Backpacking in Maine: TOP 5 Multi-Day Trails

Backpacking in Maine: A scenic view of the Acadia National Park

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Backpacking in Maine offers immense variety for outdoor enthusiasts, from the rugged peaks of the Appalachian Trail to the rocky coastline of Acadia National Park, including popular destinations like Baxter State Park.

And that’s what this post is all about – backpacking in Maine. We’ll provide tips to help you prepare for backpacking in this diverse state as well as showcase the best multi-day trails in Maine.

Interested? Let’s get started.

Key Tips for Backpacking in Maine

  • What to expect: Maine rewards hikers and backpackers with phenomenal nature but require sturdy footwear, and good balance to traverse the uneven, natural terrain. A spirit of adventure and route-finding skills are also helpful, so bring a GPS or map along with a compass. Additionally, be prepared for changeable weather and bugs.
  • Essential gear: Your bag should contain a bear canister and a reliable water filter. Don’t forget to bring weather-appropriate layers and sturdy hiking shoes.
  • Wildlife: Maine hosts wildlife like black bears, moose, and coyotes. Bears might be drawn to food smells in backcountry sites, becoming aggressive. Moose can charge when startled, and coyotes, though usually avoiding humans, can pose a threat in packs during breeding season (January through March). While attacks are rare, staying vigilant in the wilderness is crucial.
  • Wild camping: You can go wild camping, which means camping outside official campgrounds, in many of Maine’s public lands. However, it often involves checking specific rules beforehand. Dispersed camping is not allowed in Baxter State Park and some ecologically sensitive areas. In the North Maine Woods region and some state parks, you can find remote sites for backpacking, usually for a small fee.
  • Best time to go: Many experienced backpackers suggest late spring (May/early June) or early fall (late September/October) for the best blend of good weather, minimal bugs, fall colors in September/October, and fewer crowds than summer.

Top 5 Backpacking Trails in Maine

Explore Maine’s best scenic trails for epic adventures:

1. Mount Katahdin and Hamlin Peak Loop

A vivid blue lake surrounded by evergreen forested mountains reflects the rugged beauty of Mount Katahdin in Maine's impressive wilderness

Length: 11.4 mi / 18.3 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 4455 ft / 1358 m
Location: Baxter State Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 3450 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The challenging 11.4 mile loop near Stacyville, Maine is a classic but demanding hike up Mt. Katahdin, Maine’s tallest peak and end of the Appalachian Trail. It features steep boulder field ascents to Knife’s Edge ridge with sheer drops, summiting Baxter Peak, descending into a valley, then climbing Hamlin Peak with a tricky descent. Permits required from Baxter State Park. Best hiked March-October, plan for an early start, 10+ hours, varied terrain with scenic overlooks. Proper footwear and supplies essential for this strenuous loop with incredible views.

2. Grafton Loop Trail

A picturesque red house overlooks a sunny valley surrounded by the fall foliage of Maine's scenic Grafton Notch

The B’s, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 33.5 mi / 53.9 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 11 138 ft / 3395 m
Location: Grafton Notch State Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 9750 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

For experienced backpackers April-October, the challenging 33.5-mile loop near Newry, Maine winds through rugged, remote Grafton Notch and Mahoosuc Mountain terrain. Designated campsites with bear boxes are 5-10 miles apart. Water is scarce on secluded sections. The steep, rocky trail with spectacular views rewards proper training for this strenuous but scenically breathtaking adventure through forests and peaks.

3. Fire Wardens, Horns Pond, and Appalachian Trail Loop

The Appalachian Trail traverses a ridge overlooking the vivid Horns Pond and lush green mountains of Maine

John Hayes, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 12.2 mi / 19.6 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 3825 ft / 1166 m
Location: Bigelow Preserve
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 3250 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

This challenging 12.2-mile loop trail near Stratton is perfect for backpacking, camping, and fishing from May through November. The ridge traverse leads up two beautiful summits, including Avery Peak’s stone fire tower. Starting on the Fire Warden’s Trail, you’ll take the Horns Pond Trail traversing the scenic Bigelow Ridge before returning via the Fire Warden’s. Though popular, you can find solitude during quiet times. Camp at Moose Falls site with ample water sources. With gorgeous views, a moderate amount of ups and downs, and well-marked trails, it’s considered a must-do hike.

4. Baxter Peak via Chimney Pond and Saddle Trail

The rocky summit of Owl Mountain in Maine's Baxter State Park offers panoramic eastern views over forests and mountains

daveynin, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 10.4 mi / 16.7 km
Type: Out and back
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 3832 ft / 1168 m
Location: Baxter State Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 3290 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The challenging 10.4-mile out-and-back trail to Baxter Peak is immensely popular June-October. From Chimney Pond, it steeply climbs the Saddle Trail headwall to a ridge with views to Maine’s 5,268-foot highest summit. Avoiding Knife Edge but requiring reservations/fees. Be prepared for cold nights camping at high elevation Chimney Pond. Heavy traffic but iconic trail with spectacular vistas, especially in fall foliage.

