West Mountain Falls, Carrabassett Valley

If you don’t feel like hiking a grand mountain, you can check out the 0.4-mile (one-way) trail up the South Branch of the Carrabassett River, which is chocked with rocks and boulders that create many pools and small falls. (On my map, you can see where I ducked off the trail briefly to check out nice spots along the river.)

The trail is rocky and rooty, and initially descends quite steeply down to the river, so it’s not as easy walking as the cross-country ski trails or Narrow Gauge Pathway. But for relatively little effort, you can reach the falls and the big pool below it. Bring your bathing suits on a hot day!

The trail is unmarked, except at the trail head where there is a sign, but it is easy to follow. It appears to continue beyond West Mountain Falls some ways but I haven’t yet explored it.

Directions: From the main Access Road to the base of Sugarloaf, turn onto West Mountain Road. Continue about 1.25 miles, almost to the golf course. Before you reach the Sugarloaf Golf Course, you’ll see a trail sign on your left. You can park on the road shoulder, and there is also what looks like a small parking area on the right, across from the trail head.

Katahdin Stream Falls, Baxter State Park

For a relatively easy hike to do in Baxter State Park, this one is great. The waterfall is stunning (40 feet?), the pools are clear and cold, and the trail passes through pretty forest as it meanders next to the stream. The first 1.1 miles starts off flat, wthen gradually climbs to the intersection with the trail for The Owl, a nice mountain to hike as well. Go right at this intersection, and you’ll cross a bridge over the stream, pass an outhouse, hike up a bit of ledge, continuing on the Hunt Trail another tenth of a mile or so until you see a sign for the falls.

We hiked a small herd path above the falls to find a good pool for dipping into (very quickly) to cool off.

Directions: You can park at the day-use parking area of Katahdin Stream Campground. Best to get there early, since it can fill up quickly with Katahdin hikers. Walk through the campground, along the stream, to reach the trailhead kiosk.

The Owl, Baxter State Park

For great views of Katahdin, including distant silhouettes of tiny hikers on the Hunt Trail, check out the wonderful Owl mountain, neighbor to Katahdin. The hike begins at Katahdin Stream Campround, where you can park in the day-use area. Be warned that this lot can fill early since it is shared with Katahdin hikers going up the Hunt Trail/Appalachian Trail.

The trail begins in the campground, taking you by the bucolic lean-tos that dot Katahdin Stream before reaching the trailhead kiosk. The first mile after that is a fairly leisurely stroll along the stream, with a gradual incline. The trail reaches the junction with the Owl trail around 1.1 miles. Go left to continue to The Owl, elevation 3,670 feet. The summit is another 2.6 miles from here. The trail gets quite steep, with some rock scrambles, closer to the top. There’s a brilliant outlook around 3.4 miles, with the first great views of Katahdin. From here, it’s an easy tenth of a mile or so to the small open summit, with panoramic views.

On the way down, check out Katahdin Stream Falls, a great waterfall with freezing cold pools for swimming on hot hiking days. We found a good dipping spot a bit above the falls, but there are a few more that looked enticing above and below the waterfall. People have made small herd paths off the main path to check out the stream and waterfall. The falls are about a quarter mile or so after you turn onto the Hunt Trail. Cross the bridge, pass the outhouse, and keep hiking a bit on the AT until you see a sign for them.

Directions: You can park at the day-use parking area of Katahdin Stream Campground. Best to get there early, since it can fill up quickly with Katahdin hikers. Walk through the campground, along the stream, to reach the trailhead kiosk.

Mariaville Falls Preserve, Mariaville

The main reason to visit the 123-acre preserve is to check out the step falls and walk along the pretty West Branch of the Union River. People recommend going in early to mid-spring, when the river is high and fast. The secondary reason is to consider the fact that a now vanished settlement was once located here, in the early 1800s. According to the Frenchman Bay Conservancy, which protects the preserve, “William Bingham of Philadelphia established a thriving village at Mariaville Falls. There is no longer any trace of the dam, the two timber mills, the tannery or the boardinghouse and homes that once comprised a village of fifty families.” There really is no obvious trace left!

