Though touring from a train or by car is certainly enjoyable, if you really want to get to know a destination, there’s nothing quite like riding a bike. When you’re not surrounded by loud machinery and metal, you can relax and take in the local scenery in a way that’s just not possible when you’re traveling at 60 miles per hour.
Maine is no exception; in fact, this New England state’s picturesque byways, bike-friendly roads and shared-use pathways — not to mention its amazing natural scenery, from coastline to mountains, lakes to northern forests — make Maine a perfect choice for a bicycling vacation.
Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a beginning rider, Maine’s biking provides diverse terrain and challenge levels. For the off-road or mountain biker, there are ski and rail trails, as well as pristine wilderness trails through Acadia National Park and Maine’s state parks and nature preserves. On-road bikers can choose from myriad routes, from the East Coast Greenway to the Down East Sunrise Trail, the Atlantic Coast Route to the Northern Tier Route. Either way, the Bicycle Association of Maine can help you find the perfect trail.
Each of Maine’s eight geographic regions offers unique, exciting cycling opportunities, so hop on and get riding!
The Maine Beaches
The Maine Beaches region, set at the state’s southeastern tip, is characterized by long, sandy beaches — 30 miles of them, to be exact — historic fishing villages and seaside rides. For the cyclist, this region offers a range of bike tours and routes for all abilities, from casual riders to experienced bikers.
Among the most popular, the Saco River tour begins — and ends, if you ride it as a loop — in Old Orchard Beach. A popular vacation spot for French Canadians, the town has a white sand beach complete with an old-fashioned amusement pier. The bike route follows the scenic Saco River, passing through some gentle hills along the way. The route can be ridden 27 miles one way for all abilities, or as a 48-mile loop appropriate for intermediate cyclists.
Other great rides in the Maine Beaches region include the Southern Coast route, a 49-mile loop that passes by several beaches as well as the villages of Kennebunkport and Kennebunk.
All abilities can ride in the Kittery area; Routes include the gentle 12-mile ride to the stunning Nubble Lighthouse at Cape Neddick, a 17-mile ride along the along the Piscataqua River to Eliot, and a 22-mile ride to York that passes by the Revolutionary-War-era Fort McClary near Portsmouth Harbor.
Greater Portland and Casco Bay
One of the best rides in the Portland and Casco Bay Region is the East Coast Greenway. This 400-mile route runs through Portland, where you can jump on to several different routes. This trail is most suited for intermediate to experienced cyclists, as it encompasses a range of moderate to challenging terrain. Options include the 68-mile Eastern Trail, which runs from Portland to Kittery and the 35-mile Casco Bay section, which runs from South Portland to Brunswick. And, if you want to keep riding, you can continue on the trail all the way up to Canada!
Other routes in this region include the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouses trail, a 22- or 30-mile ride that crosses the Fore River bridge on its way to several historic lighthouses. Both options are appropriate for cyclists of all abilities.
Maine Lakes and Mountains
As its name suggests, bike trails in the Maine Lakes and Mountains region are characterized by hills — some steep, some gentle — and lovely water views. Rides in this region are also a perfect pick for history buffs, as many routes pass through historical landmarks.
One such ride is the Fryeburg Favorites route. Riders choose from 12-, 17-, 19 or 21-mile trails, each of which offers gentle to moderate terrain, mountain views and a range of historic attractions along the way, such as Fryeburg’s public parks and downtown buildings.
The Franklin Heritage Trail, a 16- to 107-mile route through hilly terrain, is best for intermediate to experienced cyclists. This trail winds through Blue State Park, the Sandy River Valley and Rangeley Lakes Railroad. Along the way, you’ll pass by museums, historic villages and wildlife habitat.
The Bethel and Evans Notch route varies from 14 to 63 miles; shorter rides pass through flat, forested areas, while longer rides — best for experienced bikers — wind through the foothills of the White Mountains and along the Androscoggin River.
Kennebec and Moose River Valleys
The Kennebec and Moose River Valleys Region is famous for its outdoor recreation, from white-water rafting to hiking, canoeing and, of course, biking. The Kennebec River Valley ride ranges from 30 miles — great for the casual biker — to 67 hilly miles best for experienced riders. The trail winds through the farmlands on the valley floor and traces the route taken by Benedict Arnold when he marched to Canada during the Revolutionary War.
