It could be argued that there’s no more beautiful time to go walking in the Maine woods than after snowfall, when everything is covered in a blanket of white. The tracks of woodland creatures, pressed into the frozen carpet, tell stories of their travels, and the smallest breeze sends snowflakes into the air, where they sparkle in the sun.
Getting out on public trails in Maine during the winter is easy, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, when the ground is covered in snow, not all trails are accessible by vehicle because the roads leading to them may not be plowed, or their parking areas may not be plowed. Secondly, some trails lead to bald mountain tops and ridges that are difficult to navigate when there’s snow on the ground, covering up trail markers. And finally, it’s important to dress and pack appropriately for the colder weather.
To make getting out to enjoy the snow a bit easier for you, I’ve selected 9 trails in Maine that I think are great for enjoying the snow. They’re accessible. They’re marked with paint and signs on trees that are visible year round. And they’re not too far from a cup of hot chocolate.
Featuring a network of trails that together total about 3 miles, the Unity College Forest is open to the general public for free year round. While walking the trails, you may notice an outdoor classroom, a disc-golf course, a maple syrup operation and a high-line ropes course scattered throughout the network. Because the parking area for this trail network is right on the Unity College campus, it’s almost guaranteed to be plowed in a timely manner. Dogs are permitted, though they must be under control at all times, and I think it goes without saying, the college asks dog owners to dispose of dog waste properly.
While the gates to the park are closed during the winter, that doesn’t mean the park isn’t open to visitors. Simply park outside the gate and walk (or snowshoe, or ski) into the park. Located on the coast, Moose Point State Park features three beautiful and well-maintained hiking trails that together total about 1.5 miles. In addition, the park features a wide open area with a playground, gazebo, group shelter, picnic tables and benches. Dogs are permitted but must be kept on a leash at all times. Since the fee collection booth in the park isn’t manned in the winter, be sure to bring a bit of cash to leave in the iron ranger (metal fee collection box by the entrance). The day use fee is $3 for Maine residents, $4 for nonresidents and $1 for nonresident adults 65 and older. Maine residents 65 and older are free, as are children under the age of 12.
Located right near the town of Bar Harbor, Kebo Mountain is a great option for enjoying the snow and remaining on the outskirts of Acadia National Park. Rising 407 feet above sea level, Kebo Mountain is one of the shortest named peaks in the park that can be explored by public hiking trail. The small mountain is easy to find and offers a nice quiet hike on the 0.9-mile Kebo Mountain Trail. During the winter, to reach this trail, you’ll park on the side of Kebo Street and hike 0.3 mile on the wide, smooth Kebo Brook Trail to where it meets Kebo Mountain Trail. During the winter time, admission to Acadia is free. Dogs are permitted but must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
Home to nearly 30 miles of multi-use forest trails, Hidden Valley Nature Center gives visitors access to 1,000 acres of contiguous forest in Lincoln County, including more an one mile of shoreline on Little Dyer Pond. The vast trail network on this property is particular good for winter-time explorations. A number of the trails are groomed for cross-country skiing, and programs are hosted throughout the winter to encourage more people to get out and enjoy the property. Dogs are permitted but must be under control at all times.
Located on the campus of Good Will-Hinckley, which offers a variety of educational programming for people of various ages and needs, the trail network is made up of more than 3 miles of intersecting trails and visits many historical stone monuments, which are marked on a trail map and described in a brochure. Because this trail network is located on campus, the parking is regularly plowed. And after your walk, you can head to Fairfield for a hot beverage or meal. I suggest the Purple Cow House of Pancakes.
Commonly known as the Bangor City Forest, the Rolland F. Perry City Forest is an excellent place to enjoy the snow because it’s well maintained, well-signed and has a variety of experiences to offer the winter adventurer, from wide multi-use roads for skiing and snowshoeing that see a lot of foot traffic, to long, winding, narrow side trails for quieter excursions. The forest encompasses more than 680 acres of wildlife habitat and working forests, and it features more than four miles of access roads and more than nine miles of trails for running, hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Access is free, and dogs are permitted, though on most trails they must be on leash.
Officially opened to the public about five years ago, the Trenton Community Trail is a loop with a boardwalk that all together makes for about a 2.4-mile hike. This trail is open year round, for free, with its parking area being off a road that is plowed. The trail travels through a mixed forest that’s quite mossy in some areas and is home to some impressively large trees. Dogs are permitted but must be kept under control at all times.
The Stanwood Wildlife Sanctuary, more commonly known as Birdsacre, is a 200-acre piece of quiet woodland surrounded by the hustle and bustle of downtown Ellsworth. The sanctuary includes an extensive trail network, bird rehabilitation facility, nature center and 19th century homestead that used to be the home of Cordelia J. Stanwood (1865-1958), a naturalist, ornithologist, wildlife photographer and writer who lived and studied on the property for many years. This place is fairly quiet in the winter, but the caretakers are still hard at work, feeding and catering to the injured birds they house, and you’re more than welcome to visit. Trail use is free, but if you’re able, consider leaving a little donation to help keep the place running. It’s truly a unique and wonderful spot for people who love birds or nature in general.
The 2.5-mile Dead River Trail is located in the Dead River Parcel of the 45,000-acre Great Pond Mountain Wildlands in Orland. Of the many trails in the Wildlands, Dead River Trail is popular for easy hiking, biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. While the trail doesn’t lead to any mountaintop, it does climb a few hills and offers several stunning views of the Dead River and the low ridge of Dressers Mountain to the west. The parking lot is usually plowed straight away after snowfall, as this is a popular winter destination for local residents. Dogs are permitted but must be on leash at all times.