Maine’s Downeast Explorer


Challenge Level: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Trip Details

  • Trip Start: Freeport, ME, USA
  • Trip End: Freeport, ME, USA
  • Age Range: 13 - 15
  • Trip Dates: 6/28 - 7/10, 7/14 - 7/26, 7/30 - 8/11
  • Tuition: $3395 (airfare not included)

Trip Highlights

  • Sea kayak spectacular Isle au Haut Bay
  • Explore world-famous Acadia National Park
  • Backpack on the Appalachian Trail and climb Maine’s highest peak, Mt. Katahdin
  • Help clean up a coastal habitat
  • Explore and celebrate in historic Portland, Maine

Trip Overview

By land and by sea, this action-packed hiking, backpacking, and kayaking adventure offers the best of Maine. On this goal-oriented trip, you’ll sea kayak spectacular Isle au Haut Bay, help clean up coastal habitats, hike world-famous Acadia National Park, and summit Mount Katahdin, Maine’s tallest peak. Vacationers travel great distances to do just one of these amazing activities – you’ll do them all. What’s more? You’ll return home with incredible new friendships, stories to share, and memories to last a lifetime.

Sea Kayaking and Community Service in Isle au Haut Bay

We’ll meet in Freeport, Maine and transfer by van to Camden where we’ll get to know each other as we hike the hills of this picturesque seaside town. Heading farther “downeast” to the rocky shores of Stonington, we’ll shove off in sea kayaks and paddle for three days among the beautiful islands of Isle au Haut Bay. In coordination with the Maine Island Trail Association, we’ll clean up marine debris from the surrounding islands and help maintain the Bay’s pristine beauty. At night we’ll camp on quiet islands, eat together under windswept pines, and wake up to the sound of seagulls, lapping waves and working lobster boats.

Hiking Acadia National Park & the Appalachian Trail, Climbing Mount Katahdin

Sea-sprayed and accomplished, we’ll come off the water and head for Acadia National Park, where “the mountains meet the sea.” After two days of hiking Acadia’s friendly trails, we’ll be ready for more rugged landscapes. Our multi-day backpacking excursion along the Appalachian Trail will take us through silent forests and past ponds where moose gather before arriving in Baxter State Park. After a day of rest, our adventures will then take us up the rocky face of Mount Katahdin. The northernmost point of the Appalachian Trail, Katahdin’s summit will reward us with stunning views of Maine’s expansive wilderness. Our biggest challenge conquered, we’ll rest our legs as we drive back to Portland and then treat ourselves to a festive farewell dinner at a local restaurant.

Trip FAQs

Please see our General FAQ page for many more frequently asked questions and answers!

How physically challenging is DEX?

Given a rating of Challenge Level 4 (out of a maximum of 10), we consider DEX to be an intermediate hiking trip that any moderately fit, motivated student can successfully complete with some preparation. Compared to similar hiking trips, we believe that DEX is slightly more challenging than New England Mountains & Coast and Colorado’s Rocky Mountains (mostly due to trip length, the challenge of climbing Mount Katahdin, and carrying substantial weight during the backcountry portion on the Appalachian Trail), but just a bit easier than our California Mountains & Coast trip. Please note that all of Apogee’s Challenge Levels are not scientific and are subjectively calculated by the Apogee staff.

What is the difference between front-country and backcountry hiking? What will the backcountry portion of DEX be like? How much weight will my child carry during this portion?

Generally speaking, the front-country is any area that is easily accessible by vehicles and day users. Hiking in the backcountry, on the other hand, involves hiking and camping in more remote locations without running water. Hiking and camping in the backcountry requires more preparation because of the need to carry in all food and equipment, and to treat drinking water prior to consumption. Our DEX trip has two backcountry portions: a two-night sea-kayaking expedition, where the group will island-camp, and a two-night backpack on the Appalachian Trail. Your child should expect to carry somewhere between 20 and 30 pounds in their pack during the Appalachian Trail section.

Aside from the trip cost, what are the additional expenses for this trip?

Apogee’s tuition costs are meant to be all-inclusive and include all meal, accommodation, and activity fees. The most significant additional expenses on our Maine’s Downeast Explorer trip will include travel to and from Portland, ME, a sleeping bag and sleeping pad, a backpacking pack, and hiking boots.

Is there any special gear required for the sea-kayaking portion of the DEX trip?

In short, no. Your child will be suitably prepared for sea kayaking (and all of the activities on their DEX trip) if you follow the packing list we provide. Our sea-kayaking outfitter provides all kayak-specific gear, and the packing list includes everything else that your child will need.

What luggage should my child check on the plane? What should be carried on?

This question is addressed in detail in our Travel Information document for enrolled students. Generally speaking, however, your child will be checking a soft-sided duffel containing the majority of their gear (including their empty hiking backpack), while carrying-on their sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and a few other travel essentials.

What does the community service portion of this trip entail?

Our service projects vary from year to year, but most DEX groups will work with the Maine Island Trail Association during the sea-kayaking portion of the trip to keep islands in Isle au Haut Bay pristine. This usually involves kayaking to a number of small islands and working for an hour or so on each. Students can expect 4-6 hours of community service on DEX.

My child will be flying to this trip start. How will they connect with their leaders?

Please note that Apogee staff members do not travel with students; our trip leaders will already be in Maine on arrival day and will stay in Maine after the trip ends. Apogee staff and trip leaders will have a detailed flight itinerary for each student who is flying to the trip start and will be at the airport to greet them on arrival. Once students are with their leaders, they will call home to let their parents know they have arrived and are with their group. Please see our blog post for specifics regarding students traveling as Unaccompanied Minors. Further, we encourage you to coordinate travel with other attendees; we’re happy to put you in touch with other enrolled families from your region. We will provide enrolled families with a Travel Information document covering details specific to traveling to and from Maine, including airport information and arrival and departure time windows. Please contact Apogee with any specific questions or concerns regarding drop-offs and/or pick-ups.

To check trip availability, please call 207.725.7025, or email for more information.