The Camden Winterfest is underway, with events running Feb. 3 through 11, and the U.S. National Toboggan Championships will be held this weekend, Feb. 9-10, at the Camden Snow Bowl. So it seems like the perfect time to round-up some midcoast Maine snowshoeing spots, places that people can take a walk and get away from the crowds during the festivities. All of these snowshoe trails are also hiking trails, so feel free to check them out any time of year.
Rising 900 feet above sea level, Spruce Mountain is one of several small peaks in midcoast Maine, and from three outlooks on its ridge, hikers are rewarded with some great views of the region. Overshadowed by taller mountains in Camden Hills State Park, Spruce Mountain is often overlooked, which means you’ll likely enjoy a very quiet snowshoe on its slopes. The trail that travels up and over Spruce Mountain is a part of the Georges Highland Path, a 50-mile network of public hiking trails maintained by the Georges River Land Trust. The mountain can be hiked from its east side or west side. The west trailhead shares trailhead parking with Ragged Mountain on Rockland Street, and the east trailhead’s parking is simply a widened shoulder at the side of Mt. Pleasant Street.
A popular hiking and snowshoeing spot, Bald Mountain rises 1,280 feet above sea level and had a bald top, offering great views of the coast and surrounding mountains. The trail leading to its top is about 1.4 miles long and must be hiked out and back (there’s no loop option). Maintained by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust, the trail on Bald Mountain intersects with the Georges Highland Path, which veers off to the north to climb Ragged Mountain, another great hike.
Topping off at 1,385 feet above sea level, Mount Megunticook is the tallest of all the Camden Hills, and though it’s actual summit is forested, there are several open granite ledges located along the mountain’s slopes that offer stunning views of Penobscot Bay and the town of Camden below. The mountain lords of Camden Hills State Park, attracting hikers year round. Parking for this hike is in the park’s campground parking area on the west side of Route 1. Near the parking lot, a trail map is posted on a kiosk that will help you decide your route. Many people hike the mountain on the Mt. Megunticook Trail, which winds up the mountain’s eastern slope through a mixed forest that includes many tall oak trees. Hiking to the summit and back down on Mt. Megunticook Trail is about 4 miles and includes a few steep, rocky sections of trail.
Crowned with a historic stone tower, Mount Battie is a popular hiking and snowshoeing spot. There are a few ways to the top of the mountain, which reaches 780 feet above sea level. One option is to simply snowshoe (or use ice cleats) up the wide, paved 0.9-mile Mount Battie Road to the top of the mountain. The other option is to hike gradually to the top by navigating the Mount Megunticook Trail, Nature Trail and Tablelands Trail, which travel through the woods not far from the road (and actually cross the road once). This option is just a bit longer than hiking up the road. For both options, you would park in the large Camden Hills State Park parking lot on the west side of Route 1. The third option is to hike up the much steeper and rockier 0.5-mile Mount Battie Trail on the other side of the mountain, with a trailhead at the end of Megunticook Street Ext.
Located on the quieter side of Camden Hills State Park, Cameron Mountain reaches 811 feet above sea level and provides wide open views from its top because it’s covered blueberry barrens. Out-and-back, the hike to the top is about 5 miles long and most of it is on smooth, wide multi-use trails that slope uphill gradually. You could also easily cross-country ski most of the trail, perhaps finishing the last steep bit in boots rather than on skis. You can lengthen the hike to about 7 miles round trip using Sky Blue Trail to form a loop.
The 328-acre preserve occupies much of a peninsula that juts out into Megunticook Lake. It’s home to an old evergreen forest, nearly 4 miles of shoreline, The Great Bog, and about 3.5 miles of walking trails. While this isn’t a mountain hike, there is certainly some elevation gain on the network’s Blue Trail, which leads to cliffs and a view of the water. This is a great option for family, but keep in mind that dogs are not permitted on the property.
The 456-acre Long Cove Headwaters Preserve, owned and maintained by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust, features nearly 3 miles of marked footpaths that form two loops. These trails travel through a variety of upland and wetland habitats, offering visitors plenty of opportunities to spot local wildlife. This is a great option for families and first-time snowshoers.
Measuring at about 46 miles long, the Hills to Sea Trail starts in Belfast and ends in Unity, or the other way around, depending on how you want to look at it. Marked with blue blazes and wooden signs, it’s a footpath that presents a many snowshoeing and hiking opportunities. The Belfast sections of the trail starts (or ends) across Oak Hill Road from the City Point Central Railroad Museum, where trail users can continue their walk on the new multi-use Belfast Rail Trail along the Passagassawakeag River. This 2.2-mile rail trail was completed during the summer of this year and is not an official part of the Hills to Sea Trail. Nevertheless, it serves as a final connection to the waterfront in downtown Belfast and it’s a great place for cross-country skiing, too.