5 Beginner Backpacking Trips to Take this Fall
From the Cutler Coast to the New Hampshire border, get outside in the Pine Tree State with these entry-level overnight treks.
Taking your first backpacking trip is a rite of passage in the outdoor adventure world. Camping and hiking are both enjoyable in their own right, but there’s an almost indescribable feeling of satisfaction and autonomy when you combine the two, carrying on your back everything you need to survive and enjoy a couple days in the wilderness. After you’ve picked out your trip and gone through the humbling—and oftentimes frustrating—process of whittling down your gear by deciding what is necessary, what’s a luxury, and, most important, what will fit into your backpack (while keeping it light enough so that you can still carry it), it’s time to pull on those hiking boots and get walking. Are you ready to hit the trail with all the essentials and then some? Read on for our list of entry-level trips to start off your backpacking career in Maine.
PIAZZA ROCK, SANDY RIVER
An out-and-back trek with a gradual elevation gain, hiking to Piazza Rock along the Appalachian Trail is a great way to introduce yourself—and your family—to backpacking, especially if you have kids in tow. The majority of the climb is at the start of the trip, so be prepared to take breaks when necessary, and don’t get discouraged! Once you reach the campsite—which consists of a lean-to, privy, and fire ring—set up camp and then head out on the nearby side trail (roughly 0.1 miles) to see the eponymous Piazza Rock, a giant balancing boulder that cantilevers out into space, as well as natural caves formed by fallen boulders that provide welcome shade and cool temperatures on hot days.
Mileage: ~4.1 miles round trip
Elevation: 450 feet
LITTLE MOOSE POND, GREENVILLE
With close proximity to Moosehead Lake, Little Moose Pond gives first-time backpackers a taste of quintessential Maine adventures, minus the crowds. Start the trip from the Big Moose Mountain Trail trailhead along North Road near Greenville. Take the Mt. Link Trail, which will guide you past Big Moose Pond and deposit you on the shores of Little Moose Pond. Set up camp at one of two nearby campsites (which are first-come, first-served), where you will have access to a fire ring, picnic table, and nearby pit toilet. To take advantage of the views, make the short hike up Little Moose Mountain, a loop that follows the Little Moose Mountain trail and provides gorgeous views from the summit.
Mileage: ~3 to 4.3 miles round trip
Elevation: 646 feet
KATAHDIN LAKE, MILLINOCKET
A part of Baxter State Park, the trek to Katahdin Lake will take beginner backpackers along a relatively flat route that starts from the Roaring Brook Road across from the Avalanche Parking Area. Following the old Katahdin Lake Tote Road, hike a little over 3 miles along the Katahdin Lake Trail to the campsites at South Katahdin Lake. Set up camp at a primitive site, which includes a lean-to and a canoe that you can take out on the water. Be sure to rinse off with a refreshing swim, or at the very least take in the incredible views of Katahdin from the beach.
Mileage: ~7.5 miles round trip
SWAN ISLAND, RICHMOND
Located at the head of Merrymeeting Bay in the Kennebec River, Swan Island offers a multisport adventure in a short time span. To access the island, either hop on the ferry from Richmond or paddle a canoe or kayak out on your own. Once you’ve reached land, the walk to the campsite is about 1.5 miles, although there is the option to get a ride on a truck managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The campground offers ten campsites equipped with lean-tos and fire rings, in addition to one tent-only site and one group camping site. Restroom facilities and a freshwater source are available as well. Once you set up camp, be sure to head out on the hiking trails, with hikes ranging from 0.5 to 7 miles.
Mileage: ~7 miles round trip
Elevation: 492 feet
CUTLER COAST PUBLIC RESERVED LAND, CUTLER
If you’re itching to dip your toes into the numerous adventures that the Bold Coast in downeast Maine has to offer, dive in with a short backpacking trip along the Cutler Coast. Starting from the Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land trailhead, take the Coastal Trail out along the cliffs to catch the breathtaking views of Maine’s rugged coastline. Be mindful of how slippery the rocks can be, and be sure to stay away from the edge! Depending on how much of a challenge you want, hike to one of four campsites roughly 3 to 5 miles from the trailhead. Please note that campfires are prohibited, and backpackers must bring in their water supply for the duration of the trip.
Mileage: ~5.6 to 9.6 miles round trip
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