Before the wind blows the stunning fall foliage off the trees of Maine, consider taking a walk outside and enjoying this colorful time of year. The following are a few hiking trails that I’ve found to be especially beautiful during the fall, from easy walking paths to strenuous cliff climbs. Just click on the name of any of these hikes, and a link will lead you to a page with driving directions, more detailed information about the trail and a video of the hike.
Formerly an award-winning tree farm owned by the Freeman family, Dodge Point was purchased by the State of Maine in 1989 with help and funding from the Damariscotta River Association, the Maine Coastal Program and the Land for Maine’s Future Program. The 500-acre preserve features more than 8,000 feet of frontage along the Damariscotta River, as well as an impressive stand of tall red pine trees, and a mature mixed forest that features giant oak trees, maples, birches and massive white pines. This variety of tree species makes this location fantastic for enjoying fall foliage. The network of trails and old farm roads on this property total about 5 miles. Dogs are permitted on leash.
Rising 934 feet above sea level, Blue Hill Mountain isn’t particularly tall, as far as Maine mountains go, but because it’s a monadnock — an isolated mountain in an essentially level area — it stands out. The Abenaki Indians in Penobscot Bay called it “Awanadjo,” the Abenaki word for “small, misty mountain.” And for decades now, local residents have been hiking to the mountain to enjoy the views from the exposed bedrock at its top. Today, thanks to the hard work of volunteers and the Blue Hill Heritage Trust, a number of blazed, well-maintained hiking trails explore the mountain, offering a variety of experiences to hikers. Dogs are permitted on leash.
One of the finest rock climbing locations in the state, Eagle Bluff in Clifton is also a great place for a short but rewarding day hike. Starting at a small parking area off Route 180, a hiking trail leads into the woods towards the bluff, then splits. At this fork, the left trail leads up to the top of the bluff, which rises about 700 feet above sea level; and the right trail leads around the bluff to the base of sheer granite cliffs where approximately 130 climbing routes have been established. The hike to the top is rocky and steep but short — just under 0.5 mile — and from the cliffs, hikers enjoy an open view of the region, including Cedar Swamp Pond and the distinctive humps of Little Peaked and Peaked mountains, known by locals as Little Chick and Chick hills.
Mount Blue rises 3,187 feet above sea level in western Maine and is the centerpiece of Mount Blue State Park, Maine’s largest state park. The Mount Blue Trail leaves from a parking area at the end of Mount Blue Road and climbs steadily up the west side of the mountain, where you’ll find plenty of tall oaks and maples, trees that have especially vibrant foliage in the fall. At about 1 mile, the trail leads to an old warden’s cabin, which is in a state of ruin after many years of neglect. From there, the trail continues a steep and rocky 0.6-mile to the summit, where hikers can climb to the top of a communications tower for an unobstructed panoramic view of the area.
Zigzagging up the cliffs of Champlain Mountain, Precipice Trail is known as the most challenging and dangerous trail in Acadia National Park. In less than a mile, the it ascends nearly 1,000 feet. Several sections of the trail are so steep that hikers must be aided with metal rungs, rails and ladders bolted into the granite cliffs. And in many places, the trail is narrow with a vertical rock wall to one side and a sheer drop to the other. Because most of the trail travels along the edge of cliffs, hikers enjoy open views of Mount Desert Island and the ocean much of the way. This trail is usually closed from late spring through mid-August to protect the peregrine falcons that nest on the cliffs; so fall, before ice starts forming on the mountains of Mount Desert Island, is the time to tackle this challenge.