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Most of the Appalachian Trail in Maine is not recommended for novice hikers; Maine’s 281 miles are generally considered the most difficult of all fourteen states. Even the strongest hikers may average only one mile an hour in some parts. Other parts require grabbing onto tree roots and limbs to climb or descend, and are especially slippery and hazardous in wet weather.
Lakes, streams, and bogs abound. While that makes moose and loons common sights, it also makes for muddy treadway and many fords of mountain streams. Some of these fords—notably the Kennebec River—can be difficult and potentially life-threatening when water is high. When streams run high in the spring or after heavy rains, often the only options are waiting for them to subside or back-tracking and finding a road to follow—if one exists!
The 281 miles in Maine can be roughly divided into three segments:
The eastern section, sometimes called “the Hundred Miles” between Katahdin and Monson, comprises disconnected mountains, lakes, ponds, streams, and forest. While the eastern section has a flatter profile than other parts of Maine, it has special challenges. The mountains are relatively low, but present some very rugged climbs. Stream crossings here can be tricky—even life-threatening—in high water. Resupply is scarce in this isolated but heavily used area.
The central section, between Monson and the Bigelow Preserve, features a short, rugged stretch followed by some of the least strenuous hiking in Maine and a crossing of the widest unbridged river along the Trail, the Kennebec. A free canoe service ferries A.T. users across the Kennebec River and is the Trail’s official and historic route; fording the river is extremely dangerous, because the water level can rise rapidly and without warning.
The western section is an area of extremely steep, 4,000-foot mountains, arguably the toughest part of the entire A.T. It includes the notorious mile-long boulder scramble of Mahoosuc Notch.
Organized groups can reduce their chances of arriving at already-crowded sites by contacting the local trail clubs about group voluntary registration programs.
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