With more than 14,000 miles of trails, Maine’s snowmobiling scene is the hottest in New England.
By Hilary Nangle
Dec 12 2022
Sponsored by the Maine Tourism Office
When winter’s first snowflakes waltz by the window, savvy snowmobilers eagerly begin planning trips in Maine. They know the Pine Tree State ranks as one of North America’s top sledding destinations: With more than 14,000 trail miles, including 4,000 miles on the Interconnected Trail System (ITS), and plentiful snow, Maine delivers a heavenly experience for sledders.
That’s especially true of northern Maine, where the snow is measured in feet rather than inches, and dark skies reward sledders with brilliant stargazing. And occasionally, Mother Nature’s show-stopper appears: the Northern Lights, with streaks and swirls of green, white, and red shimmying across the sky.
“Snowmobiling gives you the freedom to get out in the middle of nowhere and explore, the freedom of being off the beaten path, and the exhilaration of a nice, fast machine underneath you,” says avid snowmobiler Travis Allen.
During snowmobiling season, Allen and his partner, Susanne LeVasseur, spend every weekend, and sometimes long weekends, on their snow machines. “It’s a wonderful way to get out there and enjoy winter. We get excited about it,” says LeVasseur, who adds that they often see wildlife along the way. “It’s really cool to see moose on the trail. I’ve also seen deer, bobcat, coyote at night, and even some dive-bombing owls.” And they both enjoy the social aspects of encountering people in places they wouldn’t expect to see them.
The couple especially loves riding in Aroostook County, better known as the County. The largest county east of the Mississippi sprawls across nearly 7,000 square miles and borders the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec. Laced with 2,300 miles of trails, this sparsely populated region earns raves for its long season, abundant snow, and varied terrain of farmlands, mountains, forests, and waterways. “County trails are the most beautiful, groomed, wide trails, and there are lots of good stops for lunch and drinks,” LeVasseur says.
One of the couple’s favorite trails, the Border Trail, runs along the U.S.–Canada border between Mars Hill and Van Buren. “It has steep hills, cool jumps, and granite pillars in the middle that mark the border,” Allen says. Plus, he adds, the scenery is beautiful. For example, on a clear day, you can see Mount Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak.
Registered Maine Guide and snowmobile enthusiast Kaleb Jacob also praises the County for the quantity of snow and the quality of the trails, but he loves its immensity, too. “I do a lot of snowmobiling in Maine’s western Mountains, but the County is different. We’ll put on 500 to 600 miles in three or four days,” says Jacob, who frequents the region with friends. “And because the snow is so reliable, the season is much longer than in other places. Sometimes it gets three feet of snow in one storm.”
Jacob, who usually rides with friends, enjoys riding north from Millinocket, in the Maine Highlands region, north to Fort Kent, and on to Allagash. “We’ll stay ‘lost’ up there and then circle back,” he says. He can also loop through Loring, Houlton, Allagash, and Patten on another multiday trip. “The scenery is breathtaking. As you get closer to Fort Kent, it’s potato fields and big rolling hills, and you can see forever. And near Frenchville, you overlook the St. John River to Canada.”
Of course, for many riders, it’s not about just the scenery but also the speed. The ITS 88 trail comprises many sections on former railways, making it easier to go fast. “Wide, straight trails allow you to see wildlife sooner [and avoid collisions]. It’s safer to go fast when you can see a mile ahead,” Jacob says.
Maine snowmobile trails in the Moosehead, Mount Katahdin, and Jackman areas and those in the western mountains also draw riders. “From Jackman, it’s two to three hours to Greenville, and from there, you can go on to Millinocket,” Jacob says. Or detour northward: “Seeing the abandoned trains in the Allagash region is really spooky on a snowmobile,” he says.
LeVasseur says she and Allen have departed Rockwood first thing in the morning and ridden to Presque Isle. “That’s 633 miles round-trip.” One of their big plans this year is to loop between Jackman and the County via Canada. “It’ll be a one- or two-week trip,” she says. Plans call for departing Rockwood for Jackman and then over the border to Quebec, on to New Brunswick, crossing back at Fort Kent, and returning to Rockwood.
While towns along Maine’s white highways offer food and lodging, Maine’s traditional sporting camps and remote lodges provide an option for those who want to ride deep into the wilderness. Many, such as Libby Camps, Hewes Brook, Bowlin Camps, and Pittston Farm, welcome riders with hearty meals and woodstove-heated cabins. “It’s different than staying in a town,” LeVasseur says. “It’s nice to have that remote feeling when you’re truly in the middle of the woods.”
For more information on the Maine snowmobiling scene, go to visitmaine.com.