Once you reach the step falls (stair falls?), and if you don’t want to make the steep scramble down the bank to the river, you can sit on a high bench overlooking the view. But if you do want to descend to the water, there is a rope slung alongside the path to help you out.

The easiest way to walk to the falls is to take the 0.3-mile upper trail from the upper parking lot to the riverside trail and follow it to the falls. It keeps going a short ways past the falls to a bend in the river. An unofficial trail continues up the river from this point. The only section that is somewhat tough on the preserve is the lower leg along the river that brings you back to the lower parking lot.

Directions: The access road to the parking areas and trailheads is marked by a large preserve sign off of Route 181, 9.7 miles north from the junction with Route 180. The road to the trailheads is unpaved and a bit bumpy, but overall in good condition.

Monroe Falls, Monroe

This isn’t much of a walk—more a very short trail to a waterfall and pool that is a popular swimming spot on hot summer days. The trail is just about 0.1 mile. It starts out quite easy, with the scramble down to the rocks and pool being a bit more challenging.

Directions: You can access the waterfall from either South Center Road or North Center Road. North Center Road, a dirt road, had some significant potholes when I drove down it the other day. At the falls, barriers have been put up on the bridge so you can’t drive over the river. On both sides of the bridge are small cleared areas for parking, and you can also park on the side of the road in front of the gate.

Dunn Falls, near Grafton Notch State Park

Just 2.5 miles or so farther up Upton Road from the Cataracts Trail is a slightly longer loop trail that brings you to a beautiful, tall waterfall and enticingly swimmable pool. The trail is not quite in Grafton Notch State Park, but it is part of protected lands.

The trail splits quickly after the trailhead. To the right is the white-blazed Appalachian Trail, and to the left is the Dunn Falls trail, blazed in blue.

I recommend taking the Dunn Falls trail — in other words, going clockwise around the loop. It continues along mostly flat, if not a bit downhill through forest, until it splits at 0.8 miles at an intersection next to the stream. Take this spur trail to the right, and in about .2 miles you’ll reach the bottom of the falls.

Return back along this spur, and take a right at the main path to continue the loop. In 0.2 miles, you’ll reach the intersection with the AT (and a nice look down the waterfall gorge), and you can head back to the parking area in 0.8 miles.

Directions: From Andover, to the east, follow Upton Road about eight miles to the parking area. There is a dirt parking lot on the right side of the road, about 100 feet or so beyond the trailhead and the Appalachian Trail crossing. The AT here is marked with rock cairns.

Cataracts Trail, Grafton Notch State Park

Grafton Notch State Park has several amazing waterfall areas, all quite close to the road and easily accessible. The famous ones are off of Route 26 — like Moose Falls and the legendary Step Falls. But Cataracts is a great option for waterfall lovers. And because it’s a little farther out of the way, it’s visited less, I think.

From the trailhead on Upton Road, the path is a fairly easy .4-mile walk uphill (albeit over rocks and roots) to an impressively tall, narrow waterfall, and to the beautiful pools above it. Take some time to explore around the pools, and swim if you can!

The .4-mile trail curves at the end away from the stream to an outhouse. A well-worn trail continues beyond that point — but it is not drawn an any official map, so I am not sure where it ends up. It appears to continues into park land, so I don’t think someone would be in danger of trespassing on private property if they explored it.

Directions: Take Upton Road west from Andover for 5.4 miles. Right before a short bridge, you’ll see a pullover on the right side of the road for several cars. The trailhead kiosk is across the street.

Pierce Pond Stream Falls and Gorge, near Bingham

No matter if you go for a shorter or a longer walk on this approximately 3.5-mile section of the Appalachian Trail, you will get to enjoy all of the drama and beauty this place has to offer.

That’s because the most dramatic waterfalls of Pierce Stream are just .6 miles from the trailhead. After following the streamside trail for a bit more than a half mile, you’ll come to an intersection with a side trail (blazed in blue) that takes you to a big waterfall in about .2 miles. Enjoy this lovely trail with falls every 25 feet or so!

