By Jennifer Hazard
From our February 2022 issue
When it’s freshly groomed, the free hill at New Gloucester’s Pineland Farms (15 Farm View Dr.; 207-688-6599) is the silkiest ride for miles, its snow compacted and the previous day’s ruts and boot holes all smoothed out. The working farm and recreational campus is a one-stop-shop for aerobic winter fun, with a skating rink (free) and miles of groomed trail for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and fat biking (passes required). Need a sled? The Outdoor Center rents cheapie toboggan-style plastic numbers for $5. ❖ Portland’s city-owned Riverside Golf Course (1158 Riverside St.) has a bunch of hills popular with sledders — anything not roped off is fair game — linked by free ski and snowshoe trails. For après, it’s just a half mile from the Industrial Way taproom district. ❖ On Harpswell’s Bailey Island, the hill at Johnson Field Preserve (25 Abner Point Rd.; 207-721-1121) is just steep enough to run a sled down (not a spot for speed demons), but the view of lobsterboats in postcard-perfect Mackerel Cove could not be any Maine-ier. ❖ It’s a short walk along the East Trail at Brunswick’s Crystal Spring Farm (277 Pleasant Hill Rd.; 207-729-7694) to a little sledding gulch speckled with trees and surrounded by fields, pasture, and blueberry barrens — you may even hear the sheep. A picturesque spot to sled with back-of-beyond feel and some four miles of Nordic ski trails.
In Weld, at Mount Blue State Park (299 Center Hill Rd.; 207-585-2261), sledders take to a treeless patch of 1,658-foot Center Hill, where there was once a ski hill in the ’50s, and get an eyeful of Tumbledown Mountain on the way down. Well worth the long tromp back up. The park’s ice rink, with free skate rentals and a warming hut, is a mile down the road. ❖ The longest, steepest run at Rangeley’s Mingo Springs Golf Course (43 Country Club Rd.) is near the green for the ninth hole. Good snowshoeing across the street at the forested Mingo Springs Trail. ❖ In Kingfield, the local Sno-Wanderers snowmobile club grooms Gilmore Hill (Rte. 27, across from School St.), a none-too-steep and super-wide slope along the Carrabassett River.
The time-honored hill in Milo is a gentle, half-mile incline in front of Milo Elementary School (10 Belmont St.), where there’s also a playground. For fuel, bring donuts and a thermos full of hot chocolate from the superb Elaine’s Bakery & Cafe, a few blocks down the road. ❖ In Dover-Foxcroft, there’s a small sledding hill next to the ballpark at the Piscataquis Valley Fairgrounds (77 Fairview Ave.).
Green Street Park (Green St.) sits in a bowl in the heart of Waterville, and the steep hill along Sherwin Street drops sledders right into it. When it’s time to warm up, Sunrise Bagel, at the foot of the hill, has outstanding soups. ❖ Denizens of the capital have a few great venues to choose from: At Augusta’s Viles Arboretum (153 Hospital St.; 207-626-7989), sledders hoof it a quarter mile along the Outer Loop Trail to reach the sloping meadow known as Nancy’s Hill, topped with a huge quartzite sculpture called Cloud Roller. Mill Park (Northern Ave. at Canal St.) has a free skating rink next to a gradual, kid-friendly hill and lovely views of the Kennebec River.
At the Western Foothills Land Trust’s Shepard’s Farm Preserve (121 Crockett Ridge Rd.; 207-739-2124), in Norway, the mild swells of former pastureland are dotted with wooden bird sculptures by the late Maine artist Bernard Langlais. Next to the sledding hill, some four wooded miles of ski and snowshoe trails wend across a ridge above Pennesseewassee Lake. It’s a short drive into town for hot drinks at cozy Cafe Nomad. ❖ In Fryeburg, the only hill in town is a steep tree-run at Bradley Park (Main St. & River St.). Super fun, but a helmet’s not a bad idea. ❖ On weekends in Bethel, sledders take to the tiered playing fields at Telstar High School (284 Walkers Mills Rd.).
