QUICK TRAIL FACTS
- Preserve Size: ~70,000 acres
- Trail Mileage: ~80 miles
- Pets: yes
- Difficulty: easy to difficult
- Sights: mountains, lakes, ponds, forests
The map above shows my 2018 route from the winter parking lot to Little Lyford Lodge and Gorman Chairback Lodge, a two-night trip, and my 2022 ski trip to Medawisla Lodge. There are lots more trails here!
You can ski from lodge to lodge in the AMC’s 100-mile wilderness — a quiet, remote, and lovely tract of land — in ease and comfort. The AMC lodges — Little Lyford, Gorman Chairback, and Medawisla — are relatively luxurious
but affordable backcountry huts. With amazing food! The 80 miles of trails between the lodges (which are spaced out to be under 10 miles from one to the next) are groomed—always with a corduroy base and sometimes tracked for class skiing. Plus, each lodge has many more miles of groomed trails around them. They were well maintained when I visited in 2018 and 2022 (although not all the trails had been groomed). A fourth lodge, West Branch Pond Camps, is part of the lodge-to-lodge network but is run by a different owner.
For my first trip, I started in the winter parking lot at the end of K.I. Road, a roughly 10-mile drive from Greenville. This road is decently plowed in the wintertime, but to be on the safe side, bring a car that does well in snow. After dropping off our luggage (which the AMC staff snowmobile in to the lodges!), we skied seven miles to Little Lyford Lodge along the Hedgehog Gate Trail, which is windy and fun and not too technical. Along the way you can glimpse snowcapped mountain tops through the winter trees. You can rent little cabins at the lodges or stay in the bunk house, which is the cheaper, communal sleeping space. I say splash out for a private cabin, particularly at Gorman where you will have a beautiful view of Long Pond, and at Medawisla, where the cabins are lovely and cozy, built in 2017, I believe.
The nightly lodging rate includes a big home-cooked dinner and breakfast, and a packed lunch. The cabins are mostly heated by wood stoves that you need to tend through the night to stay warm on frosty nights. A few have propane stoves set by thermostats. Don’t forget to pack a sleeping bag—some of the sleeping accommodations are bring your own linens (but not all). Little Lyford and Gorman also have saunas, so the AMC recommends guests bring bathing suits! The AMC staff — lots of youngish people who live and work at the lodges — tend to be very kind and helpful. Ask them for ski recommendations before you head out for the day.
The lodges are four-season, so I hopefully will return in the summertime or fall for hiking and biking. It’s recommended that families with little kids start off at Medawisla, which is the only hut you can drive into during the winter. Dogs are allowed! But check each lodge; they have different restrictions for peys. In Medawisla and Gorman, dogs are allowed only in the winter.
If you’re staying at Medawisla, I highly recommend making the ski loop around Second Roach Pond in a counter-clockwise direction. This way, you avoid the icy winds that sweep across the lake from the west, north-west. North Lake Trail is also a beautiful, rolling track. The only bad part is the 0.8-mile stretch along the snowmombile highway on Nahmakanta Road. Be careful and stay to the side. Much of the terrain around Medawisla is rolling and fairly easy, except for black-diamond Skyline Trail, which offers views of the distant Katahdin and surrounding areas through breaks in the trees.
Directions: To get to the winter parking lot, take I-95 to Pittsfield or Newport, then drive north along the main roads to Greenville. In Greenville, take a right onto Pleasant Street, which eventually becomes K.I. Road (short for Katahdin Ironworks). The road passes the airport and continues east until it ends at the AMC parking lot. Signs for the lodges along the road help you stay on course.