Wednesday, April 23, 2014
A number of Maine mountains provide snowshoers and hikers with access to their ski slopes for winter adventure on foot. Ready-made packed trails allow for straightforward snow travel, and wide-open ascent routes offer continuous views. Base and on-mountain lodges make great places to warm up and enjoy good food and drink, and even entertainment before, during and after your trek. And a host of other activities, like downhill skiing (of course), cross-country skiing, zipline tours, skating and tubing means a full, fun day outdoors is always possible. Access and safety rules apply, so check before you go.
SADDLEBACK: Climb to the Alpine summit via Hudson Highway and tri-color ski trails that wind up the western slope. At the top of Kennebago Quad Chair, duck behind the ski patrol hut and bushwhack to intersect the Appalachian Trail atop the 4,120-foot peak. Snowshoers must stay to the margins of the ski trails. A network of gentler trails connects Saddleback Lodge with Rock and Midway ponds. Snowshoe rentals are available. The nearby Rangeley Lakes Trails Center has 30 miles of trails tracked to accommodate snowshoeing and Nordic skiing, plus miles of snowshoe-only trails. Info: www.saddlebackmaine.com.
SUNDAY RIVER: Snowshoe to the top of 2,500-foot Locke Mountain for a vista that ranges from the Presidential Range to the Mahoosucs and Oxford Hills. Get there by way of the Sunday Punch ski trail, which starts from Barker Lodge. From South Ridge Lodge, take Dream Maker up to North Peak and its summit lodge, where the hot chocolate and big cinnamon buns are real treats. For trail maps and information on the mountain's uphill-access policy, go to www.sundayriver.com. Find more snowshoe trails plus rentals at the nearby Outdoor Center at Sunday River Inn, www.theoutdoorcenter.net.
CAMDEN SNOW BOWL: Hikers can climb the ski slopes on Ragged Mountain any Monday or Tuesday when the mountain is not operating. On other days, access is allowed after the lifts stop at 4 p.m. That's when you can hike to the lean-to on Lookout Trail for terrific views of Camden Harbor and Penobscot Bay. Several miles of snowshoe and Nordic ski trails emanate from the trailhead just off the base area parking lot. From the base lodge, take Spinnaker Trail to Hosmer Brook Trail, which loops through the woods of adjacent Ragged Mountain Preserve. Rental snowshoes are available. Try a run on the Jack Williams Toboggan Chute for a thrilling experience. Trail maps, info and closed days use policies at www.camdensnowbowl.com.
MT. ABRAM: The mountain welcomes snowshoers anytime, regardless of whether the ski lifts are operating. When the mountain is open, winter hikers must have a pass, which is free from the ticket office near the base lodge. The recommended snowshoe route up Mt. Abram is the Roundabout ski trail, which makes a wide arc up the northeastern slope and offers fine views of North and South ponds. On first Fridays, Mt. Abram features a Full Moon Hike with fun company. Snowshoe up the mountain while your skis or snowboard are transported by snowcat, then take a sweet run down the hill. Warm up to live music, food and drink in Loose Boots Lounge afterward. Info: www.mtabram.com.
SUGARLOAF: Trek to the top via the Windrow ski trail. Make a cozy pit stop at Bullwinkle's for hot soup and a burger before continuing on Tote Road to the windswept snowfields on the 4,237-foot summit. Just east of Base Lodge, at the end of Bigelow Mountain Road, is the start of Burnt Mountain Trail, a fun route to the open summit of this 3,600-foot peak. The nearby Sugarloaf Outdoor Center has miles of marked snowshoe trails, plus rental equipment. Get trail maps and details on the mountain's uphill-access policy at www.sugarloaf.com.
Carey Kish of Bowdoin is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow his outdoor adventures at: