Hiking the Gulf Hagas Loop
Gulf Hagas is considered to be the Grand Canyon of the East. It is a must see when visiting Maine. Gulf Hagas features some of the best waterfalls in Maine, including Screw Auger Falls, Billings Falls, Stair Falls, Buttermilk Falls, The Jaws, and more. Add this Maine waterfall adventure to your list!
Gulf Hagas Trail Stats
According to the Maine Mountain Guide:
Distance: 7.9 miles, but you can do and out and back and not hike the full loop.
Elevation gain: 870 feet
Time: Approximately 6 -7 hours depending on breaks
Dogs: allowed, leashed
Kids: A great activity for older kids! There are lots of drop offs and water crossings, so they should be comfortable in those situations.
History of Gulf Hagas
Accordint to Wikipedia – “
Logs were once driven through the gorge to provide fuel for the smelting operations which took place at Katahdin Iron Works. Later, pulp wood used to make paper was floated through the Gulf. A few spots within the gorge were as narrow as 8 feet (2.4 m) and were referred to as the Jaws. These spots caused log jams and were widened by the log drivers using dynamite. Log drivers are responsible for naming most of the major waterfalls and rapids in Gulf Hagas. The Gulf was previously owned by the paper companies, Great Northern Paper Company and Sappi.
Gulf Hagas was designated a National Natural Scenic Landmark in 1969 and landowners agreed to preserve 500 acres (200 ha) of land including Gulf Hagas. Gulf Hagas became part of Appalachian Trail Corridor, owned by the National Park Service, in 1985. The Maine Appalachian Trail Club, consisting of mostly volunteers, maintains the Gulf’s system of trails.
The bedrock which forms Gulf Hagas is slate, part of the Carrabassett formation. 400 million years ago converging plates forced land upward, displacing the Iapetus Ocean. Mud deposits remained, which were heated, compressed, and crystallized to form slate. Slate has sharp, angular edges when it fractures but is polished smooth by the action of erosion. This is evident deep in the canyon where the gorge walls are smooth and vertical. The swirling motion of water and pebbles creates potholes in the gorge, spherical depressions in the rock. Gulf Hagas may have been created towards the end of the last ice age when an ice-damned lake gave way and sent huge volumes of water through the area, carving the Gulf.“
Hiking Gulf Hagas
DD’s story –
Hey everyone! It’s DD. I am finally getting around to adding some of my FAVORITE stories here. This one is from 2015, when I really first got started with my GoPro and my idea to tell these stories. I also got super brave that year – it’s crazy to look back and realize that was only 1.5 years ago and see how much I have accomplished since I set my heart to hiking. (I’m dating this post for the date the photos were taken, but I’m writing this post in March of 2017- for reference.) A visit to Gulf Hagas is a MUST on your list when you visit Maine.
The back story on this photo begins with my dear friend Sarah. She’s currently experiencing life on the west coast, in Washington State. Check her out if you’re out that way! She’s freaking awesome. Sarah and I met and quickly became inseparable, unless it’s of course by distance. She’d moved to Boston earlier that year, and was looking to just get away for the weekend, so she joined us for Labor Day weekend. We’d been challenging ourselves and setting adventure goals, so when deciding what to do with our limited time together, we decided Gulf Hagas was the perfect adventure. We could travel within the state, get a workout + see some sights. Neither of us had hiked the whole loop – we’d visited once before for my bday but just had the time to have lunch underneath a waterfall before camping. My bf Matt was joining us, and he’s all about a good swimming hole. So – away we went!
Where to park to hike Gulf Hagas
The TrailFirst a map – this trail intersects w/ the Appalachian Trail – so you will see the cut off on this map. You can also see the two parking areas available. We parked at the P at the bottom right of this map, and took the path all of the way to Stair Falls + Billings Falls, then took the Rim Trail back to the parking lot. This is the East lot. PS – Rim Trail is super flat and takes no time at all, if you’re used to walking.
The HikeThere’s a water crossing initially – so wear hiking shoes that are either waterproof, or bring aqua socks, or some Bedrock sandals for the crossing + attach them to your pack to dry afterwards. You will need them again – there are a few water crossings in this adventure. Also – definitely you need some traction for this hike. Sneakers are not appropriate – hiking shoes will make your experience way more enjoyable. and not hiking boots – I have some Merrels that have lasted me for a few seasons, and before that I had some New Balance Trail Runners I really liked. Speaking of that – it’s time for some new shoes for this summer!
Screw Auger FallsHere’s some photos + video from Screw Auger Falls…(p.s. in case you were wondering… a screw auger is a hand tool for boring holes 🙂
Jaws & Buttermilk FallsWe continued on towards the Jaws + Buttermilk Falls, where Sarah and I continued our quest for the perfect selfie – and Matt was convinced we were going to go barreling down the gorge and die like this stories you hear on the internet of the tourists that die taking selfies.
Billings FallsWe continued through the woods to the next fall, Billings. Which totally blew my mind – it was GORGEOUS. This is a great photo spot. You should definitely click on some of the photos and view them bigger.
Stair FallsFinally, we hit Stair Falls, which was what Matt was really looking forward to. He couldn’t WAIT to get in the water and away he went. The water temps were still freezing, but Matt didn’t care. Sarah and I explored while Matt took a dip. Don’t let your Maine Summer slip away! ! Onward + upward, love + light! DD Like this post? Pin it so you can read it later!
Learn more about Gulf Hagas and the 100 Mile Wilderness! Get your own map today!