Old Narrow Gauge Rail Trail, Randolph

This was a surprisingly sweet walk, about 1.8 miles one way, from Water Street to Birmingham Road. Someone has taken the time to construct bridges over the little streams, and to add funny trail signs. I was expecting a rather straightforward (literally) and somewhat dull walk, but the trail meandered as it followed a stream. While trees have grown up on the old bed, it’s still possible to see you’re walking along an old train route. The path follows part of the section of the 1890-1929 Kennebec Central Railroad between Togus and Randolph. The train used to transport coal and other goods the five miles to the former Veterans Home in Togus. More info on Maine Trail Finder.

Directions: You can pick up the trail next to the IGA parking lot in Randolph, or you can park on the side of Windsor Street (Route 226). The trail cuts through the woods and comes out on a snowmobile track. Turn right at the end, onto the snowmobile track, and you’ll come to Birmingham Road.

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Seawards Mills Conservation Area, Vassalboro

This is a bit of a funny walk. The kiosk is at the far end of a field and not along the road. I gather that the land trust does not own these fields and that you need to be careful not to block access roads. Anyway, once you find the .7-mile one-way trail, it quickly takes you to and along the pretty Seawards Mills Stream. It was a bit unclear to me where the path ended, but I think you are meant to walk along the edge of the field and back along the road to your car. The Kennebec Land Trust asks that walkers not walk through the farm fields or park in field entrances because this land is leased from a farmer. It was a little unclear where to park in the winter; I just pulled up alongside the road, which seems pretty quiet.

Directions: From Route 201 travel east on the Webber Pond Road for a mile. Turn right on Hannaford Hill Road and go 2.1 miles to Cross Hill Road. Turn left and travel north for 1.6 miles to the Seawards Mills Road. Turn right; parking is along the road after 0.2 miles. A KLT sign and registration box mark the trail head at the edge of the field and woods.

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Vassalboro Wildlife Habitat, Vassalboro

This is a short walk that includes 2,200 feet along Webber Pond, a silky dogwood wetland, and rare swamp white oaks, according to the Kennebec Land Trust. I wonder if there is good swimming here in the summer? It looked like it could be when I was here in the dead of winter!

The trail includes a couple of loops, which lead off from a main ATV/snowmobile path that you walk about 1/4 mile to. On the other side of Webber Pond Road is another short trail to a wetland. The land trust says there are unmarked woods roads beyond.

Directions: From Route 201 in Vassalboro, approximately two miles north of the Augusta-Vassalboro line, turn east on Webber Pond Road and go half a mile past the Webber Pond public boat landing to the KLT sign and parking lot. 

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Maine Huts and Trails, Carrabassett Valley region

This hut-to-hut ski system is something every x-c skier should experience. Maine Huts and Trails, a nonprofit organization, has created a beautiful network of groomed skiing and well-built hiking trails that connect fairly posh overnight lodges (for this kind of thing). The huts have shared bunkrooms (with some private ones) and serve meals.

There are many more hiking/biking trails in this network that I haven’t put on my map. (On my map, however, the narrow trails for bikes and snow shoes are marked in red. The blue are groomed ski trails. The multi-use ATV/snowmobile trails are marked in olive green.) Here’s a great map.

In my map above, I have included the flat, six-mile Narrow Gauge Trail, which is maintained by the town. This is a great ski, particularly for beginners since it is flat, along the charming Carrabassett River, starting at the Stratton Brook trail head and ending at the town offices. Along with a groomed track for skis, there are numerous “single-track” paths that weave around the main trail.

Back to the Maine Huts and Trails system: Stratton Brook Hut and Poplar Hut are two of the more difficult huts to access in the network, in terms of elevation gained.  If you’re a beginner skier, be warned that you will be climbing quite a bit to reach them, which also means fast downhills.They might be two of the easier to access by car, though, since their parking lots are right off Route 27, the big road to Sugarloaf Mountain.

Of the two huts, Stratton Brook is quite breathtaking, with lovely vistas of mountains. Poplar Hut has a waterfall nearby. Both are comfy and inviting. You don’t need to stay at them to enjoy them, either. Skiers can drop in and have coffee and a treat, and savor the warmth. The lodges are open year-round, with a full staff much of the year who serve guests dinner, breakfast and a packed lunch. In the weeks of they year that they are “self-service,” from late March until late June, and late October until mid-December, the lodges cost less and you have to bring in and prepare your own meals. There is a caretaker.

If you can make it, I found the ski from Poplar Hut to the halfway yurt, and to the glorious vista beyond, a really lovely part of the trail. It’s a gentle climb to the yurt and vista.

The ski to Grand Falls Hut from the Big Eddy parking lot follows the scenic Dead River. (There is a short walk from the Big Eddy parking lot along the road to the trail head.) The first five miles are flat, and fairly open. Don’t forget to look back for the views! There are nice views all around, actually. For the last three miles, you enter beautiful woodland. Be sure not to miss the Grand Falls waterfall! It is off the main ski trail and on one of the side walking paths. There are a few snowmobile paths that crisscross this section of trail. Grand Falls Hut is comfortable, like the other huts, and has lovely views.

You can find lots of information about this ski trail online. I believe the system includes more than 45 miles of groomed ski trails, four lodges, and many more miles of hiking/biking trails.

