Escape Portland: Winter Edition

December 9, 2015

 

Blythe is a contributing blogger and the blog founder’s sister. She lives in Portland, Maine, and pulled together a list of some adventure-worthy spots just outside of Maine’s largest city. 

 

Though Portland, Maine, is in no way a bustling metropolis, this little city still has the ability to give a rural-raised resident the itch to cross city lines, find some tall trees, and breathe legitimately—preferably salty—fresh air.

I love a lot of things about Portland—probably about 90% of which are food-related—but, ironically, one of my favorite things about the city is that escaping it is so, so easy. Whether you live in the city or are just here for a weekend, there are dozens of woodsy and beachy havens to visit within an hour’s drive where you can walk, hike, snowshoe, ski, or just get your zen on.

Since it’s almost officially Winter, here are some of my favorites during the snowy months:

Mackworth Island

Mackworth Island is a proverbial stone’s throw from Portland’s East End, which makes it a perfect spot if you’re looking for a quick and easy outdoor adventure. Though small in size—the trail that lines the Island’s perimeter is only 1.25 miles long—it features sweeping views of Casco Bay. There’s quick access to the water’s edge in many spots along the wooded trail, both swinging and non-swinging benches to relax on, a pet cemetery, and a visitor-constructed fairy house village along the trail that’s worth walking through (carefully).

Driving time from downtown Portland: 10 minutes

FMI: http://trails.org/our-trails/mackworth-island-trail/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/portlandtrailsmaine/sets/72157646141187988/

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Mackworth Island

 

Bradbury Mountain State Park

Bradbury Mountain itself is pretty small—fewer than 500 feet—but the park has a bunch of accessible trails that range from easy to moderate. Its size makes it an awesome place to explore in the snow, and you can do it in boots or snowshoes. If you make it out on a clear day, the summit offers some great views of Casco Bay and Portland.

Driving time from downtown Portland: 28 minutes

FMI: http://www.mainetrailfinder.com/trails/trail/bradbury-mountain-state-park-hiking-trails

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Bradbury Mountain

 

Pineland Farms

Full disclosure: There’s a good chance I’m the worst cross-country skier on the Eastern Seaboard. I didn’t grow up skiing, and over the past couple of years I’ve learned that desperately wanting to be an alpine athlete does not manifest in you actually being an alpine athlete. So for me, buying skis would just be buying into pipe dream. Enter Pineland Farms.

This place is wonderful. You can rent skis on the cheap and glide through a winter wonderland of trails (or, if you’re me, just fall relentlessly amidst their glory), or pick up some snowshoes for a snowstroll, or bring a sled and cruise down some hills.

Predictably, one of my favorite parts of Pineland is its market/café, which is full of delicious goodies that you can take home or eat right there.

Driving time from downtown Portland: 32 minutes

FMI: http://www.pinelandfarms.org/outdoor-recreation/skiing.html

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Yikes

 

Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area

Remember that beach at the end of The Goonies? The easy, winding, and wetlands-traversing Morse Mountain trail, which is gorgeous in its own right, spits you out onto what is essentially the East Coast version of the Goonies beach, sans pirate ships. Once you “summit” the tiny (180-foot) mountain and hit the coast, there are miles of sandy Seawall Beach to walk on—perhaps without seeing another soul this time of year.

Driving time from downtown Portland: 57 minutes

FMI: http://www.bates.edu/harward/bmm/directions-to-b-mm/#bates-morse-mountain-conservation-area

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Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park

Wolfe’s Neck in Freeport features a mix of wooded trails, marshes, and rocky shorelines. The walking trails lead you through pine forests that line the coast, and you can easily hop off a trail and onto a rocky beach for views of Casco Bay and nearby islands.

Warning: The most direct route to Wolfe’s Neck from Portland has you cut right through the center of the Freeport outlets. I consider it a momentous feat when I make it to and from Wolfe’s Neck without stopping for clothing I definitely want and definitely don’t need. If you can get your mitts on some blinders prior to this trip, you’ll be in better shape.

Driving time from downtown Portland: 32 minutes

FMI: http://www.mainetrailfinder.com/trails/trail/wolfe-s-neck-woods-state-park

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Wolfe’s Neck Woods

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