Stark’s Hill, Fryeburg



Fryeburg Academy’s ski team trains on these seven kilometers of groomed track. The school allows the public to use the trails on the weekend only, and asks for a donation at the trailhead.

The trails are built onto a mountainside, so there are some significant hills. They are groomed depending on the team’s needs, so the day we visited, the tracks weren’t set for Classic skiing, and some of the steeper trails higher on the hill had not been touched.

Directions: From Route 5, turn onto Oxford Street. Take a quick right onto Smith Street. Follow it through the B and C Collision Center. You can park in a big cleared area before the locked gate, which marks the entrance to the ski area.


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Highlands Ridge Trails, Bridgton



I mapped more than 9 miles of trails here at this vast Nordic ski trail system, which wraps around the Bridgton Highlands country club. And my map doesn’t even show the full extent of trails. North of my map, there are even more trails—with more to come, possibly, in the future! The trails on the actual golf course were closed when I visited. The groomed tracks in the surrounding forest are protected, shaded, and pretty. A couple additional short trails in the woods were closed for logging.

The most impressive part of this spot is that the whole system is maintained by volunteers, with “well-worn machines and homemade drags.” Donations are appreciated. Because the trails are in the valley, protected from the sun, you can ski pretty late into spring. When we visited in early March of 2019, after a not-great winter for skiing, there were still pretty decent groomed tracks (for Classic skiing, only). The trails are mostly well-marked, with maps at most intersections. Paper maps are available, too, at trailheads.

For the most part, the trails are easy, but there are some long, gradual hills. In general, you’re going to be headed downhill heading northeast (away from the country club and toward Middle Ridge Road).

Directions: The trailhead is off the access road to the Bridgton Highlands Country Club, which is off Highlands Ridge Road. You will find one of the main trailheads next to the tennis courts.




Black Mountain Nordic Trails, Rumford



This is a wonderful place to x-c ski, albeit on the small side. It also appears that the tracks are only groomed (for both Classic and skating) when a race is scheduled. We were lucky the day we visited because there were high school teams at the mountain racing all day. We managed to get out on a lovely 5K course in between the sprints.

It’s important to note here: the black diamond trails are really black diamond! There are some mega hills here. The course is really challenging.

Plus, no matter how many trails are groomed or not groomed, you have to buy your $15 ticket. So it’s really best to check it out beforehand.

Directions: You can
park in the large parking area for the alpine ski hut, and you buy your
x-c ski tickets inside. The ski area is at the end of Glover Road, off
Isthmus Road.




Witherle Woods, Castine



This 185-acre Maine Coast Heritage Trust preserve has one of the best views you can walk to in this area, in my opinion! Most of the trails at this historic preserve are wide and easy to walk, with a couple of minor ups and downs. They are groomed for skiing in the winter.

The most pathy of paths is the narrow Indian Trail, which despite its questionable name for 2019, is great. It’s steep, though, heading sharply down to the sea, with some good ocean views along the way.

The highlight of the walk is Blockhouse Point, with wide vistas over Penobscot Bay. The second highlight is the lookout, reachable via a short spur from the perimeter trail. The views are slightly less spectacular here.

The site is loaded with history. Blockhouse Point once was the site of a British military building and the lookout helped British troops in the War of 1812 spy enemies approaching by ship.

Directions: From the junction of Routes 166 and 166A in Castine follow Route 166 south .9 mile to the top of a hill. Continue right at a sharp bend in the road and drive .8 mile along Battle Avenue to the preserve on the right. Parking is available along the fence line.




Spruce Mountain Conservation Area, Jay



This is a relatively small but not charmless skiing area, under Spruce Mountain and alongside the Androscoggin River. You have good views of the town of Livermore Falls across the river. The conditions have to be decent for the groomer to track the trails for nordic skiing.

The parcel was purchased by the Androscoggin Land Trust from Verso Paper in 2014, with help from the state program Land for Maine’s Future.

Directions: From Route 4, turn onto Spruce Mountain Road. Stay right when the road forks and continue straight for about .6 miles until you get to Spruce Mountain Ski Slope. The trail kiosk is at the far end of the parking area, with the track extending up a hill beyond it.




Maranacook Community School Trails, Readfield


Readfield Fairground trails in blue; Maranacook Community School trails in red

The trail system here — for hiking, running, and cross-country skiing — connects to the beautiful trail around the Readfield fairgrounds. The hiking paths also connect up to snowmobile trails, which I didn’t include on my map. I found a pretty good map of the system, which includes the way the trails have been blazed — which I found a little confusing when I was out there without a map.

