Gulf Hagas Review. Think Twice Before Hiking Here!

I went to Gulf Hagas only once in my life (and never came back since). It was supposed to be the last part of my first major road trip through the eastern United States that I took with a friend. We found out about it while viewing areas to check out in Maine.

gulf hagas maine new post 01

When we saw what Gulf Hagas looked like on Google, we couldn’t resist seeing it for ourselves. And so we took what ended up being a 5 hour drive (we started from Vermont) all the way up there.

But let me tell you, after seeing and experiencing what we did, we were quite disappointed and annoyed at the things we had to “face” when being there. 

  • Everything from the fly infested trail.
  • To getting lost.
  • To having to dodge moose all over the land.

It wasn’t easy, and while this place is really beautiful, if you’re not prepared to face these specific challenges, I wouldn’t recommend you go here. Read this article first before you do that so at least you could be better prepared than we were.

Gulf Hagas really is beautiful (before you get to the bad stuff):

billings falls gulf hagas

We reached this place off road 6. You’ll find a beautiful town and lake, but then begins an ascent up a cliff that takes you into the wilderness area and that’s where things get interesting.

You see the thing about Gulf Hagas is that it is a pain to reach and even more of a pain to hike to with all the bugs and moose in the area.

While it is in the greater Baxter State Park area (Southern end) and cross the famous Appalachian Mountains trail, There is no official road and there are very few signs that lead there.

Also when you actually find it, know that it is itself a few miles of elevated canyons and waterfalls. And while it is beautiful, you have to trade that with potentially having bug problems when you’re there, moose and difficulty to reach.

Originally, my friend and I found this place through some sites we were looking at while in Maine. Our goal was to find something with extraordinary nature scenery. When we originally found this place, we also found that it was called the Grand Canyon of The East Coast, a title I think better belongs to Ausable Chasm, even though both areas are gorgeous. 

The dangers and risks of Gulf Hagas explained again. Know before you go:

  1. You’ll be very lucky if you don’t run into any moose, but expect to see them there.
  2. Dealing with the flies there is a major torture! I’m not kidding, these things could be used as torture methods.
  3. Finding the trail head from one of the points is annoying (we had to start at the other).
  4. Overall, this is a pretty easy hike, but with major dangers and annoying bugs to deal with, which is why we hated it.

Now if you still want to go to Gulf Hagas (it is very pretty there, I cannot deny this), here’s how to do it:

Directions to get to Gulf Hagas (if you dare):

1) Road 6 is the main road that gets you CLOSE to the area, but you will have to “off road” to reach the area itself.

2) You will pass by a small airport at the top of a cliff (that’s a sign you’re in the right area), but the road there is very bad, it has a lot of gravel, dirt, holes and being that I drive a sedan, it wasn’t easy to get through it, so drive safely and slowly.

3) Now there will come a point where you will see forks in the road (in the off road area), stay on the MAIN road and yo will eventually see signs for Gulf Hagas. Eventually when you follow this road for about 20-30 minutes, you will stumble onto an official entrance area, which is just a house. You will have to pay an entrance fee, per person to enter. 

4) If you are resident of Maine, it will be slightly cheaper for you to get in, I believe it was $9 per person. You will also have to register with the front desk and give some personal information including details on your car. I guess they do this for insurance purposes.

5) Next comes the fork and a decision:

After you pay the entry fee, I am certain the person who registers you will tell you how to get there and give you a map. However, be aware that there’s 2 ways to enter Gulf Hagas, both of which are quite annoying, but there is a preference since my friend and I went through both entrances.

6) First of all, you will have to drive past the main office, down the same bad road, for quite a distance, then you will reach a fork. 

7) If you take the left (the easier route in my opinion), it will lead you to a small parking lot and a trail (it is labeled blue on the map) that starts you off at the top of this place and has you hiking down (downstream) to reach Gulf Hagas.

8) The other (if you turn right) will start you off on the opposite and more difficult path, and have you hiking upstream to reach Gulf Hagas.

9) That’s where my friend and I started and let me tell you, it was horrible.

