Nestled along the Salmon Falls River, Vaughan Woods State Park will transport you back in time. In 1949, Elizabeth Vaughan gave the state of Maine this 165-acre forest. Her request was to preserve its natural wild state, which can be found on over 3 miles of pet-friendly trails.
Vaughan Woods State Park is accessible year round, so be ready to pay the small entrance fee (free with Maine’s state park annual pass!). The parking lot can accommodate about 10 cars, but there’s more space for street parking outside the main gate when the crowds show up. I saw several leashed dogs who are welcome in the park. There’s also a rustic shelter, picnic tables, and restrooms to use any time of year.
This beautiful forest is full of hemlocks and pines meander the 3.7 miles of looped trails. The paths have even terrain, so it’s a great place for all ages. Every trail has its own unique aspects that make them worth the visit – but definitely don’t miss the Hamilton House – the view of Salmon Falls River is absolutely mesmerizing. My ethereal experience here, scouting for critters, walking among the towering trees, and sitting on the hill by Hamilton House watching the ice crackle on the lake, pushed Vaughn’s Woods State Park nearly to the top of my personal favorite places in Maine list. Don’t forget to do a quick tick check when you leave, those buggers are always around!
In July, you can view some wildly impressive humans swimming Salmon Falls River at the annual Sea to Summit Triathlon. During this annual event, 100 athletes swim, bike, and hike their way towards completing this mega-competition (seriously, it was voted one of the world’s top 5 bucket list races by the Triathele’s Choice Awards in 2018). If this is too crowded for you, then I’d highly suggest heading into Vaughn’s Woods State Park during the winter months for snowshoeing and cross country skiing – or, if you’re like me, just some snow crunching, slightly more slippery hiking.