Sledders can make an all-afternoon circuit in Auburn, parking at the popular hill at Pettengill Park (48 Pettengill Park Rd.), then tromping a quarter mile south along the Union Street Greenway to the less-visited hills at the Union Street Gully. Find playground equipment at either end. ❖ In Lisbon, Albert’s Hill (Lisbon St., next to Lisbon Federal Credit Union) isn’t steep, but it’s huge — you can easily cut a 500-foot swath when the snow’s good.
The best place to sled in Belfast is the mellow hillock overlooking Belfast Bay at Heritage Park (22 Front St.), where you can slide practically to the waterline. Before it was a public park, the site hosted a chicken-processing plant, and locals still call it “Chicken Hill.” Right across the street, neighborhood bakery Crumbs Provisions has good soups, pastries, and hot drinks. ❖ The hill behind the clubhouse at the Northport Golf Club (581 Bluff Rd.) has a fairly steep drop and a nice long runout across the Hole 1 fairway.
The two-acre East Machias Sliding Hill (Rte. 1 & Scotts Hill Rd.) is wide, fast, and full of families on winter weekends. Overlooking the East Machias River, the longtime community hill was on private land when it went up for sale in 2015, before the Maine Coast Heritage Trust bought the site and turned it over to the town. Local kids like to build jumps, so be prepared to catch some air. ❖ In Machias, Middle River Park (Kilton Ln.) is another super-scenic hill overlooking the water. Watch for kids in elaborate cardboard sleds — the Downeast Coastal Conservancy, which stewards the site, hosts a design contest each winter. It’s a short walk across the street after for a cup of coffee and a huge slice of the famous pie at Helen’s Restaurant.
South Berwick’s Powderhouse Hill (Rte. 4 & Agamenticus Rd.; 207-384-5858) is well known for its family-friendly, rope-tow ski hill, but the adjacent free sledding hill is equally charming and fun — and on the steeper side. When the ski hill is open, sledders are welcome in the modest base lodge, where there’s a woodstove and snacks (COVID kept the base shack closed in 2021–2022). ❖ In Alfred, the hill at the Three Rivers Land Trust’s Ricker Field (235 Swetts Bridge Rd.; 207-358-9695) is known as “the Globe,” a half-dome mound that can be sledded on every side. ❖ The Wells Reserve at Laudholm Farm (342 Laudholm Farm Rd.; 207-646-1555) has a gradual hill, best suited for small kids, next to its striking, circa 1820 farmhouse — plus, miles of ungroomed trails to explore.
In Damariscotta, the Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust’s Salt Bay Farm & Nature Center (110 Belvedere
Rd.; 207-563-1393) has multiple hills overlooking salt marshes on the Great Salt Bay: a steeper one near the parking area and a gentler one on the other side of the historic farmhouse. The trust hosts pop-up sledding parties with hot chocolate and campfires on Saturday afternoons through March, and it has a small second hill at its headquarters at Round Top Farm (3 Round Top Ln.), where there’s also a skating rink and warming hut. ❖ The Boothbay Region Land Trust’s Oak Point Farm (60 Samoset Rd.; 207-633-4818) is a historic saltwater farm turned preserve, with a big hill overlooking Townsend Gut, along with more than a mile of ski and snowshoe trails, a freshwater skating pond, and a 19th-century farmhouse turned visitor center to warm up in.
Overlooking Rockland Harbor, the hill at Snow Marine Park (Mechanic St.) tends to be icy, and it’s plenty steep, which means it’s wicked fast. Not only is the ocean view nice, but the park’s right next door to the Coastal Children’s Museum, and it’s a short drive to Rock City Coffee for hot chocolates after (and warm boozy drinks for grown-ups). ❖ At Camden’s Harbor Park (Atlantic Ave.), the town sets up hay bales at the foot of the hill to keep sledders from careening into the winterized windjammers — or the water. Hard to imagine a more picturesque backdrop than the tall ships in their white winter covers.