5. Acadia Carriage Road from Bar Harbor to Jordan Pond

A verdant green mountain reflected in a vivid blue pond overlooks the sparkling Atlantic Ocean along the rocky coast of Maine's scenic Acadia National Park

Length: 23.3 mi / 37.5 km
Type: Out and back
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 1289 ft / 393 m
Location: Acadia National Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 4600 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

This moderately challenging 23.3-mile out-and-back stretches along the carriage roads of Acadia National Park from April to November. Passing ponds, lakes, and ocean vistas, highlights include Pemetic Mountain, Cadillac Mountain, and Jordan Pond. Entry fees are required, but you’ll find tranquility during quiet times. The trail is popular for hikers, horseback riders, and bird watchers. With oceanfront views from Bar Harbor and the interior park peaks visible along the way, it provides a comprehensive showcase of Acadia’s beauty.

Annual Weather Averages

Maine’s weather for backpacking can vary based on the season and region. Here’s a general overview:

  • Spring (March to May): Spring in Maine can be cool and wet. Daytime temperatures range from around 30°F to 60°F (−1°C to 15°C), with occasional rain and snow showers. Trails might be muddy, and some areas could have lingering snow.
  • Summer (June to August): Summers are generally pleasant, with daytime temperatures ranging from 60°F to 80°F (15°C to 27°C). It’s a popular time for backpacking due to milder weather, but be prepared for occasional rain.
  • Fall (September to November): Fall is beautiful with vibrant foliage. Daytime temperatures range from 40°F to 70°F (4°C to 21°C). Nights can get chilly, especially in October and November.
  • Winter (December to February): Winter is cold, with daytime temperatures ranging from 20°F to 40°F (−7°C to 4°C). Snow is common, and some areas may have significant snowpack, making winter backpacking a challenging but rewarding experience.

Before making your gear selection and heading to the trailhead, take a look at the weather statistics for Maine (Farmington):

High °F273039536573787668564332
Low °F111323354555605850403018
Rain/Snow (D*)7789101212119989
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.
D* – Days of rain or snow.

Alternative Backpacking Destinations

Not sure if Maine is right for you?

Don’t forget to check out our backpacking guides for Vermont and New Hampshire.


Can I have a campfire while backpacking in Maine?

Campfires are permitted while backpacking in the outdoors and forests of Maine, but there are important regulations to follow. You must obtain a fire permit from the Maine Forest Service prior to having a campfire as you enjoy the natural surroundings. Permits are free and can be acquired online or from local fire warden offices. There are also rules about where and how you can build a fire – it must be in a cleared area away from overhanging branches and logs/rocks should surround the fire pit. Fires must be completely extinguished before leaving the area.

Is it necessary to obtain permits for backpacking in Maine?

For the most part, permits are not required for backpacking and wilderness exploration in Maine, except for certain restricted areas like Baxter State Park or the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. However, groups over 15 people need a permit for Maine’s public reserved lands, and open fires require a statewide fire permit

How long does it take to hike the Appalachian Trail in Maine?

The 281 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine takes most hikers 7-10 days to complete going northbound or 5-7 days going southbound. The rugged, mountainous terrain with steep climbs, tricky footing, and over 10 peaks makes for slower progress compared to other sections of the AT. The weather in Maine can also impact hiking pace if conditions become rainy, cold or wintery at higher elevations. On average, hikers cover 12-15 miles per day in Maine, with faster hikers reaching over 20 miles on some days. But the challenging trails usually mean hiking at a slower speed than normal. It’s wise to allot extra time when planning an AT hike in Maine.

How to deal with wildlife encounters while backpacking in Maine?

When backpacking in Maine, you may encounter wildlife like moose, deer, foxes, and black bears. Avoid surprising animals and give them space to move away. Make noise on the trail so they know you’re coming. Be extra alert at dawn and dusk when some animals are most active. Keep food stored properly so it doesn’t attract bears. If you meet a black bear, back away slowly and do not run. Talk calmly so the bear knows you are human, not prey. Carry bear spray just in case, but try to give bears a chance to retreat first before using it.

How to prepare for backpacking in Maine?

When backpacking in Maine, prepare for challenging terrain and variable weather. Pack a lightweight backpacking tent, warm sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and navigation essentials like a map, compass, and GPS device. Choose performance fabrics that wick moisture and insulate when wet. Carry extra layers, rain gear, and plenty of food. Research regulations and required permits. Maine has ample water sources, but a filter or treatment tablets are still recommended. Install weather and sunset alerts on your phone. Though demanding, Maine’s striking scenery makes the effort rewarding. With the right gear and preparations, you can safely enjoy an incredible backpacking experience.

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