Okay, off to the woods we go, leaving the coastal area and its scenic peninsulas behind. You’ll want your deep woods snowshoes, a Maine map or your GPS and don’t forget to dress in layers. The Maine woods in winter can be freaking cold, but you’ll heat up pretty quickly.
The trails on this list include Gardiner and Hallowell, then west to Winthrop about eight miles west of Augusta, and south to the twin cities of Lewiston-Auburn.
For maps and more complete information visit www.snowshoes.com
There is more than one trail here but the whole system begins on Cottage Street in Gardiner after you get off Route I-295. Follow Route 21 into Gardiner, heading out the other side about a quarter of a mile and take a right onto Cottage Street. You will come to a white house and see the fields stretching out. Park on the road side and you’ll find about six miles of moderate effort with the highest elevation being 100 feet. Some of the trails in this area lead to a 25-foot-high waterfall. You’ll have all this powder to yourself!
From downtown Hallowell, a pretty town on the Kennebec River, take Central Street out to the intersection with Outlet Road and turn right on Outlet. The road curves at Clark’s Auto; take a right there onto the dirt road and park at the concrete barriers. Or you can drive past Clark’s about another mile and there us a parking area on your right. So two locations from which to access these trails. Maps are posted along the trails and this is easy going and isolated, on state-owned wildlife management area, one to three miles, with the highest elevation being 700 feet. Part of the trail is along a tiny pond and you’ll pass through forest and boggy areas.
Mt. Pisgah Tower Trail
From Augusta take US 202 west to Monmouth, turning right on North Main Street across from Gray’s Pit Stop and drive to the end. Turn right on Wilson Pond Road, drive about quarter-mile and take a left on Mt. Pisgah Road, go five miles and look for the small sign “Trail to Fire Tower” on your left. Park here in the small clearing. There are two trails here and the view from the abandoned fire tower at the highest elevation, 1,500 feet, is awesome: the White Mountains to the west and Mt. Katahdin to the north. The back-country trail is rocky and forested, while the fire road is a smooth gravel base but steeper and less scenic. The elevation gain is 900 feet and trail duration 2.5 miles, so prepare for a moderate workout.
Thorncrag Bird Sanctuary
Plan on this trail and the one below when you are in the Mt. Pisgah Trail area (above), as Lewiston, the location of this trail, is about 20 miles south of Winthrop, and then go on and do the last trail in Auburn, the twin city to Lewiston, across the Androscoggin River. There are six well marked trails in this 310-acre preserve and walkers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers pack down the surface nicely. The highest elevation is 510 feet and you can choose your distance, moderate effort over all. If you are coming here directly from the Maine Turnpike instead of south from Winthrop, take exit 12 (Lewiston) to Route 196 west to East Avenue and turn right, continuing on to Montello Street, turn right again and Thorncrag is on your left.
Auburn Land Lab Trail
This is an easy one-mile loop trail with no noticeable elevation, a gently rolling area on the site of the Land Lab and much of this area is private. You’ll be rewarded with the peace and serenity of the woods. There is an additional loop off the main trail and also access to the Lake Auburn Basin. Access this area from Route 4 north of Auburn, taking Lake Shore Drive to the end, then left, then first right. The Lab is located at the corner of Holbrook Road and North Auburn Road and you can park at the Land Lab. Cross the field to the kiosk.