Seven things that take a hiking trail from mediocre to amazing.

Summer was a little challenging but we’re finally getting back to our weekly hiking routine at least for the most part. Our favorite thing to do is take a road trip where we spend the day exploring a new area of Maine. We’ll find a fun place to hike that’s in the vicinity of a nearby craft brewery which is not difficult in Maine. We have a lot of them. We also find someplace new and fun to eat and maybe explore a few shops in the area. That last one is probably more me than my husband.

It’s always a great day, but in order to up our hiking frequency we need some trails that are closer to our house for those days where we don’t have the luxury of time.

One such trail that we went to recently was serviceable, but nothing special. It had a bit of a dead forest vibe with lots of downed trees and a random ravine in the middle although my husband did point out that the opening was the perfect size for a flying saucer to have landed so maybe it was a more interesting spot than we thought.

While not exceptionally pretty, it did get me thinking about what type of trails I enjoy most. We’ve been on some beautiful ones but had a few clunkers in there too. They can’t all be perfect.

Below are seven things that make a hiking trail more fun for me.

  1. Variety. I like trails that have different elements to them. A trail that passes through the forest and then opens onto an estuary, changing the landscape, is always a nice change of pace. Or, one that hugs the coastline before turning into the woods where you hike up to the top of a (small) mountain.
  2. Water. I love any trail that passes by water. Ocean trails are especially beautiful, and waterfalls are wonderful too. Honestly, I’ll even take a small stream. It’s not just the views. I find the sound of moving water soothing and it connects me to nature immediately.
  3. Challenging. I love trails that push and challenge us. That said, trails that are too strenuous for our level can take away from the fun. There’s a sweet spot. I’d say we hit it about 80% of the time.
  4. Well Marked. We’ve wandered off a few trails without realizing it which can be frustrating and, depending on where the trail is located, a little scary too. Fortunately, our missteps have been on trails where it was easy enough to recover but it wasn’t fun.
  5. Views. I like to be rewarded for my hard work so am always happiest when there are views some where along the hike. Getting to the top of a mountain always works although sometimes those hikes can push my skill level. Trails that have openings onto the coastline also never disappoint.
  6. Benches. While the strategic placement of benches along a trail generally offer picturesque spots for sitting and enjoying the views, I actually just think they look pretty and rarely use them for their intended purpose. I am especially fond of benches made from granite, rock or other natural elements.  I always have to stop and take a picture.
  7. Location. Especially on those hiking excursions where we are looking to make it a full day experience, having the trail close to other fun things to do is a definitely plus. Although, finding a few close to home with some of these other must have elements will be helpful too.

Do you like to hike? What do you think takes a trail from mediocre to amazing?

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Hiking Maine | Amazing Views at the top of the Maiden Cliff Trail in Camden

I’m just going to put this out there up front. This hike pushed my limits. I struggle when a hike has a lot of elevation to it and this mountain trail rises about 800 feet although the saving grace is that it’s not exceptionally long.

We went to Ireland a few years back and I spent a lot of time in the months leading up to our vacation running up and down the stairs in our house in ten minute intervals in preparation for climbing Skellig Michael. The remote island off the coast of Ireland has the remains of a monastery at the top but you have to climb around 600 steps to reach it. The more current claim to fame for the island is that some of the new Star Wars movies were filmed there. I made it to the top but it was rough. I haven’t improved much with my vertically inclined hikes.

Why do I keep doing them? Because the payoff when you reach the top is always amazing and our hike at the Maiden Cliff Trail in Camden reinforced this point. When you reach the end of the trail it opens up onto gorgeous views of Megunticook Lake down below.


As a testament to how amazing the views were after reaching the top of the Maiden Cliff Trail we continued on a little further along the Scenic Trail which meant more climbing. Overall, the hike was just under 2 miles but it felt longer. The trail is rated moderate on most sites. You have to navigate a lot of rocks, boulders and roots on the climb so be sure to wear appropriate hiking shoes. We hiked up on a warm September day but there was lots of shade on the way up although the top is fairly open to the sun so I recommend a hat.

A few things stand out about this hike. The first is that it’s extremely well marked which came in handy once we got to the top and away from the trees. The granite outcroppings are everywhere and it’s easy to get turned around but the blue trail markers painted onto the rocks kept us on track.

One of the focal points at the top of the trail is an enormous white cross that was erected in memory of a young girl from the late 1800s who died after falling off the cliff. Here is a link to an article that goes into more detail about the history of the trail.

