For people looking for a bit of a challenge this winter, this list may be for you. But first, a word of caution: snowshoeing is more difficult than hiking. It takes longer, it takes more energy, and it requires closer monitoring of your body — especially body heat. If you’re not experienced with snowshoeing, I suggest you select a trail that you think is too easy for you, then work your way to more difficult trails and longer treks. For suggestions for easier snowshoe treks, click here.
Spending prolonged periods of time outdoors in the winter requires extra gear, appropriate clothing and some experience. It’s also crucial that you always tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back, just in case something goes wrong. And if you can, snowshoe with a companion or two for safety. Cell phones and satellite beacons can also be helpful in an emergency, but batteries freeze and die easily in the Maine winter, and cell phone reception is not always reliable, especially in the mountains.
The number one danger in the winter in Maine is hypothermia, and it’s no joke. To learn more about hypothermia, including the signs you’re becoming hypothermic, click here.
Now, if you’re not scared away from this post, here are a few (in my opinion.. and keep in mind, I’m no marathon runner or super athlete) challenging snowshoe treks in Maine:
My snowshoe up Big Moose Mountain last February was one of the most difficult and rewarding hikes I’ve experience yet, and a lot of that had to do with the depth of the snow on that particular day. Fortunately, my husband and I were prepared. We packed plenty of warm clothing and food, and we wore our snowshoes and gaiters to keep the snow out of our boots. Nevertheless, one of our snowshoe poles (which was metal, I must add) snapped in half while we struggled up a particularly steep section of trail just past the old fire warden’s cabin. We made it to the top, where we were enveloped in a bright white snow cloud, but we could just make out the steep slope blow, crowded with snow-coated evergreens, and it felt pretty special to be in that wild, white place.
The trail up the mountain is 2.1-miles long and marked with blue blazes. The climb is steady and steep near the peak. And the summit stands at 3,196 feet above sea level. For driving directions and more details on the hike, click here.
I tackled this little mountain in central Maine with my cousin in the middle of a blizzard because — why not? While it was certainly wintertime, there wasn’t quite enough snow on the ground that day to warrant wearing snowshoes, but we did wear some pretty aggressive ice cleats, and I’m not sure we would have made it safely up the mountain without them.
Rising 1,133 feet above sea level, Round Top Mountain is the highest peak of the Kennebec Highlands, a group of hills and mountains in central Maine. The loop trail that explores the mountain is 3.9 miles round trip and leads through a particularly pretty forest to some partial views of the region. For driving directions and more details on the hike, click here.
Located in Camden Hills State Park, Megunticook Mountain rises 1,385 feet above sea level, making it pretty darn tall for a coastal mountain. Its summit is forested, but there are several open granite ledges along its slopes that offer amazing views of Penobscot Bay and neighboring hills. Hiking to the summit and back down via Mt. Megunticook Trail is fairly difficult without snow, but add snow into the equation and it’s even more of a challenge. The overall hike is about 4 miles long, and you can tack on even more miles if you veer off on the mountain’s Ridge Trail or Slope Trail to make it into a loop hike. Expect some steep, steady climbing. For driving directions and details on the hike, click here.
Cadillac is likely the most visited mountain in the state, especially if you consider all the people who drive to the top of the mountain in vehicles each summer. The tallest mountain on Mount Desert Island, Cadillac is a bit too crowded most of the time for my taste, but in the winter, it’s a great place to snowshoe. While many of the trail markers are hidden under the snow, it’s a popular enough mountain that the trails are often stamped into the snow by locals and rangers who know the trails well. Nevertheless, it may be wise to carry a GPS device on this mountain just in case you lose the trail on the open granite ridges, and prepare to endure reflecting sun and cold wind while hiking this mountain the winter. While four trails lead to the top of this mountain — one up each side — I suggest hiking the North Ridge Trail during winter. This trail is just 2.2 miles, and while steep in some places, it doesn’t involve any hand-over-foot climbing, which can be dangerous in icy conditions. However, during the winter, the section of the Park Loop that leads to the trailhead for the North Ridge Trail is closed. Therefore, you’ll need to park at the gate blocking the park’s Cadillac entrance off Eagle Lake Road and walk toward Cadillac on the Park Loop Road about a mile before reaching the trailhead. You’ll pass the road up Cadillac Mountain along the way, and you can snowshoe up this, too, but it’s not as sheltered (and probably not as interesting) as the trail. For more information, click here, and also, check out a very helpful “Acadia on My Mind” blog about hiking Acadia in the winter here.
Blue Hill Mountain has long been a popular hiking destination for people in Maine, and in recent years, hiking trails leading to the mountain’s summit have been improved, and a new one has been constructed. The new Becton Trail is the perfect option for snowshoeing because it’s the most gradual trail on the mountain, leading to the summit in 1.75 miles. That may not seem like a long trail to a summer hiker, but anyone who has done a bit of snowshoeing knows that miles stretch out in the winter. A 3.5-mile snowshoe is nothing to turn your nose up at. Believe me, it’ll be a nice workout. And at the top of Blue Hill Mountain, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful, snowy view of the Peninsula. Other options up the mountain are the shorter, steeper Osgood Trail and Hayes Trail, which lead to the South Face Trail and Service Trail. And for an easier snowshoe trek, the Post Office Trail is located directly across the road from Osgood Trail on Mountain Road and leads gently downhill to Blue Hill Village. For driving directions and more details, click here.