Deep in the heart of Maine lies a hidden gem of tranquility and natural beauty – the Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. This sprawling expanse of wilderness is home to the Carter Meadow Trail, a hiker’s paradise that offers an immersive experience into the enchanting tranquility of the refuge. The trail winds through lush forests, across babbling brooks, and into the heart of the meadows, offering breathtaking views and an unforgettable journey into the heart of Maine’s wilderness. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about exploring the Carter Meadow Trail and the Sunkhaze Meadows NWR.

Introduction to Sunkhaze Meadows NWR

Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is the second-largest National Wildlife Refuge in Maine, spanning over 11,485 acres. It is a diverse habitat, home to a variety of plant and animal species, including six different peatland habitats. The refuge is a haven for birdwatchers, with over 200 species of birds recorded.

The Carter Meadow Trail

The Carter Meadow Trail is a 2.5-mile loop trail located within the Sunkhaze Meadows NWR. The trail is relatively flat and is suitable for hikers of all skill levels. It offers a variety of landscapes, from dense forests to open meadows, and provides excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing.

What to Expect on the Trail

The trail begins in a dense forest of spruce and fir trees, gradually opening up into the expansive Carter Meadow. The meadow is a sight to behold, with its vast expanse of grasses and wildflowers, dotted with small ponds and streams. Wildlife is abundant here, and hikers can expect to see a variety of birds, including warblers, sparrows, and hawks, as well as mammals like moose and white-tailed deer.

Preparing for Your Hike

Before setting out on the Carter Meadow Trail, it’s important to be prepared. The trail is relatively easy, but it’s always a good idea to bring along a map and compass, as well as plenty of water and snacks. Bug spray is also a must, especially during the summer months. And don’t forget your binoculars for birdwatching!

Exploring the Rest of Sunkhaze Meadows NWR

While the Carter Meadow Trail is a highlight of the refuge, there’s plenty more to explore in Sunkhaze Meadows NWR. The refuge has six other trails, each offering its own unique view of the refuge’s diverse habitats.

Johnson Brook Trail

This 1.5-mile trail takes hikers through a variety of habitats, including spruce-fir forests, cedar swamps, and peatlands. It’s a great trail for birdwatching, with many species of warblers and sparrows seen along the trail.

Other Activities in the Refuge

In addition to hiking, Sunkhaze Meadows NWR offers a variety of other recreational activities. Wildlife viewing is a popular activity, with opportunities to see a variety of mammals, birds, and reptiles. The refuge is also a popular destination for hunting and fishing, with designated areas for each.


Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a peaceful escape into nature, the Carter Meadow Trail and the Sunkhaze Meadows NWR offer an unforgettable experience. With its diverse habitats, abundant wildlife, and breathtaking landscapes, it’s a must-visit destination for any nature lover. So lace up your hiking boots, pack your binoculars, and get ready to explore the enchanting tranquility of Maine’s breathtaking wilderness.

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