We were following the blue trail for a short bit, until the signs stopped showing. All we saw was signs for the Appalachian Trail and mountains (marked red). After awhile, we found ourselves crossing streams and going through places that had no directions or signs:

hiking to gulf hagas

In hindsight, we should have remembered what the lady (main office) was telling us, and so after wasting an hour at the upstream path, we decided to get back into my car, head back up to the downstream trail.

On our way there, we saw a moose! And let me warn you, this place is FULL of them. There are tracks (and other UN-pleasantries lying about if you know what I mean so be very careful, travel with other people and make noise to scare away any nearby moose:

I wasn’t kidding. Gulf Hagas is swarming with Moose:

beware of moose at gulf hagas

Anyway, you will see the main (blue) trail labeled on trees there. Obviously, you will want to follow it. Now the official trail to Gulf Hagas itself, from the parking lot is about 1.5 miles. Honestly, it felt more like 3, but perhaps it was because we were constantly going up and down.

Anyway, be VERY aware of the same problem we had and that was we often didn’t see blue signs for quite awhile when we were on this trail. There were times we often wondered if we should head back or not, but persistence in seeing this place kept us going and eventually, as you go get closer, you will see more and more blue signs.

I really wish they put up more of them. You will also see some pathways made by people (wooden logs on the ground made for walking on).

That’s how you’ll know you’re headed there (besides looking at the blue signs).

By the way, one very annoying thing I found is that the river is ALSO labeled blue and the directions on the trail map can sometimes be mistaken in that you can think one blue path on the map is the river and not the trail. I wish they had a different color for it.

I know locals who read this will probably think I’m a fool, but I still think it could have an easier ordeal.

This path was annoying to follow and there’s one thing you really need to watch out for which I think is far worse than the moose:

Flies. Get something for them, seriously.

I have never in my life seen so many flies packed into one area.

The only other place that came this close to having annoying flies eat me was at Red Gorge which I explored in Daniel Boone National Forest

We were swarmed by them all throughout this trail and it was a horrible experience. My buddy actually felt their wrath far more than I did and not only that, but he also injured his ankle prior to our trip, so the poor guy was limping around constantly and forcing himself to run away from these merciless flies.

I can’t deny that I found that funny, but I was also getting swarmed by them too, but at that point, anything comedic to relieve us of the torture those flies put upon us was welcome.

One thing though you may find helpful is that pine trees are great at repelling them. We noticed a great deal less of them around these spots.

Complete the trail and you will find the beautiful Gulf Hagas:

There are some really steep rocks in this area, but it is quite gorgeous and there’s plenty of opportunities to film and take pictures like this one:

beautiful view of gulf hagas

Unfortunately though, our visit to this place couldn’t be extended as:

A) The flies kept swarming (One flew in my mouth as I was taking pictures).

B) The sun was setting, we had no flashlights and needed to return as soon as possible.

But of course, on the way back, the flies kept coming relentlessly and we did make it back barely. Hopefully if you visit, you won’t have such a hard time finding this place or dealing with bugs (or moose).

I wish we could have seen the rest of the trail, but as I said, time was just too tight for us to do this.

Gear I wish I brought with me to Gulf Hagas (would have made it more fun):

I admit, part of the reason our trip to this place was awful was because we didn’t properly “dress” for it. This place is basically a tough hike and we weren’t stocked up on the right gear.

Don’t get me wrong, the bugs and moose dodging is the elephant in the room for why this hike was awful, but wearing good gear would have improved the experience.

Common questions about Gulf Hagas:

How long does it take to hike Gulf Hagas?

The whole Gulf Hagas trail 8-9 miles (loop) and most people take about 4-5 hours to complete it.

Can you drive to Gulf Hagas?

Yes there are 2 parking lots available. One is by the bottom of it (you hike upriver mostly) and the other is near the top of it (you hike downriver mostly).

What town is Gulf Hagas in?

The nearest town by Gulf Hagas is called Brownville.

Can you swim in Gulf Hagas?