Directions: After going up the school complex on Millard Harrison Drive, you can pick up the trail at several points around the school grounds. I walked into the wooded trail system from behind the baseball field closest to the school. Or you can connect to it from the Readfield Fairgrounds, where it might be easier to park when the school is in session.




Titcomb Mountain, Farmington

This little mountain has a maze of trails that let you weave up and down the hill’s slopes, and have a lot of fun. The area isn’t large, but like many groomed x-c ski trail places, a lot of trails have been packed into a small space. I enjoyed going up the blue intermediate Wild Acres trails (15 on the map) on the northern side of the mountain and going down the black diamond ones, Ramdown and Long Churt (16 and 17). There are pretty views from the mountain top, where the ski lifts drop off alpine skiers. The ticket price here for Nordic skiers is reasonable, just $10 in 2018, and of course free after the season ends.

Directions: The mountain is at the end of Ski Slope Road, which is off Morrison Hill Road.




Bethel Village Trails, Bethel

Map is incomplete — there are more x-c ski, snowshoe, and fat bike trails here.

This x-c ski trail system is lengthy and fantastic — there’s about 24 miles of groomed track here, stretching over the golf course behind the Bethel Inn, to Gould Academy and the little Pine Hill. You can buy your day pass in a little shop tucked into the backside of the Bethel Inn. The mountain views are really lovely from many points along the trails.

The trails around the golf course are mostly easy, with some, of course, being quite exposed. The wooded trails across Route 5, on Pine Hill, are curvier and steeper — it’s where the students from Gould Academy practice and race.

Directions: The best place to start is at the Bethel Inn, at 21 Broad Street. Park in the lot next to the main building (between the inn and health center/pool) and walk around to the back of the main inn to find the ski center/shop/rental place. It’s near the tennis courts (and converts into the golf shop in the summer).

 




Carter’s X-C Ski Center, Bethel

I was really looking forward to skiing here but came away very disappointed. On the early spring day I visited, when the snow pack was still deep and the snow conditions good, only about two miles of track had been groomed (and the trails were still quite messy). The rest of the trails were just broken in by one or two hardy skiers, if that, and near impossible to ski (for me, at least) since they went steeply up and down a mountain.

Despite the poor conditions of the trails, Carter’s charged $15 for a day ticket. I was pretty surprised. Their excuse was that it was spring skiing. Yet just the previous two days, I had had two amazing skis on the Bethel Village Trails, where every trail was groomed beautifully and the day pass was just $10.

Directions: The address for the center is 786 Intervale Road.




Sugarloaf Outdoor Center, Carrabassett Valley

(Incomplete map. There are more ski trails here, as well as snowshoe/single track bike trails.)

This is a wonderful place to x-c ski (albeit a bit pricier than most x-c places in Maine — adult day passes in 2018 were $23.) There are, according to the Outdoor Center, about 54 miles of groomed trails that criss-cross the side of the hill. The views through trees can be lovely. And when they mark a trail as black diamond, they mean it — long and steep hills. Some of the intermediate trails also can climb for a long time. If you ski here often enough, I imagine you’ll get quite fit!

Dogs are only allowed on one or two of the marked trails.

Directions: You can access this trail system for a number of spots on the mountain. Or you can park at the Outdoor Center lodge, at the end of Touring Center Road, off of Route 27, one mile south of the Sugarloaf access road. The address is 3001 Touring Center Road, and the lodge is 3/4 of a mile in. Be mindful of buying a pass if you do come in from the mountain! They do check at times.

My photos aren’t great…it was too cold to stop and take many photos!




Quarry Road Trails, Waterville


Ski trails in blue; snowshoe trails in green (the snowshoe trails aren’t complete — I couldn’t find sections of the trail.)

This is an amazing (and quite popular and well-visited) place to x-c ski! And to bike and walk during the non-snowy months. There are roughly 6.5 miles of windy, hilly, fun x-c trails that are groomed for both classic and skate skiing. That is, “6.5 miles to date,” says the city of Waterville (sounds promising!), which owns the land. And there are some nice snowshoe trails, too, but these are less consistently blazed and easy to follow. The best place to snowshoe is along the pretty Messalonskee Stream; this path is both well blazed and pretty. I found it hard to find my way along some of the other snowshoe paths, especially at the higher elevations, where sometimes just widely-spaced orange tags tied to trees showed me the way.

