The state will introduce a new 30-mile hiking loop in honor of National Public Lands Day on Saturday. Credit: Courtesy of Maine's Bureau of Parks and Lands

The state will open a new 30-mile backcountry hiking loop that overlaps the Appalachian Trail in the Katahdin region, south of Baxter State Park, this Saturday.

The Great Circle Trail will connect two backcountry loops with the Appalachian Trail in its 100-Mile Wilderness section on the Nahmakanta Public Reserved Land west of Millinocket.

The state Bureau of Parks and Lands will lead a guided hike on part of the trail Saturday starting at 10 a.m. in honor of National Public Lands Day. They say the 30-mile loop has been in the works since 2005 and can be tackled “in bite-sized sections or a multi-day adventure.”

The Great Circle Trail connects two backcountry loops with the Appalachian Trail on the Nahmakanta Public Reserved Land west of Millinocket. The 30-mile trail includes four waterfalls and five panoramic views. Credit: Courtesy of Google Maps

“Our dedicated staff has shown great vision and commitment to developing what will surely become one of Maine’s top multi-day backpacking trips,” Bureau of Parks and Lands director Andy Cutko said in a press release. “This trail offers a fantastic hiking experience in a remote, beautiful setting away from the crowds on busier trails.”

The Great Circle Trail is rated moderately difficult with occasional strenuous sections, but this is “well-balanced by the rewards,” the state release says. The loop includes four waterfalls, five panoramic views, two gorges and several campsites.

The Nahmakanta area sits on the ancestral lands of the Penobscot indigenous people and is part of what’s considered the most remote section of the Appalachian Trail before its northern terminus on Mt. Katahdin.

The state says the public land reserve includes 24 great ponds, 50 miles of undeveloped shoreline, low mountains as tall as 2,524 feet and 43,000 acres of forest overall. It encompasses the state’s largest ecological reserve, the Debsconeag Backcountry.

Story by Annie Ropeik.