Maine is well known as a four-season destination but most of the hype is centered around Summer and Fall. Rightfully so, but in this winter guide to Maine’s lakes and mountains I’m sharing some epic winter experiences in Maine that you simply can’t miss!
I had the opportunity to visit three different regions of the state, each one packed with adventure, snow and memories waiting to be made! This winter guide to Maine’s lakes and mountains outlines 4 epic winter experiences in Maine, along with destination highlights and some tips so that you can have an epic winter escape!
Sugarloaf is one of the most popular mountains in all of Maine! Located in Carrabasset Valley and surrounded by other beautiful peaks like the Bigelows, it’s no wonder so many flock to its slopes. When visiting the area, the most convenient place to stay is right at the mountain at Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel. The no frills rooms have everything you might need for an extended stay on the mountain complete with a kitchenette and dining area. And the location, of course, couldn’t be more ideal. Especially if you enjoy being the first (and last) one on the mountain. If you prefer to stay off the mountain, this little A-frame cabin is an ideal mountain escape.
Eats at Sugarloaf Mountain
There are plenty of dining options in close proximity to the mountain. Here are my favorites:
The Rack – a Sugarloaf institution and a must when visiting. On a normal night, one could enjoy some delicious bar food and brews while listening to a live band. Given the state of the world, things are a bit toned down but nonetheless, The Rack has an atmosphere you just have to experience.
Bullwinkle’s – this spot is located on the mountain and is perfect for the mid-day (or après) brew!
Widowmaker– at the foot of the mountain on the second floor of the lodge. Views and brews galore!
Java Joe’s – the coffee spot! Opens early, too!
Village To Go – new to the mountain this year but it is absolutely delicious! Lots of healthy (and filling) options! I had a build-your-own poke bowl and it was delicious.
Snowshoeing at the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center
Powder isn’t only good for skiing and boarding! On your winter escape trip to Maine be sure to head to the Outdoor Center at Sugarloaf to snowshoe/ cross country ski their 90 km trail system. This is the state’s largest Nordic center! Located only a few minutes down the road from the mountain, it is the perfect spot to enjoy a low(er) key day while still being one of the most epic winter experiences in Maine! I mean, look at these views! Added bonus: if you don’t enjoy snowshoeing, there’s also fat tire bike rentals, ice skating, and Nordic skiing.
Skiing at Sugarloaf Mountain
Or should I say: ski lessons! As a recovering * almost * snowboarder I was on the hunt for a similar outdoor winter activity. Prior to this trip, I’ve been told skiing is slightly easier to learn than snowboarding, so I gave it a go! Happy to report not only is it easier but it’s more fun! If you’re new to skiing, this is the perfect mountain to learn! Terry was my instructor and he was so knowledgeable and patient through the entire process.
As we say in Maine, ‘it’s way up theeeeeeyah.’ Under 300 people call this town home and you can immediately sense that upon arrival and, I promise, that home away from home feeling will immediately consume you. I stayed (and dined) at Dockside Inn and Tavern! The Lady of the Lake suite is a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom accommodation with a full kitchen, dining area and private balcony. When you’re visiting, I definitely recommend staying here! It’s just one minute from Northwood Outfitters and right in town. Plus, you’ll have unobstructed views of Moosehead Lake. Breakfast at Birch Bark Café is also a must!
Snowmobiling + Ice Fishing on Moosehead Lake
When you’re all skied out, Greenville has another type of outdoor winter adventure for you: snowmobiling and ice fishing with Northwood Outfitters! You will spend the day cruising around the lake on a snowmobile, setting traps and catching fish, keeping toasty in the warming hut, and taking in the incredible views of Maine’s pristine wilderness! If you’re lucky you might spot an eagle or two. My guide Chris, had years of experience and plenty of stories to tell about his life, the changes he’s seen happen in Greenville (and Maine) and what it’s like to live in a place where everybody knows everybody!
Camden + Camden Hills State Park
Camden, in the winter, is a sleepy little seaside town with all of the New England charm you could ever possibly handle. I stayed at the Grand Harbor Inn and it was the perfect spot! Right on the harbor and located just off the main street through town. Adventure fuel is a must, so I enjoyed takeaway from Home Kitchen Café located in the neighboring town of Rockland and splurged on dinner at 40 Paper.
Ice Climb with Equinox Guiding Service
Ice climbing was a new sport for me, in fact, I’ve never even rocked climbed before this. Noah, our guide and owner of Equinox Guiding Service, was beyond encouraging! He laughed with me and knew just what to say to keep me going. I won’t lie, ice climbing is hard both mentally and physically but the payoff is well worth it! If you’re not in the Camden Hills State Park area, Noah also offers guided experiences in Grafton Notch State Park and Acadia! And, no experience required as he offers intro to ice climbing excursions.
Pro tip: dress in warm layers, avoid cotton, bring extra (waterproof) gloves, and bring snacks and hot bevvies! More on that below.
Tips for Having Epic Winter Experiences in Maine
It goes without saying, but winter in Maine (and really anywhere) is something you must prepare for! Especially when spending time outside. What’s that saying? Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Here are some tips and learnings based on my experiences of outdoor winter sports:
- Avoid cotton! The saying goes ‘cotton kills.’ Instead opt for synthetic fibers and wool.
- Layering is key! Wear a base layer, mid layer and outer shell. Fleece pants are a cozy choice when it’s dry and not too windy. If it’s there’s precipitation or wind, wearing a layer that is waterproof/windproof is important. You will learn what types of and how many layers your body needs but a baseline recommendation is to dress comfortably (temperature wise) not bundled because you want to avoid sweating. Once there is moisture in your layers it rarely dries and this can contribute to frostbite!
- Use hand and foot warmers to supplement heat loss.
- Invest in a pair of waterproof, insulated boots with at least 200 grams of thinsulate.
- Stay hydrated! Even if you don’t feel thirsty, drink water.
- Pack nutrient dense snacks and hot beverages in a thermos!
- Wear a hat to keep the heat in.
- Keep the snow out of your boots with gaiters.
- Wearing sunglasses (or goggles) can help protect your eyes from the wind and bright snow.
There you have it, 4 epic winter experiences in Maine to get you outside, moving and shaking! I think we forget the importance of the outdoors when the temps begin to drop, and with those temp drops our desire to be outside drops! But I promise, once you find an outdoor winter activity you like to do that all changes! Instead of “I can’t wait to get in from the cold” it changes to “I can’t wait to get outside again.” PS! Here are Maine safe travel protocols and guidelines to follow when visiting during the COVID-19 Pandemic. In my experience, as a Mainer, I felt both safe and comfortable! I also received a negative COVID-19 test before and after this experience. Happy trails!