Hiking in Maine
Hiking in Maine can mean many different things. You could be hiking along the coast, with the salty sea spray gently caressing your skin. Or, you could be up in the hills well beyond the water's touch, with the smell of pine needles and the crunch of autumn's forgotten leaves on the ground. Hiking in Maine offers far more than you might think. Maine is a rather large state with a rather small population, open spaces are abundant and the majority of it is owned by the national parks association. There truly are endless hikes. Luckily, most are marked and easy enough to follow. If you are just a beginner hiker, there could be no better playground for you to stretch your legs. Maine is an exceedingly safe state, so you will feel right as rain bringing the kids. Be forewarned, there likely will be rain.
The climate in Maine
Maine has a pretty mild climate. It isn't particularly hot, except in the dead of summer. And it isn't particularly cold, except in the winter months. That isn't overly exciting, but it's important to know where you stand when you plan on spending significant time in the great outdoors. Knowing what the temperature will bring can help you decide whether it's safe to undergo your planned hike, or you are better off swapping it out for a new one. Planning a 3-day hike when snow is forecast isn't the most ideal scenario. It is downright dangerous. Knowing what the weather will have in store can help you plan what to pack, too. Do you need a raincoat? (Yes) do you need lots of thick layers? Or light ones that breathe? It is important to check the average weather for the month you plan on visiting to give you a general idea and then further checking local daily forecasts for a more reliable prediction of what Mother Nature will have in store for you today.
Deadly wildlife to beware of
Maine might seem like a calm idealistic place to hike, in many ways it is. But there are still dangers that you must be aware of. Especially if you plan on hiking off the beaten path. Maine is home to a plethora of dangerous animals that can and will cause you serious pain, perhaps even death. The biggest threats to you are the bears, bobcats, and coyotes. The bears and bobcats especially. The problem with bobcats is that you will likely only notice them once they have already seen you. There is a saying that if you spot a bobcat, it spotted you half an hour ago. You must be very vigilant when walking through the Maine countryside.
Less dangerous but still problematic are the Moose and snakes. The snakes are self-explanatory, look where you are walking and you are generally going to be fine. Moose are far more dangerous, I would even put them on par with that of a bear. If it weren't for the unlikelihood that you ever see one. Moose avoid people like the plague, you would be quite lucky to see one. And simultaneously unlucky. A mother moose is a force to be reckoned with. If you happen to see her with her babies or worse her babies on their own, get the heck out of there! That mother will kick you to death in one buck of her leg if she perceives you as a threat to her young. You must make sure she doesn't perceive you as such.
What do I need to bring with me?
It is important to understand the previous two sections to give your full consideration to this one. What you must bring will depend greatly on when you go and where it is. A walk through the woods will be somewhat warmer than over the hills, if only somewhat. If you plan on going in the rainy season you must bring waterproof clothing. Though even in summer it would be best to bring a raincoat with you at the very least. If you plan on going in the dead of winter then you would be foolish to choose to not bring a hat, scarf, and a nice pair of gloves. Even in summer its a good idea to bring a hat with you, though I would suggest you wear a baseball cap rather than a wooly beanie. It is a very good idea to bring bear spray with you, it is a sort of pepper spray that is far more powerful and travels a much greater distance. It is intended to be used on bears, but could also be used on any other animal that you feel means to do you harm. Do not use it on people and make sure you turn away as you use it! It can be excruciatingly painful if you get it in your eye. That is the general idea of it, after all.
The best hikes near Portland Maine:
There are plenty of wonderful hikes around Portland, picking just a few to recommend was rather tricky. Here are just a few of the best ones, of varying difficulty and skill level required, though all should be possible for relatively fit and healthy people. And perfect for families, just make sure you do remember to bring all the right gear with you! These walks are ordered from least difficult to most, though again, they are all doable by just about anyone.
Morse Mountain is a pretty easy walk. Don't let the mountain in the name fool you, this walk is surprisingly level and good for people who don't feel up to the task of hiking for a full day. The hike takes you around the bottom of the mountain and along the coastline spitting you out onto the beach. This hike is quite relaxing, though the sea spray can be brutal on a windy day. The hike is just under four miles long, which makes it the second-longest hike on this list. Though it is still the easiest. It is important to note that this hike is not dog friendly, nor is the beach. If you are hoping to bring your furry friend with you this isn't the hike for you, unfortunately. Since you are going to be walking along the beach if you are hiking in summer remember to bring sun lotion. The glare from the water will undoubtedly burn you in no time at all.
Tote Road Loop:
This hike is short, but don't let its length fool you, this hike isn't going to be easy. You are going to be hiking in a loop, of course, the loop itself is just under 2 miles long. This one encourages dogs, as it makes a very interesting walk for them. But you will find that there is a small fee before you can start the trail. It is just a few bucks, so don't worry too much. This hike is only 30 minutes from the city center, so you will have no trouble fitting it into your schedule, even if you are only passing through. The hike itself is around/through a park, so it can be quite busy. This means you aren't going to encounter any dangerous animals but you won't be getting some alone time either.
The burnt meadow is slightly longer, at 3.6 miles, meaning it will take a significant part of your day. This hike is not quite as easy as the other two, it is much rockier and the terrain is not anywhere near as flat or stable. This one might require some hiking poles, or at least your patience. You could bring your dog, as they are allowed, but it is quite dangerous. Bigger dogs would be fine, your Yorkshire Terrier would not. The hike is so rocky and rough because it takes you over the blue mountain ranges, it gives you a stunning view of the surrounding countryside. With a chance of spotting Portland itself if the sky is clear and the sun is shining. If you are planning on doing this hike, wear sun lotion even in winter. The sun will be beating down on you all day, reflecting off the mountain and doubling its efforts to burn you. Many hiking enthusiasts decide to stop by the Lone Pine Brewing Co. on their way back from the mountain. After this hike, you've earned it!
The final and most difficult hike is the Southwest Ridge. It is also the highest, almost 2000 feet, above sea level. You truly will be up on the ridge, so the views will be spectacular. You will be able to see mountains in the distance and the Forrest plains down below you. You won't see much of the coast, sadly, but there are other hikes for that! This one is the longest, you will come across far less other hikers, and your chance to spot some interesting wildlife. If you are going to spot a moose, you will probably do so from the top of the ridge. There are also going to be some less than desirable wildlife. The mosquitos and horse flies can be a killer! A lot of bug spray is recommended. The reason being is that there are some lakes and ponds down in the valley, so insects tend to make their nest here and lay their larvae. This is the biggest downside of this hike, in my opinion, is that some of the steeper sections can be downright dangerous in wet conditions. If there has been, is currently, or will be heavy rain do your best to avoid it. The best part of this hike is the view. You will see the very best that Maine has to offer. If you are willing to put the work in, this hike is the most rewarding. By far, but that's just one person's opinion.
Hopefully, this article has done its part in convincing you that Portland is the place to be. The hiking around Portland, and in Maine as a whole, is amazing. If you get the chance to go I truly would encourage you to do just that. If you take away just one thing from this article, it is that you must not underestimate what Maine has to throw at you. The weather may be mild, the people may be friendly, the views certainly are top-notch. But the animals are deadly. The chance of you having a dangerous encounter is slim to none, but the chance is never zero. You must always be alert, a bobcat will not show you the decency of warning you before it attacks. It will just attack. If you only have time for one hike, I would suggest the Southwest Ridge. It may be hard work but the reward is certainly worth it. As always, stay safe on the trail and remember to respect nature. Good luck and happy hiking!