Finally, it’s a busy trail. We passed a lot of other hikers on our way up and again on our way down. It’s an extremely popular trail.  The only tough part, at least for my ego, was seeing so many young kids maneuvering the trail with ease while I had to keep stopping to catch my breath.

After we returned from our trip to Ireland, my husband framed a picture of Skellig Michael for me. I get to look at it every day. Maybe I’ll have to start framing some pictures of my Maine hikes too to remind myself that sometimes the hikes that are the most challenging often lead to the best rewards.


things to know
Place Maiden Cliff Trail
Address Camden, Maine
Website Maiden Cliff Trail | AllTrails
Favorite ♥ Stunning Views

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Hiking Maine | Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth

Hiking in Maine

So, summer got away from us a little bit. We were so focused on getting our girls ready to leave the nest, that there was little time left over for blogging. On the plus side, I now know all about VISA requirements for Sweden and how to vacuum seal a comforter so it will fit in a suitcase.

Even with all the chaos, we did find a little time here and there to fit in some summer adventures (more coming on those soon) and keep up with our weekly hikes (well, for the most part).

As we approached the drop off date to bring our youngest to college for her Freshman year, we headed out for a later afternoon hike and she decided to join us. Our girls aren’t big on hiking, so it was a nice to have her decide to come along with us for this one.

While we originally planned to hike Mackworth Island, the parking lot for this popular hiking destination is small and can fill up. Since it was already full, we had to rethink our hiking destination. In the end we took a lovely detour to the Audubon Center at Gilsland Farm. Both hiking spots are located in Falmouth, Maine.

The Audubon Center is a great family destination. While the Education Center located on the property was closed on a Sunday, the trails were open. We hiked a loop around the perimeter. The trail passed through open fields covered in sunny yellow flowers and into a few forested areas with observation blinds overlooking the Presumpscot River estuary.

The trails are not challenging and extremely family friendly. They’re designed to relax and spend some time. It was a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.


things to know
Place Gilsland Farm Audubon Center
Address 20 Gilsland Farm Road
Falmouth, Maine 04105
Website Audubon Center
Favorite ♥ Family Hike

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Hiking Maine | Trek along the Bold Coast in Cutler

Sometimes the timing of a hike impacts the end result and even the most beautiful of spots ends up feeling like more of a challenge and a little less fun than expected. After a day spent getting up close with the Puffins of Machias Seal Island, we were more tired than we realized and underestimated the difficulty of the hike we had planned to Cutler to explore the Bold Coast.

It didn’t help that we left our go bag in the car and didn’t have any bug spray to ward off the mosquitoes that were coming out as the day was winding down especially as the first mile of the trail is through the woods without any ocean breezes to keep them at bay.

At least you move quickly when the mosquitoes are out since stopping is just an invitation to have them linger and snack on you. So, we pushed through until we hit the coast. While much of the view is obstructed, there are some well placed openings in the path where you can get closer to the edge to enjoy some especially amazing views. The bold coast is the right name for this part of the Maine coastline where dramatic, steep cliffs border the water’s edge.

The path leading up to the coast was challenging with rocks and tree roots carpeting the floor and slowing our pace. Or, maybe it was just our exhaustion. Without our bug spray, this first part of the trek was not much fun but once we finally hit the coast, we understood why this trail is so highly rated.  The views were even worth the mosquito bites.

The trail itself is actually fairly long, but we didn’t have the energy to hike the full path so we missed much of the coastal section as we turned back and retraced our steps knowing that we would already be a little over three miles by the time we finally got back to our parked car. Three miles was about all we had in us.

I would love to come back to this hike another time when we have the energy to hike the full trail especially the path along the coast which we only tasted a small part of on this trip. I’d plan a little better and not schedule back to back activities next time. I think hiking the Bold Coast is a best done when you’re fresh and rested.

That’s okay. We still got a great peak at what this trail offers and it’s a good excuse to come back to this area again someday and do a little more exploring.

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Hiking Maine | A walk along the ocean at Goose Rocks Beach

Parking in the summer can be challenging at Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport. You need a parking pass and demand generally exceeds supply.  But, in the spring, it is less busy but no less beautiful.

Below are a few pictures from our recent spring hike to Goose Rocks Beach.

Spring inland hikes can be challenging. As I talked about in my earlier post, Hiking Maine | The Hirundo Wildlife Refuge Trail the mosquitoes are fierce and detract from the experience.

The best option during this time of year is to stick to the coast and Goose Rocks Beach was a great option.

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