Baxter State Park
In the predawn darkness, your headlamp illuminates the Abol Trail for a muscle-loosening mile through dense woods. Soon gravel crunches underfoot—the beginning of Abol slide. Then you're beneath monolithic Mt. Katahdin and the climb begins in earnest. Lift those knees, breathe deeply, and watch for falling rocks. After a few hours, you reach the blessedly flat Tableland, just in time for golden rays to light the way to the top of the world.
Contact: Baxter State Park, (207) 723-5140; www.mainerec.com.
From Monson to the West Branch of the Penobscot River, the AT winds 100 wild Maine miles without crossing a paved road. Glacier-carved mountains—you'll gain and lose 17,000 feet of elevation hiking northward-yield to moose-infested spruce forest and some of the AT's best swimming holes.
Acadia National Park
In autumn, an early morning climb up the Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail takes you through a frosted blaze of spruce, fir, maple, and birch. Pack your shell, because wind and sky dominate from Eagles Crag to the Mt. Desert summit, where you'll linger over views to distant Frenchman Bay.
Contact: Acadia National Park, (207) 288-3338; www.nps.gov/acad.