Kingfield is at the southern terminus of the Maine High Peaks Scenic Byway and is the gateway to the High Peaks region, home to 10 of Maine’s 4,000-foot mountains. The first white men recorded to have visited the area did so in 1805. They returned in 1806 with their families and formed a settlement, which subsequently was named Kingfield in honor of the landowner, William King, who went on to become the first governor of Maine. Kingfield’s proximity to the Carrabassett River with its dependable waterpower enabled the town to become a mill town centered on the wood products industry and manufacturing. The completion of the Dead River and Kingfield Railroad in 1884 further contributed to the town’s growth. By the nineteenth century, there were several stores in town, at least one shoemaker, a resident physician, several mills, a tannery, and a rake factory. Kingfield’s population of 1000 people has remained fairly constant since that time.
Kingfield has 4 manufacturing factories, including a Nestlé Waters Poland Spring Bottling Plant, and over 80 businesses, restaurants, and shops. Kingfield is home to the Ski Museum of Maine and the Stanley Museum, which pays homage to hometown notables, the Stanley Brothers, famous for their invention of the ruggedly durable Stanley Steamer engine and automobiles. Annual cultural events include the summer Kingfield POPS concert, featuring the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, and the Kingfield Festival Days. The Kingfield Art Walk takes place on the first Friday of September through the first Friday of April. It is one of the only winter art walks of its kind and boasts a variety of exhibits, mediums and food samplings. A horse-drawn carriage transports attendees to each destination, highlighting the charm and history of each venue.
The BikeMaine Village is on property owned by the Mountain Village Farm B&B and Poland Spring, and affords a beautiful view of the High Peaks.
September 12 – Day 3 – Kingfield to Rangeley
Elevation Gain: 2103
We follow the Carrabassett River north out of Kingfield along Routes 16/27. The Carrabassett River runs for 34 miles, rising near Sugarloaf Mountain and flowing southeast past Kingfield, joining with the Kennebec River in the town of Anson. As we ride upriver, we pass the access roads to some of the properties that attract adventure seekers to the region: Maine Huts & Trails, Sugarloaf Outdoor Center, and Sugarloaf Mountain, and get some magnificent vistas of many of the High Peaks, including Sugarloaf (4237’).
Maine Huts & Trails is an 80-mile system of multi-purpose trails that connect four off-the-grid eco lodges. The trails are used by mountain bikers and hikers in the summer and fall, and are groomed for cross-country skiers and snow bicyclists in the winter and spring. “Huts” is deceptive in this case, these “huts” have vaulted ceilings, beautiful leather furniture, crackling woodstoves, walls of windows in the common rooms, and heated bunkrooms. The clean, modern bathrooms feature hot showers and composting toilets. The meals served are locally sourced and prepared in state-of-the-art commercial kitchens, powered, like everything else, by solar or hydro energy.
The Sugarloaf Outdoor Center, a part of Sugarloaf Mountain Resort, offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on 90 km of groomed trails and ice-skating on an NHL-sized rink. Fat biking is available in the winter, and the area hums with mountain bicyclists in the summer and fall, with mountain bike rentals available.
Sugarloaf is the largest ski area east of the Rockies, with trails and glades spreading across Sugarloaf Mountain, Brackett Basin, and Burnt Mountain. The first trail was cut in 1951, and today there are more than 55 miles of marked trails and 15 chairlifts with the capacity to carry over 21,000 skiers per hour. Sugarloaf offers skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and terrain parks in the winter, and golf (on a Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed course), hiking, and moose view tours in the summer and fall.
Near the access road to Sugarloaf is Carrabassett Valley Academy, a private ski and snowboard academy offering training in most downhill winter mountain sports. Established in 1982, the school has produced 12 Olympians, 92 national titles, 11 X-Game competitors, 26 NCAA and USCSA All-Americans, 39 National team members, and 6 world champions.
At Mile 18, we pass the Route 27 road crossing for the Appalachian Trail, between Crocker Mountain and Bigelow Preserve. With one end in Georgia and the other end in Maine, the Appalachian Trail traverses 14 states. It is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, at 2190 miles, with 282 of the miles in Maine. The terminus of the trail on top of Mount Katahdin is 188.2 miles from this crossing.
The Bigelow Preserve includes over 36,000 acres of public land, encompassing the entire Bigelow Range. The range has seven summits, the highest of which is West Peak at 4,150 feet, one of ten mountains in Maine topping 4,000 feet. Bigelow Preserve is bounded on the north by Flagstaff Lake. Flagstaff Lake is part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a historic 740-mile water trail through New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire, and Maine.
In Stratton, we begin an out and back to Eustis to allow for scenic views of the North Branch of the Dead River and Flagstaff Lake. Stratton actually is a village of Eustis. The original settler was Caleb Stephens, who came from New Hampshire with his wife and nine children. The settlement was first called Township No. 1 of Range 4, West of Bingham’s Kennebec Purchase. In 1831, two men purchased the northern half of the township from the state of Maine. One of the purchasers, Charles Eustis of Lewiston, built a sawmill and gristmill. In 1857, the township was organized as Eustis Plantation, which was incorporated as a town in 1871. There are approximately 620 people living in Eustis today.
The Benedict Arnold Trail begins in Stratton and follows Route 27 north to Coburn Gore and the Canadian border. In 1775 Benedict Arnold traveled up the Dead River to Chain of Ponds on his ill-fated march to capture Quebec during the American Revolution.
We pass Flagstaff Lake, Maine’s largest manmade lake and have a fairly flat cruise to Cathedral Pines. Cathedral Pines refers to an old-growth forest of tall Red Pines, through which runs a series of hiking and biking trails that are groomed in winter for cross-country skiing. At the Cathedral Pines Campground, we turn around and double back on Route 27 to Stratton. It is well worth your time to stop at the Dead River Area Historical Society, which contains treasured photos and mementos of the towns now buried beneath Flagstaff Lake.
Following lunch at the Stratton Community Center, we head west on Route 16. This section of Route 16 between Stratton and Rangeley is known locally as “Moose Alley,” because it is prime moose spotting territory at twilight. The route passes by the entry to a 4-mile long gravel road leading to the summit of “Quill Hill,” with its 360-degree panoramic view of the region, before arriving in the town of Rangeley, and our two-day stay in the town park on the shore of Rangeley Lake.