Yes there are areas where you can get down to the river and take a dip (be careful of the currents).

Why Gulf Hagas was probably a 1 time visit for us:

I suppose it should be clear with everything I mentioned about flies and there being not such clear directions, but I will admit the place itself is quite amazing to view and hike on but to get there is annoying and there’s a bunch of obstacles, moose fecal matter to cross and A LOT of flies swarming the area.

You will have to consider the distance it takes to get there and the short amount of actual viewing there is to see when you’re there and decide for yourself.

There is the Appalachian trail in that area, but there’s not much to see from the area we wandered into when we originally got lost. If you don’t already know, the start of the northern end of the Appalachain trail begins in that region and heads all the way down through the Blue Ridge Mountains.

But with regards to Gulf Hagas, I hope my warnings about it will help you decide if it’s a hike worth doing or not.

If not, here are other hikes and regions around Gulf Hagas worth exploring:

If masses of moose, annoying flies and the type of stuff Gulf Hagas has to offer isn’t your thing, there’s a number of other things you can do:

1) You can explore the greater Baxter State Park area, and if you like hiking, try out it’s highest and most popular mountain: Mount Katadhin.

2) The White Mountains are also a few hours south of this area and there are much more “civilized” hiking spots there. 

3) And if you have time to spare, and head east, you’ll cross over into New Brunswick, Canada and I highly recommend a place called Bay of Fundy which is actually in Nova Scotia. It’s a few hours away from Gulf Hagas.

4) And if you’re really crazy like we were when we did these trips, you can even mimic one of our many road trips like this eastern Canada one which is close to Gulf Hagas, but in that instance, we didn’t visit it (we still had PTSD from our first trip there).

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15 thoughts on “Gulf Hagas Review. Think Twice Before Hiking Here!”

  1. Vitaliy
    I’m sorry you had such a time. But, it sounds like you missed the massive King’s Pines in the Hermitage. Seeing pines that were 40 meters tall and straight as an arrow made my trip worth it. Thank you for your piece about better preparation. The Maine Game wardens spend more time every year looking for the unprepared. Not all searches have a happy ending. As an expatriated northern Maineac, the moose and the flies are a part of any woods experience north of Portland. Gives you an appreciation for how tough the original settlers, trappers and loggers were.

  2. This is a shocking review. I was eleven the first time I visited and it was a formative experience. Five years later, I spent three weeks backpacking on the Continental Divide in Colorado; which was disappointing in comparison! I can’t imagine what you were expecting because Gulf Hagas is the pinnacle of what Maine backwoods offers.

    I will admit this is the first of the reviews by you that I have read, so I don’t know what you consider an interesting hike. I personally hike to get away from people and to take a dose of nature. I avoid places like the majority of the WMNF, for example, because there are just too many people. Frankly, I find that popular places are full of people that are unappreciative of the area and are very often unprepared for the unpredictability of the wilderness, putting themselves and others at risk.

    Having said that, Gulf Hagas is an awe-inspiring hike! It is not a mountain climb to be sure, but it is still a rugged hike with outstanding views. Buttermilk falls is the best lunch spot I have ever been to. And when you get to the Head of the Gulf, that is the best place to cool off (assuming you hike from the AT to the Head) I have ever found (though there are often too many people for my taste).

    It doesn’t seem like you spent the night camping in the area, but that is when the icing on the cake shows up. While not an International Dark Sky Reserve, it should be. The stars are spectacular beyond description. The quiet is wonderful (assuming you grab one of the sites off the road), and yes the wildlife is plentiful. (I had a moose cow walk through my campsite one time and she an I had a pleasant conversation less than 12 feet apart for 10 or 15 seconds). This, in my opinion, is not the annoyance you portray it to be, but one of the reasons I love the place so much. I have encountered the aforementioned moose as well as bear, deer, coyote and many other small animals and birds. This is their home; I am just a visitor (as were you). And I respect that.

    Every year, my two sons, both grown now, spend a weekend in Gulf Hagas. This year, my glamping wife is going with us (which we are very excited about). We will be there this weekend. It looks like it is going to be great weather and I can’t wait!