The Waterville and China Lake trail offers 21 to 47 miles of moderate terrain and short but steep hills for intermediate cyclists. The ride features views of China Lake, the Kennebec River and passes through farmland and scenic small towns along the way.
For a taste of urban life in Maine’s capital city of Augusta, take the 12-mile round-trip Capital Area route. Appropriate for all levels, this easy ride follows the Kennebec River from Augusta to historic Hallowell, where you can connect to the Kennebec River Rail Trail, and on to Farmingdale.
Maine’s Mid-Coast region offers scenic seaside bike trails that pass through picturesque villages packed with museums, galleries, shopping and dining. For a wealth of historical landmarks and beaches, intermediate to experienced cyclists can ride the Merrymeeting Bay and Beaches trail. Loop around the peninsula and visit Fort Popham at Phippsburg, or continue on to the historic villages of Wiscasset and Bath, known for their antique shopping and gorgeous view of Mt. Washington.
The Boothbay Harbor trail, also best for intermediate riders, loops to Ocean Point and around Southport Island. There you’ll find beaches, hiking trails and view of the Hendricks Head Lighthouse. Riders can also continue on to Barter’s Island and the 146-acre Oven’s Mouth Preserve.
For country and ocean scenery, take the Belfast and Beyond route. This trail’s 21- and 30-mile options are appropriate for almost all levels of abilities, while the Waldo County Ridge Ride — which clocks in at 61 miles — contains steep hills and is best for experienced riders. The trail leaves the coastal town of Belfast and explores nearby farmland, providing spectacular views of Fort Point Lighthouse and Penobscot Bay. The long route winds through the Passagassawakeag and George River Valleys before climbing to the top of Appleton Ridge.
For a rural ride through agricultural fields and wetlands, take the 16- to 29-mile-long Unity Pond trail. This route circles Unity Pond — which is really a 2,528-acre lake – and allows riders to get up close and personal with the abundant wildlife that populates the lake’s marshes. If you’re riding in the fall, be sure to bike over to Unity’s Common Ground County Fair, held in September each year.
The Rockland Port Clyde tour ranges from 17 — gentle — to 47 — moderately challenging — miles and passes by the Owls Head Lighthouse, as well as Ash Point and its amazing views of Penobscot Bay. The full trail leads from Rockland to the fishing town of Port Clyde, where you can take a ferry ride to picturesque Monhegan Island.
The Maine Highlands
Good news for experienced cyclists that enjoy a challenge: The Maine Highlands region contains the state’s highest mountain, the 5,268-foot-tall Mt. Katahdin. This region’s bike routes offer many options for beginning and intermediate bikers, as well.
The Heart of Penobscot County trail has four loops, ranging from 27 to 83 miles. The shorter loop is appropriate for bikers of all levels and follows the Penobscot River from Bangor to Old Town and back again, passing through historic lumber towns and crossing the University of Maine at Orono campus along the way.
If you just have time for a short ride, jump onto the Around Bangor route. This easy, 12-mile loop winds through the streets of Maine’s third-largest city. Along the way, you’ll see the Penobscot River, a famous statue of larger-than-life logger Paul Bunyan, historic homes and the 1.75 million gallon Thomas Hill Standpipe.
Intermediate and seasoned cyclists will enjoy the 16- to 56-mile Penquis Valley tour. Winding near forests, potatoes farms, hills, mountains and lakes, this route begins in St. Albans and passes through the historic towns of Dexter, Guildford and Dover-Foxcroft.
Also best for intermediate to experienced bikers, the Sebasticook Valley trail offers three loops — 21, 51 or 69 miles — of hilly terrain and rural countryside. The routes pass near Big Indian and Plymouth Ponds, Sebasticook Lake and the Sebasticook River. This route connects to the off-road Four Seasons Adventure Trail.
On the border of the Maine Highlands and Aroostook regions, the Penobscot River and Forest route offers views of Mt. Katahdin and Baxter State Park. The route’s three options range from 38 to 74 miles and are best for more experienced riders.
