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A Walk in the Woods: Snowshoeing at the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center

Gabrielle Martin

Sugarloaf Mountain Resort may be best-known as an iconic alpine ski resort (and rightly so!), but tucked away in the woods just minutes from the base area is Maine’s largest Nordic center, open daily 9am-5pm all winter; the lodge here is home to a full Nordic retail shop, rental center, and café, all surrounded by some of the most picturesque trails and views in New England.

Many also aren’t aware of the Alpine Exchange Program: when you purchase a Sugarloaf downhill lift ticket, you also get full access to the Outdoor Center trails and skating rink for the day—it even includes equipment rentals, so there’s no need for extra packing!

  • Proof of lift ticket purchase required.
  • Same-day only.
  • Valid for activities 9am-5pm.

So, now that you know… it’s time to slow down and smell the fir trees on one of many well-marked snowshoe trails at the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center!

What began thousands of years ago as an essential mode of winter transportation has since evolved into an increasingly popular recreational activity, providing an opportunity to explore the great outdoors while getting exercise; today, individuals of all ages and ability levels are able to enjoy a snowshoe expedition together.

Join me for a walk in the woods at the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center; in this blog, you’ll come along as we embark on a walk on miles of well-marked and maintained snowshoe trails waving through forests and along mountain streams for my first snowshoeing experience.

  

Know Before You Go: Dress Code

Think alpine attire.

  • Layers are the name of the game! Dress appropriately for this alpine activity, donning layers of clothing that can handle cold and wet conditions; alternatively, these layers can be removed if you work up a sweat on your snowshoe adventure.
  • Wear warm, waterproof boots. Snowshoes will adjust to fit most any type of boot, so your main concern will be selecting a pair that will keep your feet comfortable, dry, and warm; for that reason, insulated, waterproof winter boots with thick soles and rubber or leather uppers are ideals,
  • Wool or synthetic socks that wick sweat are always a good idea, as it’s best to avoid cotton socks in these situations (and bringing a spare pair never hurt anybody, either!).

 

Know Before You Go: Rentals and Trail Passes

Access miles of secluded snowshoe trails at the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center.

Once we arrived at the Outdoor Center lodge, we checked-in at the retail register, signed our waivers, and were fitted with snowshoes; the rental shop associate was patient as she showed us how to place our heels in the snowshoe, positioning the ball of our feet and then checking the location of our toes to ensure a proper fit. She also provided trail recommendations based on our abilities and experience (which was none), and set us on our way towards the Red Trail, which is great for beginners and little Loafers alike, offering pleasant, gentle terrain with some small hills.

The Red Trail is rated as one of the easiest trails in the Center's extensive system and is multi-use, providing fat tire trail access to the Narrow Gauge Spur trail to the Narrow Gauge Pathway trail. On average, a mile on the Red Trail takes approximately an hour. At first it's awkward and slow-going as we get our bearings, but it isn't long before we're feeling more confident in placing our footsteps and setting a good pace, getting further and further away from the lodge. Soon, it's woods as far as the eye can see and we are alone in a winter wonderland, walking beneath birch trees and sturdy pines, on a path surrounded by snow-covered surfaces with tracks being the only trace of others in the area.


At 45 minutes in, I'm convinced snowshoeing is good for the soul. I pause for a moment and watch the pine trees' needles waver in the breeze, appreciating the incredible beauty and the access we have to observe it. I found the experience to be exceptionally restorative, even transcedental. The woods of the Outdoor Center offer a peaceful escape from the everyday, and a trail pass is your ticket to a little slice of winter paradise. It's a great opportunity to clear your mind in the fresh air and frosty landscape, or share a meaningful conversation with a friend or family member adventuring alongside you (metaphorically–the trails are one-by-one); it's also a wonderful way to embrace the landscape and lifestyle of Carrabassett Valley.

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.”

-Henry David Thoreau

Trail Recommendations

The Yellow Loop is accessible from the Red Trail; this is a wonderful hike that crosses a bog, traversing through the woods over several small hills and knolls and offers several stunning photo ops of Sugarloaf. It’s rated as easy, and roughly 2 miles, so the average time is 2 hours.

The Green Trail will bring you to the Warming Hut within the Outdoor Center trails system; a portion of this trail has a moderate climb to 1360ft. in elevation, earning it a moderate difficulty rating. This 2-mile route—during which you’ll return via the Orange and Yellow Trails—is roughly 2 miles and will take 3 hours.

The Warming Hut.

Accessible from the Yellow Trail via the Red Trail, the Blue Trail brings hikers through forest landscapes, around ponds and wetlands, ultimately arriving at the Warming Hut; you’ll return via the Orange and Yellow trails. The difficulty of this trail is labeled as “hard,” and should take roughly 3 hours for the 3 mile loop.

Another challenging hike with significant vertical gain is the Orange Loop, a brookside hike with some great old tree stands; this will take you slightly longer—3.5 hours for 3.5 miles—but no doubt a very rewarding work out. And last, but certainly not least, is the experts-only Pink Trail, accessible from either the Yellow or Orange Trail. The Pink Trail will bring you to the Burnt Mountain trailhead, from where you can continue on to the top of the mountain, with a total trek time estimated to be around 4 hours for 3.5 miles.

New this season, view our Nordic Conditions report on TrailHUB; this service allows us to provide more detailed trail information than ever before, along with custom alerts and snow reports, all optimized for your mobile device. You can view the trail report on this page, but to get the most out of this new conditions reporting tool, we recommend signing up for a free TrailHUB account and subscribing to the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center Trail System. If you need help, just click on the question mark in the upper right corner of the TrailHUB page, or ask any of our staff for assistance.