I feel very fortunate to have grown up in Maine. Maine is the best of both worlds. We have hundreds of miles of rocky coastline with intermittent sandy beaches filled with sunbathers and lobstermen gathering your evening meal. Yum! On the flip side, if you head inland you’ll see thousands of acres of pine forests and mountains with beautiful views of the Maine wilderness. Most of Maine’s popular hiking mountains are at least a couple hours north of Portland like, Mount Katahdin and Grafton Notch. While they are certainly worth the drive and hike, sometimes you just want to stay close to home.
Thankfully you don’t have to drive hours north to find a good day hike. Summer may be coming to a close, but Fall is prime time for some hiking in southern Maine. For the past few months, I have been spending my weekends checking out all the mountains in the southern Maine region to let you know which are a worthwhile drive and the ones to skip altogether. All the hikes below are pet-friendly unless otherwise stated, and about an hours drive from Portland, Maine. So without further ado, here’s your ultimate guide to hiking southern Maine!
The Best Hikes in Southern Maine
Bradbury Mountain State Park
Bradbury Mountain is located in an 800-acre state park in Pownal. The land was originally acquired by the federal government in 1939 and the park opened in 1940. During the 1940s it offered skiing with a rope tow! Bradbury Mountain State Park is one of the original five state parks in Maine. It is open daily from 9am to sunset year-round. Bradbury Mountain State Park offers miles of trails of varying difficulty. The most popular trail is the Summit Trail. It is the shortest and steepest trail at 0.3 miles long. However, it gets you to the summit the quickest. The summit of Bradbury Mountain is short at only 500 feet high, but the views are fabulous for such a short mountain. The Northern Loop Trail is a wide gradual trail to the summit. It passes an old quarry and cattle pound. During the spring
The most popular trail is the Summit Trail. It is the shortest and steepest trail at 0.3 miles long. However, it gets you to the summit the quickest. The summit of Bradbury Mountain is short at only 500 feet high, but the views are fabulous for such a short mountain. The Northern Loop Trail is a wide gradual trail to the summit. It passes an old quarry and cattle pound. During the spring months, you can often see numerous Lady’s Slippers, which are rare (do not pick them!). All the trails at Bradbury are open to hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers so it’s good to beware of who is around you or face getting run over.
There is a $3.00 fee for Maine adult residents ($4.50 for non-residents). Children and seniors are only a $1.00. You can also camp at the park for a nominal fee as well. From Portland the drive to the state park only takes less than 30 minutes thus making it one of the closest hikes to Portland. Bradbury is open to dogs, but on busy days it’s best to keep them on a leash.
Burnt Meadow Mountain
Burnt Meadow Mountain is located in Brownfield, Maine off of Route 160 (or 487 Spring Road) in southwestern Maine. The trail head is located about 100 feet in on the right side of the parking lot. There are two trails to the peak of Burnt Meadow Mountain. Both trails start from the trail head and split about a half mile up the trail. The beginning part of the trail is moderately easy. The trail runs through the forest containing mostly young birch trees and some older pine trees. The trail is well marked with blue blazes and for the most part you can see the well-trodden trail. Eventually you’ll come to a false summit with pretty views of the neighboring mountains. Soon after a short scramble down some rocks you’ll come to the split in the trail.
The Burnt Meadow Trail or North Peak Trail is the most direct and hardest trail to the summit marked by blue blazes. Most of the trail isn’t that hard. The trail consists of rocky switch backs that gradually get steeper as you get higher. At about the mile mark you’ll see the trail goes straight up a rocky ledge. You’ll be doing a rock scramble for about a 100 feet or so. The top provides lovely views of the surrounding mountains and valleys of Brownfield and the neighboring towns.
The Twin Brook Trail is marked by yellow blazes and is slightly longer than the Burnt Meadow Trail as it winds through the woods and follows the main brook and ravine between Stone Mountain and North Peak. The Twin Brook Trail is not as steep and rocky as the Burnt Meadow Trail, although there are a few short rock scrambles towards the top. About a half mile or so down the trail we came to another trail split. The Twin Brook Trail connects to the Stone Mountain Trail that leads to the summit of Stone Mountain. The trail is about 0.72 miles from the trail head to the summit. The trail is marked by blue blazes.
Roundtrip via the Burnt Meadow Trail Loop and Twin Brook Trail took us about 3 hours for a total of about 3.3 miles. It took Reagan and I about 45 minutes to summit the mountain, which is fast as we pretty much booked it to the top. It should take most people about 1-1.5 hours to get to the top via the Burnt Meadow Trail and probably about 2 hours to the top via the Twin Brook Trail.
Click here for a more detailed post on Burnt Meadow Mountain.
Douglas Mountain is located not far from Pleasant Mountain in the town of Sebago. The hike is short, family friendly, and offers excellent view of the Presidential Range in NH, the Atlantic Ocean, Pleasant Mountain, and Sebago Lake on a clear day. In 1997 the Nature Conservancy purchased Douglas Mountain and donated it to the town of Sebago. The town maintains the area and there is a $3 parking fee to help support the maintenance. The mountain offers two main trails to get to the top. Once you park your car in the parking lot off of Ledge Road, walk down the road out of the parking lot and up the hill.
Once you reach the top of the paved road you’ll find the trail head on the left side. The trail is marked by yellow blazes and starts between two stone pillars. It is extremely easy to follow the trail to the top. The trail is only about 0.3 miles long. From the parking lot to the summit the total length is only 0.7 miles and should take you about 25 minutes or so.
If you’re looking for a longer hike then I suggest taking the newer Eagle Scout Trail that was built by a troop of Boy Scouts. The trail is marked by orange blazes and is relatively flat. It intertwines with a snowmobile trail, but they end up in the same place so you can’t really get lost. After about a 1 mile hike through the woods, you must follow the red-blazed Nature Trail for about 0.7 miles to the summit. The Nature Trail is much steeper and sometimes is a bit of a rock scramble. The total time to the summit this way is less than 2 hours depending on your hiking speed.
The views from the open ledge summit are stunning! The best part about the summit is the old stone observation tower that is safe and easy to climb to get beautiful pictures of the surrounding landscape.
Dogs are welcomed, just bring your leash and poop bags. Hunting in the preserve is allowed from October through November so wear orange or hike on Sundays when hunting is not allowed (although I would wear it just in case). If you have your pooch with you too then make sure he or she has some orange on too.
From Portland the drive is under an hour. You can take either Route 114 to Long Hill Road to Route 107 onto Dyke Mountain Road. Or just take Route 107 to Dyke Mountain Road. At the top of Dyke Mountain Road take a left onto Ledge Road and then another left into the parking lot a little ways up. You can easily pair Douglas Mountain with Pleasant Mountain for a twofer!
Jockey Cap in Fryeburg, Maine rises a whooping 200 feet above the valley and was once a local ski hill running a row tow from 1936 to about 1939. Today you can climb the short trails to the top for stunning views of the area. It’s a perfect hike for children as it’s short and sweet. There is even a small cave, Molly Locket’s cave, that kids can explore on their way up. The cave is named for the last of the Pequawket Indians that were said to have used that cave for shelter. On top of the summit there is unique stone sculpture with a bronze profile of the surrounding mountains that is dedicated to Robert E. Peary, the famous Arctic explorer, who lived in Fryeburg from 1878 to 1979.
The trailhead is not hard to find. The tiny parking lot is adjacent to the Quinn’s Jockey Cap Motel and store located off of US Route 302. Follow the trail under the sign and up towards the rock ledge in the distance. The dirt trail will wind through the forest for about 500 yards where you’ll come to Molly Locket’s cave. From here the trail splits.
