Hiking in Maine is the Ultimate for Appalachian Trail Hikers
If you asked 100 Appalachian Trail hikers which was the most difficult state on the AT (Appalachian Trail), fifty would probably say Maine and fifty would say New Hampshire. That fits my attitude. In fact when I’m in New Hampshire I’m prone to say it’s the toughest state, and likewise with Maine.
Having said that, most AT hikers would state their preference for Maine as being their favorite state. “It is almost 300 miles of eye candy,” one hiker recently opined. The variety of terrain is staggering. The first thirty miles of Maine are generally considered the most difficult on the trail; that includes the infamous Mahoosuc Notch which is hands-down the most difficult mile on the trail, despite being completely flat, as the trail traverses an obstacle course of gigantic boulders necessitating gymnastics that rock the average person (including myself). Maine’s peaks are often accompanies by a nearby summit that almost matches the first summit (example–Bigelow Mountain Range).
Once you enter the 100 Mile Wilderness, not only are you in the most isolated section of the trail, but will be forced with several fords of various difficulty. This can be precarious after major storms. In Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail, I tell the story of testing the Little Wilson by crossing without a backpack. In fact it came up to my chest (I am almost 7-feet tall) and my colleagues were amazed that I was able to cross. They gave me a standing ovation which was perhaps my highest moment on the trail. But it was soon followed by ignominy as I twice failed to recross the Little Wilson. Finally a friend built a rickety bridge downstream and I was able to recross to retrieve my backpack.
Once a hiker makes it through the wilderness (and many choose to bail halfway through at Jo Mary Road) the hiker is finally faced with the formidable eminence of Mount Katahdin, which at 4,200 feet is the longest climb on the trail. It is all bound to give the northbound thru-hiker the greatest high of his or her life upon completion, while–as I recently saw firsthand–the southbound thru-hiker is given fits.
Maine is where the Appalachian Trail thru-hiker lives the most and the state he or she will remember most vividly.
Bill Walker is the author of Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail. He is also the author of Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail, The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago, Getting High–The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, and Tall Tales–The Great Talisman of Height.