Winter hikes in Southern Maine aren’t just along beautiful beaches, but who are we kidding? That’s one of the best parts!
The great thing about Southern Maine’s winter trails is that you don’t always have to hoof it — snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and even thousands of miles of snowmobile trails lead to this section of the state.
TIPS: Bring an open mind because the weather can be snowing one week, raining the next, and mild the following. You’ll also want ice spikes, proper clothing layers, and a sense of adventure. Also, remember, “winter” in southern Maine usually lasts until April.
Here are our favorite trails for exploring the Southern Maine coastline and woods.
Kittery to South Portland
One of the best winter hikes in Southern Maine comes along the Eastern Trail, which spans 65 miles from Kittery to South Portland. It’s a section of the East Coast Greenway that stretches from Calais Maine at the northern end to Key West Florida at the southern end.
On this Maine stretch of trail, you’ll get to explore the Berwicks once you leave Kittery, then trek past Wells, Kennebunk, Biddeford, Saco, Old Orchard Beach, and Scarborough. The trail winds through backroads, over the largest salt marsh in the state, and by scenic views. Winter trailblazers can ski, ride, or walk.
NOTE: The trail is a work in progress but is already one of the most popular for its wide spaces and dedicated off-road sections to enjoy natural surroundings.
Sebago Lake to Portland
Another trail in progress leads from Sebago Lake’s southern shore to the East End Promenade in Portland. That’s 28 miles through woods, along railroad tracks, and near the Presumbscot River before eventually leading through the Back Bay of Portland and across the bridge.
Parking is available along the Sebago to the Sea route, and you can choose your own mileage. I’d recommend checking out the sections near Presumbscot River Preserve. The winter landscape on the river and falls is worth the 2.5-mile hike on its own or in addition to this trail.
Another great section for those who want more of an adventure comes near Windham, where almost 4 miles hug an inactive railroad bed. It’s rugged enough to snowmobile but not too risky that the average experienced hiker can’t handle it.
TIP: Kiosks with information are available along the trail, and you’ll see plenty of other hikers enjoying this popular place.
One on hand, I can tell you how easy this trail is inside the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a little more than 1 mile with a lot to unpack in between. You’ll get freshwater, saltwater, wetlands, marshes, and coastal views.
In addition, the trail largely plays out on the peninsula before extending to Timber Island. Here’s the other hand – you walk a land bridge to get to Timber Island. If you don’t time the tides correctly, you won’t be able to get there or might not be able to get back until the next low tide.
A big sign warns hikers about the risks while also displaying a tide clock. Honestly, even if you can’t make it to the island, the trail circles the shoreline of Timber Point. No biking is allowed on this trail. You’ll also have several other trail options in this section of the wildlife refuge.
Mount Agamenticus Vulture’s View
This might be the easiest mountain to summit in Maine. Don’t even worry about how to pronounce York’s Mount Agamenticus because everyone just calls it “The Big A.” It’s not even 700 feet high, but the views span from the coast to Mount Washington in New Hampshire (on a clear day).
You can puzzle piece together the different trails offered at The Big A, but without snow, ice, or rain, Vulture’s View is a scrambling sensation that only spans half a mile, but it’s wonderfully grueling.
Fisher Trail serves the moderate hiker with plenty of shade and no vertigo-inducing spots. The BIG A is the trail designed for universal access and just runs 1 mile. These mountain paths in York also run around the base of the mountain if you’re not up for the elevation challenge.
You’d call this more of a walk than a hike in any other season, but when you want coastal aesthetics with a little bit of a challenge, the Marginal Way in Ogunquit delivers big time. The trail sits atop the famed rugged coastline and weaves between trees but has many exposed parts.
That challenge comes from the 1.5-mile seaside cliff trail not being maintained in the winter. You should expect some icy patches or even snow if you’re visiting after a storm, so bring crampons and take your time. Benches line the path if you need a rest, and you’ll have some of the best photo ops in your winter trip to Southern Maine.
TIP: You can parlay that hike into a walk on Ogunquit Beach, which spans 3.5 miles and is consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in America.
Nearly 200 feet higher than The Big A, Bauneg Beg has 2.5 miles worth of trails to the summit. The trails are considered moderate to difficult, and there’s a great spot called Devil’s Playground where you can scramble big boulders on your way up. Although, you can skip that section if you don’t want to go climbing on granite in winter.
The trails weave through beautiful forests and streams on the way to one of three peaks. Hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing are popular here. Also, you’ll likely have this somewhat hidden 90 acres to yourself.
TIP: The Bauneg Beg Mountain Conservation Area is part of the Great Works Land Trust, so if you like this location, it has many other preserves in the Southern Maine Coast region.
Southern Maine boasts many winter hikes, but none quite capture the magic like Wells Reserve at Laudholm. Plus, those pesky bugs that love saltwater marshes aren’t around in winter.
This 2,250-acre reserve is former farmland, with trails that curve over marshes and through orchards, and one special trail leads to the mesmerizing Laudholm Beach. Even better? This beach is just for people at the reserve, so you’ll have it all to yourself and anyone else who’s up for a winter walk.
Those interested in birding, wildlife, winter florals, and history can take a guided hike. Topics range from tracking wildlife to exploring the unique trees to Twilight Moon Walks through this diverse landscape.
TIP:The trail to the beach is less than 1 mile out and back, but you can mix up the different trails to trek up to 7 miles. Plus, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are allowed.
Take a short ferry ride in winter to Peaks Island to walk the nearly 4-mile loop around the island. While it’s not a traditional hike in the woods, you can cover up to 16 spots protected by the Peaks Island Land Preserve, including Ice Pond (bring your skates!).
The must-see section of this trail is the Back Shore where Cairn Beach piques the interest of every passerby. Small, medium, and massive stones decorate the beach, prompting visitors to build creative cairn designs.
The water on the Back Shore is too rough for swimming even on the hottest day of summer, so you’re not missing anything by making this a winter hike. Back Shore offers an amazing viewpoint at Whaleback Ledge where the rocks look like the shape of a whale with unique lines resembling wrinkly whale skin.
Additionally, you’ll see Battery Steele, one of the guardians of Casco Bay during World War II.
TIP: If the weather holds up, you can explore Peaks Island on a golf cart and then stop as desired. Even if you’re walking on the roads, most speed limits on the island don’t go above 20 mph.
Any park in Maine connected to the name Percival Baxter is bound to have its own special formula of outdoor wonder. Mackworth Island State Park is no different and was once the summer home of former governor Percival P. Baxter.
After crossing the bridge that connects the island to the mainland, the interior holds mystical and emotional stories. For instance, there’s the pet cemetery for Governor Baxter’s beloved dog, Garry, and the dozen or so other dogs he named Garry.
In 1923, Baxter declared all flags to be flown at half-staff when Garry (#1) passed away. It’s the only time in American history when flags were lowered for a dog.
The forest contains a fairy village, with the only stipulation being that you must make your fairy house out of natural elements. Moreover, this island gives you solitude and serenity while still enjoying the beach, rugged shores, and forest spaces — all within a 1.5-mile circumference that you can walk with great ocean views.
More Winter Hikes Await in Southern Maine
Southern Maine offers a slew of state parks — Two Lights, Crescent Beach, Kettle Cove, and Ferry Beach — all of which offer the chance for winter hiking. In addition, Maine’s land trusts span all counties, including York and Cumberland Counties in Southern Maine.
NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, state parks are open to the public. You will still pay for a park entrance fee (on the honor system) and will have to park outside the gates. No facilities are open, but you have the expanse of trails at each park to explore by hiking or cross-country skiing if there’s snow on the ground.