Kids in the Woods
More Info & Ideas Coming Soon!
Maine is jam-packed with fun outings for adventurous families. Here we've compiled some of our favorites from outing we've done with our kids. We are constantly learning about new places to bring the family, and we want to hear about your grand adventures, too. Come on by the store and tell us your stories, or let us know about your favorite places on our Facebook page.
One small disclaimer: We know these trips work with kids because we've tried them. We are, however, very comfortable with our ability to be prepared and make good decisions in the wilderness. Depending on your knowledge and experience, it might be a very good idea for you to take courses in wilderness skills, paddling safety, or wilderness first aid. In addition to valuable information, taking classes may give you the courage to push your family's adventures to the next level. We are happy to make recommendations for local guide services.
Short Paddling Excursions - Mini Adventures
We have some great local paddling spots that are perfect for kids. Here are a few of our favorites.
Our family's local favorite. Easy parking, easy boat launch, great picnic spot. We've seen turtles, birds, snakes, and beavers there. The pond branches all over the place, so you can explore as much or as little as you want. Tip: From the put-in, paddle to the left and go under the bridge. You'll end up in a beautiful, deep ravine that feels like a different world..
We like to put in next to the Yarmouth Historical Society, paddle up river against a mild current, then paddle back to the same launch. It's an easy-to-reach spot that feels much more remote than it actually is. Check with the town of Yarmouth for their seasonal on-site canoe rentals.
Another favorite launch is at the New Gloucester Fairgrounds. Paddle up-river against a barely-there current, then return to the same spot. The town also has canoe rentals available.
Wolfe's Neck State Park - Mini Adventure
Freeport. Great for all ages. For a short excursion, take a picnic to the rocks along the Casco Bay trail. Then explore the tide pools and watch the ospreys in their nest. With more time, walk the other easy trails through the forest to the cliffs above the Harraseeket River. WNSP is also great for beginner-friendly snowshoeing in the winter.
Maine Huts & Trails - Epic Adventure
We've had excellent trips to both the Flagstaff Lake Hut and the Grand Falls Hut. We prefer to go during caretaker season when prices are lower and the huts are far less crowded. One hint: Aim for a June trip on the last weekend before full-service season. You'll get great weather along with a nearly-empty hut. The kids love having the run of the place, and sleeping in bunk beds is always exciting. The Flagstaff Lake Hut is accessed by a flat 1.8-mile trail and it features a nice swimming area and good paddling. One time we even paddled a couple miles and arrived at the hut by canoe. The Grand Falls hut is a slightly-longer hike in (2+ miles). From the hut you can hike to Grand Falls, which is an exciting waterfall with great places to play in the river. We've done these trips with kids ages 3 to 11.
Mt. Agamenticus - Big Adventure
This little mountain in York features a StoryWalk that leads kids from the parking lot to the summit with a kids' story spread out at stations along the trail. It's 1.3 miles to the top. There is a also an auto road that goes to the summit, so that's a bit anticlimactic, but the stories are fun to read and the view is excellent.
Tumbledown Mountain - Big Adventure
If you have a kid ready for a significant hike, Tumbledown is a great one to consider. The loop trail is moderate for adults and challenging for kids. There's actually a sign on top that says the hike is not recommended for kids and dogs, so this would only be one to attempt after gaining confidence on smaller hikes. My kids were around 7 the first time I took them up. The reason I recommend it is there's lots of small rewards along the way. The trail starts in the woods before changing to rock scrambling. Some larger rocks will present a fun challenge for kids to figure out. Then there's the chimney and the short vertical rock tunnel you have to climb using metal rungs. Very exhilarating. Once you're above treeline it's an easy walk along a long ridge. If you go in mid to late August you'll find wild blueberries all over the ridge. I'll confess we never take the trail to the true summit, because by the time we get to the junction, our feet are begging for the cool waters of Tumbledown Pond. We head straight to the gorgeous mountain-top pond where the kids swim (brrrrrrr) and enjoy whatever sweet treat we bribed them with. We do this hike every year while camping at the fabulous Mount Blue State Park.
Short Paddling Excursions - Big Adventures
There are some really fun point-to-point local trips that require a bit more logistics, patience, and planning.
We like to put in at Durham River Park and take out at the Lisbon Falls boat launch. This trip requires you to spot a car. It's an easy paddle that feels remote. There are some small ripples, depending on water level. Thrilling for the kids.
Another point-to-point trip we like is to put in at Mast Landing just after high tide, then ride the outgoing tide out to Porter's Landing. Mast Landing is only accessible near high tide, so check carefully!
