European-style hiking through Maine's western mountains
|Grades||Strenuous, Strenuous Plus|
|Accommodations||B&B, Mountain Hut, Small Inns|
|Dates||We will be scheduling dates for this trip soon. Please check back.|
|Single Supp Cost||
After over 30 years of guiding hiking and walking trips in some of Europe’s most beautiful areas, we are excited to be offering a hut-to-hut experience right here in our own backyard.
This 8-day trip affords the opportunity of experiencing two of Maine’s premier wilderness areas, with accommodations provided by two outstanding outdoor organizations, the Appalachian Mountain Club and Maine Huts and Trails.
Our first few days of hiking will be spent in the Moosehead Lake Region, staying in the AMC lodges, followed by hiking between three of the Maine Huts and Trails’ newly-constructed huts. Both areas are regions of old-growth forests, high Appalachian peaks, glimmering secluded lakes, and ancient Native American waterways. From the splendid Gulf Hagas, the “Grand Canyon of the East,” to the stately 4,000-footers of Bigelow, Sugarloaf, and Crocker, we’ll hike sections of the storied Appalachian Trail (AT), canoe the Dead River, and end our trip in the warmth and comfort of backcountry lodges and huts that are so uniquely “Maine.”
September is a dynamic time of year in the Maine woods. This is the fall migration period, and we can expect to see hawks, as well as migrating shorebirds and songbirds (warblers, vireos, thrushes, and sparrows). Fall foliage is beginning, with maples, ash, beech, and birches exhibiting changes in color. This season signals the beginning of the moose rut. An experienced moose caller, Ron has a good chance of getting us in close proximity to these amazing animals.
For those who have been curious about European-style hut-to-hut hiking, this trip is a great introduction. And for those who have hiked hut-to-hut in Europe, this trip offers a familiar experience closer home.
Important Update: Our Western Maine Hut trip is temporarily on hold. For reasons, including COVID, Maine Huts and Trails huts have been closed. They are planning a partial reopening this winter, but have not yet announced plans for the summer/fall of 2022. As we learn more, we will update our information so please check back!
Day 1: Portland, Maine Jetport – transfer to AMC Hut: After a meeting as a group at the Portland Jetport, we will travel to Gorman Chairback Lodge, located in the heart of Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness. The lodge was originally built as a private camp in 1867 and later used as a traditional Maine Sporting Camp. The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) has renovated the lodge as part of their Maine Woods Initiative Project, which protects 100,000 acres of land, including part of the 100-mile Wilderness along the AT.
The AMC is the nation’s oldest outdoor recreation organization and its continuing mission is to “promote the protection, enjoyment, and the understanding of the mountains, forests, waters, and trails of the Appalachian region.” All of the AMC huts and lodges are models for environmentalism, education, and stewardship, and Gorman Chairback Lodge is a shining example.
After settling in, we’ll take a walk along some of the lodge’s own trails and hopefully spot a moose. Welcome dinner.
Day 2: Day Hike to Third Mountain: After a hearty breakfast, we’ll set off on a day hike. Departing the lodge, we’ll head to Third Mountain Trail as it climbs to meet the Appalachian Trail and Chairback Ridge. We will likely cross paths with AT “Thru-Hikers” trying to reach Mount Katahdin and the end of their 2,200-mile journey. There are a few hiking options for today, and the weather will be a determining factor in making our plan. Cabins with shared facilities. Dinner, breakfast, and lunch included.
Day 3: Gulf Hagas to AMC Hut: Today we set off for Little Lyford Lodge. We’ll follow Henderson Brook Trail as it descends past a series of small waterfalls and pools before it joins the AT. Crossing the Pleasant River, normally a shallow but fast-moving river, we’ll hike through the beautiful old-growth pine stand of the Hermitage before starting on the Gulf Hagas Rim Trail.
Gulf Hagas, known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” is a stunning 4-mile gorge with steep, narrow slate walls. Dropping over 400 feet in four miles, the river has created a dazzling series of waterfalls, pools, and chutes. We’ll have great views from the rim before reaching the Head of the Gulf Trail and continuing on to the Little Lyford Lodge. Bunkrooms with shared facilities. Dinner, breakfast, and lunch included.
Day 4: Morning Hike – transfer Maine Huts and Trails: We have a few options today for a morning hike, or you may also decide to linger over coffee and spend the morning enjoying the hut before traveling to The Forks and the Grand Falls Hut.
One of our options is a hike up Indian Mountain (2,338′) which offers fine views of the AT’s 100-Mile Wilderness from its summit. Another option is to stay closer to Little Lyford and hike the Pond Loop Trail, which goes around the scenic shores of Little Lyford Ponds.
Our 50-mile transfer, between the Moosehead Lake region and the western mountains, will take about 2 hours. Once at the trailhead, we’ll have about a half-mile walk into Grand Falls Hut, Maine Huts, and Trails’ most remote hut, in time for dinner.
We are now in Maine Huts and Trails territory. One of the newest outdoor organizations and a non-profit, Maine Huts and Trails has begun the work of establishing a 180-mile network of trails and mountain huts. It's being developed through some of the most beautiful and unspoiled landscapes of Maine’s Western Mountains. Its mission is to “preserve some of Western Maine’s best backcountry for the purposes of conservation and environmentally sensitive economic development, and ensure public access for generations to come.” Bunkrooms with shared facilities. Dinner, breakfast, and lunch included.