As for dogs, they’re only allowed on the trails from April 15 to Nov. 30, and aren’t allowed in the huts. They are allowed on the Narrow Gauge path.

Directions: If you can, stop by the Maine Huts & Trails headquarters on your way to Carrabassett Valley. Here’s the address: 496C Main Street, Kingfield. There are several parking lots to access the trail. The two closest to Sugarloaf Mountain are off Route 27. The lot to Stratton Hut and the Narrow Gauge trail is just beyond the access road to Sugarloaf. The lot for Poplar Hut and the Narrow Gauge trail is almost directly across from North Ridge Road. Be warned that Carriage Road is not accessible in the winter.


Beach Plum Farm, Ogunquit

Beach Plum Farm, a former salt-water farm, is the headquarters of the Great Works Regional Land Trust and the site of a community garden. The public is welcome to make a half-mile stroll along the edges of the fields down to the salt marsh.

The address is 610 Main St, Ogunquit.

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Marginal Way Cliff Walk, Ogunquit

This seaside path is a special place to visit in a touristy town — and hence, it can get very crowded in the summer. The one-mile trail along the sea, literally right on the ocean’s edge, is paved, wheelchair accessible, easy, and picturesque. Dogs are only allowed off-season, October 1 to March 31.

Directions: There are several places to access the trail and several places to park. Check the map. The easiest places to park are off Cottage Street or next to Jackie’s Too Restaurant.

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Hardy Road Conservation Area, Falmouth

Map shows Hardy Road Conservation Area trails in green, and Pride Preserve trails in blue.

This is a well-blazed, short walk (under a mile of trails) in woods and fields (a former landfill). It’s pleasant, and a gift for people living nearby. Maintained by the Falmouth Land Trust.

The 63 acres of the Hardy preserve is connected to the 188 acres of Pride Preserve in Westbrook, creating a possible ~4.5-mile big loop.

(Note: We noticed in our visit during January, 2020, that part of the trail in the Hardy preserve had flooded (on the west side). So you had to cross a large icy area.)

Directions: The preserve is located off Hardy Road about 1/2 mile from Blackstrap Road. You can also park at the bigger lot off Duck Pond Road to access Pride Preserve.

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Grants Meadow at Beaver Dam Heath, Berwick

The trail here makes a 1/2-mile loop through forest, northwest of the heath. The large heath is not easily accessible, although the Great Works Regional Land Trust says it’s walkable when frozen.

Directions: From Rte. 236 in Berwick, travel east on Rte. 9 for 2.1 miles, then turn left onto Old Sanford Rd. and go for 2.4 miles. Turn right onto Diamond Hill Rd. and the parking area is on the right, after about .3 miles.

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Negutaquet Conservation Area, North Berwick

Trails in blue are on the Negutaquet parcel; trails in red are on the Maple Street parcel.

The 100-acre Negutaquet Conservation Area has about two miles of fields, a trail along a small, sparkling river, long stone walls, and an old family cemetery. A huge double oak tree excites some visitors! The Great Works Regional Land Trust protects this divine spot, which has several ways to explore lovely forests and meadows. Some of the trails, especially around the oval in the middle of the preserve, are particularly wide, level, and easy to walk.

Additionally, this preserve is connected to the 60-acre Maple Street Conservation Area and Town Forest via a sturdy bridge and 0.75-mile trail. (The connecting trail is not open to pets.)

Directions: The preserve is off of Lebanon Road in North Berwick, about a mile from Route 4. The parking lot is quite large.

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Perkinstown Wildlife Commons, Wells

This is a fun Great Woods Regional Land Trust preserve to walk, probably nicer to ski — especially if you take advantage of the old railroad tracks that pass close to or through this 288-acre preserve. When I visited in the winter of 2017, the place wasn’t terribly well marked, although I found a lovely loop trail marked with fluorescent pink flags. There were lots of x-c ski tracks here, and they went off and away down the RR tracks.

Directions: Turn onto Thompson Road from Perry Oliver Road. Park at the end of the cul-de-sac.

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Moe’s Trail, Fenderson Wildlife Commons West, Wells

Here you can make a one-mile loop — which is well marked — on old logging roads. The land is owned by the Wells Conservation Commission. I recommend you do the loop counter-clockwise, as the trail blazes and signs are clearer. About half-way through the loop, a well-used trail branches off to the right. It ends up on a long, straight path behind houses on Nottingham Drive.

The loop trail is easy and flat — very gentle walking.

Directions: Parking is along the side of Horace Mills Road, a little under a mile from Quarry Road.

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Beaver Pond Trail, Tilton Homestead Wildlife Commons, Wells

A sweet little trail (under a mile) that is short, wooded, with some sections along the Merriland River. This Wells Conservation Commission preserve includes the remains of an old mill dam.

Directions: Turn onto Bragdon Road from Rt. 109. The trailhead is about .25 miles on the left, just before the bridge. The small parking lot can hold two cars.

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Fenderson East Trail, Fenderson Wildlife Commons, Wells

This trail is a little confusing, because at one point the trail markers just end abruptly. But I think I figured out the trail system here, or at least a possible walk. My map looks a bit different than the Wells Conservation Commission‘s map.

Directions: Parking is on Rt. 109. Look for the trailhead sign on your left if traveling to Sanford, just beyond the High Pine Loop road.

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