Now that Maine’s rugged landscape is cloaked with snow, its layers covering up the rocks and roots and ruts, it’s time to get out the cross-country skis and glide over the smooth, frozen terrain.
The state is filled with trails and woods roads that are groomed for cross-country skiing, as well as ski centers that feature amenities such as rental skis, trailside warming huts and lights for nighttime skiing. But sometimes it’s difficult to find the information about the many winter destinations that are scattered all over the state. To help you with your next adventure, I’ve compiled a list of 11 great cross-country ski spots in Maine, places that I know from experience or word-of-mouth to feature beautiful, well-maintained trails for skiers of all abilities.
Owned by the Midcoast Conservancy, the Hidden Valley Nature Center is about 1,000 acres of hilly forestland on the shore of Little Dyer Pond. The center caters to winter activities, with miles of multi-use trails, as well as groomed cross-country ski trails. Youth cross country clinics are hosted at the center, along with a number of other public programs. Use of the trails is free, but donations are greatly appreciated. Check them out at https://www.midcoastconservancy.org/preserve/hidden-valley-nature-center/.
Camden Hills State Park is one of several state parks in Maine that feature groomed cross-country ski trails (as well as plenty of snowshoe trails). The Camden park is home to miles of intersecting cross-country ski trails that explore some impressive hills. Park entrance fees are $4 for Maine residents and $6 for non-residents, or you can opt for a season pass. For more information about the park, including a trail map, visit http://www.maine.gov/camdenhills.
Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island is home to about 45 miles of carriage roads, which are open to a wide variety of activities, including hiking, snowshoeing, biking, and skiing, and many of these trails are groomed in the winter for cross-country skiing. A map of the groomed trails is available at https://www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/winteractivities.htm by clicking on the “cross-country skiing and snowshoeing” link. The 3.3-mile Witch Hole Pond loop is a very popular and easy-to-access cross-country ski route in the park.
In the winter of 2012-13, the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department and the Penobscot Valley Ski Club teamed to design and groom trails for classic and skate skiing on the Bangor Municipal Golf Course. These trails, which can total up to 9 miles, explore small hills and travel along the edges of the forest as they circle the greens. The trails are now regularly groomed by the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department, with support from PVSC, and are free for the public to use. For more information, visit https://www.bangorgc.com/.
Consisting of more than 5,000 acres of fields and forests in southern Maine, Pineland Farms includes working farms, a campus of businesses and education buildings, and a network of more than 18 miles of well-maintained trails that are open to the public year round. In the winter, more than half of the trails in the network are groomed for classic cross-country skiing and skate skiing, while the remaining trails are open to snowshoers and fat-tire bikes. Trail use requires the purchase of a snowshoe, ski or biking pass, which vary in price from $6 for a half a day of snowshoeing to $18 for a full day of skiing. Season passes are available, as are equipment rentals. For more information, visit https://www.pinelandfarms.org.
Most people know of Big Squaw as a place for downhill skiing and snowboarding, but the mountain also features about 5 miles of groomed cross country ski and snowshoe trails that are open to the public by donation. These trails may feel remote, snaking around the base of the mountain through a beautiful evergreen forest, but in reality, they aren’t too far from a cup of hot chocolate at the Big Squaw Ski Lodge. For more information and a map of the trails, visit http://skibigsquaw.com/cross-country-ski-trails/.
AMC’s Maine Wilderness Lodges are connected by an 80-mile maintained ski trail network. The public is welcome to use these trails for free, though you’ll need to pay to stay or eating at AMC’s beautiful, off-the-grid wilderness lodges, nestled in the woods in the 100-Mile Wilderness Region just east of Moosehead Lake. AMC currently has three lodges for visitors to choose from, and all three of them can only be accessed by ski, snowshoe or snowmobile in the winter. Many people ski from lodge to lodge, making it a multi-day outing in the Maine wilderness. By staying at AMC lodges, you can end the day with a hot shower, home-cooked meal and comfortable bed. To learn more, visit www.outdoors.org, where you can download a winter trail map.
Located just outside downtown Waterville, Quarry Road Trails and Recreation Area is a hub for public recreation, featuring a vast network of intersecting trails for a wide range of outdoor activities. In the winter, nearly 7 miles of these trails are groomed for Nordic skiing — both classic and skate skiing — and several additional miles of trails are designated and signed for snowshoers. In 2013, a state-of-the-art snowmaking system was added to this trail network. The area also offers rental skis and a lighted ski route. Day ski passes are $12 for adults, with lower costs for seniors and children. Season passes are also available. For information, visit http://quarryroad.org.
9. Harris Farm in Dayton
About 20 miles of trails are groomed for classic and skate skiing through the fields and forests of the 600-acre Harris Farm, which is a dairy and vegetable farm in southern Maine. Ski passes vary. It’s $12 for adults during the week and $15 for adults during the weekend. Tickets for children, college students and seniors are less expensive. Rental skis, snowshoes, sleds and fat bikes are available, and lessons are by appointment. For more information, visit http://www.harrisfarm.com/.
There is a vast network of cross-country ski trails on the campus of the University of Maine in Orono, starting right at the New Balance Student Recreation Center, where skis, boots and poles are available for rent. The trails are groomed regularly, when weather conditions and snowpack permit. While there are several miles of trails, one of the most popular routes is the Dorion Loop, which is 2.9 miles long and great for beginners, with just a few small hills. Use of the university trails is free. For more information, including a detailed trail map, visit https://umaine.edu/campusrecreation/facilities/trails/.
11. The Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle
The Nordic Heritage Center has more than 12 miles of cross-country ski trails, which are groomed with a track set. The center offers ski and snowshoe rental packages, as well as a number of winter programs, including adult ski nights and free lessons. For more information, visit www.nordicheritagecenter.org.
This is far from a complete list of cross-country ski trails in Maine. For some additional locations, check out this map, which I created a few years ago. And as always, I welcome people to share their own favorite cross-country ski locations in Maine in the comment section at the bottom of the page.