Two snowstorms slammed into Maine just before New Year’s Day, transforming the bleak, brown land into a wintery white world. From The County to York, residents have been dusting off snowmobiles, skis and snowshoes to play in feet of fresh powder, enthusiastic to engage in snow sports after last year’s dry winter.
Many Mainers have been anticipating snow since a “real winter” was predicted in the “2013 Farmers’ Almanac.”
“The eastern half of the country will see plenty of cold and snow,” the almanac states. “We predict that real winter will return to areas from the Great Lakes to the Northeast.”
Maine outfitters are benefiting directly from the season’s snowy start.
“It’s been phenomenal. Sales and rentals. Just in the three days after the last big storm, we did more rentals than the entire winter last year,” said Paul McGurren, the assistant manager of Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockland, which rents and sells cross-country skis and snowshoes. “For us, if we get snow, we rock and roll; and if we don’t, we don’t.”
For recreationists aiming to transition from summer hiking to winter hiking, it can be a challenge to figure out which trails are suitable for snowshoeing. Many summer hiking trails are marked with cairns, or rock piles, and paint marks on the ground, which are covered by the snow in the winter. And many trails, such as those in Acadia National Park and Baxter State Park, are difficult to access in the winter when many park roads are closed for the season.
To help you get out there, here is a list of some popular Maine snowshoe spots:
• Camden Snow Bowl: Located at 20 Barnestown Road in Camden, this winter recreation spot is home to multiple snowshoe trails, which can be found off the north and south sides of the alpine trails. Rental snowshoes and trail maps can be picked up at an on-site rental shop. Admission to the snowshoe trails is free. Also at the Camden Snow Bowl are slopes for downhill skiing, snowboarding and tubing, as well as cross-country ski trails and a pond for ice skating. For information, visit camdensnowbowl.com or call 236-3438.
• Hidden Valley Nature Center: With 25 miles of trails spread over 1,000 acres, the nature center is a great spot to explore on snowshoe, and trail use is free. Located on Egypt Road in Jefferson, the center often hosts outdoor events and workshops. In fact, a snowshoe guided tour of the trails will be held 10 a.m.-noon on Thursdays through the month of March, according to the center’s online calendar at hvnc.org/calendar/. The suggested donation for the tour is $5. Reservations are recommended for all events. For information, visit hvnc.org or call 586-6752.
• Camden Hills State Park: Located at 280 Belfast Road in Camden, this park is an ideal location for snowshoeing. The majority of park trails are wooded and easy to follow in the winter, and the park opens up a winter parking lot for visitors. Advanced snowshoers might try to tackle the steep trail leading up Mount Megunticook. A great snowshoe route is the 0.9-mile Mount Battie Road (closed to vehicles in the winter), which leads to the top of Mount Battie, marked by a stone tower. Pets are permitted on a leash. Admission varies from free to $4.50, depending on age and residency. For information, call 236-3109.
• Bangor City Forest: Also known as the Rolland F. Perry City Forest, this network of trails winds through more than 680 acres of wildlife habitat and working forest in Bangor. Snowshoeing is allowed on more than four miles of access road and more than nine miles of intersecting trails. Owned by the city of Bangor and open throughout the year, this forest is accessible from Kittredge Road and Tripp Drive. Use of the trails is free. Pets are permitted on a leash. For information, call the city forester’s office at 992-4514 or visit cityforest.bangorinfo.com.
• Great Pond Mountain Wildlands: This 4,300-acre preserve in East Orland is open year-round to visitors and is home to some popular snowshoe trails. In fact, it is the venue for the State of Maine Champion Snowshoe Race scheduled to start at noon on Jan. 20, 2013. Year-round, visitors can use parking lots at South Gate (off Route 1 just south of Route 176 intersection); North Gate (Bald Mountain Road 0.2 mile west of Winkumpaugh); or Dead River Gate (off Don Fish Road 0.5 mile beyond Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery). Use of the trails is free, but donations can be left in iron rangers located at North and South Gates. Pets are permitted on a leash. For information, call 469-7190 or 479-2673 or visit greatpondtrust.org.
• Acadia National Park: Though most of Park Loop Road is closed during the winter, as well as park facilities, such as the Nature Center, the park’s 45 miles of Carriage Trails are ideal for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. You can also ski and snowshoe on unplowed park roads, but you might be sharing the route with snowmobilers, who are permitted on most of the unplowed roads. Pets are permitted on a leash. Access to the park is free Nov. 1-April 30. Entrance fees vary from May 1-Oct. 31. For information about Acadia in the winter, visit nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/winteractivities.htm or call 288-3338.
