I pass by spandex-clad, panier-toting cyclists on the coastal highway near my house at least three or four times a week during the summer, and I never fail to give them a thumbs-up. Good on you, folks. Maine is not flat, and on the major tourist routes in summertime, cyclists share narrow shoulders with a steady stream of zooming cars and RVs. Maine has some work to do when it comes to being cycle friendly—the following list mentions none of the islands, for example, which would be great places to bike if most ferry companies didn’t have regressive policies for cyclists, often charging more to bring a bike aboard then a car. That being said, there are indeed a few refuges for the avid cyclist in Maine, where forward-thinking communities and agencies have preserved rail corridors and other tracts for the two-wheeled traveler. These are the best of the bunch.
Acadia National Park
For an example of why the national parks are “America’s best idea,” look no further than Acadia’s forty-five miles of car-free, crushed-stone carriage roads. The network crisscrosses Mount Desert Island, circling lakes, ascending mountain slopes, and crossing above or below 17 gorgeous stone-faced bridges. Abandon your car: Bike rentals are plentiful in Bar Harbor, and the free Island Explorer bus will take you and it to the Eagle Lake trailhead.
Down East Sunrise Trail
A whopping 85 miles of dedicated trail through the woods, hills, towns, and salt marshes of Down East Maine, this one offers opportunities for a good few days worth of adventure. The trail winds through blueberry country, and in late summer, the picked-over barrens are brilliant red sea of scrub growth and fieldstone. Eagles and osprey wheel overhead.
Aroostook Valley Trail
A railway that once hauled Aroostook County’s famous potatoes to market was re-envisioned in the 1990s as a 28-mile crushed-stone pathway. It’s a deep woods route that follows and crosses several backcountry streams between the college town of Presque Isle and the rural outpost of New Sweden. Watch for ATVs and moose, both of which sometimes share the trail.
The Eastern Trail through southern Maine is a work-in-progress, winding 65 miles from Kittery to the South Portland lighthouse known as Bug Light. Eventually, it’ll be almost entirely off-road. For now, the trail south of Kennebunk is on a scenic network of rural and residential roads. The best segment of the completed, car-free Greenway is a nine-mile stretch between Saco and Scarborough, partly through the waterfowl-rich Scarborough Marsh.
Bradbury Mountain State Park
Admittedly a bit of an outlier, Bradbury Mountain is primarily a mecca for mountain bikers, and the fat tire crowd gathers here for hilly, single-track loops over and around a 485-foot hill with an exposed rock summit. There are a few miles of wide, flat, and wooded trails as well for a more genteel ride.