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Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at MaineOutdoors@aol.com.

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Posted: January 30, 2015

Weekend Adventure: Trek to Acadia National Park for miles of great x-c skiing on the carriage roads

Written by: Carey Kish

The Great Blizzard of 2015, the Storm of the Century, Snowmageddon—call it what you will—delivered quite a charge of snow to the state of Maine. The coast made out pretty good, collecting anywhere from 18 to 24 to even 30 inches of snow. The mountains did okay too, grabbing a good foot anyway.

For us skiers, well, we loved every wonderful flake. Not so much for everybody else probably, making all that scraping, shoveling and plowing just a lot of extra work with no discernable reward.

Skiers who could get away—legitimately or by claiming a “sick” day this week—got their freshie fix for sure on the slopes. Cross-country skiers are wearing a smile too, with Nordic centers across the state now open for miles of great tracked and skate skiing.

Miles of Acadia's carriage roads are groomed and open for x-c skiing. Photo © Carey Kish.

Miles of Acadia’s carriage roads are groomed and open for x-c skiing. Photo © Carey Kish.

Up my way on Mount Desert Island, the x-c skiing on the carriage roads in Acadia National Park has been pretty good, all things considered. And now after the big storm—we picked up a couple feet—it’s a world better, as you might imagine.

Another snow storm is forecast for Friday, which may add another foot to the base. Yeah!

Skiing the carriage roads in uber-scenic Acadia is a bucket list experience of sorts, and if you’ve never done so, you’ve got to get here and experience it for yourself. And with all this great snow and more on the way, now is as good a time as any.

A cadre of volunteers groom the carriage roads  for x-c skiing. Photo © Carey Kish.

A cadre of volunteers groom the carriage roads for x-c skiing. Photo © Carey Kish.

MILES OF HISTORIC CARRIAGE ROADS

There are some 57 miles of historic crushed-stone carriage roads on the island, 45 miles within the bounds of Acadia National Park. In summer these wonderful winding roads—closed to vehicles—offer some pretty fine biking, walking and horseback riding opportunities. Come winter, the carriage a road are open to x-c skiers, snowshoers and hikers, but not snowmobiles (for the most part).

Even better, volunteers from the Acadia Winter Trails Association machine pack miles of carriage roads for skiing, grooming a wide track for use by both skate and Nordic skiers, and setting single tracks for Nordic skiers.

Mountain view over Eagle Lake, Acadia National Park. Photo © Carey Kish.

Mountain view over Eagle Lake, Acadia National Park. Photo © Carey Kish.

Friends of Acadia provides financial support and fundraising assistance to the two teams of volunteer groomers, while Acadia National Park helps with maintenance and other key support.

Because of this phenomenal effort—which began in the late 1980s—skiers like you and me have miles of groomed ski routes available for winter fun, all in one of the most beautiful spots on the planet.

Skiing on the carriage roads past Aunt Betty Pond on a bluebird day. Photo © Carey Kish.

Skiing on the carriage roads past Aunt Betty Pond on a bluebird day. Photo © Carey Kish.

VARIETY OF SKIING LOOPS

A variety of ski routes are possible. Please consider that this is a volunteer effort, and as such, trail packing, grooming and setting tracks happens at times that are both convenient and safe for the volunteers.

Perhaps the most popular winter trailhead for carriage road skiing is on ME 233 a few miles west of Bar Harbor. From this point skiers can head north to tackle the Witch Hole Loop (about 5 miles) and strike off south to ski the Eagle Lake/Aunt Betty Pond Loop (about 6 miles).

Stone bridge at the Eagle Lake trailhead. Photo © Carey Kish.

Stone bridge at the Eagle Lake trailhead. Photo © Carey Kish.

You can also access the Witch Hole Pond Loop from the Visitor Center on ME 3 in Hulls Cove.

The Around-the-Mountain, Amphitheater and Hadlock Pond loops are accessed from parking areas on ME 198, one at the Parkman Mountain trailhead and another at the Lower Hadlock Pond trailhead.

The Witch Hole Pond Loop and Eagle Lake/Aunt Betty Pond Loop both start from the parking area )with open toilet) on ME 233 west of Bar Harbor. Photo © Carey Kish.

The Witch Hole Pond Loop and Eagle Lake/Aunt Betty Pond Loop both start from the parking area )with open toilet) on ME 233 west of Bar Harbor. Photo © Carey Kish.

The Around-the-Mountain ski loop circumnavigates the jumbled massif that encompasses Sargent, Cedar Swamp, Penobscot and Parkman mountains as well as Gilmore and Bald peaks. I don’t know its mileage off-hand, but it’s a dozen or more I believe, with a goodly amount of elevation gain and loss; a mighty fine most-of-the-day ski trek.

The Witch Hole and Aunt Betty loops are a couple-three hours at a leisurely pace.

In the spruce woods on the carriage roads on the backside of Connors Nubble. Photo © Carey Kish.

In the spruce woods on the carriage roads on the backside of Connors Nubble. Photo © Carey Kish.

MORE INFO, SKI & STAY

For more information on this most excellent Maine x-c skiing adventure in the heart of Acadia National Park, and for the most up-to-date information on what’s been groomed for skiing and where, check the websites of Acadia National Park and the Acadia Winter Trails Association, plus the Facebook page for Friends of Acadia.

Make a plan and make the trek to Acadia. You’ll love it! And since it’s a hefty drive for many folks, maybe you’ll want to stay the weekend and get lots of great skiing in, plus some other fun and entertainment on the side. Check with the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce for dining, lodging and entertainment options.

Cadillace Mountain and Eagle Lake from a highpoint on the Aunt Betty Loop. Photo © Carey Kish.

Cadillace Mountain and Eagle Lake from a highpoint on the Aunt Betty Loop. Photo © Carey Kish.

A fun place this island resident recommends is Reel Pizza Cinerama in Bar Harbor, a fine spot for a Saturday night movie. Yep, settle in for a good flick, chow down on some really excellent pizza and throw back a few beers, all from the comfort of your theater seat.

OK then, maybe see you on the carriage roads!

Wonderful volunteers make the carriage road grooming possible. Photo © Carey Kish.

Wonderful volunteers make the carriage road grooming possible. Photo © Carey Kish.

Sargent Mountain from Gilmore Meadow. Photo © Carey Kish.

Sargent Mountain from Gilmore Meadow. Photo © Carey Kish.

The pristine snows of Aunt Betty Pond. Photo © Carey Kish.

The pristine snows of Aunt Betty Pond. Photo © Carey Kish.

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