While it may not boast the exact scale of Arizona’s Grand Canyon, Gulf Hagas has earned recognition as the “Grand Canyon of Maine,” at least, for being one of the deepest gorges in the state. What it may lack in relative grandeur is more than made up for in the range of old-growth forests, waterfalls, and geologic features dotting this unique pocket of Maine’s highland region.
The three-mile-long slate gorge is located in Maine’s 100 Mile Wilderness Conservation Area, home to (depending on your direction) either the very first or the very last 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a forest Bill Bryson has called “the wildest part of the Appalachian Trail.” Depending on the hike you choose to access Gulf Hagas (and there are several), your route may take you onto the Appalachian Trail itself. If you opt for the Gulf Hagas Rim Trail, as many do, your hike will also take you through the Hermitage, a 35-acre swath of old-growth white pine trees—some 150 years old—overlooking the Pleasant River. You’ll also pass Screw Auger Falls, which plunge 26 feet onto canyon rocks below before reaching the gorge.
With the gulf’s formative river dropping 500 feet over the course of three miles, there’s no shortage of spectacular geologic features lining Gulf Hagas: Stair Falls, which resemble a giant, angular staircase beneath gently cascading waters; Buttermilk Falls, named for the frothy foam the river produces as it tumbles down the rock face; Jaws, a narrow stretch of gorge where the cliffs on either side of the river nearly touch; and more. At Hammond Street Pitch, the deepest section of the gorge, the walls shoot 100 feet down to the river below.
Know Before You Go
Remember, this is a remote hike without cell service or amenities. Whichever trail you settle on, be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and reliable shoes. Depending on when you visit, there may be a cash-only entry fee, so be sure to bring plenty of cash as well (the closest ATM isn’t for many miles). In slippery conditions, be aware of your footing and your surroundings.