Undoubtedly one of the coolest settings for a Maine sledding hill is outside the 1820s Federal-style mansion known as the Black House at Ellsworth’s Woodlawn Museum (19 Black House Dr.). The grounds stay open in winter, and families take to the acre or so of sloping lawn in front of its Doric-columned porch, as well as more than two miles of ski and snowshoe trails. Downtown Ellsworth is a half mile up the road, with plenty of spots to warm up and nosh. ❖ On MDI’s quietside, in Tremont, Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s Kelley Farm Preserve (Rte. 102, just east of Bernard Rd.; 207-244-5100) has a wide, easy slope that’s great for young kids, with stunning views of Bass Harbor and Acadia’s Bernard and Mansell mountains on the horizon. ❖ Some of Maine’s most epic and scenic sledding is on the south face of Blue Hill Mountain — but you have to earn your turns. Sledders first hike up the large, sloping hayfield from the Hayes Trail trailhead (Mountain Rd., a half mile west of Rte. 172), then enjoy 1,000-foot runs and knockout views of Blue Hill Bay.
In Bath, find a few hills — some steeper, some more moderate — near the baseball diamonds at the Edward J. McMann Outdoor Athletic Complex (181 Congress Ave.; 207-443-8360). Skiers and snowshoers take to the five-mile Whiskeag Trail in the winter, which runs right along the base of the ballfield hills. Less than a mile away (you can walk the Whiskeag Trail halfway), Mae’s Café & Bakery has the full battery of warmers: soup, chowder, cocoa, and espresso drinks. ❖ Topsham’s town-owned Foreside Field (86 Foreside Rd.; 207-725-1726) is wide and steep, with a flooded field for a skating rink near the foot of the hill.
In West Forks, just across the bridge over the Kennebec, is a cleared site on Ballfield Road where rafters take out during the summertime and where locals are known to careen down the slope on rafts and duckies in winter. Lunch (and liquid courage?) is six miles south on Rte. 201, at Northern Outdoors resort’s Kennebec River Pub & Brewery — where there’s also a fine sledding hill off the back deck. ❖ If you’re up for an adventure across frozen Moosehead Lake, it’s less than a mile on the ice, on skis or a snowmobile, from the Rockwood town landing to the shuttle dock near the entrance to Mt. Kineo State Park, where there’s a nice hill near the Carriage Trail trailhead, at the edge of the snowed-over Mount Kineo Golf Course. With 1,798-foot Kineo rising up sheer behind you, it’s a setting worth the effort of the lake crossing.
At Madawaska’s way-cool Four Seasons Trail system (425 Spring St.), skiers enjoying some nine miles of trail pass through a tunnel underneath the groomed sledding hill. There’s no fee (for the sledding hill or the ski and snowshoe trails, lodge, or kiddie terrain park), but donations and membership keep the place going, and tube rentals are available for $2. A true gem in the County. ❖ Sledders in Presque Isle head south of town to take to the wide, gently sloping hill at the Double Eagle II Balloon Site (140 Spragueville Rd.), a town park commemorating the 1978 launch of the first trans-Atlantic hot-air balloon flight. ❖ At Houlton’s Community Park, Derby Hill (88 Randall Ave.) offers sledders enough of a drop that, in summer, gravity-powered racers clock speeds above 30 miles per hour in the Northern Maine Soap Box Derby. It’s a mile from the cute downtown, where stalwart Sadie’s Bakery has hot drinks and the County’s best donuts.
Bangoreans have their pick of great hills. Near Mansfield Stadium, the roomy hill at Hayford Park (155 13th St.) is the most popular, but the Essex Street Recreation Area (12 Watchmaker St.) is the most fun, a former ski hill with 250 feet of vertical drop. Nicknames include “Suicide Hill” and “Widowmaker Hill,” so, yeah — it’s steep and should be avoided on icy days. A helmet and a sled you can steer are recommended. ❖ For a much gentler ride, cross the river to Brewer, where sledders take to the hillside between Doyle Field (318 Wilson St.; 207-989-5199) and the Ferris Community Center, right next to one of the city’s two free outdoor skating rinks.