10 unexpected adventures to take in Maine

Complete your Maine bucket list with these unique adventures.

IMAGE COURTESY: Maine Office of Tourism
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Mountain biking through Maine can be as thrilling as a sprint down a mountain slope or as relaxing as an afternoon cruising a scenic rail-trail.
IMAGE COURTESY: Maine Office of Tourism

Whether you’ve never been to Maine, or been there every year since you were a kid, the state can surprise you with its variety of outdoor experiences, ranging from fun to breathtaking. Here are some you may not know about.

1. Moose Safari

For many visitors, the sight of that iconic Maine animal, the mighty moose, makes the trip. How can you guarantee a wild moose sighting? Take a moose safari in the Moosehead Lake Region with Lone Wolf Guiding Services and enjoy a magical morning or afternoon on land or water. Imagine seeing a moose feeding along the shore of a remote pond as you approach quietly by canoe, the only sounds the call of a distant loon or the slap of a beaver’s tail. Or, if you prefer, do the expedition by vehicle on woodsy back roads.

Moose can be seen throughout the state, but the best times to spot them are at dusk and dawn from mid-May through July and again in the fall during their breeding season.

2. Scarborough Marsh

Just south of Portland, Scarborough Marsh is the largest salt marsh in Maine. Its salt creeks, uplands, and tidal and freshwater marshes make for prime wildlife viewing. On foot or by kayak or canoe, you’ll have the chance to see egrets, herons, glossy ibis, and many other shorebirds in their nesting and migration stopover habitats. Check out the Audubon Center’s display on these and other marsh denizens, including grassland songbirds, birds of prey, muskrat, mink, and otter.

3. Rock Climbing

Picture yourself scaling a granite cliff above a blue Atlantic coastline, or wedging up through a twenty-foot-deep chasm set among the crags and boulders of the gorgeous Camden Hills. From Mount Katahdin to Acadia National Park, Maine offers rock climbing with a rating and scenic background to suit every need. For exciting half- and full-day adventures, sign on with Back40, which will provide all the gear and tailor your trip to whatever skill level and region you desire.

4. Hike the 100-Mile Wilderness

Those up for a challenging and rewarding outdoor experience will gravitate to the Gulf Hagas Rim Trail. Situated in the 100-Mile Wilderness, the penultimate and wildest section of the Appalachian Trail, this 8-mile hike climbs up and down the North Maine Woods and visits a number of picturesque waterfalls, including photogenic Screw Auger Falls, which plunges 15 feet into a dark pool cupped by rock walls. Base your hike at the nearby AMC Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins, run by the Appalachian Mountain Club.

5. Whitewater Rafting

Take a frothing spin cycle of North Woods fun on the Kennebec and Dead Rivers. Time your whitewater rafting trip to the water release schedules and you’ll enjoy rapids up to Class IV. After your river run, relax in rustic comfort at Lake Parlin Lodge & Cabins, a traditional Maine establishment.

6. Carrabassett Valley Bike Trails

If you’re a fan of mountain biking, or want to give it a try, head to the scenic Carrabassett Valley, two hours north of Portland. From the Carrabassett Valley Outdoor Center you have a number of options, starting with an easy loop around the pond to get the feel of a mountain bike. From there you could do a lovely 20- to 30-minute pedal on the Moose Bog Loop or try a more ambitious twisting trail through the woods. For a vigorous workout, spend four to six hours on a backcountry hut-to-hut loop and enjoy the long views.

7. Sea Kayaking

The nooks and crannies of Maine’s jagged coastline create a sheltered, island-dotted span just right for kayak explorations. Any number of places along the coast offer kayak rentals. Go on a guided trip or paddle at your own pace and visit tranquil harbors frequented by seals and shorebirds. Rocky beaches, historic lighthouses, and sharp cliffs topped by lush evergreen forests and wildflowers make a perfect backdrop to your kayaking adventure.

Old forts, uninhabited islands, curious seals and ospreys: Maine’s 3,500 miles of coastline has just about everything an adventurous paddler would want.

8. Stonington and Deer Isle

For an authentic coastal Maine experience, head up to Stonington and Deer Isle, about three hours north of Portland. The small town of Stonington boasts one of the state’s biggest lobster fleets. You can stroll through a fog forest of vivid mosses, ferns, and lichens. Or take an Old Quarry Ocean Adventures kayaking trip to Marshall Island, the largest undeveloped island on the East Coast, now owned by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

9. Moosehead Lake Flightseeing Ride

Hop into a seaplane and take off for spectacular views of Moosehead and Lobster Lakes, the rolling Spencer Mountains, and Mount Kineo with its sheer 700-foot vertical rise. There’s also a good chance you’ll spot wildlife from the air. At more than 35 miles long, Moosehead is the largest lake entirely within one state east of the Mississippi.

10. Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

This hidden gem in northern Maine invites exploration of deep woods riven by wild rivers and streams. The brilliant night skies are well worth the excursion, and the opportunities for hikes, kayaking, birdwatching, and fishing in quiet seclusion are priceless. Stop by the Patten Lumberman’s Museum to learn about Maine’s logging history and the rugged people who have lived here.

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