The apotheosis of long-distance hikes, the legendary Appalachian Trail (AT) travels nearly 2200 miles across some 14 states as it meanders from Georgia to Maine. It crosses the backs of some of the highest mountains on the east coast, with a total elevation gain of nearly half a million feet. Not everyone aspires to hike the whole length of it, which is just fine. Section hiking or even day hiking the AT offers plenty of great rewards.
An estimated two to three million visitors hike a portion of the trail every year, inhaling the fresh air, admiring the spectacular scenery and partaking of the great outdoors.
With 282 miles of the AT, Maine offers myriad opportunities to commune with Mother Nature – if in a decidedly strenuous fashion. In fact, Maine offers some of the most challenging and thrilling sections of the trail, if you don't have five to seven months to spare for a thru-hike.
If you just want to hike a section of the AT, there are a few good access points, where you can park your vehicle near the trailhead, grab your gear and head into the wilderness.
- Grafton Notch State Park In the western part of the state, just north of Bethel, you can follow a northwesterly direction and head off into the Mahoosucs Range, part of the White Mountains. If you prefer to head towards New Hampshire, you'll be able to enjoy vistas from Old Speck Mountain, Maine's third-highest peak. Either way, this steep and boulder-strewn stretch is quite challenging, so you'll need to be fit.
- Bigelow Preserve The central section of the AT in Maine crosses over this mountain-studded wilderness reserve. You can strike out along the AT on strenuous ridge-line trails.
- Hundred-Mile Wilderness The eastern swath of the AT, which runs from Monson to the trail's end atop Mt Katahdin, is often called the 'Hundred-Mile Wilderness.' Remote but beautiful, it takes in lakes, ponds, streams, forests and plenty of mountains. Aside from the AT, there are some other great hikes in the area, including a spur off the trail that takes you to Gulf Hagas, with its dramatic canyon and waterfalls.
AT Travel Hubs
- Monson lies on the shores of Lake Hebron about 16 miles south of Greenville (a town at the southern end of Moosehead Lake). There you'll find the Monson Appalachian Trail Visitor Center, one of the best resources on the AT in Maine. From here, it's about 2 miles west to the trail. This part of the AT begins the 'Hundred-Mile Wilderness,' the wildest, roughest and most remote section of the AT. Thru-hikers arrive in Monson, crash at one of the town's simple guesthouses, have a few big meals, load up on supplies, then head back out onto the trail.
- Millinocket is also something of a hub, as it's the last place to recharge, refuel and restock before tackling the final stretch that leads into Baxter State Park and up to the summit of Mt Katahdin, the terminus of the AT and Maine's highest peak. For info and supplies, or for a cheap bunk for the night, stop by the Appalachian Trail Lodge.