Boundary Trail in Freeman Ridge Bike Park, Photo by Jamie Walter.
While Sugarloaf offers endless summer and fall activities on-mountain, from golf to zip-lining, the greater Western Maine region is full of hidden gems that are worth the day trip. With some good planning, it’s possible to visit more than one of these landmarks in a day (though we’d suggest saving the last one for an all-day affair). Stay tuned for our second installment in this day trip series: 5 Day Trips North of Sugarloaf.
Grab a picnic lunch in Kingfield before heading out to one of these special destinations. Try the Orange Cat Cafe for delicious sandwiches and smoothies; Rolling Fatties for Mexican-inspired Maine-sourced fare; or the Maine Beer Shed for farm-fresh snacks like bread, cheese and popcorn, or one of their tasty daily meal specials.
1. Freeman Ridge Bike Park, Kingfield
While technically located in Freeman Township, this family-owned and operated bike park is only a mile south of downtown Kingfield. The handy trail map showcases the thoughtful layout of the single-track mountain bike park, with a network that allows for rest (and hydration) in the parking lot between laps. There’s a green “Warm Up” loop just below the parking lot for visitors to try before starting “The Climb,” a green ascent with gradual switchbacks through a forest. For riders who aren’t ready for an uphill lap, they can explore the main artery, a flat green trail called “Traveled Way,” and then try “West Beach,” a green one-way gravity-based trail with beginner berms and rollers.
More advanced riders will enjoy the wide range of machine-built and hand-built blue trails with a smooth downhill flow and technical features, from roots to rock bridges. Hazards, boulders, drops and jumps are well-marked, and there is usually a ride-around option. The aptly-named blue “Fern Gully” trail is another main artery, bringing riders through a wooded oasis over boulders and bridges until they arrive back in the parking lot. For the expert riders, there’s “Arrowtree” and “Stanley,” two black downhill trails with jumps, and the extreme “Jekyll” and “Hyde,” new one-way short and technical trails with large drops.
Day passes to the park are $10 for adults and $5 for riders 17 and younger. LL Bean also sponsors free riding on Saturdays in July and August, but reservations are required (season pass holders do not need a reservation). Be sure to stop at Allspeed Cyclery at the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center or Carrabassett Valley Bike under Tufulio’s for equipment rentals, gear, and protective wear.
Learn more about the origins of Freeman Ridge Bike Park in the video below.
2. Reed Brook Falls, Carrabassett Valley
At only .6 miles one-way, the Reed Brook Falls trail is arguably the easiest hike with the greatest reward in the region. The short, family-friendly trail has moved to prevent further erosion along the riverbed, so follow the signs and please stay off the old trail along the south bank of the river. The new trailhead can be found in the parking lot of the Carrabassett Veterinary & Pet Resort off the north side of the river. Please be respectful while in the parking area, as this is both a residence and a business.
The whimsical trail is managed by a Registered Maine Guide known as “Jack of all Trails” on Instagram. While the waterfall (also known as the Jericho Steps) can slow to a trickle in the summer, the spring and fall rains can bring a thunderous display.
3. The Wire Bridge, New Portland
While many Sugarloafers have seen photographs and paintings of the iconic Wire Bridge during the annual Homecoming Art Show, not all have actually visited the breathtaking location on the other side of the lens. According to the Maine Department of Transportation, the historic suspension bridge is “the only survivor of four such bridges built in Maine in the 1800s and probably the only such bridge still standing in the US.” The Wire Bridge was completed in 1866 is on the National Register of Historic Places and a designated Maine Civil Engineering Landmark. The beautiful timber-framed towers with hexagonal openings are adorned with cedar shingles, with a 198-foot span in between towers.
Walk across (or drive, but keep in mind it’s only wide enough for one-way traffic) the incredible bridge and spend a day at the scenic picnic area along the Carrabassett River’s rocky beach. There are parking areas on either end of the bridge. The water is usually shallow enough to wade across, and the gentle current is safe for children and pets. When the water is running high with spring and fall rainfall, the 7-mile paddle from the dam in downtown Kingfield to the Wire Bridge is a popular canoe trip with Class I and II rapids.
4. Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad, Phillips
Learn about the history of the railroad in Western Maine at the quaint Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the original 19th-century railroad. Open on select weekends through October, the historic trains depart hourly from 11 am to 3 pm. Guests are welcome to arrive on one train and linger in the picnic grove where the roundhouse, rolling stock and other original structures from the operating railroad are located, and then depart on another train.
Fares are $6 per adult, $2 for children under 13 and free for those five and younger. Be sure to stop by the Museum Store behind the Sanders Depot, and the Phillips Historical Society on Pleasant Street, which boasts collections of model trains, maps, prints, antique farm equipment and more. If you are looking to explore more nature, check out a portion of the nearby Fly Rod Crosby Trail, a heritage hiking trail that winds along the old railroad tracks and Sandy River in honor of Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby, Maine’s first registered guide and Phillips native.
5. Hike Mount Abraham, Kingfield
Towering at 4,050 feet, Mount Abraham is one of the fourteen peaks reaching over 4,000 feet in Maine, making it one of the must-do summit climbs in the state. Besides two peaks in Baxter State Park, almost all of the trailheads to the 4,000 footers are located within an hour’s drive (or less) of Sugarloaf, making it the prime headquarters for any hiker attempting to summit all of them. Of course, Sugarloaf itself is the tallest after Katahdin, at 4,237 feet.
Locally known as “Abram,” Mount Abraham is an advanced hike, with the last half-mile to the summit over a windy and exposed boulder field through the second largest alpine region in the state (with Katahdin offering the largest). Navigating among the cairns toward the top can be difficult in bad weather, and fresh snowfall can make following the trail near impossible, so it’s best to attempt in summer or fall on a clear day, allowing you to enjoy the breathtaking 360 views from the top. Be sure to avoid accidentally walking the ATV trail near the trailhead instead of the blue-blazed hiking trail. Following the Fire Warden’s Trail to the summit is an 8-mile round trip, and always plan for unexpected delays like blow-downs and missteps.