The left branch continues up a gradual climb with some rocks and roots; however, nothing too bad. The righthand trail climbs a bit steeper. Neither side is more than 0.2 miles long. Just be aware that there are numerous side trails that lead nowhere. The hike should take you less than 30 minutes roundtrip.
Click here for a more detailed post on Jockey Cap.
Morse Mountain is a 3.5 mile out and back trail located in Phippsburg, Maine. Morse mountain is more of a hill than a true mountain standing at 144 feet tall. The trails are just gravel roads leading up to the rocky ledge with beautiful views of the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area. The hikes is easy and gradual. Just follow the road and the signs.
While the hike isn’t much to write home about, the secret beach is totally awesome! One fork of the road will bring you to the summit of Morse Mountain while the second fork will bring you to Seawall Beach. It’s a secluded sandy beach that is open to those who arrive there first. Once the small parking lot is full, no others are allowed to enter.
Dogs are forbidden in the park as many seabirds call the beach home. Entrance is free just go early for a spot in the parking lot. Bring lots of sunscreen, bug spray, and water as you will need all three! Morse Mountain is a place that you come for the hike, but stay for the beach.
Mount Agamenticus rises 691 feet above the coastal plains of southern York County and reminds me a lot of Bradbury Mountain. Since it is prominent, it was an important landmark for the early European explorers who sailed along the New England coast back in the 1600s. There is a firetower at the top and during WWII it was a radar observation post site. At the summit is a parking area and a closed ski lodge turned nature center.
There are multiple trails in the nature preserve, but the two most popular trails are the Ring Trail Loop and the Blueberry Bluff Trail. The Ring Trail Loop trailhead is located just right before the Big A Summit Road. At about 0.1 miles into the trail, the trail comes to a fork. Take the right branch. This where it can get a bit confusing. Take the Ring Trail for about 0.5 miles pass the junction with Rocky Road/Hairpin Turn Trail. Take a left at the next trail junction onto Witch Hazel Trail leading to the summit. To return, take the Sweet Fern Trail which will reconnect to the Ring Trail Loop. The total loop distance is 1.5 miles and should take you about 1 hour to complete.
Your second option is via the Blueberry Bluff Trail. The small parking lot is located on the left side of Summit Road. Proceed on the Ring Trail to a “Y” in the trail. Take the right-hand trail and begin climbing the hill. There is a sign for Blueberry Bluff Trail and is marked with red blazes. On a clear blue sky day, the White Mountains can be seen from the ledges. The trail is 1.8 miles long (about 1 hour hike) to the summit. To get to Mount Agamenticus, take the York Exit off the turnpike. Via I-95, it should take you little less than 1 hour to get to the base of Mount Agamenticus.
Pleasant Mountain is one of my favorite hikes and the tallest mountain in the southern Maine region. The mountain is located on the Denmark-Bridgton town lines and tops out at 2006 feet. It is an isolated, lengthy mountain mass that stretches about 4 miles on the north-south line. The main summit is open and filled with ledges, which are typical in a very granite heavy state.
The summit was once known as House Peak because it was home to a hotel from 1873 to 1907. Today, the main summit is home to a MFS firetower. It can be climbed, but I personally wouldn’t recommend it as it’s rather old and rickety. The views from the main summit and Big Bald Peak are outstanding and if you’re lucky you might even see Mountain Washington from a far!
There are at least 6 trails heading up the mountain of varying lengths. My favorite is the Ledges Trail located off of Mountain Road. Just park on the side of the road. The trail is marked with blue blazes and begins on a logging road. It gradually climbs for 0.5 miles and then abruptly climbs up for 0.3 miles to a scenic outlook on the ledges. The trail then follows the ledges another 0.6 miles to the Southwest Trail junction. The summit is only another 0.2 miles to the top for a total of 1.8 miles of hiking to the top. The total hike time up should take less than 2 hours depending on your hiking spend. The summit offers views to the west, including the town of Fryeburg and the Saco River Basin.
