Last weekend we decided to head over to Sunday River Mountain Resort for a dog friendly family excursion. My parents are visiting from New Zealand and I thought it would be fun to show them the summer side of Maine mountain life while seeking-out some new wag-worthy adventures.
Sunday River is about 90 minutes from downtown Portland, so it makes for an easy day trip or a weekend escape. We usually take I-95 to the Gray exit and follow Route 26 through to Bethel and then head over to Newry where Sunday River is located.
Summer Hours – June 26 – September 1 (Thursday through Sunday – 10am to 4pm). Scenic Lift Tickets – Adult – $15, Youth (6-12) – $10, Kids/Seniors (under 5 or 80+) – Free, Season 2014/15 Winter Passholders – Free, Dogs – $5,
I was pleased to discover that Sunday River’s Chondola ride, accessed from South Ridge Lodge, is dog friendly. As we headed over to get our Chondola tickets, Ted’s enthusiastic tail-twirl and occasional mountain yodel let people know that he was pretty excited about his pending four-paw gondola ride. As season ski pass-holders, we were able to ride for free which was a bonus but Ted had to pony-up $5 for his “Scenic Lift Dog” ticket. The Chondola is accordingly named due to the fact the lift contains gondolas and chairs, two-legged riders can choose between riding up in the enclosed gondola or on the open air chairs. Ted is always up for an adventure and was quite comfortable riding in the gondola, looking out at the view and taking it all in.
At the top, we all piled out and headed over to the deck at North Peak Lodge. We ate our pack lunch at the picnic tables with panoramic mountain views over Sunday River Valley and the Mahoosuc Mountains. We always bring plenty of cold water and picnic treats for Ted. Dog picnic morsels usually include a West Paw Zogoflex (purchased from The Fish and Bone in Portland’s Old Port) stuffed with Wellness canned dog food and frozen; the perfect “chill-pill” for our exuberant lad.
After lunch, Ted sniffed out some wild raspberries for dessert and then we did a loop on the Backside and Polaris Trails which are classified as a moderate hike and include lots of great vantage points for views and photos. We did need to have our ears tuned-in to the sound of the occasional mountain biker traversing down the trail, there’s definitely plenty of challenging biking terrain for the adrenalin-seeking junkie.
Sunday River has a diverse series of nature trails and hiking terrain, just pick your level from easy to difficult and enjoy spectacular views at every turn. I am used to looking at this mountainous terrain through ski-goggles, so it was fun to be in shorts and a summer hat soaking up the rays.
We cut our way back up to North Peak Lodge and rode the gondola down to base camp where we chatted with other hikers. We had some tail-wagging reviews from two black labradors who had just finished a hike that began over on the other side of the mountain at The Jordan Grand Hotel. They followed the Lolapalooza ski trail to the top of Jordan Bowl which delivered views of the Mahoosuc Mountains and New Hampshire’s Presidential Range and then wagged their way over to our side of the mountain.
With temperatures in the early 80’s, the consensus was to scope out some of the mountain swimming holes where the locals like to hang out in summer. We used a hand-sketched swimming hole map on the Bethel Chamber of Commerce’s site to help find our way.
The Artists’ Covered Bridge
Coming down the Sunday River Access Road, you can follow the signs for the Covered Bridge. The Artists’ Covered Bridge was built in 1872 and is appropriately named due to it’s reputation for being the most photographed and painted covered bridge in Maine.
The bridge is an 87 foot Paddleford truss and was closed to traffic in 1958 when a new bridge was built downstream. There is parking either side of the bridge and we hiked down a short trail to a rocky paddling area set in the majesty of the wooden architecture. We paddled around and Ted enjoyed retrieving sticks and navigating the gentle rapids.
Letter “S” swimming hole
A few miles further down Sunday River Rd there is another swimming hole destination called “The S” which is part of The Sunday River and flows through glacial rock formations before widening out into what looks like a twisting letter “S.” We bumped in to a couple of retired Mohoosuc sled dogs, Kirin and Molly, who were chilling by the “S”.
If you drive further up Sunday River Rd, you’ll find Frenchman’s Hole, a picturesque waterfall and swimming hole. Ted swam in the waterholes that were far enough above the waterfall to avoid any unintended water roller-coaster action. We then watched as local teens leapt over the falls into the waterhole below, approximately a 20-foot drop and not something I suggest putting on your dog’s bucket list.
A special thanks to John and Janet King, my parents visiting from New Zealand, for sharing the backseat of our Subaru with their Grand-dog and happily joining in our dog-friendly Vacationland adventure pursuits.