    I strongly encourage you to give Gulf Hagas another try. Spend the weekend. Choose a site like one of the Long Pond sites, off the road and on some water. (Don’t expect to swim unless you are prepared for leaches and blood suckers, though.) Unless you bring all of your water, expect to treat, either by filtering or chemical treatment. Bring plenty of bug spray (I only use Deep Woods Off). Be prepared to cut some wood for the fire as I find that the bundles at the checkpoints that are wrapped in plastic are just too wet and don’t burn. Make sure you grab a trail map at the checkpoint when you come through. Expect only to be in nature. Start early so you have plenty of time; take all of the side trails, which is where the payoff is. Touch the gigantic original growth trees in the Hermitage. Smell the evergreen resin. Seek Nature (see what I did there). And please, as a service to your readers, write another review. Gulf Hagas is an incredibly special place, one that, though I prefer to keep secret, I think should be shared.

    • Hi Chuck really appreciate you taking the time to share and write this stuff! I’m always open to new opinions and certainly differing ones as long as of course they are polite which is the case here. Regarding everything you said, I have considered all your points and wanted to mention a few things in response:

      1) So contextually speaking, I was very inexperienced to exploring nature when I visited this place and of course made mistakes, and I think that added to my discouraging experience at Gulf Hagas. Today if I went back there, there’s a good chance I’d have a different view of the area/hike and if I do that in the future, I’ll update this specific article on that.

      2) Danger wise, I have NEVER in my life seen so many moose tracks and flies in one area and that added to my fear of danger there. I’m happy that your experiences were not the same, but perhaps in my case I visited the area in the wrong season or perhaps after rainfall that led to this. Either way, being swarmed by flies and some of them actually flying into my mouth was not pleasant lol.

      3) Thanks for the tips on the products and fire. In my case I don’t really enjoy camping but I love exploring day hike destinations.

      4) Since Gulf Hagas happened, I have obviously grown a lot and explored a lot across the United States. You’re welcome to read about my adventures here as I’ve been through quite a lot of experiences since in nature destinations of all levels (deserts, water, coastlines, ect…) and in very remote destinations at that.

      5) I totally understand your point about keeping spots a secret and in this case I wouldn’t worry about Gulf Hagas. It is very difficult to get there to begin with, let alone hiking it which normally makes it inaccessible for most crowds. I do sometimes feel the need to share these destinations to let people know of the risks before they go, because as I was once new when I went there and didn’t get a good experience, I wouldn’t want others to make the same mistakes I did.

      Really look forward to talking to you more and learning more about the area and if there’s any additional recommendations you have to share. If not, I totally understand and again appreciate you commenting. Have a great day!

  3. Oh my god what did you expect to find in the northern Maine Wilderness? Rainbows and Unicorns. This is why country people live in the country and city slicking flatlanders should stay in the city where they have killed almost all living creatures. It’s called an ecosystem sweetie and us Mainers are quite proud that it’s still intact including the flies which aren’t as annoying as you and your article. If you want Disneyland then don’t come here. Actually just don’t come here.

    • Hi Bill, so while I’m sarcastically flattered that you took the time to write this condescending and rude comment (which I’ll respond to in a moment), I’ll start by saying this:

      When I came here, it was my first introduction in this type of hike and region. The hike happened impromptu and until that moment, neither my friend nor I ever experienced that many flies in one specific area. Nor did we properly prepare for the terrain and moose sightings. Was it foolish? Sure, but everyone who starts new at this is going to make mistakes, including dumb ones and I admit, we were very lucky not to run into a moose here.

      The hiker and outdoors individual I am today is very different than when I came to Gulf Hagas and while I’d probably not do this hike again for the same reasons I stated, I’m much wiser today than before. And if I do run into total beginners on a hike today, I actually help them vs talking down to them and I do intend to revisit Maine in the future (sorry not sorry).