Day 5: Canoe and hike to Flagstaff Lake: Our day begins with a short descent to the Dead River. A mile and a half into our hike, we’ll pass by Grand Falls. An imposing waterfall 40 feet high and 120 feet across, Grand Falls is one of the most powerful and scenic undammed waterfalls in the Northeast. Just past the Falls, we’ll pick up our canoes for a five-mile paddle along the Dead River. Calm through this section, it slices a path through this remote and beautiful corner of Maine. Once we’re back onshore again we’ll have another 3 miles of hiking through the woods and along the shore of Flagstaff Lake to the Flagstaff Hut. Bunkrooms with shared facilities. Dinner, breakfast, and lunch included.
Day 6: Hike Cranberry Peak: A morning pontoon boat transfer across Flagstaff Lake will afford great views of the Bigelow Range before we're deposited on the opposite shore at the start of The Range Trail. We climb to the summit of Cranberry Peak (3,213′). The trail begins gradually and then climbs steadily. Once at the top, the 360-degree views are spectacular. On our descent, we pass by the shores of Cranberry Pond, and then we once again join the AT as it heads south. From the valley, we have a short transfer to our accommodation for the night. Twin-bed rooms with private bathrooms. Dinner, breakfast, and lunch included.
Day 7: Day hike – transfer to Lodge: We begin with a short transfer and then hike to Stratton Brook Hut (1,880′), arriving in time for lunch. A 3-mile return hike will bring us back for our van transfer to Kingfield and our night’s accommodation, Claybrook Mountain Lodge. Farewell Dinner, breakfast, and lunch included.
Day 8: Depart for Portland Jetport: After breakfast, we’ll depart for Portland, a 3-hour drive. We will arrive at the Portland Jetport at about 12:00 noon.
Optional/individual transfers or excursions, items not on set dinner menu, beverages, tips to guides, insurance.
Our nights will be spent at both the Appalachian Mountain Club backcountry lodges and the Maine Huts and Trails huts. Together they offer an appealing mix of accommodations—classic, historic “Maine Woods” on the one hand and newly-constructed, off-the-grid, architect-designed on the other. All the huts and lodges are heated, provide hearty, locally-sourced meals and offer comfortable bunkroom-style sleeping arrangements for 4 - 6 persons. The shared facilities include hot showers. Many of the huts are environmentally low impact, producing their own power by means of solar and hydro energy. The atmosphere is friendly and jovial as people gather to spend the night. Single rooms are not available.
It is easiest to fly to Portland, Maine, where we will rendezvous on the first day for a group transfer to our first night’s accommodation, Gorman Chairback Lodge near Greenville, Maine. It is also possible to fly to Boston, Massachusetts, or Manchester, New Hampshire, and transfer to the Portland area by bus, train, shuttle or rental car.
Luggage will be transferred each day to the next hut. You need to have a sleeping bag for use in the huts. Extra luggage not needed on the day hikes will be transferred to each hut. (We will need to transfer our bags 1/2 mile by hand cart to one Hut); however, you must pack your extra gear in a large pack with straps (Northface Base Camp duffel or similar; 25 lbs is maximum weight). Normally the shuttle van can drive the extra luggage all the way to the huts on the jeep roads; however, if weather or other issues close the access road, the crew needs to carry our extra luggage and having backpacks makes this much easier. For the last ½ mile to Grand Falls Hut, we will push our extra bags in a hand cart from the end of the dirt access road. Additional luggage you won't need access to during the hike can be left in the van for the duration of the trip. See our sample packing list.
We will meet as a group on Day 1 at 11:00 am at the Portland International Jetport in Portland, Maine.
The trip will end on Day 8 with morning transfer back to Portland International Jetport. We will arrive at the airport at about 12:00 noon.
Our Western Maine Mountains Hut Hike is a great trip for anyone interested in hiking the Appalachian mountains of Maine and experiencing a “European hut-style” vacation close to home. All the lodges and huts used in this itinerary are situated in beautiful, remote, peaceful natural settings that afford the opportunity to experience Maine’s wildlife. The hiking is varied, and our boat transfer to Flagstaff hut provides the opportunity to learn about the history of the lake and the town that was flooded for its creation.
Having a Maine naturalist hiking along with us also makes this trip a perfect one for those who would enjoy learning about the flora and fauna of the Maine woods. As Mainers love to say, this 8-day trip is “wicked good.” Join us!
Please contact us for a more detailed itinerary, for more information, or to register. We're also happy to supply a list of past participants willing to share honest insights into this guided Western Maine Hut Hike experience.
A deposit of $500 along with your completed registration forms will reserve a space on your requested trip. We accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express card as well as personal checks. To make a deposit, you may either follow one of the “Reserve a Trip” links below, give us a call at 1-888-845-5781, or include your payment information in the area provided when completing your registration forms.
The balance is due 75 days prior to departure for most of our trips. When applying less than 75 days prior to departure, full payment is due. For final payments, we accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express, as well as personal checks.
As confirmation of receipt of your deposit, we will send you a comprehensive packet of information pertaining to your trip, an invoice for final payment and additional information including release agreement form, medical information form, travel information, and packing list. Upon receipt of final payment and no later than 30 days prior to your trip start, you will receive trip rendezvous information and a list of accommodations. Returning trip participants will receive a 5% discount on most trips.
Receipt of all forms will finalize your registration.