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Wendy Almeida

Wendy Almeida wrote about enjoying the outdoors with kids in her monthly Kid Tracks Outdoors column for the Maine Sunday Telegram for more than 10 years. Her kids have grown up exploring the trails of Maine on foot, skis and bikes as well as through the Geocaching and EarthCache games. The family has found treasures of all sorts while out on the trail and the journey continues to be as much fun now that the kids are teenagers as it was when they were preschoolers. Follower on Twitter @wea1021 and Instagram instagram.com/wea1021

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Posted: April 30, 2015

6 family-friendly community bike trails in Maine

Written by: Wendy Almeida
Dave Kinsman and his wife, Connie, enjoy a tandem bike ride on the paved connector from Shaw Park to the Mountain Division Trail in Gorham. Press Herald file photo

Dave Kinsman and his wife, Connie, enjoy a tandem bike ride on the paved connector from Shaw Park to the Mountain Division Trail in Gorham. Press Herald file photo

If you haven’t already dug out the bikes from their winter storage, now is the time. Not everyone is comfortable with road riding, even when there are wide shoulders, so avoiding the stress of cars whizzing by on trails is a welcome option for parents. Luckily, we live in Maine, where there are several off-road (not to be confused with mountain biking) trails to enjoy a stress-free day on two wheels with the family.

The Mountain Division Trail from Standish to Windham is mostly paved and easy riding.

The Mountain Division Trail from Standish to Windham is mostly paved and easy riding. Wendy Almeida photo

1. MOUNTAIN DIVISION TRAIL, STANDISH

The Mountain Division Trail from Standish to Windham is about 6 miles of mostly paved travel and offers a smooth easy ride. The 0.9-mile connector from the Johnson Field trailhead in Standish to the Mountain Division Trail is still packed gravel, but the trail heads in Gorham and Windham have paved trail spurs. There is one big hill near Otter Pond that younger bikers may choose to walk their bikes up (or down) because it’s a bit steep. But once at the pavement by the rails, it’s a fairly level trail.

There are several road crossings from Standish to Windham, and all but one are quiet roads (one road may take a couple of minutes to cross because of fast-moving cars). There are a lot of benches at various points along the trail for water breaks and picnic lunches.

Very often, we share the trail with horses (near the Johnson Field trail head), and my kids think that makes this trail extra special. For mountain bikers, the trail continues over Route 202 in Windham to Bridge Street in Westbrook on a rough gravel surface.

TRAIL: Mountain Division Trail
LENGTH: 5.7 miles one way
TERRAIN: Mostly paved
TOWNS: Standish, Gorham and Windham
TRAILHEAD: Johnson Field on Route 35 in Standish, Gambo Recreational Center on Gambo Road in Windham and Shaw Park on Route 237 in Gorham.
BATHROOM: Porta-potty at each trailhead
DOGFRIENDLY: Yes, on a leash
FUN STOP: The Blue Seal store at the end of the trail on Route 202 in Windham usually has a resident animal in the store (depending on the time of year, it could be baby chicks, bunnies, dogs or cats). There are also some tasty candy caramels at the counter that are worth the sweet indulgence after a ride.

The Kennebec River Rail Trail passes through Augusta, Hallowell, Farmingdale and Gardiner. Wendy Almeida photo

The Kennebec River Rail Trail passes through Augusta, Hallowell, Farmingdale and Gardiner. Wendy Almeida photo

2. KENNEBEC RIVER RAIL TRAIL, AUGUSTA

This 6.5-mile trail runs through the towns of Augusta, Hallowell, Farmingdale and Gardiner. We typically use the Capitol City Park in Augusta trail head. In Hallowell’s business district, the window shopping and wood carvings is entertaining if you opt for walking your bike through Hallowell before resuming our ride on the trail just outside the village. This short walk makes for a nice break from the bike seats. There is a semi-steep hill in Hallowell that my kids climb fairly easily by managing their gears, but kids riding bikes without gears may opt to walk up the short hill instead. At the end of the trail in Gardiner, there is a shopping plaza with plenty of bathroom options and a bench in a small grassy area to sit and eat lunch.

TRAIL: Kennebec River Rail Trail
LENGTH: 6.5 miles one way
TERRAIN: Mostly paved (about half a mile between Augusta and Hallowell is packed gravel)
TOWNS: Augusta, Hallowell, Farmingdale, Gardiner
TRAILHEAD: There are several access points. Capital City Park in Augusta and Hannaford shopping plaza on Route 24 in Gardiner are the main points of entry with plenty of parking.
BATHROOM: There are nearby businesses at both trail heads that have public bathrooms. There are also some in downtown Hallowell.
DOG-FRIENDLY: Yes, on a leash
FUN STOP: There are several interesting shops in downtown Hallowell, including stops for sweets and ice cream. My kids will also tell you that stopping at the Hi-Hat (diner) for onion rings and fries is a must.

A cyclist and her son enjoy the ride along the Greenbelt trail in Bug Light Park. Press Herald file photo

A cyclist and her son enjoy the ride along the Greenbelt trail in Bug Light Park. Press Herald file photo

3. GREENBELT WALKWAY, SOUTH PORTLAND

This urban trail requires more “stop and go” than other trails we’ve visited because of the many street crossings. Even though most were in quiet, residential areas with no cars in sight, when riding with the kids it’s best to stop and look both ways before crossing every street.

