Difficulty: Easy-moderate. The many trails in the park make up about 10 miles over fairly even terrain. Most recommended loop hikes are less than 2 miles.
How to get there: From the intersection of Route 2 and Route 23 in Canaan, drive west on Route 2 (Main Street) for 1.1 mile. There are two entrances to Lake George Regional Park, one on the east side of the lake (Lake George Drive East on Google Maps) and one on the west side of the lake (West Lake George Park Road on Google Maps). Both entrances will be on your right. The east entrance will come first. In the winter, a parking lot is open to the right near the beginning of the east entrance drive. The gate at the end of the driveway will be closed, blocking the larger summer parking lot. Summer and winter parking is also available at the end of the west entrance driveway, by the boat launch.
Information: Established in 1992, Lake George Regional Park is a day-use, 520-acre park owned by the State of Maine, leased through an agreement by the towns of Skowhegan and Canaan, and managed by Lake George Corporation, which consists of 10 appointed members (five from Skowhegan and five from Canaan).
A former summer camp at the southern end of Lake George, the park has 10,000 feet of shorefront and two sandy beaches. Today, more than 20,000 people visit the park each year for swimming, picnicking, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, camping, fishing, boating and wildlife watching.
Lake George, which stretches 1.5 miles long, is surrounded by low hills, including Foster, Goodwin, Pinnacle and Whittemore hills. Archaeological digs by the lake in 1992, unearthed primitive stone tools that date back 8,000-11,000 years ago, indicating that people have visited the shores of the lake since the end of the last Ice Age.
The east side of Lake George Regional Park is a trail network known as the Alphabet Trails (every intersection is marked with a letter), which are groomed in the winter for cross-country skiing. The trailhead from the summer parking lot starts at “A,” and from the winter parking lot starts at “B.” The network provides access to the bald summit of Pinnacle Hill (also known as Jewel Hill), which provides a beautiful view of Lake George and nearby hills.
Snowmobiling is permitted on a single trail on the east side of the park during the winter, which runs from the Canaan Elementary School through intersections “T,” “S,” “V,” “U,” and “Z” on the of the Alphabet Trails. All other trails are closed to motor vehicles year round.
The east side of the park also includes the 1.4 White Trail, a loop trail that traces the east shore of Lake George and is open to skiers, horses, hikers and bikers.
The west side of the park is where most park events take place, including school group activities, weddings, family reunions and day camps. It includes vernal pools and a network of trails — Foster Hill Trail, Hemlock Trail, Moose Trail, Fisher Hill Trail, Porcupine Trail, Muir Trail and Podooc Trail — ideal for hiking and winter snowshoeing. Major park events include the Annual Fishing Derby held each February, and the Lake George Fiddle Festival and Maine Mountain Bike Challenge held each fall.
Pets are prohibited May-September. The park is open sunrise to sunset, year round; and visitors can access the park even if the gates are closed.
The Lake George Corporation, which maintains the park for public use, is a nonprofit entity and does not receive state funding. Therefore, maintenance of the park relies on user fees, program fees, grants, special fundraisers and volunteer contributions. General one-day admission to the park is $4 for adults; $1 for children 5-11; and free for children younger than 5, senior citizens 65 older and disabled veterans. Season passes cost $20 for residents of Canaan or Skowhegan; $25 for nonresidents; $40 for a family of residents of Canaan or Skowhegan; and $50 for a family of nonresidents. The park also offers special group fees. For information, visit www.lakegeorgepark.org or call 474-1292.
Personal note: The George Lake Regional Park looks like it would be a great place to snowshoe, though there wasn’t quite enough snow for that when I visited the park in December. My hiking buddy and I spent half a day at the park and didn’t even make it to the trail network on the west side of Lake George, which includes a vernal pool and several intersecting trails.