This story was originally published in December 2017.
Winter is almost here. Maine’s flowers and ferns and leaves are dead, brown and decaying on the forest floor. The maples, oaks, ashes and aspens — they all stand bare. And so we wait for snow to fall, to cloak the barren, colorless landscape in sparkling white.
But is the beauty of the landscape really gone? There must be some life and vibrance left in the lush forests of the Northeast. You just have to know where to look.
Here I’ve listed eight Maine trails that travel through lovely forests that remain rich green year round, being that they’re mostly composed of various evergreen trees. These forests are also filled with mosses and lichens, which retain their color regardless of the time of year. And what’s more, these dense forests will shelter you from the cold winter wind, offering a quiet getaway during an otherwise typically hectic time of year.
Located beside Bangor High School, the 25.5-acre Prentiss Woods is a forest of impressive old white pines, as well as cedars, hemlocks and balsam firs. A trail network totally about 1.5 miles threads through this forest, popular for trail running, dog walking and cross-country skiing, and a few trailside benches are scattered throughout the forest so visitors can rest and observe wildlife under the thick evergreen canopy.
One of a handful of public trails in the Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, the Johnson Brook Trail is a 2.5-mile loop with two spur trails, one leading to a beaver dam and the other leading to bog bridges that travel through a birch grove. The far end of the loop (between the two spur trails) becomes narrower and travels through a beautiful, mossy forest, and the connector trail that is closer to County Road (the first left when starting the loop from the parking area) travels through a magnificent cedar marsh with zigzagging bog bridges.
Located in the coastal town of Addison in eastern Maine, 145-acre Ingersoll Point Preserve features 3.5 miles of intersecting hiking trails that travel along the rocky shore and explore a beautiful forest filled with moss, lichen, boulders and towering evergreens of various kinds. Accessible year round, the trail network is great for hiking, wildlife watching, snowshoeing and dog walking.
Simon Trail is a loop trail that travels through a beautiful mixed forest on an easement on private land in Lamoine. Measuring just over 1 mile, the trail is well-marked and maintained by the Frenchman Bay Conservancy. Expect an abundance of very large pine trees in this forest, sharing space with a variety of other trees, including dense clusters of fragrant balsam firs.
Located in Holbrook Island Sanctuary State Park, Backwoods Mountain (also known as Bakeman Mountain) features a few of the many hiking trails located in the park. The Summit Trail, which leads from the trail to the top of the mountain, is 0.7 mile and includes a few steep, rocky sections, and the connecting Mountain Loop Trail circles the base of the mountain and is 1.7 miles long. Though only about 300 feet above sea level, the mountain does provide a partially open view of the area, and a bench has been located at that outlook. But the truly wonderful feature of this mountain is the beautiful mixed forest, with an abundance of evergreen trees including large white cedars, and the abundance of moss growing pretty much everywhere throughout the forest.
Rising just over 2,000 feet above sea level near the southwest shore of Moosehead Lake, Little Moose Mountain forms a long ridge that towers above scenic ponds, then arcs slightly north as if reaching toward its sister mountain, Big Moose. The hiking trail that explores this ridge starts near Moose Mountain Inn on Route 15 and climbs through a lush, evergreen forest to visit several peaks along the ridge. There is no summit sign posted on any of the peaks, but there are many outlooks located along the mountain’s ledges that offer stunning views of the Moosehead area, including views of Moosehead Lake, the town of Greenville, and the nearby Big Moose Mountain.
Comprised of 96 acres of forestland, Thorne Head Preserve features 0.5 mile of shoreline along the Kennebec River and Whiskeag Creek, and is home to a network of public trails that total 3.5 miles. The forest of the property is mostly mature, with tall white pines and hemlocks. However, the preserve supports more than 100 plant species. An online brochure provided by the property’s owner, the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, describes six of distinct habitats in the preserve: a freshwater marsh, mixed woods, vernal pools, riparian areas and tidal wetlands.
The Horserace Brook Trail is a 2-mile footpath marked with yellow paint that leads to Horserace Ponds in the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area, which lies just south of Baxter State Park and is easily accessible from the famous Golden Road. Owned and maintained by The Nature Conservancy, Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area is made up of more than 46,000 acres of mature forestland and has the highest concentration of pristine, remote ponds in New England.