If you’re on a road trip and you want to zig and zag your way through a new part of the country, and you’re eager to travel at your own pace, sometimes finding the best way to get the job done can be hard. Your travel arrangements might begin with booking an overnight hotel room, but a decent two-person road-tripper can be taken care of in just a few hours by hopping in your rental car and then hitting the road.
Maine’s Mount Desert Island provides just such a travel itinerary for adventurers. Mount Desert Island spans a narrow 2.3-mile strip of water in northeastern Maine, but it also offers hundreds of miles of trails in 14 different directions, enabling skiers and snowshoers to access a variety of backgrounds. For even more of a challenge, hike the route along the Cromwell-Brighton shoreline and experience the Portland Sound as the wind gently shifts the sound.
When it comes to taking advantage of Maine’s breathtaking landscape, there’s little to choose between the Crane River, one of Maine’s busiest rivers, and the Pendine River, the state’s most prolific waterfall. Either one should be included in any Road Trip to Maine list, so go for it.
The path begins with a designated hiking trail along the Cromwell-Brighton shoreline. Upon reaching the Eastern Shore of Mount Desert Island, there are four low-angle trails for an incredible view of the inland sea before you head west. The highest point in Maine is accessible only on the Pendine River trail, so unless you’re an expert, ascend the trail gradually, as the views are spectacular in both directions.
Two campsites on either side of the Pendine River trail let you reserve spots during the season, and the smaller Roaring Brook Campground on the Crane River trail is about an hour’s drive away. If you stay to the south of Roaring Brook, you can hike down to the Fall River stream, and then hike on down to the Maine mountain slopes. From Maine, then head the length of Mount Desert Island (Maine International Falls, The Fort Myer, and Old Fort Tipton on the east and Cumberland Penitentiary on the west).
Make your way through the passes on the Mount Desert Island Pack Trail and the Lac la Hache Pack Trail. Though both trails are marked on signs, they’re marked in different ways, which means the right trail may not be available at the right time. The Lac la Hache trail offers terrific views of Alton Island and Freshwater Island. The Lac la Hache Pack Trail is considered a worthwhile alternative for those who prefer a more compact and scenic hike.
Travel from Maine and the closest ski resort is in Marlboro, and the nearest ferry is from Horny Islets on the Isles of Shoals. The nearest ferry to Maine runs from Fair Isles, where the dock is across from the Spirit of Maine Hotel, which offers room rates that start at $129.
The Backcountry Lodge features a combination of lodging, an indoor heated pool, indoor/outdoor grills, and activities. In New York City, the Holiday Inn allows you to enjoy great views of the city on the ferry. Or, if you’re feeling leisurely, visit Pamplin Park in Lincoln for a bike ride. For horseback riding, check out open barns in the Olympic region.
If there’s anything that consistently makes Road Trip to Maine a must-do on your list, it’s a departure from the traffic-filled east coast. Treat yourself to a mid-season road trip in Maine.
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