One of the great pleasures of writing the “Worth the Trip” column is exploring Maine to find new places to visit. I love the long, early-morning weekend drives on back roads, the exhilaration of looking out over the state from a new summit, and the joy of meeting new people and hearing stories about their favorite local and not-so-local places.

But there’s also something special about re-experiencing places I’ve been before.

As I looked back over the past few years of this column, I was surprised to see only passing mentions of one of my all-time favorite hikes – Mount Megunticook and Maiden Cliff in Camden. I have faint memories of climbing Maiden Cliff when I was barely old enough to walk; in fact, I think it was the first hike I ever took. I’ve returned time and again, in every season and every type of weather, to what I consider one of the best hikes in the state.

Maiden Cliff and Mount Megunticook are part of Camden Hills State Park, and there are multiple approaches to both from a number of trailheads. My favorite loop starts at the Maiden Cliff trailhead, about 3 miles north of Camden Village on Route 52. This approach can be used for a shorter, kid-friendly 2-mile out-and-back hike to Maiden Cliff, or as a starting and ending point for this 7-mile loop.

Leaving the lot, the Maiden Cliff trail starts at a moderate grade, climbing fairly quickly from Megunticook Lake on an old logging road next to a scenic brook, through groves of beech and birch. Soon, you cross the brook on a log bridge and begin traveling up another seasonal brook, which can be somewhat difficult and wet during the spring melt.

About half a mile from the road, there’s a well-marked junction that’s a bit more open, looking north at millerite ledges over boulders and through hemlock trees. Stay to the right to head toward the ridge trail and Mount Megunticook’s summit.

Turning at a beautiful cascade, the trail climbs quickly to gain the ridge, with the first views over Megunticook Lake. After a quick scramble over some steep rocks, you’ll find yourself on wide open ledges with panoramic views over the lake to Bald Mountain, Ragged Mountain and beyond. At the big cairns atop the ledges, turn right onto the Ridge Trail, the main trail connecting Maiden Cliff over Mount Megunticook to Ocean Lookout.

After a slight dip and a couple brook crossings, the trail rises gradually, with several outlooks offering fine views – perfect places to stop for a snack. One of these spots sits at the top of Barrett’s Cove Cliff, a popular rock climbing spot that plunges more than 250 feet down toward Route 52.

Continue gaining elevation over rooty and rocky footing, passing junctions with Jack Williams Trail and Zeke’s Trail. Once you pass the junction with Zeke’s, the trail ascends over a small knob, then dips into an attractive, mostly level grove of trees – airy and open in the winter, and bursting with green in the spring and summer, or red and orange in the fall.

After half a mile of minor ups and downs, the trail ascends quickly over rocky footing to reach the 1,385-foot summit of Mount Megunticook. Trees circle the giant cairn that marks the high point, so even on top of the rocks, there’s not much to see from here. Go straight past the Slope Trail and continue on the Ridge Trail for just half a mile, descending from the summit before leveling off at the magnificent Ocean Lookout.

My father, who grew up in Camden and worked in the booth at Camden Hills State Park, once called Ocean Lookout the best view in Maine, and it’s easy to understand why. Standing on the wide granite ledges, you look over a wide swath of coastal Maine. Just below is the auto road, winding up Mount Battie to the stone tower built on its summit, erected in 1921. Past Battie are Camden Harbor and Camden village, with Rockport and Rockland beyond; turn your eyes inland, to the west, and you’ll see the Camden Snow Bowl on Ragged Mountain, and Spruce and Pleasant Mountains just behind. To the east, looking over the sea, the islands of Vinalhaven and North Haven are off shore. Farther out are Deer Isle and Isle au Haut.

Ocean Lookout can be quite crowded, but be sure to linger here, whether you’re alone or among others enjoying the view. It’s a perfect spot to stop for a meal, peep at leaves, marvel at a snow-covered wonderland or just while away an hour soaking in the view.

When you’re ready to continue, follow along the ledge, bearing right at the Megunticook Trail. The trail drops quickly down the edge of the lookout’s cliffs to join the Tablelands Trail in less than a quarter of a mile. One more right will put you on the Jack Williams Trail, which runs parallel to the Ridge Trail – at the bottom of the ridge.

Despite being down in the woods, the views here are quite striking; giant stretches of ancient granite tower above, up to Ocean Lookout, and the trail winds through a beautiful mixed hardwood forest on a mostly flat grade. After a little less than two miles, the trail swings up steeply to reconnect with the Ridge Trail.

Follow the Ridge Trail back to the ledges where you first joined it, then bear right to continue easily over open ledges before descending to Maiden Cliff. Megunticook Lake sprawls out below, and Bald and Ragged Mountains rise up just on the other side.

To return to the trailhead, follow the Maiden Cliff trail south, descending the millerite ledges by switchbacks. From the trail junction at their base, retrace your steps over the easy half-mile to the lot on Route 52.

If you’re not up for the 7-mile trek, there are other ways to reach these spots, thanks to the extensive trail network that runs through Camden Hills State Park. But if you have the chance, load up your day pack and spend a day exploring the scenery and history of this special place.

Jake Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Josh, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Jake can be reached at:

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