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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#AtoZChallenge | B is for Bradbury Mountain State Park and Snowshoeing Adventures

I love a bargain. Sale is probably my favorite four letter word. So when we bought our first Maine state park pass, I was excited to learn that if you buy it after August 15th it is actually good through the end of the following year which meant we could go on even more hiking adventures.

When the credit card sized blue pass arrived in the mail, we started researching state parks and making plans. While we had already hiked many trails throughout the state, we hadn’t yet gone to many of the state parks so this was our opportunity to try some new destinations.

Our first winter hike while using our park pass was to Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal. Fate was kind to us and it was the perfect day to visit. Continue reading

Hiking Maine | Finally made it to the not so secret Seawall Beach in Phippsburg.

Ever since our visit to Popham Beach in Phippsburg, I have been wanting to head back to the area for a hike at nearby Seawall Beach. Most articles that I have read refer to this spot as a hidden beach since the only access point is by hiking in and then back out. However, after my recent visit, it’s clear that it’s a fairly well-known destination based on the number of other hikers that we encountered on our way to this beautiful beach.

I had romanticized the idea of traveling through the forest on a rarely used, slightly overgrown trail before emerging suddenly from the wilds onto the beach. The treasure at the end of the hike. That is not this hike other than the treasure at the end. The trail is actually a wide road covered in a mixture of asphalt patches and packed dirt. It was easy to follow and not strenuous. Continue reading

Four hikes during our weekend at Northern Outdoors in The Forks, Maine

Moxie Falls was on my bucket list this year. We had visited some waterfalls throughout western Maine last summer, which I blogged about in my post Hiking Maine | Following in the path of the Ultimate Maine Waterfalls Road Trip. There’s something extra fun about hiking when there’s a waterfall at the end of your efforts.

Moxie Falls is one of the highest falls in Maine. It’s located in West Forks which was an area that I wanted to explore.  Since it’s a fair distance from our home, we made a weekend of it and headed to Northern Outdoors, a wonderful, knotty pine covered, rustic camp in The Forks. While they run adventure tours for white water rafting and other excursions, we were focused on hiking for this trip as well as checking another box off our Maine Beer Trail. Kennebec Brewing is located at Northern Outdoors. Continue reading