Timber Point, Biddeford
Ceci Danforth, of Brunswick, watches the sun come up on a winter morning at Timber Point, a 1.4-mile out-and-back trail in Biddeford. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)
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The sun will rise in the morning; that’s a fairly dependable assertion.

Whether we’ll be able to see it, due either to overcast skies or because the Earth was obliterated during an overnight asteroid assault, is less reliable.

But when you do catch a dazzling sunrise, the kind that earnestly lights up the sky in blazing oranges and reds and purples, it feels like you scored the only seat in the house for one of nature’s most-sensational performances.

Wonderland Trail sunrise, Mount Desert Island
Sunrise as seen from the short-but-scenic Wonderland Trail on Mount Desert Island. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

That might be because you’re one of the intrepid few who are willing to rise out of bed while the world around you slumbers, just to trek your way up a mountain or to a local seaside path to greet the sun upon its arrival.

Not everyone sees the joy in rising early. But the thing is, while folks bemoan winter’s short days and early sunsets, it’s also a time of year when the sun rises late in the morning – which means you can, too. 

In Portland in December and January, the sun doesn’t clock in for the day until somewhere around 7:10 a.m., give or take. That means you can roll out of bed at a reasonable hour, slide into some puffy winter apparel, head off to your preferred viewing location, and still beat the sun to the punch. 

We’re lucky to live on this eastern coast, with miles and miles of sunrise viewing points at our disposal.

In the greater Portland area, a few of my favorite sunrise spots include Portland’s Eastern Prom (of course) and Fisherman’s Point in South Portland (the rocky prominence with the fishing shacks at the southern end of Willard Beach). 

Timber Point in Biddeford offers a flat and scenic 1.4-mile (out and back) seaside trail, where you can find a seat atop a rock and watch the sunrise over the water. 

A couple years back, some friends and I took in one stunner of a sunrise from the Wonderland Trail near Bass Harbor on Mount Desert Island, one of many splendid sun-viewing spots in the area. The Wonderland Trail is a flat walk, a smidge over a half-mile one way, and prime for gazing at the brightly hued horizon.

Mount Crawford Trail sunrise
Kirsten Beverley-Waters, of Old Orchard Beach, watches the sunrise from the Mount Crawford Trail in New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch State Park, a 5.3-mile out-and-back hike with an elevation gain of 2,116 feet. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

If you’d like to catch a sunrise from the summit of your favorite big hill, some additional planning is needed. You could hike all the way up only to be met with clouds. Your hiking pace could be slower than planned and the sun will come up while you’re still buried in trees. You could get to chatting and inadvertently follow a snowmobile trail for too long, again missing that magical moment when the sun finally ends its daily game of hide-and-seek. 

All of these things happened to me and a friend on our shared quest for a winter summit sunrise. 

But we found success on Mount Crawford in New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch. The Mount Crawford Trail is approximately 2.6 miles one way, with an elevation gain of 2,116 feet. On our early March hike, the trail was well-packed, with little ice, making for easy travel as we moved upward by the light of our headlamps.

Slowly the sky grew a little less dark until we could see a warmth spill over the horizon as we looked east through breaks in the trees.

And then, there we were, on top of Mount Crawford watching a new day’s sunlight spray paint the clouds.

It was totally worth the pre-dawn departure, the drive, and the hike up. But then I’ve never once regretted a sunrise.

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.

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