Hiker trail mountain forest
By Josh Deakin

The state of Maine offers some of the most gorgeous hiking experiences across the east coast. From the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail all the way to the coastal trails on Mount Desert Island, the state has a lot to offer for hikers just starting out to the well-seasoned. Hiking is a four-season sport in Maine provided you’ve packed the right gear and equipment. 

Cold Weather Hiking Essentials

If you want to go hiking in a colder climate, it’s best to wear your clothes in layers. These layers will help you stay warm during your trek with a base layer to collect uncomfortable sweat followed by an insulating layer to keep your body heat in and completed by an outer layer to keep the elements off you. If you get too hot along your way, you can always stop to remove an outer layer of clothing. You’ll also want to pay attention to the fabric you’re wearing. Some material takes longer to dry than others and nothing is more miserable than hiking in wet clothes.

This may seem obvious but keep your skin covered. It’s easy to forget how cold it is when you’ve been hiking and start to sweat. Removing clothing can lead to hypothermic situations as well as frostbite. Gloves and wool socks are essential items in combating frostbite. For a little extra warmth, try inserting a hand warmer or foot warmer into your gloves or boots. 

For better grip and stability in slippery conditions, don’t forget to strap crampons onto your boots (a traction device with teeth to grip ice and snow) to make traveling across icy surfaces safer. Hiking poles can also help keep you steady and upright. Depending on the weather and snow depth, snowshoes might be the best choice.

Be sure to pack a headlamp just in case you’re out later than you anticipated. Remember, in the wintertime there are less daylight hours and at certain times it gets dark as early as 4 p.m. It’s also important to remember to wear sunscreen while you’re out. Just because there are less daylight hours that doesn’t mean the sun is less likely to burn you. And if there’s snow or ice for the sun to reflect off, a sunburn is not unlikely. 

Where to Go

There are a few hiking routes in Maine that are considered exceptionally beautiful in the wintertime and may be worth exploring on one of your outings. For example, the Witch Hole Loop in Acadia National Park would be a wonderful trek on a pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes. During the summer, the path is a popular carriage route that offers a scenic journey by Witch Hole Pond. It’s a short path at only 3.3 miles but for the novice, that’s a sizable distance on cross-country skis or snowshoes.

Another good spot for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing is Bangor City Forest. There are many options for trails through the forest to make your excursion as long or short as you want. 

If you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can try Great Pond Mountain in Orland. This trail offers some wonderful views of Acadia National Park as well as the surrounding areas. The main trail is a slim 2.5 miles but there are nearly seven times that amount in adjacent trails nearby to explore in addition. 

For the advanced hiker looking for the ultimate winter hiking challenge, they should look no further than the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Mount Katahdin has yearly winter summit expeditions for thrill seekers. This trek is substantially longer and requires more experience and specialized gear to complete. If you’re interested, it’s recommended to speak with a Baxter Park ranger on the best methods to complete such a task. 

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