When I purchased my home in Maine more than a decade ago, I was already an avid hiker. I had trekked in northern India, I had climbed Kilimanjaro in Africa, and I had hiked in Colorado, Northern California, Utah, Europe and elsewhere. I truly enjoy nature, and I immediately fell in love with Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island and the fine network of hiking trails that traverse the preserve. They crisscross rocky cliffs, gentle meadows, sand and rocky beaches, and dense evergreen forests.
Hiking these diverse trails has become a passion and a favorite pastime in any season, and I never tire of the flora and the views in this gorgeous park.
It’s my habit to wake up early, don hiking clothes and boots or sneakers, grab a bottle of water and gather my houseguests for a hike on any of the hundred or so trails for which this park is famous. Since my house is in Seal Harbor, many of my preferred hikes are nearby.
The Ladder Trail, one of the oldest, was built in 1893 by Waldron Bates, a pioneer of Acadia. There’s also Beehive, Precipice, Dorr Mountain, Great Head, Hunters Beach and Pemetic. (The guidebook, “A Walk in the Park,” by Tom St. Germain is a handy resource.)
Great Head is one of my favorite hikes. At 1.3 miles, this moderately difficult trail takes about an hour and a half to complete. It starts at Sand Beach and ascends 324 feet for spectacular views of an estuary, the outer islands and the Atlantic Ocean. Rest areas are usually located in the most picturesque spots.
Getting an early start is important to me. I love the solitude, the early morning light and the opportunity to see wildlife undisturbed by tourists and hikers.
We often have groups from the office join us for a weekend or for an off-site meeting, and hiking is an essential element of every visit. As we climb the stone stairs and granite-lined paths, everyone remarks on the incredible beauty, clarity of the air, perfection of the landscape and strenuous but invigorating exercise.
OTHER MAINE HIKES
From seaside rambles on island trails to mountaintops with 100-mile views, Maine has a huge variety of hiking terrains. There are rugged hikes that can take you all day and gentle walks that are ideal for young children.
The half-mile hike is short enough for kids, but the 1,416-foot mountain offers big rewards for little effort (it’s easy to drive up and park at the trail head). From its summit, you can see the White Mountains to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.
STAY AT Sebago Lake State Park, Casco. It has 250 campsites on Maine’s second-largest lake, with swimming and boating.
DON’T MISS Crabtree’s, 207-787-2730. Delicious, pick-your-own high-bush blueberries.
EAST ROYCE MOUNTAIN, BATCHELDERS GRANT
A rugged 6-mile hike that offers dramatic views of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range.
STAY AT Center Lovell Inn, centerlovellinn.com, a 19th-century resort near Kezar Lake, with antiquing, in the town Stephen King calls home in summer.
DON’T MISS Marta’s Bakery, martasbakery.com, in nearby North Waterford, specializing in Eastern European pastries and cakes.
Expect whale and seal sightings on the moderate 5-mile walk that circles the island.
STAY AT the Monhegan House, monheganhouse.com, a simply furnished, charming hotel that dates back to the 1870s.
DON’T MISS the Barnacle, 207-594-7995. This former 19th-century tea room on the wharf is a top spot for cappuccino and homemade muffins.
MOUNT BLUE, WELD
Moose sightings are not uncommon on this moderate 8-mile hike, with Webb Lake nearby.
STAY AT Mount Blue State Park, a lush 7,000-acre reserve with 136 campsites near the lakeshore.
DON’T MISS Second Chance Farm & Longfellow’s Creamery, longfellowscreamery.com. This organic farm produces and sells Bigelow Blue and Tumbledown Tomme cheeses.
At 5,268 feet, Katahdin is the highest mountain in Maine and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Though every route poses challenges, the 2.2-mile Saddle Trail is one of the easier ascents.
STAY AT Baxter State Park, which has 10 campgrounds within its popular 200,000 acres. Reservations are recommended.
DON’T MISS North Light Gallery, artnorthlight.com. This space in Millinocket features eye-catching works by local artists.
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MARTHA’S 10 HIKING TIPS
After years of hiking, I’ve learned the essentials for successful outings and getting the most out of a day on the trails.
- Use a guidebook to plan your hike. Pay close attention to the level of difficulty, distance and duration. Do not choose a hike that is too advanced for your ability.
- Check the weather forecast before heading out, and be cautious of wet conditions.
- Wear comfortable nonslip shoes or boots. Dress in layers, and bring a hat and sunglasses.
- Bring a small, lightweight backpack, and fill it with basic first-aid needs, a compass, a trail map, tissues, bottled water and a rain jacket. It’s also a good idea to carry a small flashlight, a whistle and a penknife.
- Always wear sunblock.
- Bring your cell phone, and tell a responsible person where you are going and for how long.
- Obey the region’s hiking rules — follow the markers and don’t veer off the trail. Always hike with another person.
- Carry a small camera. You never know what you will see: a moose, a wild orchid, an especially beautiful rainbow.
- On long hikes (more than 4 miles), bring along a healthy snack.
- Do not take dogs on inappropriate trails. Always carry extra water for pets.