While the forest’s changing hues are the highlight of a fall foliage hike in Maine, exploring one of the state’s trails also lets you experience the other sensations of autumn in the north woods.
There is that unmistakable scent of fall that that fills the forest. The leaves crunch beneath your feet as you hike along trails with views of multihued forests and Maine's rocky coastline.
And that bite of chill in the air is a reminder that these brilliant displays of golds, oranges, and reds are also harbingers of the long Maine winter that will soon arrive. But it's that ephemeral quality that adds so much to the romance of a fall color hike in Maine.
Maine is home to more than 50 types of deciduous trees. The color palette for the state’s fall color display includes shades of yellow, red, orange, and even purple.Fall foliage updates in Maine begin in mid-September, although the peak of the season typically comes a bit later.
The essential resource MaineFoliage.com divides the state into seven regions from roughly north to south. The site issues foliage updates every Wednesday.
The peak in northern sections of the state arrives toward the end of September or the first week of October. Most of Maine peaks by mid-October, while displays in coastal areas are typically at their best during the week of October 13-20.
The color change process actually begins in late August as days shorten and cooler weather begins to arrive. A variety of factors influences the intensity, arrival, and duration of the fall color display. Rainfall and sugar content in the leaves are both critical.
But the best years really depend on favorable, warm temperatures and days with ample sunlight in fall. Sunny days and warm weather without nighttime freezes will lead to the most intense color displays and the longest foliage seasons. And no matter how ideal conditions have been, a big wind event can bring peak foliage displays to a rapid conclusion.
5 Prime Destinations for Fall Color Hikes in Maine
With its vast open spaces, Maine is blessed with countless destinations for fall color hikes. A helpful resource for locating hikes throughout the state is Maine Trail Finder. The Maine Office of Tourism also offers additional hiking information.
Acadia National Park
Thanks to 125 miles of hiking trails, Acadia lets you explore both beautiful forest environments and a classic coastline. A major fire in 1947 burned 10,000 acres in the park and opened large portions of the forest to the growth of such deciduous trees as aspen and birch. Among the outstanding fall color hikes in Acadia is the 5.4-mile roundtrip Schooner Head Trail, which travels through deciduous forest near Bar Harbor.
Baxter State Park
Home to 5,267-foot Mount Katahdin, Maine’s highest, Baxter State Park northwest of Millnocket offers more than 200 miles of hiking trails. Katahdin is one of 40 prominent peaks and ridges in the massive, rugged park that covers 200,000 acres in northern Maine. The hike to the summit of Katahdin can be challenging but the park offers plenty of more moderate routes where you’ll be able to see fall foliage displays.
Bradbury Mountain State Park
Located about halfway between Portland and Lewiston and near Freeport, the 800-acre park is named for the glacier-carved peak that is its highest point—a modest 480 feet. But the view from the summit offers expansive views of the changing colors in the forest and of Casco Bay. One of Maine’s five original state parks, Bradbury Mountain is in two sections, with the most popular trails in its western section. The park’s trails are shared with mountain bikers and equestrians.
Camden Hills State Park
The view from the summit of Mount Battie is a Maine classic and offers a panorama that takes in a sweep of Penobscot Bay and the richly colored forests of fall. There’s a short half-mile trail to the peak and the park has an extensive 30-mile trail network with numerous opportunities to see fall color. The nine-mile Interior Trail Network leads to commanding overlooks, including 1,385-foot Mount Megunticook. The peak is the second tallest on the Atlantic coast and clear day views range from New Hampshire’s Mount Washington to Acadia National Park.
Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park
Convenient to Freeport (and the 24-hour, flagship L.L. Bean Store), this small park is set along the shores of Casco Bay and the Harraseeket River. The hikes are easy and combine coastal views with glimpses of fall color in the forests. It’s a great destination if you’re planning a hike with the kids.