Just a couple of weeks ago, from July 30 to Aug. 6, more than a dozen cyclists traveled 337 miles from Calais to Portland on the East Coast Greenway. The trip was one of the East Coast Greenway Alliance’s “Week a Year” tours, a chance for riders to explore a few hundred miles of the greenway, and raise money and awareness about the ongoing greenway project.

You may be familiar with the East Coast Greenway, even if you don’t know it – the signs, featuring a pair of evergreen trees on a blue and green background, mark many local biking and walking paths around the state. The ultimate goal of the project is to create a traffic-free greenway all the way from Calais to Key West, Florida. Currently, 30 percent of the trail is entirely traffic-free.

Inspired by the cyclists who just completed their weeklong journey, I headed out to explore some of the traffic-free sections of the greenway here in Maine. Since I only have a road bike, I stuck to paved sections – these parts are also great for rollerblades, strollers, mountain bikes and road running.

PAPER MILL TRAIL AND RICKER FARM TRAIL  (LISBON)

This secluded trail through Lisbon, which travels mostly along the Sabattus River, is remarkable simply because of the variety of landscapes it passes through. In just a couple of miles you see the wide Androscoggin River; the narrow, shallow Sabattus River; old mill stonework; and open, rolling farmland.

From the boat launch where the Sabattus joins the Androscoggin, I headed north into the woods. The trail is dotted with benches and walking paths that head toward the Sabattus, and any of them will take you to an interesting, secluded view of the river. I couldn’t help myself from pulling over and exploring, and I ended up encountering a snake, a heron and the remains of the old Paper Mill Dam and bridge – not bad for a five-minute walk from my bike.

The trail rises away from the river, out of the woods, and passes by the Lisbon Community School. Here the landscape changes dramatically, from woods and streams to hills and farms. The trail crosses Mill Street and swings right by Ricker Farm, where I passed within a few yards of horses grazing in the afternoon sun. Red maples, planted along the trail almost 10 years ago as part of Project Canopy, are beginning to grow larger and will one day provide shade to walkers and bikers.

The trail continues north past a farm stand and joins Upland Road before heading to downtown Lisbon.

Distance: 2 miles

Trailhead: Park at the Sabattus River Boat Launch or the Lisbon Community School.

SOUTH PORTLAND GREENBELT

While the South Portland Greenbelt is technically part of the East Coast Greenway, it’s more of a detour, splitting from the greenway near Mill Creek to travel out to the park at Bug Light. But it’s such a nice stretch of biking that I couldn’t leave it out.

I typically ride to the greenbelt from the Portland peninsula over the Casco Bay Bridge; but if you’re traveling by car it’s easiest to park at Bug Light and start from there.

Before you leave, enjoy the panoramic view of Portland, Fort Gorges and the islands of Casco Bay. Then head south on Madison Street. When the road swings left toward Southern Maine Community College, bear right instead and head onto the well-marked greenbelt.

On mostly flat terrain, the trail twists through the Ferry Village neighborhood, then edges right up to the Fore River, where sea breezes and wide views of Portland’s waterfront await. After crossing Cottage Road, the greenbelt cuts right through Mill Creek Park – a good place to stop for a snack, watch the ducks and plan your next stop.

There are plenty of places to go from here, just off the greenbelt. Knightville, to the north, is filled with wonderful spots to stop in or spend a few hours; Taco Trio, Cia and the new Foulmouthed Brewing are a few of my favorites. If you aren’t feeling social, head to Thomas Knight Park under the Casco Bay Bridge – another oasis of green and solitude right off the beaten path.

Distance: 2 miles

Trailhead: The easiest parking to access the greenbelt from its northern end is at Bug Light Park.

KENNEBEC RIVER RAIL TRAIL (GARDINER TO AUGUSTA)

The Kennebec River Rail Trail runs parallel to Route 27 and the Kennebec River, following the railroad right-of-way that once connected Augusta to Portland. The trail is mostly flat and much of it is secluded in the woods, within a stone’s throw of the Kennebec.

I parked in Gardiner and traveled the trail from south to north. For the first two miles or so, there wasn’t much scenery; the air coming over the Kennebec was nice but the traffic on Route 27 roared over my shoulder. But after passing the Hi-Hat Pancake House and Browns Island in Farmingdale, the trail swings into the woods, and green trees and grass surrounded me.

The trail rolls along on gentle grades, then rises over a small hill before merging with Route 27 in downtown Hallowell. I coasted by the beautiful antique stores and restaurants, and paused to reflect on the river from one of the brightly colored Adirondack chairs in the park.

Between Hallowell and Augusta, the trail is much more secluded with barely a glimpse of road. After crossing into the capital, I passed within half a mile of the state legislature and the Blaine House, but a grassy embankment kept me insulated from state politics. Instead I focused on the well-maintained trail, which offered one last look over the Kennebec near the Memorial Bridge before depositing me at the parking lot.

Distance: 6.5 miles

Trailhead: In Augusta, park in the lot beneath the Memorial Bridge, just off Water Street; in Gardiner, park at Hannaford on Maine Avenue.

Jake Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Josh, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Jake can be reached at:

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