Winter Adventuring into Maine Wilderness Lodges in the 100-Mile Wilderness
The 100-Mile Wilderness is perhaps Maine’s most enigmatic landscape, a vast 750,000-acre expanse of rugged hills and mountains, pristine lakes and ponds, free-flowing rivers and streams, and the next-to-last stretch of the renowned Appalachian Trail, all bookended by Moosehead Lake and the West Branch of the Penobscot River.
Trails galore in the 100-Mile Wilderness mean countless opportunities for day hikes and overnights treks in late spring, summer and fall. The best time to visit may well be winter, however, when cold weather adventurers can click into cross-country skis or strap on snowshoes for a wonderful journey into the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Maine Wilderness Lodges in the heart of the region. Here, you’ll enjoy an abundance of well-marked, groomed trails by day and outstanding, off-the-grid accommodations by night, a very special experience in a remote, awe-inspiring natural setting.
AMC became a landowner in the 100-Mile Wilderness 15 years ago, a bold move that helped connect a remarkable 65-mile corridor of conservation lands, and has since acquired more than 70,000 acres. AMC operates three traditional sporting camps and has built 120 miles of multi-use trails, an outdoor recreation bonanza, which is perfect for a winter weekend getaway with friends or family.
Medawisla Lodge and Cabins, on the west end of Second Roach Pond with a marvelous view of Katahdin, is accessible year-round via gravel logging roads. Miles of groomed ski trails emanate from the lodge, leading around the pond and to Shaw and Trout mountains nearby. For first-time winter visitors to the area, this place is a good choice.
Little Lyford Lodge is set amid deep woods, just a stone’s throw from the West Branch of the Pleasant River as well as Little Lyford Pond and its fabulous vista of Baker Mountain. Gulf Hagas, Maine’s spectacular “Grand Canyon,” is only a couple miles distant via marked ski trails.
Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins is situated at the east of Long Pond in the shadow of Third Mountain, part of the wild and rugged Barren-Chairback Range.
From the winter parking lot on Katahdin Iron Works Road, Hedgehog Gate Trail leads seven moderate miles to Little Lyford, while Gorman Chairback is reached in an easy 6.5 miles via Long Pond Trail. Make a long-weekend loop between the two lodges by following the Lodge-to-Lodge Trail. Guests can have overnight gear sledded into camp by snowmobile, making for lighter travel with just a daypack.
AMC’s Maine backcountry facilities feature cozy log or frame cabins, complete with a woodstove and warm bunks or beds. Each lodge sports a spacious dining room and lounge with a woodstove. Restrooms also have hot showers, and there’s a wood-fired sauna for steamy relaxation after a cold day of fun outdoors.
Meals are sumptuous and served family-style in the camaraderie of fellow travelers. Filet mignon, salmon, roasted chicken and mountains of side dishes, plus soup or salad and fresh baked bread, are typical dinner fare. Vegetarian dishes are also available. And there’s always a delicious dessert. Breakfast is an equally large affair, with an egg dish, a side of bacon or sausage, pancakes or French toast, potatoes, muffins, coffee and juice. Brown bag trail lunches include a hearty sandwich, salty snacks, cookies and fruit.
AMC’s Maine Wilderness Lodges can be a do-it-yourself adventure or you can arrange to go with an experienced guide. Either way, check with AMC for lodging information, trip planning and preparation details, trail maps, and tips for safe, enjoyable winter travel.
AMC’S Maine Wilderness Lodges
— Text & Photos: Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island. Carey is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, and an avid beer drinker.