There are two major intersections – one at Mill Creek (Broadway and Route 77) and the other on Broadway and Evans Street. The first time we rode this trail, we found one part a bit confusing simply because we are not very familiar with the city. Keep an eye out for arrows on the road to indicates trail direction, particularly at Pearl and Chestnut streets. There is also a short section of on-the-road riding on a quiet street. The diversity of sights along this trail is fun – from a view of the water and lovely backyard gardens (the trail abuts quite a few homes) to the woods and open fields. And Mill Creek Park and Bug Light are great spots for a picnic lunch.

TRAIL: Greenbelt Trail, which is part of the East Coast Greenway
LENGTH: 5.7 miles one way
TERRAIN: Paved
TOWN: South Portland
TRAILHEAD: Bug Light Park, Madison Street (off Broadway) in South Portland
BATHROOM: There are businesses with public bathrooms along the route.
DOG-FRIENDLY: Yes, on a leash
FUN STOP: There is a grocery store, fast-food chain (with ice cream shakes) and other stores to purchase sweet treats and drinks just off the trail in the Mill Creek area, which can be handy when you need an additional incentive for your young riders.

Scarborough Marsh. Lots of marsh birds can be seen along this trail. Wendy Almeida photo

Scarborough Marsh. Lots of marsh birds can be seen along this trail. Wendy Almeida photo

4. EASTERN TRAIL, SCARBOROUGH

This trail is a lot of fun for birding enthusiasts if you want to make frequent stops to look at the marsh birds. The smooth, packed-gravel surface and lack of hills on this path make for a very easy and pleasant ride with kids. The one downside is the lack of places to sit down to have a picnic lunch. A spot near the trail head has level space to spread out a picnic blanket for a few minutes but the dampness of the marsh soaks through blankets, even nylon, pretty quickly. Stay clear of the “No Trespassing” sign on one side of the parking area.

TRAIL: Scarborough Marsh (part of the Eastern Trail that connects trails from Maine to Florida)
LENGTH: About three miles one way
TERRAIN: Packed gravel
TRAILHEAD: The trailhead is well-marked on Pine Point Road, with a sign for the Eastern Trail about a quarter-mile east of the Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center.
BATHROOM: None
DOG-FRIENDLY: Yes, on a leash
FUN STOP: The Dairy Corner, with their variety of softserve flavored ice cream that includes more than just vanilla and chocolate, is about a mile away from the trailhead.

The path around Back Cove is the perfect spot for youngsters and adults alike to enjoy in Portland. Press Herald file photo

The path around Back Cove is the perfect spot for youngsters and adults alike to enjoy in Portland. Press Herald file photo

5. BACK COVE, EASTERN PROM TRAILS, PORTLAND

To avoid road riding, take the Back Cove trail to connect to the Eastern Prom. There are hills on the Eastern Prom trail, but nothing too difficult for bikes with gears (younger riders with gearless bikes might opt to walk their bike in some spots). There are plenty of things to look at, including a colorful graffiti wall, wastewater treatment plant (the roiling brown water is quite a site), the Narrow Gauge Railroad and East End Beach. Make a detour off the main path to visit Fort Allen Park’s cannon and enjoy our snack sitting atop the hill at the picnic tables above East End Beach. Be warned this trail is popular with pedestrians.

TRAIL: Back Cove Trail to the Eastern Prom Trail (part of the Portland Trails)
LENGTH: About three miles one way
TERRAIN: Packed gravel on Back Cove Trail; Eastern Prom is paved
TRAILHEAD: We use the lot off Preble Street Extension
BATHROOM: At East End Beach
DOG-FRIENDLY: Yes, on a leash
FUN STOP: Walk your bikes down Commercial Street because a slice of pie at Becky’s Diner is a nice way to end a trail ride.

Androscoggin River trail from Brunswick to Topsham. Wendy Almeida photo

Androscoggin River trail from Brunswick to Topsham. Wendy Almeida photo

6. ANDROSCOGGIN RIVER TRAIL, BRUNSWICK

This bike path in Brunswick is short, flat and great for young, novice bike riders. There are plenty of scenic picnic spots and convenient (and clean) outhouses near both ends of the trail. A small, older playground at the Cook’s Corner end of the trail can help motivate kids to ride the full 2.6 miles of the trail. Because of this trail’s appeal, it’s typically crowded on sunny weekends and can be difficult for bikers to navigate around pedestrians.

TRAIL: Androscoggin River Bike Path
LENGTH: 2.6 miles one way
TERRAIN: Paved
TRAILHEAD: Main trail head is located at the end of Water Street in Brunswick. There is an entrance at the end of Grover Lane (near Cook’s Corner) as well as a connection to Topsham via the Coastal Connector Bridge.
BATHROOM: There is an outhouse approximately 1/4 mile from the Water Street trail head and another about 1/2 mile from Cook’s Corner.
DOG-FRIENDLY: Yes, on a leash

 


 

FOR MORE bike trail ideas around the state, check out the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s “Places to Ride” resources.

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