An ATV, or an all terrain vehicle, is kind of a cross between a souped-up jeep and a miniature tank. Four oversized, knobby wheels take you through streams, around or over boulders and charge through mud holes that get you good and dirty. Each trail has its own challenges and its own delightful views. So load up your precious lifestyle toy with a reliable ramp like those of SharkKage.com and head out to Maine. Don’t forget your camera, nicely packed in a water and mud proof container. You are heading into Maine’s wildlife rich backcountry, where the four legged and winged creatures outnumber the human visitors.
ATV Trails by Region
Maine has over 5,000 miles of ATV trails that lead through thick woodlands, lush meadows and along backwoods streams. Over half of the ATV trails in the state are in the Maine’s Lakes and Mountains Region, the Maine Highlands Region and the Aroostook County Region that borders Canada. Breaking this mileage down per region, Aroostook County heads the list, having 1,200 miles of trails, followed by the Maine Highlands at 1,175, Maine’s Lakes & Mountains at 1,050 miles, Downeast and Acadia at 925 miles and the Kennebec & Moose River Valleys having 735 miles of trails. The more populated MidCoast offers 315 miles of trails and the Maine Beaches on the southern end of the state has 180 miles of ATV fun.
Maine ATV Clubs and Trails
Some ATV trails are on private lands; others take advantage of abandoned railbeds or are on public reserve acreage. Dozens of ATV clubs pepper the state, managing their own trail systems and in some cases providing maps to both members and non-members. Membership is encouraged, even for visitors. Many clubs have secured permission from private landowners to allow ATV riders access. There is a plan in the works to have uniform marking of the trails throughout the state, headed by the Alliance of Trail Vehicles of Maine (atvmaine.org).
One trail of note is the Whistle Stop Trail, in Wilton, offering 35 miles of riding pleasure. The ride from Jay to Farmington, a railroad bed, is easy going. Branching out are other trails that criss-cross Verso Paper property, along the Cornelio Road, following power line trails and a looped trail in the North Jay area. Motor past waterfalls and take in the scenic mountain views along the way. Managed by the Western Maine ATV Club, the group holds the Annual Whistle Stop Trail ride each September.
The Moose Loop is an ATV trail network that combines the routes of seven participating ATV clubs. This is where you will find the greatest variety of ATV trails in the Lakes and Mountains Region. Ride through the core of Franklin County and beyond, to places such as Rangeley, Strong, Carrabasset, Kingfield and Phillips. The Moose Loop is aptly named; the chances of you seeing one of these majestic creatures are in your favor. Eagles, songbirds and other wild creatures abound as you challenge steep mountain paths, angle your way around small-car sized rocks and get down and dirty in the occasional mud hole. In between those challenges, just motor along and enjoy the view.
ATV Touring on Public Lands
Maine’s Department of Conservation, the Off Road Vehicle Division, maintains 310 miles of multi-use trails as part of its ATV Program. This means ATV’s share the routes with hikers, bikers and horseback riders. The trails are limited to ATVs up to 60 inches wide. If the trails are snow covered, ATVs are usually not allowed. Sometimes trails will be closed during mud season if the soil becomes too saturated. Signs will be posted.
One example is the Aroostook Valley Trail, a 28 mile stretch that runs from Presque Isle to New Sweden and covers some of the most remote territory in Maine. The graveled route leads you through open fields, forests and along the Aroostook River. Most of it follows the route of the Aroostook Valley Railroad, abandoned in 1996. Riders tackling this route should take backcountry gear, just in case you end up spending the night in the woods.
Another is the Kennebec Valley Trail, shorter at only eight miles but no less scenic. It follows the Kennebec River from Embden to Bingham, using part of the age old riverfront Arnold Trail. The St. John Valley Heritage Trail takes you through Maine’s Acadia Country. Its 16 miles reaches from Fort Kent to St. Frances, letting you soak up a bit of French culture along the way.
Other trails on conservation lands include the Bangor & Aroostook Trail, the Down East Sunrise Trail, Four Seasons Adventure Trail and the Sherman to Patten Trail. In some cases, the state owns or has leased abandoned railbeds for multi-use, as described in the Aroostook Valley Trail.
ATV Rentals and Tours
If you haven’t brought along your own ATV you can rent vehicles from a number of outfitters throughout the state. Most require some sort of documented proof that you know how to operate an ATV, perhaps a certificate from a completed safety course, or a copy of your own ATV’s registration papers. Sample prices to rent an ATV for a self-guided tour are between $169 and $189 for four hours and $229 and $249 for an eight hour rental. Most outfitters have maps of nearby trails.
Novices are welcome to join guided ATV tours. Sample pricing for a two-hour trip runs between $99 and $119, for a four-hour trip $169 to $189 and for a six-hour tour $229 to $249. Prices for rentals and/or tours are determined by whether you choose a one-person or two-person ATV. Tours include introductory lessons on ATV operation and safety. Most tours and/or rentals are not available during the mud, or rainy season. Safety gear is provided on tours and with rentals.
If bringing your own ATV, the vehicle must be registered with the state. Non-residents are welcome to do so online (maine.gov). You will need a helmet, goggles or glasses, trail maps, snacks and water. If heading into remote areas, be prepared to spend the night. Carry a GPS device and/or a cell phone in case you need help. Wear long pants, jeans are great, long sleeved shirts and durable boots. Wear or carry a jacket or windbreaker. Fill up you gas tank before you hit the trails and don’t forget the bug spray.