One of the things that makes Southern Maine a special region for vacationing, aside from its sandy beaches, cultural intrigue, and renowned shopping is its fantastic outdoor appeal found on many of the best Southern Maine hiking trails.
Though claiming a small province at the southern tip of the state, there are diverse natural landscapes from tidal salt marshes, paved nature walks, deep woods, gentle mountains, and even deserts of Maine.
While the Western Lakes and Mountains and Maine’s Highlands are great for seasoned hikers, Southern Maine is an excellent spot for amateurs and perhaps those daunted by big mountains and serious trails.
Mount Agamenticus | York
Mount Agamenticus is a scenic gem, a panoramic pinnacle overlooking the Atlantic, and very accommodating for youngsters and even elders, especially if you consider driving up to the summit for the view of Cape Neddick and the Atlantic all the way to the Boston skyline.
For some, the hike is part of the journey, but there’s nothing wrong with skipping the work and still getting the rewards. Though the hike on Mt Agamenticus is rather amateur, the impressive trail system allows for spending hours upon hours in the woods.
“Clean, beautiful park with a million dollar view! Great place to take the kids for a hike and to see the sights. Cape Neddick, the Piscataqua River Bridge and the White Mountains in NH. All in perfect view on a clear day. Breathtaking!“– Andrew M., TripAdvisor review
Bradbury Mountain | Pownal
Bradbury Mountain State Park is a hiker’s favorite in the Pownal – Freeport Maine area. The short hike to the summit is a good choice to escape the summer crowds or to get off the couch in the winter.
Bradbury is great even for non-hikers – bring the family and friends for an outdoor cookout and let the kids be kids at the playground.
Bauneg Beg Mountain | North Berwick
Bauneg Beg Mountain – barely passes for a mountain – really, it’s just a big hill. Like Agamenticus, this was once a ski area in southern Maine.
Though the reserve is just a 10-minute drive from Sanford’s city center, the hike offers a quiet escape as very few hikers visit Bauneg Beg, save for locals.
Mousam River Estuary Trail | Kennebunk
Hiking here will bring you through sand dunes, tidal marshes, and wooded terrain.
Vaughn State Park | South Berwick
Vaughn State Park, straddling the New Hampshire–Maine border is a 250-acre forested realm with a 3-mile trail system following the Salmon Falls River. Though it’s quite an easy hike lacking any mountain summit, the appeal in this old forested land is extremely tranquil.
Cliff Walk | York
If you’re looking for a quick hike, then the Cliff Walk in York is the perfect trail to take.
The trail is just a mile long, but some visitors can find the trail difficult because some of the trail is narrow and covered by gravel and rocks.
“My wife, Dog and I ventured out onto this wonderful, short cliff walk which was just enough on a hot day. Beautiful views of the beach area of York, crystal clear waters of Maine want to make you jump in from the cliffs; and if you are adventurous enough as well as in decent shape, you can do just that with a little climbing down onto the rocks and then into the water. The whole walk is about an hour there and back to the parking lot. Its a little hard to find; go to York beach, as you are facing the bathrooms with the beach to your back, look right and you will find the pathway. Keep in mind this path is VERY NARROW and thin in some parts so I would not recommend this trip for smaller children. The end of this path has a beach where our Dog and I jumped into the water to cool off.”– Tyler D., TripAdvisor review
The Cliff Walk to hikers is open year-round, even in winter, but be careful because it does freeze over during the colder months. If you’ve got roughly 45 minutes for a hike, this one is worth it because you’ll have a view of Maine’s southern coast unlike any other.
Fore River Sanctuary | Portland
Imagine exploring 85 acres of land at this sanctuary in Portland and stumbling upon Jewell Falls, the only natural waterfall in the area. You can observe it along with many other fascinating features in the area.
The hiking trail here covers more than five miles and includes traversing over lowland area. The marshes here over plenty of cover for wildlife and chances for excellent bird watching.
Not only is the sanctuary great for hiking, but it also is a great spot for cross-country skiing, mountain biking, and snowshoeing. The sanctuary is open year-round, and the trek to Jewell Falls is worth it. It’s truly an experience not to be missed!
Cape Elizabeth Walking Trails | Cape Elizabeth
If you like diverse trail systems, the Cape Elizabeth walking trails offer something for everyone. The trails spread out over 9,000 acres and there are four trails that take hikers through forests, beaches, open meadows, and saltwater marshes.
The trail system here includes short journeys like the 0.8 Dyer-Hutchinson trail to the 2.3-mile Cross Hill Trail. No matter which trail you take, you’ll be able to see the best of Maine nature.
The trails are also all pet-friendly, so bring your four-legged friends on your journey.
Saco Heath Preserve | Saco
Located just a hop, skip, and jump from Portland, the Saco Heath Preserve is considered by some to be one of Southern Maine’s hidden gems.
The preserve encompasses more than 1,200 acres and offers a unique and inviting trail and boardwalk system.
“This was called Maine’s ‘best overlooked gem’ by Down East magazine, but it’s best in the spring when all the plants bloom and there’s a carpet of pink, lavender, and white flowers. The boardwalk is about a half-mile long, so it’s a short hike. There are lots of songbirds as well. I only went about a quarter-mile to check it out but, being March, it was too cold and windy. I’ll go back in a month or two. It’s pretty nice — not as large as a heath you’d find in England, like the Hampstead Heath, but still inviting and very peaceful. Besides, how many heaths do you find in New England.”– N.H., TripAdvisor
A self-guided hike spans just one mile and offers a lot in the way of plant life. Spring yields colorful flowers and it’s not uncommon to see mosses, carnivorous plants, and even wild fruit.
Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park | Freeport
Just five minutes from the center of Freeport and has a little bit of everything where nature is considered. The park includes forests, rocky beach shorelines, and a salt march estuary.
The park offers four spectacular trails (White Pines Trail, Harraseeket Trail, North Loop Trail, and the Casco Bay Trail) over just over four miles that offer unlimited opportunities to explore nature.
If you’re looking for a walk along the beach, take the White Pines Trail, which follows the Casco Bay shoreline, walks over bridges, and the chance to see an Osprey nest.
Fort McClary State Historic Site | Kittery
It’s not every day that you can take a hike inside a historic site. But that’s exactly what visitors will find here at a fort that’s more than 250 years old and looks out over the Piscataqua River.
The fort’s facilities are closed in the offseason, but visitors can still hike inside during this time by parking and walking in. It’s a good place to get the blood pumping!
Plan A Trip On a Southern Maine Hiking Trail Today
So there you have it – for some peace and solitude, these hikes in Southern Maine will certainly deliver.
You may note that many of these hiking trails are rather close to popular Maine towns, offering a place for repose without traveling too far.
No matter if you’re a novice hiker or a seasoned pro, you can find tranquility in spades on a Southern Maine hike. So grab your backpack and make plans to hit the trails.
Take your time, enjoy the journey, and find your own slice of Maine oasis as you explore some of the places that make Southern Maine so special.