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Narrow Gauge: A Rec Mecca

By Gabrielle Martin

August 12, 2021

Seeking authentic backcountry experiences in Carrabassett Valley? Look no further than Narrow Gauge Pathway!

Carrabassett River

Bike or hike here to retrace what once was the route of the Dead River Railroad, a winding transportation line that serviced loggers and sawmills in the area. The original tracks were laid in 1894; the railroaders selected a 2-foot-wide narrow gauge for track separation (rather than the 4-foot, 8-inch standard gauge) because it was easier to install and less expensive to build, plus it provided more consistent service through the mountainous terrain, hence the name “Narrow Gauge.” In 1900, the railroad was extended to Bigelow Station before going out of service in the late 1920s.

The town of Carrabassett, with help from the State of Maine, constructed the Narrow Gauge recreational path in 2001, creating an all-season, non-motorized, pet-friendly, public access rail trail alongside the Carrabassett River. The Narrow Gauge Pathway also serves as an extension of the Maine Huts and Trails system, which connects the trails at Sugarloaf Outdoor Center with the Maine Hut Trail from Narrow Gauge to Poplar Stream. 

Narrow Gauge

There are multiple entry points to the Pathway, all off Route 27: the Airport Trailhead (located between the Carrabassett Valley Airport and the Sugarbowl), the Anti-Gravity Center, Campbell Field (across from the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center, has restrooms), and the Carrabassett Valley Public Library, with each option offering plenty of parking.

In total, the trail is approximately 6 miles in length with a gradual upward increase from the southernmost trailhead at the Carrabassett Town Office all the way to the end (near the entrance to the Access Road), meaning that both the Anti-Gravity Center and Campbell Field trailheads offer a relaxing downhill ride (or walk) with a more challenging return. Trail surfaces are a combination of dirt and gravel.

Biking at Narrow Gauge

Picnic tables are placed all along the Pathway for your convenience, providing visitors with plenty of spaces to pause for a scenic stop in a shady spot where they can cool off and fuel up, all the while enjoying the blissful peace and quiet of the Maine woods.

Narrow Gauge is the perfect place for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts alike: from beavers to butterflies, the Pathway provides immersive experience the natural wonders of the wilderness. One notable observation location is the long wooden bridge that passes over wetlands and a small pond.

Narrow Gauge

If you have your fishing license with you, there are plenty of places to drop a line—and should you have your swimsuit, you ought to take advantage of the pristine waters of the Carrabassett River by going for a dip in one of the swimming holes settled along the Pathway.

Looking ahead to fall—AKA foliage season—the assortment of aspen, birch, and maple trees along the Pathway promise to display spectacular splashes of color. In addition, there are a number of mountain bike single tracks leading from the main trail for riders of all abilities.

There’s truly no better way to describe the Narrow Gauge Pathway than as a recreational Mecca; from biking to birdwatching, family time to fishing, this public-access, multi-use outdoor oasis honestly offers something for everybody. It’s an equally great place to exercise as it is to relax with a scenic stroll and pre-packed picnic lunch—or, if you’re feeling fancy, get a take-it-to-go meal from your favorite local eatery! 

Whatever the reason, whatever the season, if you’re seeking to spend some quality time outside in the Carrabassett Valley area, look no further than the Narrow Gauge Pathway.