If you’re going to ski, you can buy a pass at the yurt, at 300 Quarry Road.

Directions: If you put 300 Quarry Road into your GPS, you’ll find the trail system. The road in is not paved, and can be bumpy.




Roberts Farm, Norway

This is a great local resource — about five miles of groomed trails for nordic skiing, and another trail (Noyes Trail — which I haven’t done yet) dedicated to snowshoers and dog walkers. All free, although you can leave a donation. One of the trails at this 165-acre Western Foothills Land Trust is wheelchair accessible (the Libby Hill Trail). There is free equipment to borrow when the warming hut is open.

Directions: From the intersection of Main Street and Route 117 in downtown Norway, take Route 117/118 west, out past the lake. After 2 miles, turn left onto Roberts Road and continue .2 miles to the Roberts Farm Preserve entrance, on your left.




Harris Farm, Dayton


The map above shows the perimeter trails at the farm. There are lots more trails here!

This is a fabulous place to ski. The weekend day pass is a little more pricey than the weekday pass (and the parking lots really can get quite full on weekends! Testament to how nice this place is). There are discounts for students and senior citizens. You can snowshoe and fat bike, too. All told, this 600-acre farm has about 24 miles to ski — the majority groomed for classic and skate skiing. Once you’re out on the trail, you do feel as if you’ve left the crowds behind. The lodge is small but warm, and there are self-serve snacks and rentals if you need them.

If you were to ski the outermost outer loop on the south side of Buzzell Road, it’s a little under 6 miles. The outermost outer loop on the north side of the road is roughly 3.5 miles. That’s just to give an approximate sense of the size of the area.

Directions: The address of the farm is 280 Buzzell Rd in Dayton. The easiest way to get there from Route 95 is to take Route 5 west from Saco.




Appalachian Mountain Club Wilderness Lodges, near Greenville

The map above shows my January, 2018, route from the winter parking lot to Little Lyford Lodge and Gorman Chairback Lodge, a two-night trip. 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 affordable and cozy backcountry huts. The 80 miles of trails between the lodges (which are spaced out to be under 10 miles from one to the next) are groomed (but not for classic skiing). They were really well maintained when I visited (January 2018). A fourth lodge, West Branch Pond Camps, is part of the lodge-to-lodge network but is run by a different owner.

For my 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.

The nightly lodging rate includes a big home-cooked dinner and breakfast, and a packed lunch. The cabins are all heated by wood stoves that you need to tend through the night to stay warm on frosty nights. Don’t forget to pack a sleeping bag. The lodges also have saunas, so the AMC recommends that 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.

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. Also, I think Little Lyford is the only lodge that allows dogs. Taking dogs out on the trails appears to be okay.

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.




Smiling Hill Farm, Westbrook

This is a great farm, especially for kids to visit in the summer. It’s nice to have a big system (roughly 15 miles of groomed tracks) close to the city, but the day I went, the trails were in rough shape — despite the snow being light and fluffy. They were all chopped up and not groomed well. But my GPS stopped working in the cold, which is also perhaps why the groomers weren’t out. I don’t have a self-made map, but the farm has plenty to give out to skiers. Perhaps it’s wise to call ahead to get a sense of the trail conditions?

Directions: The address is 781 County Rd, Westbrook. Drive up the hill and park in the small lot to the right (there will be a sign for x-c trails to direct you). The ski center is on one side of the lot, closer to the woods. You can also pick up lunch after your ski at the farm’s little shop and lunch place.




Lost Valley Nordic Trails, Auburn

This is a wonderful place to x-c ski. It is quiet, peaceful, and well-groomed by volunteers from the Auburn Nordic Ski Association. You can park at the Lost Valley Ski Area or, if you’re a club member, at the lot off of Perkins Ridge Road. The trails are mostly easy, with a couple of hills. The association asks that you buy a $10 day pass from the front desk at the downhill ski lodge. If you’re a member of the association, you can use the trails for free.

The ski trails are groomed for both classic and skate skiing. There are also snowshoe trails! I didn’t get the chance to do these yet so they’re not marked on my map. You can see them on the ANSA map, though.

Directions: To reach the x-c trails from the Lost Valley Ski Area lodge, head past the two chairlifts and start climbing up Squirrel Run (the farthest ski run to the right, if you’re looking up the mountain). The trails head off to the right, roughly half way up the snow tube run on your left. Or, if you’re a member, you can park with the other nordic skiers at the lot off Perkins Ridge Road, roughly .85 miles from the intersection with W. Auburn Road.