Most Maine summer days are pleasant perfection, all bright blue skies with cool coastal breezes.
Then there are the other days, the sweat-dripping scorchers that make sleeping in the basement chest freezer sound like a keen idea. (Note: sleeping in a freezer of any kind is never a good idea.)
These days we can’t even loiter among the frozen foods at Hannaford without being hurried along.
Luckily, Maine supplies other ways to help us cool down: its lakes, ponds, rivers, and ocean. You may already have a favorite local swimming hole where you go to turn the internal thermometer down a few degrees. Keep doing that.
But if you’re in the market for more of an adventure – a combination of trail exploration with the promise of cold waters along the way – Maine has that, too.
A hike-and-swim pairing means you’ll get to spend some time wandering among the birches and pines, and you’ll also be treated to a refreshing dip, where you can float to your heart’s content. Or until your core temperature returns to normal.
Here are a handful of options, which include easy-going trails that are great for families, and more difficult mountain summits for those in search of scenic vistas. Respect social distance in the water and on the trails, and steer clear of locations that already appear busy (going at off hours helps).
Blueberry Mountain and Rattlesnake Pool, Evans Notch, White Mountains
The emerald-colored water of Rattlesnake Pool is mesmerizing. It’s also really cold. Cool off your shins or boldly plunge in all the way. Hike the entire 3.9-mile loop (starting on the White Cairn Trail to Blueberry Ridge Trail, and then to Stone House Trail) and the pool will be a welcome reward close to the end of the hike. Or skip the loop and hike straight to the pool via the Stone House Trail. Both trailheads are accessed from Stone House Road.
Where: Blueberry Mountain, Stone House Road (which turns into Shell Pond Road), Stow. Park at the gate or on the road.
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult.
Tumbledown Mountain and Tumbledown Pond, near Weld
The 1.9-mile Brook Trail will take you straight up to the pond near the summit, where you can lounge near the water or get in for a swim. (With all the sweating you’ll do on your way up, it’ll feel great to cool down in the pond.) Or take the Loop Trail for an added challenge (in the form of stream crossings, rock scrambling, and Fat Man’s Misery – a narrow fissure in the mountain you’ll have the pleasure of climbing through.
Where: Weld to Byron Road, Weld.
Difficulty: Moderate to advanced.
Peaks-Kenny State Park and Sebec Lake, Dover-Foxcroft
Peaks-Kenny State Park offers a choose-your-own hiking adventure selection of trails. Take it easy with a 0.4-mile loop through the woods via the Cove Trail, which starts and ends at the beach. Or hike the 2.3-mile Birch Mountain Ledge Trail for more hiking time. There’s also a 0.2-mile Loop Trail and 3.4-mile Brown’s Point Trail. Whatever trail you hike, the beach will be waiting.
Where: State Park Road, Dover-Foxcroft. From Dover-Foxcroft, take Route 153 approximately 4.5 miles and turn left on State Park Road.
Fees: $5 Maine residents, $7 nonresidents.
Difficulty: Easy (Cove Trail), moderate (Brown’s Point Trail).
Beaver Park, Lisbon
This family-focused park off Cotton Road has several miles of easy-going trails, as well as two regulation softball diamonds, picnic areas, and a few swimming ponds. (There’s also a one-mile fitness trail, complete with 1970s-era workout stations.) For more info: https://bit.ly/2DLOtCq.
Where: Beaver Park, Cotton Road, Lisbon.
Fees: $2 for Lisbon residents, $4 for nonresidents.
Dodge Point Preserve and Damariscotta River, Newcastle
Dodge Point has 6.1 miles of trails and they’re all lovely. But the 1.5-mile Shore Trail, with its pine needle floor and view of the Damariscotta River, is just perfect. The Shore Trail offers access to a beach and the water for a mid-hike cool-down. To get to the water, take the Old Farms Road Trail to the Shore Trail. For more info: https://bit.ly/3kEpotF.
Where: Dodge Point Preserve, River Road, Newcastle.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
Mousam Way North and Indian’s Last Leap, Sanford
Hike through Riverside Cemetery and along the Mousam River to get to Indian’s Last Leap, a cool swimming hole. Or wade into the family-friendly waters at Springvale Park. There are multiple places to park at various parts of the 3.9-mile trail network, allowing you to hike a longer or shorter distance, depending on what you’re up for. Part of the trail is pavement and crushed gravel. In the woods, the trail becomes more rugged and steep.
Where: Several places to park. Closest to the swimming is Stanley Road, about a quarter-mile from Route 109/11, in the dirt parking area next to the Central Maine Power Co. substation. Also the Springvale Recreation Area just off Route 109/11 near Holdsworth Park.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
Freelance writer Shannon Bryan lives in South Portland and is the founder of fitmaine.com, where she writes about the coolest ways to be active and get outdoors in Maine.