Hey everyone, I’m Josh. DD saw my Maine Huts Adventure and begged me to tell my story so she could live vicariously. She asked me some questions about my trip and you can read my answers below. I hope you enjoy!
I’ve heard about Maine Huts & Trails for years now, but never had the opportunity to check it out until earlier this month. Essentially, Maine Huts & Trails is currently about 80 miles of interconnected trails sprinkled with (extremely beautiful) off-the-grid eco-lodges available for year-round recreation. They offer both full-service and self-service seasons. Between the impeccably maintained trail system (people powered transportation only) with a genuinely wild feel, simple yet excellent food, and cozy lodges, the entire Maine Huts & Trails experience is worth indulging (and repeating!) for solo journeys and groups. Trail Map for reference.
While it is possible to spend multiple days traveling between huts, we opted to go for a single overnight at the Grand Falls Hut, which included a nearly 8-mile cross-country ski adventure in and out. We paid around $140/person, which included dinner, breakfast, and lunch in addition to the private bunk room. Don’t feel like carrying in all your stuff? They do have a gear shuttle available for an additional fee
Maine Huts & Trails’ website has a lot of great info including photographs of the huts (which aren’t huts at all), trail system maps, suggested packing lists, and details on how to best enjoy different seasonal activities along the trail system. Ultimately, I found that identifying available dates and booking is best done over the phone. Most huts have larger shared bunk rooms, though there are a handful of private 2-3 person rooms available.
Not into skiing? The journey would also make for a great snowshoe in the winter or a hike during other times. Into biking? These trails are fantastic for fat tire bikes and there’s a rental shop nearby. There are shorter-distance and longer-distance options along the trail system, so don’t let skill or experience level be a barrier for you. Maine Huts & Trails also offers guided experiences.
About Maine Huts and Trails: Maine Huts & Trails is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create and operate a world-class system of backcountry trails and eco-lodges for people-powered recreation to enhance the economy, communities and environment of Maine’s Western Mountain region, for the benefit of current and future generations. The current system is ~80 miles of trails and 4 backcountry eco-lodges available for year-round recreation.
Date/start & finish time: Feb 4, 2017, 2 PM to 5 PM; overnight stay at Grand Falls Hut; Feb 5, 2017, 9 AM to 12:00 PM
Trail Route: Big Eddy Winter Trail Head to Grand Falls Hut (7.8 miles)
Parking Area: Big Eddy Winter Trail Head (Public Parking Lot)
Elevation gain: +/1 100’
Q: Any particular things that held you back or made it easier?
- It was rather chilly (15 or so degrees on Saturday, 20 or so degrees on Sunday), so base layers, ski pants, hat, double gloves, and a flask helped us get along quite well.
- There’s a small section of the trail (<1 mile) that’s shared with snowmobiles; so trail-goers should pay attention.
- There is limited/no cell phone reception on any part of this trail.
Q: How many people did you see?
- Two people on the trail, about 2 dozen at the cabin
Q: What was the vibe? Describe it in a few words
- The 7.8-mile trail was just enough. The initial ¼ mile from the parking lot to the trailhead is a paved road, but the rest of the trail follows Dead River which eventually empties out into the Kennebec River. Much of the trail was flat/meadow with the occasional 5-10’ elevation change. There are certainly some spots on this trail, especially in the last ¼ of the trip, with significant elevation change where having some experience with downhill skiing comes in handy.
- We arrived at Grand Falls Hut around 5 PM, just as it was getting dark. The “hut” is actually an extremely comfortable and beautiful structure, about the size of a large lodge. It’s entirely off the grid and relies on smart architecture and a diesel generator. Compost bathrooms (the toilets are state-of-the-art and tours are available) and showers are inside the main lodge and both of which were extremely well maintained.
- Dinner was served around 6 PM; the meal was excellent, particularly when accompanied by several Allagash White which was available for purchase. Meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans all expressed very positive reviews on the meal. We found out that the huts tries to source all food locally. All meals are served family-style, so there’s ample opportunity to meet fellow travelers. We joined a large family (~20 people) from the Portland area who were fantastic.
- Larger bunk rooms are available (reservations are made by the bed) and some huts in the system have private rooms available for smaller parties for an added cost. The rooms are separate from the primary lodge, but just a few feet away. The rooms have radiant heating in the floors, so they stay above freezing. Rooms were simple: a single light, a few windows, wooden bunk-style beds with light foam sleeping pads. We brought our own sleeping bags (required) to go on top of the mat.
- Breakfast is served at 7:30 AM, followed by a buffet-style lunch setup where travelers make their own brown bag lunch for the next leg of the trail.
Q: Any recommended break spots
- Anywhere along this trail is gorgeous. There’s a spot on the trail where you can see the Grand Falls waterfall, definitely worth the ~¼ mile departure from the primary trail.
Any recommended view spots
- Grand Falls waterfall; the drive all the way there; the huts
Q: What did you wear? Gear that helped you?
- Waxless Cross-Country Skis and Boots purchased from Ski Rack Sports
- Patagonia thermal baselayer (legs, upper body)
- 10 year old black North Face backpack with chest strap in place
- Outdoor Research Balaclava
- Patagonia wool hat
- SmartWool Socks
- Outdoor Research High Camp 3 Finger Gloves with smaller pair of gloves inside
- North Face outer shell
- Columbia ski pants
- Leather-bound flask from Rock & Art Shop with Gunpowder Rye Whiskey or your intoxicant of choice (I don’t know how Maine Huts & Trails feels about this, but be polite and I’m sure you’ll be fine.)
- Sunglasses, water, and snacks
Total miles round trip: 15.6
Your rating: moderate/experienced
I hope you enjoyed my adventure in the Maine Huts and Trails system!