By Cele & Lynn Seldon
When it comes to Maine ski resorts, most people think of winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, and more. But for those who eschew wintry weather, Maine ski resorts are also playgrounds for mountain activities from spring to fall. From golf to scenic chairlifts or hiking and mountain biking to disc golf, adventures await in the Pine Tree State.
Located in Maine’s Carrabassett Valley, Sugarloaf is the second highest peak in the state, at 4,237-feet. Flanked to the south by Spaulding Mountain, as well as rolling rivers and luminous lakes, the area offers plenty of stunning views and seasonal outdoor activities.
Mountain biking has become a hotbed for lovers of two-wheel travel. Thanks to the efforts of the Carrabassett Region Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association, there are more than 80 miles of world-class bike trails originating at the base of the mountain and spanning throughout the valley, including five trails within the resort.
The Narrow Gauge Pathway is the perfect place to start for novice and intermediate riders. With several trailheads located across from the entrance to Sugarloaf, the six-mile double-track path follows the route of a former railroad along the Carrabassett River, with a gradual grade and stunning views of the valley.
More advanced riders will want to pick up a trail map at the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center and access several intermediate single tracks off the Narrow Gauge Pathway or five all-new gravity-fed black diamond trails spanning 10 miles with 2,000 vertical feet on the slopes. Sugarloaf also hosts rides and races throughout summer and fall.
With more than 150 trails on the mountain, hiking is also a big thing, from easy slopes to double-diamond climbs, as well as plenty of gentle trails through the foothills at the base of the mountain.
Golf is another major spring to fall draw at Sugarloaf, with a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. designed course featuring panoramic mountain views and the legendary String of Pearls–holes 10 through 15–that follow the Carrabassett River for some of the most scenic holes in the country. Other golf amenities include lessons, a pro shop with a full complement of golf gear, and Strokes Bar & Grille.
Other seasonal activities at Sugarloaf include: ziplining, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), scenic lift rides, and disc golf on their 18-hole disc golf course. And, with more than a half-dozen restaurants and watering holes open all year long, summer visitors won’t go hungry (or thirsty).
Just 90 miles southwest of Sugarloaf in the town of Newry lies Sunday River, Maine’s largest ski resort. Although not as steep as “The Loaf,” Sunday River has some of the most terrain among all East Coast skiing destinations, with its eight interconnected mountain peaks. And with that comes some spectacular spring to fall pursuits.
Overlooking the Sunday River Valley with magnificent views of the Mahoosuc Range as a backdrop, the Robert Trent Jones, Jr.-designed Sunday River Golf Club is one of the most scenic courses in New England. Following along the natural topography, the 18-hole course meanders through the woods with dramatic elevation changes and challenges for all levels of players. The club also features a clubhouse, complete with pro shop, practice range, and a restaurant and bar.
For adrenaline junkies, Sunday River features a strong hiking program across its many mountains, with 11 trails of varying length, ranging from easy to extreme. For something unique, Sunday River Outfitters features an 80-minute archery course and kayak and SUP rentals.
For something a bit more relaxing, take a Chondola lift ride to the top of North Peak for sweeping views of the lush mountains and the stunning valley below, choosing from an open chair or an enclosed gondola cabin to get to the top. Booking a post-adventure massage, facial, or body treatment at Jordan Spa is also a great option at Sunday River.
Enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, and après-activities with multiple dining options year-round, as well as resort shopping and a full calendar of events spring to fall.
Located between these two ski resorts lies Saddleback Mountain, a 4,120-foot mountain in Rangeley that is big on spring to fall outdoor pursuits.
Saddleback features the only bike park in the region, with a hand-cut, shaped, and graded network of single-track trails on the lower mountain seven days a week. With plans to offer lift service, the beginner, intermediate, and advanced trails are currently only accessible by pedal power. Saddleback Bike Shop offers rentals, lessons, bike repairs, service, tuning, and bike accessories.
With the Appalachian Trail crossing the summit of Saddleback Mountain, it’s no surprise that the area has been a hiking destination for decades. On the ski resort side, you can access the summit from two different trails, both coming in at a strenuous 1.8 miles. Alternatively, guided hikes to the summit up trails within Western Maine’s High Peak region are available through the Saddleback Adventures team.
Other activities through the Saddleback Adventures team include guided canoe, kayak, and SUP outings-as well as fly fishing and birdwatching day trips-in the Rangeley Lakes region. Apparel and accessories for outings can be found year-round at The Saddleback Retail Shop and pre- and après-dining and cocktails can be found at The Pub at Saddleback.