If you’re looking for a longer hike then I recommend taking the Bald Peak Trail located 0.1 miles south of the East Pinnacle Condos on Mountain Road. The trail head is located between telephone poles 49 and 50, which are labeled as such. The climb starts steeply and crosses several small brooks on the way. You should reach Big Bald Summit in 1.1 miles (or about 1 hour and 20 minutes hiking time). From Big Bald Peak, the Bald Peak Trail follows the crest of the ridge toward the main summit. The trail will join the Firewarden’s Trail to the main summit for a total one-way hike up of 2.4 miles (or about 2 hours of hiking time.) There are also several other trails to check out as well.
The drive from downtown Portland to the Shawnee Peak ski area on Mountain Road takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes if you take Route 302 all the way. There are certainly back roads that can get you there quickly if you know the area. The trails are quite popular on a nice day so you’ll most likely meet some fellow hikers on the way. Loon Echo Land Trust protects and manages the Pleasant Mountain trail system. For more information check out their website and consider donating to keep the trails open for all to enjoy for the years to come.
For more information on Pleasant Mountain, check out my Complete Guide to Hiking Pleasant Mountain (Maine)
Rattlesnake Mountain is located in the southwestern part of Casco. It is a popular hike for camp groups in the area. The southern access to the mountain off of Plains Road is now closed due to public misuse of the area in 1992. Another reason to respect the trails and carry out your trash (including dog poop)! However, you can still access Rattlesnake Mountain via the Bri-Mar Trail (Sheep Pasture) off of Route 85.
There is a small parking lot on the left side of Route 85, but you can park on the side of the road too. The trail is named for Brian and Marline Huntress. The land is privately owned but opened to hikers. Just follow the rules! The trail is well maintained and starts off with a gradual climb, but gets very steep in areas with rocks and roots. The trail is short and offers nice views of Panther Pond via its two ledge outlooks.
The true summit is actually covered with trees so I was slightly disappointed in the hike. However, for a quick hike with children I think this would be a great option. It took me less than an hour to hike the 1.0 mile to the “top.” Dogs are welcomed as well. Just be warned that if the trail is busy then keep them on a leash. From Portland the drive will take you about 45 minutes to the parking lot.
Sabattus Mountain is nestled in the small western Maine town of Lovell. It’s a bit of a drive from Portland, but if you pair the hike with another mountain in the region it is well worth the 90 minute drive from Portland as the views are some of the best in the area. Sabattus Mountain is located on Sabattus Trail Road, a dirt road off of Sabattus Road not far from the center of town on Route 5. The 1.4 mile loop trail is managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and is open daily from sunrise to sunset. There is a small parking lot at the trailhead that fits about 5-6 cars.
The trail starts from the parking lot and splits about 100 feet in from the start. The trail is a loop trail so either direction is fine. I took the right trail and headed up towards the summit. The trail is marked occasionally with yellow blazes, but even if you can’t find the markers, the trail is well trodden. The trail is a gradual climb of about 500 feet to the granite summit at 1253 feet. I found the trail up on the right side to be a steady climb that gets you just out of breath if you hike at a steady pace. There are no steep climbs or rock scrambles, but definitely a lot of tree roots to watch out for as you’re walking. Trust me, you don’t want to belly flop on the trail holding your DSLR camera.
It took me just under 30 minutes to get to the top of the mountain and I was rewarded with beautiful views of the surrounding White Mountains, the ski trails at Shawnee Peak, and Kezar Lake. One of the best features of the cliff, other than the stunning views, is the two memorial benches at the top for you to rest on or perhaps quietly read a book on a sunny fall day. People are allowed to hunt in the area so please wear orange and use caution during hunting season. The total 1.4 mile loop took me just under an hour hiking at a steady pace (including the 15 minutes at the top). The hike is both kid and pet friendly.
Click here for a more detailed post on Sabattus Mountain.