Are the short days getting you down? Did your kid just ask if they could watch “Moana” for the fourth time this week? Have you forgotten what sun on your face feels like?
It’s time to get outside.
Whether a long Nordic ski is your thing or you just need to plunk down in the snow and look at the water for a while, Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) wants to help.
MCHT works alongside your local land trust and other conservation organizations to make sure you have places close to home to visit in any season. Places for skiing, walking, fishing, snowshoeing, plunking—whatever’s needed to fend of cabin fever.
Here are some tips on where to go and what to do on the Maine coast this winter, brought to you by the staff at MCHT.
Clifford Park, Biddeford
Right in downtown Biddeford you’ll find this sprawling, 140-acre park with five miles of trails. For years locals enjoyed this place without realizing 40% of it was privately owned. Thanks to financial support from the city, a grant from MCHT, and other funding, it’s now forever open to locals and visitors. Stick to the outside loop for a more casual excursion or adventure into the internal network of trails. If you’re hungry after hiking around, we recommend Palace Diner for a bite eat.
Robinson Woods Preserve, Cape Elizabeth Land Trust
Streams, marsh, pond, open fields, rocky oceanfront, mature woodlands—Cape Elizabeth Land Trust’s 146-acre preserve offers all of this and three miles of trail for your snowshoeing pleasure. Maine Coast Heritage Trust was happy to pitch in to help CELT preserve this place. If you live in Cape or Portland, mark your calendars: CELT will be hosting a snowshoeing trek at Robinson Woods on February 10. You can sign up through Cape Community Services.
Erickson Fields Preserve, Rockport
The wide, 1.4-mile loop trail at Erickson Fields is a great place for group skiing and snowshoeing—and you can bring your pup along on the adventure. Be sure to keep an eye out for animal tracks. In the past, visitors have identified deer, coyote, fox, raccoon, and fisher at Erickson Fields. On February 3, we will be hosting a Winter Animal Tracks Walk with MCHT land steward and naturalist Kirk Gentalen. Visit Aldermere.org for more information.
Witherle Woods Preserve, Castine
If you love Nordic skiing and live on the Blue Hill peninsula get yourself to the groomed trails of Witherle Woods this winter. In 2014 Nancy and WG Sayre of Castine founded the Blue Hill Peninsula Nordic Ski Club to foster a love of cross-country skiing in local kids. The club meets 10 a.m. – 12 a.m. every Saturday there’s snow on the ground. Don’t have skis? No problem. The Sayres have generously collected skis they loan out to club members. Visit their Facebook page for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Strap on your snowshoes and head to MCHT’s largest Mount Desert Island preserve, located next to the high school in the center of the island. The preserve’s three miles of hiking trails wind through dense forests, over low ridges, and by numerous wetlands. Wear the right boots, and keep an eye out for wildlife.
Kelley Farm Preserve, Bernard
Open fields and gentle slopes make Kelley Farm Preserve a nice place to pass a sunny winter afternoon on Mount Desert Island. You’ll often find people skiing or walking along the preserve’s perimeter enjoying the water views. When the conditions are right, little ones can catch some speed on a sled. MCHT keeps the 4-5 car parking lot plowed.
East Machias Sliding Hill
People have been sledding (the plastic toy, not the snowmobile) on the hill at the intersection of Route One and Scotts Hill Road for decades. When the land went up for sale in 2015, MCHT helped ensure the sliding hill would always remain open and accessible to the kids and families of East Machias. Last year, MCHT built a parking lot and transferred the newly conserved land over to the town. If you live in the area, be sure to head to the sliding hill this winter! With a good incline and a beautiful view of the East Machias River, it’s a pretty special spot.
Hamilton Cove Preserve, Lubec
If you’ve got little ones or it’s bitterly cold out or you aren’t up for a long slog, Hamilton is great because it’s a fairly short distance from the (plowed!) parking lot to the cobble beach. Feeling adventurous? Make your way along the coastal trail to the platform with panoramic views of Grand Manan Island and the Bold Coast or a half-mile further to a fabulous bench. As always, take care – the peaty soils hold water and water turns to ice. MCHT land steward Melissa says, “Be on the lookout for small splashes out on the water. Gannets can be seen close to shore during the winter. The straight-down plummet of these large white seabirds with black wing tips looking for fish is a sight worth seeing.”
Sipp Bay Preserve Preserve, Perry
Sipp Bay offers beach walks, a small sliding hill, trails to walk, snowshoe or ski and plenty of wildlife. Bring your binoculars and look for feeding wintering sea ducks such as Black Ducks, Eiders, Buffleheads or Mergansers. You might even see an occasional Loon wintering in the protected waters of Sipp Bay. Even after a big snowstorm, parking is always available at the end of the town road at the top of the hill at the entrance to the preserve. Look for tracks of wildlife such as deer, snowshoe hare or the playful otter who likes to slide in the snow. We hope you enjoy this winter on the Maine coast. Keep in touch with MCHT on Facebook. We’d love to see your pictures and hear about your adventures on these and other preserves.