      But that doesn’t sound like something you’d appreciate, so let me segue into responding to your comment:

      It’s pretty obnoxious and I’m touched you took the time to read it, then project all your insecurities into the comment, most of which have no association with me. It’s almost like you had a bad period in your life and just needed someone to take it out on. Tell me I’m wrong?

      Anyway, just because I live in the city doesn’t mean I’m somehow associated with whatever garbage you’re trying to tie to me, so you might want to learn to be a bit wiser with your future comments and separate whatever you’re feeling about yourself with actually writing objective stuff. It’s nice to want to imagine that everyone who goes to Gulf Hagas or is into hiking is as “wise” as you, but the fact is, we’re not, but a lot of us are learning. So don’t interrupt that process by being a you know what.

      If the situation was flipped, I’d never talk down to someone who is new to this topic, unless of course they were unnecessarily rude (and trust me, I’m sure there’s a ton of topics out there I probably know a ton more about than you, but I’d never try to talk down to you about it), so you might want to look in the mirror before you respond to this question.

      Keep in mind that if you intend to be just as rude or more so than before, your future comment/s will not be published (and make sure you check your spelling and grammar because I’m not going to go through correcting it again). Keep it polite and I’d be happy to discuss this further.

      Hope you have a better day (I mean that sincerely as it sounds like you could use it).

  4. It’s so interesting that the bugs were so aggressive in mid September. Normally, this is a great time to never worry about them. How did the moose react when you saw them? I’m sorry your experience in Gulf Hagas was so poor. I think this is a great area that should be visited.

    • Hi Coleman, the moose was just staring at us from about 40 feet away, and when we hiked to Gulf Hagas, we didn’t see any (but many tracks).

      Honestly, you’re not the first person to tell me about the bugs normally not being so aggressive but in our case, either I got the date wrong (I’ll take another look) or we were just stinky from hiking for a few days prior hah.

  5. Everyone (in New England) knows you don’t go to Maine during bug season in the spring. Is it possible that is when you went? I spent a summer on Mount Washington and met quite a few AT thru-hikers, I don’t recall so much about bugs, or moose. What is wrong with moose? At least it’s not bears.

    • We went there in mid September and it was awful with regards to the bugs. But as for moose, they are considered very dangerous from my research (car crashes) and are in some cases territorial and more dangerous than bears, so it’s not exactly an animal I want to meet anytime soon.

  6. Wow, Vitaliy. Sounds like, in trail parlance, the objective wasn’t quite worth the effort. How would you rate it on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best hike you’ve ever been on? I’m from Ontario and, yep, the farther you get back into the woods, the more flies are going to love you. Maybe a shout-out to the volunteer trail builders – sounds like they need a few more trail markers and some better maps on this one, but it’s rough work. Better luck on your next hike!

    • Thanks Larry, honestly, the hike was boring, even though we didn’t complete it fully. I also think I believe this because this was the last hike we were taking over a long trip, so we were already tired and just wanted to see the view, not necessarily do the hike. 

  7. I love travel blogs, so I’m always happy to read one. 

    I appreciate you telling me about Gulf Hagas. My family has had a house in Maine for 100 years, and my sister lives there in the summer and I’ve never heard of it.  

    After reading your post, I don’t think I’ll bother trying to go. The photos you included don’t make it look THAT special. I’ve seen a lot of more spectacular places and I wouldn’t go out of my way to see this.

    • This is not a very well known place, we only heard about it by looking at the most attractive nature images on Google, and that helped us locate it, but yeah it’s not a well known place. Still, we missed a huge chunk of it, but did manage to see one of the main parts of it and that itself is nice to look at. Other than the flies, if you enjoy hiking, this is a good place to see.

  8. What an amazing area. It looks like I have just changed my next vacation. We thought about going to Alaska but I guess you made me think again.

    What do you think about an 8 year old and his sister, a 12 year old, will they make it? How hard it will be to them. They are used to traveling on a regular basis.

    • No, absolutely go to Alaska! It has to be better there! As for the kids, yeah I think they’ll handle this hike easily, although when you reach the higher areas, make sure they aren’t close to the edge.


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