LAGRANGE — Perhaps the best-kept mountain-biking secret in central Penobscot County lies in the woods spilling across this town bordering southern Piscataquis County. Here, where Bangor & Aroostook Railroad trains once rumbled, bicyclists can roll along the Lagrange-Medford Multi-Use Trail.
In the 1980s the Maine Department of Conversation leased the southern section of the BAR’s abandoned Medford Cutoff and started maintaining the route as a 12-mile recreational trail. The state later purchased the southernmost 9.52 miles, including a 32-acre site off Route 16 in South Lagrange.
That land became the official trailhead, which lies just west of Route 16 and slightly north of the South Lagrange Road intersection. Watch carefully for the road sign.
A main line of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Canada Railway abuts the trailhead and its rudimentary parking lot. From there bear right (north) and head beneath the Route 16 overpass.
From South Lagrange, the rail trail parallels Route 16 approximately 4 miles before crossing the Decker Road and then Route 6, rebuilt in 2008. Some views of fields and buildings exist along this tree-shaded corridor.
At the rail trail’s intersection with Route 6, Lagrange lies about a mile to the southwest. No store now exists in “downtown” Lagrange; a cafe that serves breakfast lies some 2-3 miles south on Route 16.
Trail users can park alongside Route 6 near the trail. Caution: do not pull too far off the highway.
From Route 6 the Lagrange-Medford Multi-Use Trail runs 8-10 miles north to Medford; the final distance depends on how far people want to travel.
Trail users also may park near where the trail crosses the Medford Road and along the Paddy Hill Road in Medford. Pull off each road as far as possible.
About a half-mile north of Route 6 a beautiful marsh abuts the rail trail’s western edge. Other wetlands — flowages, additional marshes and a beaver pond — appear as the rail trail picks up Cold Stream near the Medford Road. Trail and stream remain in close proximity all the way north to the Piscataquis River.
Note that along most its length, the Lagrange-Medford Multi-Use Trail offers a less-than-smooth riding surface; an Acadia National Park carriage road it is not. Bicyclists should pay attention to riding conditions — and pack water and a snack.
Watch for wildlife along the trail, among the more rural in Maine. I’ve “put up” great blue herons at marshes, dodged frenetic chipmunks and red squirrels in wooded sections, jumped some 20-25 wild turkeys strolling along the trail south of Route 6, missed a scrambling snake, and seen songbirds and turtles in the wetlands.
Once I chatted with a local ATVer who occasionally sees a moose in a marsh.
The Lagrange-Medford Multi-Use Trail officially ends where it emerges from the woods next to a former church in Medford. However, cyclists can extend a ride 1-2 miles by heading north on the wide gravel road leading to the 565-foot Piscataquis River trestle.
This provides the best riding conditions since leaving any trailhead; ironically bicyclists share the smooth surface with cars, pickups, a road grader and loaded logging trucks. I’ve encountered ’em all on the single-lane high-trestle spanning the Piscataquis River.
Limited because the river curves downstream and upstream from the trestle, the views of the river are nevertheless beautiful. Watch for eagles and ospreys while on or near the trestle.
After crossing the trestle, trail users can ride north a few more miles on the Medford Cutoff or turn south and head for their parked vehicles.