• Maine Huts & Trails hut and trail system: This lengthy trail network brings adventurists of all skill levels into the western Maine wilderness, whether it be for a few hours or multiple days. The system’s 80 miles of trails are open and free to use year-round. And four wilderness lodges offer recreationists warm shelter (including hot showers) and meals. The trail can be accessed by several trailheads from West Forks to Carrabassett Valley. Pets are now allowed overnight stay at any of the huts. And only during the summer season (April 15-Oct. 15) are dogs welcome on the trails. For information, including maps, visit mainehuts.org or call 265-2400.
• Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge: Located between Eastport and Calais on Route 1, Moosehorn is the easternmost national wildlife refuge in the Atlantic flyway (a migration route that follows the east coast of North America) and the refuge’s primary purpose is to protect wildlife, including a variety of birds. However, it is also an excellent place for outdoor recreation. More than 50 miles of dirt roads and trails are available for walking, biking and skiing; and three interpretive trails give insight into refuge wildlife. Pets are permitted on a leash. For information, visit fws.gov/northeast/moosehorn/.
• Appalachian Mountain Club trails: Most of the hiking trails on the 66,000 acres of the Appalachian Mountain Club conserved land are great for snowshoeing. The network of trails is set in the state’s 100-Mile Wilderness region (near Greenville) and is free for use. But if you want to stay out for several days, consider sleeping and dining at one of the club’s three backcountry lodges, where you can enjoy a hot shower and meals. Lauries Ledge and Indian Mountain are two popular snowshoeing destinations accessible by their trails. Trail use is free. Pets are not allowed at Little Lyford or Gorman Chairback lodges. Well-behaved dogs are welcome at Medawisla lodge. For information, visit outdoors.org and choose Maine Wilderness Lodges under the “Lodging” tab. A winter trail map can be found at outdoors.org/pdf/upload/kiw_winter-trails-2013.pdf.
• Aroostook State Park: Located near the northern Maine city of Presque Isle, the state’s first state park, established in 1939, has long been a winter destination. The park, now nearly 800 acres, offers a groomed 15-mile ski trail system that winds and a packed five-mile snowshoe trail to the top of Quaggy Jo Mountain. The trail system has two warming huts for visitors to rest next to a fire. For those tired of trekking, there’s a sledding hill, as well as an ice skating rink on Echo Lake. Winter camping is also allowed. Pets are permitted on a leash. Admission varies from free to $2, depending on age and residency. For information, visit maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/doc/parksearch/details.pl?park_id=7 or call 768-8341.
• Four Seasons Trail: This trail network and lodge, located at 425 Spring St. in Madawaska, is a great way to explore the natural beauty of Aroostook County. At Four Seasons, beautiful snowshoe trails weave within a five-mile cross-country ski system. There’s also a kid’s terrain park and a sledding hill with a ski-through tunnel. Ski and snowshoe rentals are available at the lodge. This outdoor area is free for people to use. It is maintained by Four Seasons Trail Association, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting healthier lifestyles for people of the community. Pets are permitted. For information, visit fourseasonstrail.org or call 1-207-433-5805 (dial all numbers, even if you are local).
• Bradbury Mountain State Park: Snowshoe rentals are available at this 800-acre park, located at 528 Hallowell Road in Pownal. The park’s extensive multi-use trail system is well-marked and open to hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, skiers, snowshoers and on some trails, snowmobiles. The trails differ greatly in difficulty and scenery. Pets are permitted on a leash. Admission varies from free to $4.50, depending on age and residency. For information and detailed trail maps, visit bradburymountain.com or call 688-4712.
• Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge: One of more than 500 national wildlife refuges in the United States, Sunkhaze Meadows is a short drive from Bangor. The refuge is home to a number of trails for snowshoers and cross-country skiers to enjoy. In fact, since many of these trails are muddy and wet during warmer seasons, winter is the ideal time to visit the refuge. Several of these trails are easily accessible from the County Road in Milford. Pets are permitted on a leash. Trail use is free. For information, including descriptions of the trials and a trail map, visit sunkhaze.org or call 594-0600.
The BDN Outdoors will be adding to this list of snowshoe spots throughout the season. To contribute to the list, email suggestions to BDN reporter Aislinn Sarnacki at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 990-8287.