A guest post by blogger Amy Niemczura-Sowa of https://mainethewaylifeturnedout.wordpress.com/
How do you make hiking with kids so fun that they will want to do it again and again? Yeah, you have to pack enticing snacks and maybe a few lightweight toys. Yet the other crucial part is choosing a hike with an element of fun. Whether it is searching for moose, picking blueberries, climbing a tower, riding in a ferry, swimming, or seeking out geological wonders, the most kid-friendly hikes in Maine are ones that involve a fun activity in addition to the hike. Looking for a hike where you may see moose from a safe distance? Although moose have been spotted in every corner of Maine, the iconic critters are most prevalent in the woods north of I95. Sandy Stream Pond in Baxter State Park is one of the most reliable moose hang-out spots, and it is only a 1/2 mile hike from the Roaring Brook parking lot. To access this parking lot, you will need either a Roaring Brook DUPR or a Moose Pass (2 hour pass, available by chance in the afternoon). For older kids who can handle more distance, head to the Little Moose Public Reserve Land outside Greenville. Follow the Loop Trail around the ponds in this moose hotspot. Wild blueberry season typically runs from mid-July to the end of August. Mountainsides and summits are the best places to pick berries (and they are free!). Hike a mountain that time of year, and odds are that you will find blueberries. A few favorites include Bald Mountain (Dedham), Blue Hill Mountain (Blue Hill), Young Tunk (Cherryfield), Maiden Cliff (Camden), Cameron (Lincolnville), and Bald Mountain (Weld). The Maine Forest Service built fire towers on mountaintops around the state to monitor the vast wilderness, and those that remain standing are popular backcountry destinations. Although adult hikers may find climbing a fire tower thrilling, the thought of climbing a metal one with an exuberant child can be anxiety-inducing. Younger children may be better suited to climbing less-intimidating stone towers, such as Mt Battie (Camden) and Mt. Douglas (Sebago). Older children may enjoy the metal towers at Mt Pisgah (Wayne), Bald (Oquossoc), and Mount Blue (Weld). Nothing spices up a hike more than adding in a boat ride. In the Greenville area, you can hop on the ferry in Rockwood and cross over to Mt Kineo State Park. You can take either the Indian or Bridle trail to the summit. Alternatively, for an easier option, follow the carriage road to Hardscrabble Point. Some of Maine’s offshore islands—Monhegan, Isle au Haut, Vinalhaven, Frenchboro—also have developed extensive trail systems, and visits to those islands can be memorable excursions with children. On a hot summer day, sometimes a swim can be the best motivation to climb a mountain. The Brook trail is the most kid-friendly route up Tumbledown and rewards hikers with a swim in Crater Lake at the top. Other hikes can be paired with a swim at the bottom: Acadia Mountain and Echo Lake, Schoodic Mountain and Donnell Pond, Pleasant Pond Mountain and Pleasant Pond, Morse Mountain and the ocean…Maine is blessed with ample fresh and salt water, so it is always worth checking a Maine Atlas and Gazetteer to see if a swimming hole may be near a trailhead. Maine geology lures children up mountains, and nowhere is this more true than Bubble Rock in Acadia National Park. The hike up South Bubble is do-able for baby-carrying mamas and toddlers. Older children may enjoy the challenge of trying to push Bubble Rock off the mountain. Other awe-inspiring hikes of geological interest include Jockey Cap (Fryeburg) and Piazza Rock (Rangeley). Of course, not all children share an adult’s enthusiasm for the trail, and this becomes especially problematic when a child no longer fits in a carrier. You can always pull a child in a wagon on the Acadia carriage roads, or any of the other carriage-road-like trails that have been constructed recently: Beech Hill Preserve, Penobscot River Trails, Round the Mountain trail at Ragged. You can also try driving up one of the mountains with auto roads—Cadillac, Mount Battie, Agamenticus—and hiking around the trails at the top. When all else fails, head to a state park with the dynamite combination of a trail system and a playground (not all state parks have both. You can search here for facilities https://www.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/doc/parksearch/index.pl; be advised that some state parks have more basic playgrounds than others). Bradbury State Park has constructed one of the biggest state park playgrounds at the base of their extensive trail system. Peaks-Kenny State Park has a simple playground, but it is on the beach and the trails there feature unique picnic table art. Steep Quaggy Jo Mountain at Aroostook State Park is best suited for older children, but it also rewards hikers with a lake at the bottom. The playgrounds at Mount Blue State Park and Sebago Lake State Park are adjacent to sandy beaches, making either of them the perfect stop after climbing any of the surrounding mountains. Maine state parks were designed for families in mind, so you cannot go wrong with any of them!