*Always tell someone your route and return time, then check in at the end.
*Dress for the water temperature, not the air. Maine waters can be hypothermia-cold even when the air is mild.
Stephen Phillips Memorial Preserve - Epic Adventure
If you and your kids are feeling comfortable on the water and ready for a bigger trip, try camping on Students Island on Mooselookmeguntic Lake in Rangeley. It's a totally manageable 15-minute canoe trip to the island. Once there you'll feel like you've traveled deep into the wilderness. There's lots of fun to be had right there on the island, or you could take short trips back to shore to play on the sandy beach. We did it with kids ages 3 to 11.
Bradbury Mountain State Park - Mini Adventure
Bradbury Mountain in Pownal is a wonderful spot that is treasured by the locals. There's a short hike to the top of a small mountain that has surprisingly good views. It's the perfect place to introduce kids to hiking. You'll find wooded trails that lead up to an exposed peak with great rock-hopping opportunities. Even the toddler crowd can get to the peak with little adult help. This state park also has some good trails to introduce young kids to mountain biking. Great for all ages.
Baxter State Park - Epic Adventure
Baxter State Park is the crown jewel of Maine and it's great to introduce kids early to this incredible gift to our state. I have been to Baxter to climb Mt. Katahdin but, I'll confess, I hadn't given it much thought as a family destination until more recently. Seeking a very remote vacation during COVID, we headed up to BSP, focusing almost entirely on the north side of the park. What a treat! The park is strict about what they allow, so good prior research is important. There's far too much to put into a simple post like this, but I can share our family's absolute favorite destination, Ledge Falls. It's a long section of shallow pools connected by water flowing over extremely smooth rock. We spent hours (and hours) sliding down the slides and playing in the pools. Now that our eyes are open to the potential of Baxter with kids, we'll be returning for many more adventures.
Morse Mountain & Seawall Beach - Big Adventure
Seawall Beach, in Phippsburg, is pristine and quiet, because you can only access it by a 2 mile hike in. It's not a difficult hike, but there is some elevation. Once you get there, the beach is spectacular. There are no facilities there, so prepare for a wilderness experience. Kids feel like they've gone on a major outing. Tip: The small parking lot for Morse Mountain fills up quickly in the summer, and they absolutely will not let cars park on the entry road. Get there early!
Maine Forest Yurts - Big Adventure
This trip is especially good in the winter. The wonderful people at Maine Forest Yurts in Durham will take most of your stuff into the yurt by snowmobile, so you can just focus on moving your crew along the 1 mile path on foot/snowshoe/ski. None of our kids had skied before, so we snowshoed in with the youngest in a backpack. We brought along skis and were amazed at how much everyone enjoyed learning to ski right there beside the yurt. The inside was perfectly comfortable for the six of us, with a warm fire and clean (but very cold) outhouse just outside the door of the yurt. Book early because the yurts fill up fast. We did it with kids ages 3 to 11.
Mt. Kineo - Big Adventure
This one requires some time commitment if you are coming from Southern Maine, but you can find big adventure with minimal effort here. Camp at Lily Bay State Park, then drive to Rockwood where you can catch a small ferry to the island in the middle of Moosehead Lake. The lake is notoriously choppy, so the ferry ride can be a thrill all by itself. Once on the island, the hike to the peak of Mt. Kineo is totally achievable for young hikers, and the views are worth it. We did this with kids 9 to 11, but it's within reach of the younger crowd, too.
Big Falls Preserve - Mini Adventure
This hidden gem in New Gloucester was recently acquired by the Royal River Conservation Trust. There's an easy trail that winds through the hilly woods and along a beautiful brook. The ultimate destination is Big Falls, a surprisingly robust waterfall along this pleasant stream. Our kids have spent many hours playing on the rocks at the falls and along the brook.
Warren Island State Park - Epic Adventure
Warren Island State Park is located on an island near Islesboro. If your family is comfortable paddling on open water, this is a trip worth taking. Take the car ferry from Linconville to Isleboro (which may be the most thrilling part of the trip for some kids). Put your canoes in right near the ferry terminal and paddle the 1/2 mile across to Warren Island. The crossing is fairly protected and generally mild, but it's worth understanding winds and tides before heading out. The island is huge, with several spread-out campsites along its shores. There's a trail that loops along the shore and back through the center of the island. During out trip we found a nice stash of board games, outdoor toys, and crab-catching nets available for anyone to use. There's also an on-site ranger most of the time. We did this with kids ages 4 to 12.