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Gulf Hagas The Grand Canyon of Maine

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Screw Auger Falls (photo by Mike Fern) Screw Auger Falls (photo by Mike Fern)

BROWNVILLE While the coast of Maine tends to attract most travelers and tourists, many other parts of the state are just as beautiful this time of year. And if you pay attention to a particular sign at the entrance of Gulf Hagas, a gorge located just 90 miles from Bangor in the mountains of central Maine, it is a part of the Appalachian Trail known by few and open to all who want to traverse it.

Often called the 'Grand Canyon of Maine,' the three-mile gorge is perhaps the most breathtaking showcase of Maine's natural beauty. From small waterfalls to a 130-foot drop, Gulf Hagas is preserved and managed through The Maine Appalachian Trail Club and is part of the final 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail corridor that ends at Mt. Katahdin.

In fact, the last 100 miles of the AT, known as the Hundred-mile Wilderness, is perhaps the most difficult of the entire 2,200-mile journey.

The difficulty of the Appalachian Trail doesn't extend here, although Gulf Hagas can be challenging to those who aren't careful or accustomed to heights. But this is half the fun, as you're peering over ledges with 30- to 50-foot drops to catch glimpses of spectacular waterfalls. The slate rocks of which the gorge was created through thousands of years of erosion can be slick and some are sharp, and the trail itself features many rocks and boulders that must be climbed. And there are very few places where you must ford a river in knee-high water to gain access to the trailhead. The river, the West Branch of the Pleasant River, does swell much higher in the spring but is easily crossable this time of year. Still, you should use caution on the slippery rocks that dot the riverbed and shoes of some type that you won't mind getting wet are recommended.

The trail that loops around the canyon is just over five miles, and uses another 1.3 miles of the Appalachian Trail as the approach. It's advised to follow the lower Rim Trail on the journey in and Overall, the entire experience is over eight miles that you won't soon forget.

Still, Gulf Hagas is a great spot for families and relatively inexperienced hikers to get a glimpse of the true beauty of the North Maine Woods.

More information about Gulf Hagas and the North Maine Woods can be accessed online at www.northmainewoods.org, or by calling the North Maine Woods administrative office at 435-6213.

Directions: From Bangor, take I-95 northbound to exit 259 for Medway/Millinocket. Follow Route 11 nouthbound through Millinocket until you reach Brownville. Take a right onto Katahdin Iron Works Road and follow for approximately seven miles to the gate. The trailhead is another seven miles from the gate near Hay Brook, where there is a parking area. 

Fees: The land is managed by Katahdin Ironworks Jo-Mary, Inc., so there is an entry into the preserved area. Maine residents are $6 and nonresidents are $10. The gate is open May through October from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m.

Be safe! 

Take precautions when you hike

  • If you're bringing children with you, make sure you check weather conditions, temperatures, and the conditions of any rivers and trails you may be crossing or hiking on. 
  • Dress accordingly! The weather varies a lot out in the woods dress in layers and bring a backpack with extra clothes, even for a day trip. Bundle up if you're doing November hunting, hiking or camping.
  • Take your trash with you when you leave. Make sure your fire ring is clear if you camp overnight at a campsite in the North Maine Woods.
  • Bring water. None of the rivers in the North Maine Woods are checked for drinking safety. If you run out, you can purify water to drink by boiling it for at least one minute. 

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