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 | 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 Visit to a Salt Marsh at Cutts Island Trail

As winter was winding down, we headed south to the Cutts Island Trail which is part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. It is a short, two-mile circular hike by a salt marsh.

The first part of the trail follows along Chauncey Creek and was easy to maneuver. It is not a strenuous hike. It leads to beautiful views of the marsh. Somehow, even though it’s a loop trail we did struggle to stay on the return part of the trail.

As we followed along with what we thougth was the trail, we noticed the growth around us was getting a little higher and when we tried to get back on track we couldn’t find the trail markers. Since it was a loop in a fairly compact space, there was no fear of wandering for too long but we did end up hiking through an overgrown, swampy patch until we finally connected back with the original trail but not until we saw way more animal scat than I would have expected for such a well traveled area.

Eventually we reconnected with the trail and finsihed the hike before heading to nearby Tributary Brewing Company for a post hike drink.

This is a nice, short hike with gorgeous views of the salt marsh. It’s probably a really beautiful trail in the summer when things are a bit greener and it might be easier to stay on the trail then too.


things to know
Place Cutts Island Trail
Address Cutts Island Lane, Kittery, Maine 3905
Website All Trails: Cutts Island Trail
Favorite ♥ Views of the Marsh

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#AtoZChallenge | Y is for Yarmouth and an Island Hike at Littlejohn Island Preserve

There are over 4,600 islands off the Maine coast. Some are more remote than others. In winter, all are a little quieter.

Some islands are actually accessible by road including two off the coast of Yarmouth: Cousins and Littlejohn Islands. Littlejohn Island has a preserve that includes a hiking trail with scenic views of Casco Bay.

We actually hiked the trail a few days into spring so the snow cover was spotty but the wind chill was intense making it feel like we were still in winter. We hiked late on a Sunday afternoon which probably impacted the cooler temperatures. Continue reading