Trail of the Month: October 2005
Carrabassett River Trail, Maine
When visiting Maine's Carrabassett River Trail (a.k.a. the Narrow Gauge Pathway), two words come to mind: amazing view. Sitting afoot one of the country's most popular ski resorts, Sugarloaf USA, the pathway offers a variety of recreational opportunities and scores of beautiful scenery. Whether you prefer to hike, bicycle or cross-country ski this six-mile trail, the stunning vista of the riverfront, gorgeous mountains and breathtaking waterfalls will enhance your trail experience tenfold.
Begin your journey at the Pathway's eastern terminus, located in the heart of Carrabassett Valley at the Huston Brook Bridge. As you make your way along the weathered rock surface toward Campbell Field it's likely you'll be struck by both the grandeur of the Carrabassett River and the narrowness of the trail.
Narrow Gauge Trail follows the former path of the Narrow Gauge Railroad's "Bigelo Line." Winding through brilliant Maine landscapes, the rail line traversed Franklin County between 1900 and 1923. At two feet wide, it served the Crockertown Lumber Company and hauled freight, crops, mail and passengers to Bigelow. A good rule of thumb for trails with limited room for passage—follow proper trail etiquette. If you are bicycling please yield to walkers and walkers please stay to the right of the path.
From the Huston Brook Bridge continue west for approximately five miles. This portion of the trail parallels the river and is lined with lush foliage. If you are planning to visit Maine during peak fall foliage time, come in mid- to late October and you won't be disappointed. Gigantic Bigtooth aspens and red maple trees add intense crimson, yellow and orange tones during prime leaf-peeping. Also, keep an eye out for Joe Pye Weed, a stunning perennial that grows up to four feet, turning a distinct purple shade during the fall.
Trail signs point you westward along the river towards Campbell Field. You'll pass several enchanting waterfalls. With nearby swimming holes for the summer months, these are great spots for a rest. Whether you are traveling with friends, family or even your dog these waterfall areas can provide a unique place for a picnic or the perfect location for a game of fetch. (FYI: pets are allowed off-leash on all parts of the Narrow Gauge Pathway.)
As you come into the Campbell Field trailhead you'll cross a 400-foot long boardwalk that passes over a beaver flowage—one of the many projects the Town of Carrabassettt Valley completed in September 2003. This trailhead provides users with a comfort station including restrooms, a small parking lot and a great place to observe beaver activity. If you are interested in visiting the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center—the central hub for more than 100 kilometers of cross country ski trails, an Olympic skating rink, snowshoeing and more—you can hop off of the trail here. The office is located just off of highway 27 and adjacent to the trailhead.
From Campbell Field, head approximately one mile west along the trail toward the final stopping point at Bigelow Station, another revitalization project completed by the Town of Carrabassett Valley in November 2004. According to the town officials, the station was originally built in 1900 as a passenger station and freight house for the Narrow Gauge Railroad, today it serves as a railroad museum and trailhead for the pathway.