Hiking Adventures in Downeast Maine
Did you know Downeast Maine is the first place in America to see the sunrise? Yes, it is. And besides the sunny mornings, lobsters, and Stephen King novels, Maine offers plenty more. With thousands of miles of trails, it’s one of the best hiking destinations in the northeast.
Picture a rugged landscape featuring wide peninsulas, deep bays, towering cliffs, spruce-covered islands, high tides, and crashing surf. That’s what defines Maine’s Downeast coastline between Frenchman Bay and West Quoddy Head.
The climate favors Downeast Maine, making it popular with outdoor enthusiasts, especially hikers. There are plenty of hiking trails in Maine to choose from. Backcountry multi-day hikes await the adventurous nature explorer, with shorter walks for beginners who want to see Maine’s beautiful coastline.
Explore Acadia National Park’s rocky headlands, the wilderness of the 100-Mile nature, or the highest peaks of Mount Katahdin. And this handy primer will tell you about the best hiking adventures in Downeast Maine.
The Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park
- Moderately hilly and for sunrise chasers
- 2 miles
- 2 to 4 hours
A magical place and the first point in the United States to witness sunrise is Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. The open granite peak of Cadillac Mountain provides excellent views of Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor, and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s best to hike here at night to catch the sunrise over America.
Headlamps are essential when hiking the 1528-foot Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail under the stars. Keep your coffee flask handy!
Fairy Head Loop, Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land
- Best for nature enthusiasts
- 4 miles
- 7–8 hours
Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land in Downeast Maine overlooks the Bay of Fundy. Nature preserves like the Bold Coast offer a unique opportunity to observe the coastal ecosystems of Maine.
Carry your camera and capture the sunrise over the rocky coast. After almost 4 miles of shorefront hiking in Downeast Maine, the Fairy Head Loop runs through meadows, forests, and grassy marshes before heading inland.
Campers can find a few spots on a first-come, first-served basis, and wildlife abounds.
Great Wass Island
- A full loop takes six hours
There is a deep-seated reward in starting hard and finishing with a smile. Well, Great Wass Island has one of those joys. While the hike might be strenuous, the reward is relaxing. The Great Wass Island loop hike near Jones Port is worth checking out.
During this hike, you’ll traverse a mesmerizing boggy forest before reaching the rocky shoreline, where you’ll climb over boulders and walk along ledges. You’ll likely see seals sunbathing on small islands or swimming in the water from the rocks at the point.
The island reaches far into the sea, making it a dramatic place to walk. It is only recommended that you complete the 4.5-mile loop trail if you have a few hours and are fairly fit. It requires quite a bit of scrambling along the rocky shoreline for approximately 1.5 miles. It’s even rougher at high tide. Rocks can also be slippery in bad weather.
The 1.5-mile Little Cape Point Trail will take you across the island’s heart if you make the loop counterclockwise. Follow the exposed shore throughout the island, except for inland behind the trees. Your path then turns back into protected woodlands. Coastal jack pines and exposed ledges make this hiking trail charming.
Blue Hill Mountain
- Easy-to-moderate hike
- 4 Miles
- 5 Hours
It is a short hike to the summit of Blue Hill Mountain on Mount Desert Island, which offers excellent views of both the ocean and the distant mountains. The mountain has several trails, all varying in difficulty.
You’ll begin your walk on the Osgood Trail, across the street from the parking, and gradually gain elevation as you follow some stone footpaths. Several junctions along the trail are marked with maps. The forest of evergreens offers a cooling shade along the path.
You’ll reach the South Face Trail junction on your right but keep going left on the Osgood trail.
The summit is just a mile away after a very gradual climb. You can pick up Larry’s Summit Loop by walking down the giant rock and to the left.
Alternatively, you can turn right onto The Hayes Trail after continuing along the Osgood Trail into the woods.
At the intersection of Hayes Trail and Larry’s Summit Loop, a viewpoint is worth visiting. From here, you can either go back on the Osgood Trail or continue on the Hayes Trail, which is steep and rocky at points.
If you turn right here, it is an easy quarter-mile walk to get back to the intersection of Osgood Trail and South Face Trail. Return to the parking area by walking back down Osgood Trail.
Petit Manan Point
- 5 miles loop
Petit Manan Point is a dog-friendly hike along the Maine coast with scenic views and bird-watching opportunities.
The Maine Coastal Island National Wildlife Refuge (MCINWR) stretches from York County to Washington County and includes Petit Manan Point. At Petit Manan Point in Steuben, Maine, you can choose between two separate trails:
The Birch Point
The Birch Point Trail extends approximately 4 miles through blueberry fields, upland forests, and marshes to the rocky shoreline of the ocean. Carrying Place Cove, Dyer Bay, and Dyer Neck are among the scenic views you’ll see on the trail.
Hike along Lobster Point Trail from Birch Point Trail to view Sally Island, a popular nesting area for Bald Eagles, along a cobbled beach. There are raised walkways in wetland areas with granite outcroppings along the shore, which mostly follow an ancient logging trail.
With scenic views of Pigeon Hill Bay, the Hollingsworth Trail is a 2-mile loop that starts in an open field, winds through forests, and ultimately parallels the shore near Chair Pond.
Lighthouse Petit Manan Island is visible from a distance on a clear day.
Dogs are welcome on both trails, which offer scenic overlooks and interpretive signs about the wildlife refuge. Park in the small areas marked by kiosks at each trailhead, leash your dog (it’s a rule), and enjoy picking blueberries as you hike.
Are You Ready to Explore Downeast Maine? Let’s Go Hiking!
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, there’s a trail for you in this beautiful region. From the rugged coastlines to the rolling hills and forests, Downeast Maine is a hiker’s paradise. So pack your bag, lace up your boots, and let’s hit the trails.