Downeast and Acadia
The Downeast and Acadia region is a popular Maine destination for cyclists, due in large part to its stunning coastline, accessible islands, vibrant towns and views that stretch from the mountains to the sea. One of the most exciting trails is the Adventure Cycling Association’s Atlantic Coast Bicycle Route, a 2,636-mile trail that starts in Bar Harbor and reaches all the way south to Key West, Florida. In Maine, the 250-mile segment of the Atlantic Coast tour — from Bar Harbor south to Kittery — offers moderate to challenging terrain that’s best for intermediate to experienced rider.
The Adventure Cycling Association’s Northern Tier Route also runs through the Downeast and Acadia Region. This 4,285 mile ride stretches across the country from Bar Harbor to Anacortes, Washington. The Maine portion of this trip — 224 miles long — connects Fryeburg to Bar Harbor.
Other — shorter — tours in this region include the Washington County Downeast trail. This route crosses the easternmost county in the U.S. and takes you past blueberry barrens and rugged coastline. Choose an easy, 20-mile loop or the hilly, moderately challenging Bold Coast Trail, which leads to remote beaches perfect for camping or picnics. You can cross the International Bridge into New Brunswick, Canada and discover Campobello Island.
For a relaxing ride appropriate for cyclists of all abilities, the Schoodic Peninsula tour offers 10-, 12- or 24-mile loops that start in Winter Harbor. The route winds past scenic Grindstone Neck, the eastern edge of Acadia National Park and Schoodic Point.
Take a weekend to explore the Deer Isle Stonington trail. This 25- or 39-mile loop trails offer gentle to moderate terrain and offer views of the Camden Hills, East Penobscot Bay, Eggemoggin Reach and the Sunshine peninsula. Stop by the fishing village of Stonington and, if you’re riding in June, keep your eyes open for the purple, blue and white lupines in bloom.
For a quiet ride, explore one of the three loops on the Passamaquoddy Bay route. This gentle to challenging trail travels along low-traffic roads, past scenic attractions like Boyden, Pennamaquan and Round Lakes and the Moosehorn National Wildlife Reserve, home to bald eagles.
Don’t miss the 45 miles of carriage roads in Acadia National Park. These historic, broken-stone roads winds through the park’s hills and valleys and offer stunning ocean views.
Maine’s northernmost and least populated region, Aroostook County, offers wide open vistas, low-traffic roads and rolling terrain punctuated by historic towns. The County route stretches from Caribou to St. Agatha, passing through farmland and culturally diverse villages. Riders can choose between a gentle, 20-mile route, a moderate 33-mile route or a challenging 90-mile route.
The Potato Country route starts in Presque Isle and passes through rural farmland. This moderate-to-challenging ride is 28 or 50 miles long and passes by the Maine State Science Museum, the Aroostook Agricultural Museum and the Nylander Museum of Natural History.
For a challenging wilderness ride, head to Medway and jump on the Penobscot River and Forest route. This 38-, 68- or 74-mile loop ride through hilly terrain follows the west branch of the Penobscot. Stop for a picnic near Grindstone Falls, browse the art galleries in Millinocket or just marvel at the area’s untouched forest.
Another moderate-to-challenging route, the St. John Valley trail, follows along the St. John River through farms and fields. The route’s 14- and 38-mile sections include some hard-packed gravel roads, while the longer – and more challenging – 40-mile route is all on paved surfaces. Attractions along the way include the Fort Kent Blockhouse and Railroad Station, Fort Ingall and the Temiscouata Rose Garden.
Aroostook County also has several rail trails. Constructed along former railways, these routes get you off of the highways and into the woods. The Aroostook Valley Trail runs for 28 miles along a crushed-stone surface. It runs between Presque Isle and Caribou.
The Saint John Valley Heritage Trail follows the Fish River Railroad line for 16.9 miles. This crushed-stone trail winds along the St. John River and runs from Fort Kent to St. Francis.
When planning your next Maine vacation, be sure to set aside a few days – or a whole week – to tour this beautiful state’s many sights on a bicycle. If you prefer traveling light, you can always rent a bike and gear at one of the many rental shops across the state.