Western Maine in detail

Activities

Grafton Notch State Park is a year-round attraction, drawing hikers and bird-watchers in the warmer months, snowshoers and cross-country skiiers in winter, and foliage seekers in the autumn. Driving through the Notch offers its own rewards, with gorgeous views and short hikes to gorges and waterfalls just off the road.

Hiking

Grafton Notch State Park has some outstanding hiking trails. Some 20 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT) winds through the park, and it's sometimes described as one of the most scenic parts of the AT. Multiday hikers also tackle the 38-mile Grafton Loop Trail, a challenging high-elevation trek that travels across nine mountains in the area. There are seven primitive campsites along the way (first come, first served).

If you're visiting for the day, there are several excellent hikes you can take, ranging from moderate to difficult. The moderate Table Rock Loop Trail (2.5 miles round-trip) leads you 900 vertical feet up to a lookout with fantastic views over the valley. Shorter but more challenging is the Eyebrow Loop Trail (2.2 miles round-trip), taking you some 2900ft up above your starting point. The ascent on the orange-blazed trail involves scrambling up iron rungs and ladders. To avoid retracing your steps, take the AT on the way back down.

You'll find parking for the trailheads at a turnoff on the left, about 4 miles past the start of the park (coming from Newry). Note that the trailhead for the walk up to Table Rock, Baldpate and AT in the park starts across the road (watch the traffic). You can pick up brochures and register your hike at the parking area for the trailheads.

Bird-watching

Grafton Notch State Park has several different zones listed on the Maine Birding Trail. Peregrine falcons, which had once disappeared from the region, nest on the cliffs. At higher elevations in the park, keep an eye out for gray jays, yellow-bellied flycatchers, spruce grouse, blackpolls and bay-breasted warblers. You can also see Bicknell’s thrushes throughout the park.

Near the start of various trails (including the access point to the Appalachian Trail), you can sometimes see Philadelphia vireos. A few miles further north, the Spruce Meadow picnic area begins a transition to boreal habitat, a prime spot for seeing boreal chickadees. This boreal zone extends a few miles past the park boundary, and it's a good place to see black-backed woodpeckers.