Backpacking in Maine: Tips & Trails

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

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

Backpacking in Maine is epic. The state offers diverse and dramatic backpacking opportunities, from the epic AT to coastal trails to remote north woods hikes, with plenty of natural splendor.

This post is all about backpacking in Maine from an ultralight perspective. We’ll give you some useful tips to get ready for your upcoming outdoor adventure.

We’ll highlight the TOP 5 trails in Maine, split into two groups: shorter day hikes under 25 miles and longer multi-day trips with places to restock water every few days.

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 Day Hikes (Under 25 Miles)

Check out these fantastic day hikes in Maine where using lightweight gear will truly make your adventure better:

  1. Cadillac South Ridge Trail (6.7 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Beehive, the Bowl, Gorham Mountain, Ocean Drive (6.0 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Eagle Lake Carriage Road Trail (6.0 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Witch Hole and Pond Carriage Trail to Eagle Lake (7.8 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Old Speck Mountain Trail (7.4 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Top 5 Multi-Day Trips

Explore these scenic trails in Maine, with plenty of water resupply points:

  1. Grafton Loop Trail (33.5 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. West Peak from North Newry (34.7 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Appalachian Trail: Caratunk to Monson (33.9 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Evan’s Notch Loop (35.4 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Mahoosuc Traverse (29.4 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

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):

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

FAQ

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.

What are some safety tips for backpacking in Maine?

Experience the adventure of Maine’s magnificent wilderness immersed in nature, but take key precautions. Before following winding trails through dense forests, acquire a detailed map and inform companions of your route. Pack brightly colored clothing, first-aid supplies, flashlights, whistles, and bear-proof food canisters. Watch your step hiking over rocky, uneven terrain and through slippery stream crossings. Make noise to avoid surprising moose, black bears or other wildlife. Stay hydrated and focused so you can revel in Maine’s natural beauty while keeping safety a priority. With adequate provisions and preventative measures, you can fully embrace the call of the wild when backpacking across Maine. Stay alert, be prepared for the unexpected, and remember prudent planning prevents poor performance on a backpacking trip in Maine’s majestic natural settings.

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