If you continue on the AT beyond this point, you’ll reach another side trail in about 1.3 miles. After that, the trail continues (mostly evenly with a few steep ups and downs) along Pierce Stream all the way to where it empties into Kennebec River. From May 24 to Oct. 14, a canoe ferry offers rides to through-hikers across the river. I actually thought the last section of trail the most pleasant part of the walk, as the path hews closely to the by-now gentle stream.

Starting from where you started, you can also hike north to Pierce Pond on the AT, which is another pretty half-mile walk. The pond is nice and swimmable. Close to the pond, you’ll see an intersection of the AT with another blue-blazed trail. Follow this for a couple hundred yards to a beautiful, 30-foot waterfall. (If you continue on this side trail, it comes out at Harrison Camps.)

Directions: The dirt roads to the trailhead are long. It’s best to have a four-wheel, high-clearance vehicle. Also helpful to download road maps on your phone so you can follow your route even when you don’t have a cell signal. From Route 201 in Bingham, turn (west) onto Route 16 and cross the river. Take an immediate right after the bridge onto Pleasant Ridge Road. Go roughly 3.6 miles and turn right onto Carry Pond Road. Soon it will turn into gravel. Continue on Carry Pond Road for 8.6 miles or so until it intersects with what’s called Otter Pond Road on Google maps (I swear it was called Bowtown Road?). Stay right on Otter Pond Road and follow it for about 5.7 miles as it twists and curves to the trailhead. Right before you come to the trailhead, you’ll pass a sign to Harrison Camps on your left and you’ll drive over a little bridge. Look for the AT signs on your right. You can pull over to the side of the road and park.

Reed Brook Falls Trail (Jericho Steps), near Carrabassett Valley

This is a delightful and fairly easy 0.6-mile trail, #ReedBrookTrail, along Reed Brook to an unusual and very pretty waterfall, Jericho Steps. The trail is lovingly tended, with charming signs and a few artful stone cairn sculptures along the way.

Directions: Coming from Kingfield, at the intersection of Routes 16 and 27, take Route 27/16 about four miles to the trail head. Turn left into the drive for Carrabassett Veterinary and Pet Resort at 1082 Main Street (which is Route 27). The parking area is to the front and left of the building if you’re facing it. The trailhead is marked with a colorful and informative sign.

Angel Falls, near Rangeley (Township D)

Angel Falls is a short (.4-miles or so depending on where you park), fairly easy hike to a 90-foot waterfall, which is very grand (although doesn’t appear to have much water in late summer). There is some scrambling over rocks and fording of streams — which can have more or less water depending on the time of year. The trail is blazed and easy to follow.

Directions: From Oquossoc, take Route 17 south for about 18.5 miles to Houghton. Turn right onto an unnamed gravel road that is on the edge of a field. Immediately cross a bridge over a river, then turn right onto Bemis Road and drive north for about 3.3 miles. You’ll see spray painted signs for Angel Falls. Around 3.3. miles, you can turn down a very rough gravel road, which goes sharply down, or park at the top here if you don’t have a great car for this kind of thing. At the bottom of the dirt road, where some can park, look for trail signs and red blazes. The trail crosses a stream and then cuts over to follow Mountain Brook up to the falls.

Smalls Falls, near Rangeley (Township E)

This isn’t so much a hiking trail as it is a destination (for its dramatic waterfalls and pools, decent for dipping into, I think), but I’m going to include it anyway. It’s posted off Route 4 as a rest stop. Once you park, you can walk down some stairs to cross a little bridge over Sandy River. Then you can head up the falls — either climbing up the rocks near the fence (slippery and steep) or opting for the slightly less extreme wooded interior trails. The falls drop 54 feet at one point, and the cliffs around them are “sculptured,” according to local tourist guides. Pretty in a gentler sort of way is Chandler Mill Stream, which meets up with Sandy River, and which you can see if you just keep walking straight for 35 feet or so after crossing the bridge. You can follow the river up until you reach a dirt road.

Directions: The Smalls Falls Rest Area is about 12 miles south of Rangeley on Route 4. The entrance is on the right side of the road if you’re coming from Rangeley.

