I kept wondering if I would see a moose. Lo and behold, I did! Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

The attractions of the Katahdin region are blooming beyond Baxter State Park. I love spending time in the park, but this summer I’ve been branching out and seeking out some other options in the bountiful area.

Recently, some vehicle trouble threw a monkey wrench into my plan for an overnight trip to southern Maine. I was bummed but told myself to let it go and that I’d go down another time. I had the following morning off from work, and I was contemplating what my newly freed up time would look like.

I thought about going for a hike, but since I was right in Millinocket, I seized the opportunity of leaving my dog with my dad for the morning and decided to check out Penobscot River Trails.

Located on Route 11 along the East Branch of the Penobscot River in Grindstone sits the pristine facility that may not be on your radar yet.

Left to right, The hut offers views of Katahdin and its Knife Edge trail. The bull saw me and immediately swam to the opposite shoreline and ran off into the woods. Welcome and trail map signs at the parking lot for the Penobscot River Trails. Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

Since opening its doors and trails to the public in 2019, Penobscot River Trails has been welcoming local and far away visitors to experience riverfront recreation. The facility offers more than 15 miles of trails for biking and hiking, and they even groom the trails during the winter season for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

After parking and gathering the essentials for the adventure, I meandered over to the large boards that shared welcome info and a trail map. The visitor center was quiet, and thanks to the instructions shared by a friend who works there, I made my way through the back door and found the rental equipment.

After fitting myself with a bicycle and helmet, I ran into another friend of mine. Jes gave me a quick rundown of the trail network — she suggested I head north via the Silver Maple Trail and then hop onto the Riverside Trail. This would take me to the Long Meadow Warming Hut, where I could enjoy a break and then return via Tote Road to make a fun, full-loop ride.

I hadn’t been out for a bike ride in a number of years, and the trail required me to be on my balance game as it weaved around corners.

I found my way onto the Riverside Trail and was immediately in awe. With each bend of the trail I came around, I found myself stopping and taking in the beautiful views of the East Branch.

Left to right, My bike rental outside at the visitor center at Penobscot River Trails. Numerous viewpoints along the Riverside Trail offer beautiful options for breaks. Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

Picnic tables are strategically placed along the packed crushed stone trail. I stopped a few times to take a sip of water or pull out my camera. There was no shortage of pristine, peaceful views.

Shortly after passing one of the kayak launch points, I came around yet another bend in the trail and river, and through a small opening in the trees, my eyes caught something moving in the water.

It was a moose! I slammed on the bike brakes, and not so quietly, came to a stop. The moose heard the commotion, and even though I tried to stay still, he started to swim to the opposite shoreline. I grabbed my camera and took a couple shots of him swimming and trotting off into the woods.

Handmade, rustic signs offer distance and trail options on the Penobscot River Trails. Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

Just past the Trails End sign, I arrived at the Long Meadow Warming Hut. I was welcomed by a gentle, warm breeze and a stunning view of Katahdin. I took cover from the late morning sunshine by heading inside the hut to enjoy a much-needed break.

After sitting for a few more minutes, soaking up the glorious view and appreciating where I was, I decided it was time to close the loop ride and head back.

Taking the Tote Road back to the Visitor Center was definitely the way to go. The mostly straight line back to the starting point was smooth sailing and I cruised the entire way.

I returned my rental equipment and left the facility with a deep appreciation for two reasons.

Penobscot River Trails offers an opportunity for any and all to visit a riverfront nature preserve without the worry of needing gear (rental fees are by donation) or the complexity of how to get there.

Also, the facility is home to the Maine Outdoor Education Program. Since 2012, the program has been committed to linking the connection of personal health and environmental stewardship for school aged children. The activities offered to school groups are completely free and are in part funded by donations by visitors.

Long Meadow Warming Hut was a lovely spot for a break. Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

So if you’re looking for your next adventure during your trip north, or if you’re a local, I highly encourage you to check out Penobscot River Trails. The simplicity of going for a bike ride or walk along the river will do wonders for you and the community.

Sarah Sindo, Outdoors contributor

Sarah Sindo was locally grown in Millinocket. Her love and appreciation for the outdoors took off after college when she hiked numerous mountains with her brother, Nick, including her first ascent of Katahdin....