Difficulty: Easy-moderate. The 1.8-mile Shore Trail is fairly narrow with no big changes in elevation. Watch out for exposed roots and rocks.
How to get there: The trail is accessible by the Long Falls Dam Road Trailhead on Long Falls Dam Road in Carrying Place Town Township. To get there from the Maine Huts & Trails office at 491 Main St. in Kingfield, drive north on Route 16 for 8.1 miles; turn right onto Carriage Road and drive 4.9 miles; turn right onto Dead River Road and drive 0.2 mile; turn left onto Long Falls Dam Road and drive 4.5 miles; turn left into the trailhead parking area.
Information: The Shore Trail is a short day hike or snowshoe that runs along the edge of Flagstaff Lake in western Maine, ending at Flagstaff Lake Hut, one of the four wilderness lodges that make up the Maine Huts & Trails system.
Flagstaff Lake is Maine’s largest man-made lake, covering 20,300 acres. Looking at the picturesque body of water, it’s hard to believe that less than a century ago, three towns stood in place of what is now crystal clear waters and sandy beaches.
The largest of the three towns was Flagstaff, which drew its first permanent settlers in the early 1800s, according to the Dead River Area Historical Society. In the 1840s, Myles Standish built Flagstaff’s gristmill and sawmill, which were powered by a small dam on the outlet known as Mill Stream.
Fast forward to the early 20th century. To consolidate Maine’s electricity production, Central Maine Power began buying small power companies. To control the flow of the Kennebec River, CMP decided to build a dam at Long Falls on the Dead River, a move that would flood a swath of land that included Flagstaff Plantation, Dead River Plantation and Bigelow Township.
In 1930, CMP began purchasing the land that would be flooded, and in 1950, the three towns were flooded when Long Falls Dam was completed and its gates shut. Some of the town structures, such as the schoolhouse, were razed; others were moved out of the flood area; and some, because their owners had not settled on compensation with Central Maine Power Company, remained standing as the flood waters rose, according to the Dead River Area Historical Society.
Today, when the water in the lake is low (typically in the fall), boaters can see remnants of the towns, such as old foundations, from the surface of the lake.
The Shore Trail was constructed and is maintained by Maine Huts & Trails, a nonprofit organization that currently manages four backcountry lodges connected by about 80 miles of non-motorized trails in western Maine. The organization’s plan is to expand to 12 such lodges connected by about 180 miles of trails.
The trails are open to the public for free. Dogs are welcome on trails Apr. 15-Nov. 30; but they are not permitted Dec. 1-April 15. Also, dogs are not allowed inside Flagstaff Lake Hut or any of the other Maine Huts & Trails facilities regardless of the time of year.
From the Long Falls Dam Road Trailhead, you’ll start on the Maine Huts Trail, which great for hiking and mountain biking, as well as skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. In just 0.1 mile, you’ll meet the Shore Trail on your left.
The Shore Trail soon meets the shore and turns northwest to travel along the edge of the lake to Flagstaff Lake Hut, which is set back from the lake in the woods just far enough to not be visible from the water. This part of Flagstaff Lake — the east end — is nearly free of development and sees little traffic on the water.
Before reaching Flagstaff Lake Hut, the Shore Trail comes to a side trail that leads to a vista on a point — a nice place to watch the sunset or go swimming. Across the lake is are Bigelow mountains, as well as several smaller mountains.
For maps and information about the Maine Huts & Trails system, visit www.mainehuts.org or call 265-2400.
Personal note: I first snowshoed the Shore Trail in March of 2012. The spring thaw
had already begun and there was barely enough snow left for snowshoeing. It was a warm day, and I remember sitting on the lake shore in a T-shirt and snow pants, amazed by the beauty of the snowy Bigelow mountains across the lake.
My second time on the trail, earlier this month, was an altogether different experience. My boyfriend Derek and I had mountain biked to Flagstaff Lake Hut from Poplar Stream Falls Hut in the morning, opting to take the Maine Huts Trail rather than the more difficult Shore Trail for the last 1.8 miles. After some swimming and stand up paddle boarding on the lake, we decided to walk along the Shore Trail to a side trail the hut staff call The Beaver Trail because it leads to a beaver lodge constructed by resident beavers. (They’ve counted a total of 15!)
Along the way, we stopped at the vista at the point, where four hut guests were swimming and sunbathing on boulders. The water of the Flagstaff Lake warms up quickly in the summer because the lake is relatively shallow, and in many places, the bottom is sandy, making it an excellent lake for swimming.
After taking in the view and enjoying the strong breeze, we continued along the trail. Just beyond a few bog bridges, a large post marked the start of The Beaver Trail, which led through a dense woods to a large beaver pond. At the edge of the pond, hut
staff had constructed a blind out of trees the beavers had knocked down, gnawed the bark off and discarded. We didn’t see any beavers, since it was midday, when they’re typically asleep, but we got a close look at two impressive dams they’d built, in addition to their lodge.
For more of Aislinn Sarnacki’s 1-Minute Hikes, visit her blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com. Follow her on Twitter @1minhikegirl.