Fall is my favorite season in Maine. I love the cooler temperatures, the changing leaves, and the crispest of a new class syllabus. Yes, I’m a total dork and love school. One of my favorite outdoor activities to do in Maine is go hiking. With hundreds of hills, mountains, and seaside cliffs, Maine is an excellent place to escape into the woods and climb some mountains to see stellar views of the amazing landscape we have in this state. Most of Maine’s mountains tend to be located in the Western foothills or the northern areas of the state. For many residents who live around the Greater Portland area or tourist who primarily visit the southern region of the state, it requires a long drive to nowhere. Although, I highly recommend everyone make the long drive to visit Baxter State Park and hike the infamous Mount Katahdin at least once in their lives!
With weather in the 60s so far this October and a long weekend coming up in a few days, it’s the perfect time to escape out of the city or the “burbs” to explore some quietly beautiful areas of Maine that are within an hour-ish drive of Portland, Maine. Most of these hikes are on the easier side and great for families. The hikes are also dog-friendly as my dog, Reagan, is my hiking buddy. I just recommend bringing your leash and a few poop bags to pick up after your pooch.
5 Hikes Within an Hour Of Portland, Maine
1. Pleasant Mountain
Pleasant Mountain is one of my favorite hikes. It’s probably because the mountain is home to the Shawnee Peak Ski area where I first learned to ski as a young child and later taught ski lessons and served as a volunteer ski patroller in my high school and college years. The mountain is more than just a local ski hill churning out new ski bunnies every year. It is home to some wonderful hikes. 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 an MFS fire tower. 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 afar! 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 speed. 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
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)
Douglas Mountain is located not far from Pleasant Mountain in the town of Sebago. The hike is short, family friendly, and offers an 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 trailhead 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!
3. Rattlesnake Mountain
** UPDATE: Several readers have emailed to say that dogs are no longer allowed on the trail.
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 (Note: A reader emailed me recently to say that the Plains Road entrance is now open so you can do the full 3.8-mile traverse). 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. When I hiked it about a month back I saw young children and an older couple (65+) hiking the trail so it’s a pretty good option for all. 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.” From Portland, the drive will take you about 45 minutes to the parking lot.
4. 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 the 1940s. 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 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 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. Bradbury is also great in the winter for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing! It’s my favorite time to go to Bradbury with Reagan.
Mount Agamenticus rises 691 feet above the coastal plains of southern York County. 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 fire tower at the top and during WWII it was a radar observation post site. If you really wanted to, you could drive to the top of the mountain via the summit road. I’ve had several cyclist friends ride up and over the mountain. I have yet to do so but it is on my list to do someday. At the summit
At the summit, there is a parking area, a closed ski lodge, and a riding stable. However, you can do the old fashion thing and walk up the mountain, which I much prefer. There are two trails: 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 past 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. Take this trail through the blueberry patches (obviously best during the summer months) and proceed towards the summit. 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.
Looking for more hikes in southern Maine? Check out my Ultimate Guide to Hiking Southern Maine!
Tips for Hiking in Maine
- Prepare for any weather – bring layers!
- Make sure to let someone know where you’re going and when to expect you back
- Bring more water than you think (within reason, though).
- If hiking with a dog, remember to bring a bowl and extra water for them.
- Bring plastic bags for trash and/or dog poop.
- Leave no trace!
- Wear proper footwear!
- Follow the trail rules. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us!