WASHBURN — Folks hauling their ATVs to Aroostook County this summer can, to quote the Maine maxim, “get there from here” on a 1,200-mile trail network that links Orient and Wytopitlock in the south with Fort Kent and Madawaska far to the north.
Extensive cooperation between local ATV clubs, landowners, and the Maine Department of Conservation has created this trail system, which covers much of Aroostook east of Route 11 and extends upstream on the St. John River to St. Francis and Allagash. An isolated trail system exists at Portage between Ashland and Eagle Lake.
For ATVers seeking long rides across scenic Maine terrain, Aroostook represents a dream destination. Radiating from the larger cities and towns, state and local trails cross The County’s rolling hills; ATVers ride through thick forests, alongside clear and fast-flowing streams, and past farm fields planted in broccoli, oats, and potatoes.
Just a few minutes beyond a busy highway, ATVers will ride across terrain where wildlife might be encountered anywhere, at any time. On a quiet weekday when few other ATVers share the trails, watch for bear, deer, moose, assorted varmints — chipmunks, squirrels, etc. — and songbirds and waterfowl during a ride.
Take the Houlton-Presque Isle Multi-Use Trail, for example. In Monticello, the trail veers northwest from busy Route 1, vaults the Meduxnekeag Stream at a scenic crossing, and passes a trailside picnic area. Farther north, the trail touches two Monticello roads before turning northeast to cross marshes and streams while en route to Bridgewater. In high summer among these wetlands, a moose might appear alongside the trail, or a great blue heron might suddenly “squawk” while erupting from a marsh.
Elsewhere in Aroostook County, ATV trails blend town and country, as in Washburn, where two key trail systems connect. The Aroostook Valley Railroad and the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad once intersected north of Route 164; after the tracks were abandoned, the Maine Department of Conservation acquired the rights of way and established multipurpose recreational trails open to ATVers and other users during summer and fall and snowmobilers in winter.
From Washburn, an ATVer can:
• Head south through built-up portions of Washburn, cross the Aroostook River on the former B&A trestle, and access the trail network extending west through Mapleton and Castle Hill to Ashland.
• Take the AVRR corridor that parallels eastbound Route 164, cross the Aroostook River on a 600-foot trestle, and ride to Presque Isle. Local trails there access businesses and restaurants on Main Street near the Aroostook Centre Mall. From Presque Isle, other trails access Easton, Fort Fairfield, Mars Hill, and even Houlton.
• Ride northeast along the AVRR corridor to reach Caribou (a separate trail connects Caribou and Presque Isle via the Aroostook River valley). The Caribou Recreation Department maintains not only the local trails but trails to New Sweden and Stockholm.
• Ride northwest along the B&A corridor and travel through Wade and Perham before reaching the wetlands along the Madawaska River. Watch for wildlife here while en route to Stockholm and, if so desired, travel on to Van Buren on the Canadian border.
In southern Aroostook County, trails connect Houlton with the towns along the Interstate 95 and Route 1 corridors. An ATVer can enjoy a “loop ride” from Houlton to Haynesville, Island Falls, Dyer Brook, and back to Houlton without backtracking on any trail.
For ATVers, riding opportunities are almost endless in Aroostook County. For more information about ATVing in the Crown of Maine, log onto:
• www.atvmaine.org, the Web site for Maine’s umbrella ATV organization. Ninety-seven ATV clubs are affiliated with ATV Maine; for an alphabetical listing, log onto the Web site, click the “ATV Clubs” link, and then click the “ATV Club Info” link.
To obtain the Web sites for Aroostook County ATV clubs, log onto ATV Maine, click the “ATV Clubs” link, and then click the “Northern Region.” An alphabetical listing of County clubs will appear; this listing is not inclusive, because not all Aroostook ATV clubs have Web sites.
To download a printable Aroostook County ATV trail map, log onto www.nmdc.org/ATVMap/atvmap.html.