sun rises in the continental United States, and a large group assembled there, along with the news media. If only that event could have taken place in the fall, when we would have enjoyed warmer weather and the beautiful scenery!

There are many hills to climb that are only a short distance away from where I live in Maine. This makes for a great outdoor activity after a big Thanksgiving dinner or weekend outing. Streaked Mountain is a short hike, mostly on ledges. The views are great. Whiskeag Trail is a five-mile loop trail within the city of Bath along the Kennebec River. It is a pretty woodland area and a place my son and I liked to hike. Ossipee Mountain near Waterboro is another short hike. Part of the trail is on a dirt road, then uphill past a warden’s camp, to open ledges and the summit. Another place that is scenic to hike in the fall is Pleasant Mountain, near Bridgton. It is an exposed trail on ledges to the summit. In winter it is the Shawnee Peak Ski Area. The shortest of all the trails mentioned is Black Cat Mountain in Poland, Maine. It is 3 miles round trip and all on a dirt road. It is good exercise and scenic on the walk up and back, but disappointing with no views on the summit. It is great for walking my dog.

Fall is beautiful with the fields of pumpkins being harvested and the corn fields cleared for winter. The wilderness animals know fall is the time to prepare for the cold ahead. Birds are in flocks: some leave earlier for the south than others, and the tiny hummingbirds have gone before the geese and ducks. The raccoons, skunks, and porcupines are getting plump before hibernating. The turtles are disappearing from our view, having departed from their logs and gone under the ponds and wet areas, where they will stay until spring. The monarch butterfly caterpillars have gone into their chrysalises, while other new butterflies have emerged and are headed to Mexico. So beautiful is nature in fall! Enjoying all the wonders that happen before our eyes makes hiking indeed very special.

(posted Oct 13, 2015)