Check out more info and photos from Smalls Falls at Carefree Creative, a Maine-based web company that has helped us with our website!

Cascade Stream Gorge, Sandy River Plantation

While the trail at this Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust preserve is short, it is quite steep and feels at time a little bit perilous, especially if wet. But it’s well worth it for the chance to walk the roughly half mile up this dramatic stream and its falls. There are a few pools that look enticingly swimmable, although I imagine quite cold! One leg of the trail ends at a lookout over the stream. You can pick up the rest of the path by turning inland, away from the stream, and scrambling over some rocks (there’s a little path here). Note: I couldn’t find this inland path in October, 2020. 

This trail also connects to the long-distance, multi-use Fly Rod Crosby Trail, so if you’d like, you can hike from here 7.2 miles to Saddleback Mountain, 17.2 miles to Reeds Trail head in Madrid, and 24.6 miles to the town of Phillips trail head. I’ve drawn some of this trail in black on my map.

Directions: From downtown Rangeley, drive south on Rt. 4 to the intersection of South Shore Drive and Town Hall Road, where you take take a left. Drive 100 yards, bare left, and then immediately on your right will be the entrance sign for the trail head. Drive up the steep gravel drive to the parking area. For those who don’t think their low-clearance cars can make it, there is a narrow place to pullover for one car on the street below.

Grindstone Falls Trail, Grindstone Township

This is a nice walk along the Grindstone rapids in the East Branch of the Penobscot River. When I walked it in March 2017, the trail was unmarked except for some plastic tags tied to branches. Nonetheless, the .9-mile path was easy to follow.

The best place to park is at the Grindstone Falls picnic area, nine miles north on Route 11 from Medway. Then you walk back along the road, going south, about 500 feet where you’ll see the path on your right. It follows the river for about .8 miles or so where it crosses the road again. You do a short jaunt in the woods here and then come back out on the road.

More info on Maine Trail Finder.

Directions: From Medway, go north nine miles to the picnic area on your left. Look for the trail 500 feet south of the picnic area, on the river side.

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Stephenson Preserve, Belfast

This is a wee wooded preserve, with a fairly steep and short uphill that offers a few views through trees of the river. The loop is just about half a mile or so. The land is protected by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust. (Note, this preserve used to be called the Knowlton-Swanson-Stephenson Preserve.)

Directions: You have to park at the rail trail lot and walk a brief ways along City Point Road to get to the trailhead on the left.

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Jagolinzer Preserve, Limington

I love walks where you step away from a dingy part of urban living (like a busy road) and into a forest that makes you feel you are very far away. The 20-acre Jagolinzer Preserve is so pretty. Despite the trail only being one mile or so, you can walk to the banks of the Saco River, along a mossy-stoned stream, and to a wall of big boulders that was once a dam. Here at the dam, accessed by a steep little path, is one of the prettiest waterfalls I’ve seen in Maine! It’s multi-tiered, multi-pooled. It’s lovely, and protected by the Francis Small Heritage Trust.

Directions: Turn off Route 25 in Limington onto a little road called Olive’s Way. You’ll see a small sign for the preserve on the left. Google makes it look like the road next to Olive’s Way is actually Olive’s Way, but in real life, you’ll see a street sign on the road where the trail head is.

Cascade Falls Trail, Saco

Wow — a real, splashy, loud waterfall you can take your guests to to impress them with Maine’s beauty! The path here is really wide and well-maintained — a solid wheelchair could get around parts of it (like the upper loop). The trail does get steep and not so easy for a chair, however, as it descends to below the waterfall, which is the best part. The map of the trail at the trailhead also indicates paths I couldn’t find; it seemed as if perhaps bridges had been washed out? The walk you could do in the winter of 2016 is just about half a mile. Get more information from Saco Bay Trails.

Directions: From downtown Saco, take Route 1 north to Cascade Road (Route 98). Take a right onto Cascade Road; go about 1/4 mile and turn left into the parking lot.

I could not get a good pic of the falls! But they are nice, just hard for an amateur to capture with a camera.