Maine has long had it’s share of great mountain bike trails, but CRNEMBA and the town of Carrabassett Valley are now helping put the state on the map as a world class mountain bike destination. There have been mountain bike trails in the area for a while now, but the last 7 years have seen a huge increase in the size and quality of the trail system. Located in the foothills of the Sugarloaf ski area and the Bigelow Range, the Carrabessett Valley system currently encompasses 77 miles of mostly single track trails. The riding is absolutely top notch, and it’s completely free to ride, which is incredible given the amount of work that went into these trails. The group spearheading this effort? The all-volunteer local bike club, CRNEMBA.
CRNEMBA (the Carrabassett Region chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association) was initially launched in 2010 after town officials identified mountain bike trail development as a high priority. But more on that later…let’s start with, the fruits of their labor–the trails!
The Carrabassett Valley Mountain Bike Trails
As we mentioned, there are now about 77 miles of trails in the network, and that number will soon expand to 100 miles. The system is divided into two “pods” separated by the beautiful Carrabassett River. Pod One is based out of the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center, and boasts 35 miles of trail that ranges from mellow, meandering single track to more technical “black diamond” riding on the Hurricane Trail and The Real Deal. Riding into the higher elevations of Pod One, you can get great views both of Sugarloaf and across the Valley to the famous Bigelow Range. Honestly, it’s pretty spectacular.
Pod Two (42 total miles) lies just across Rt. 27 and on the other side of the Carrabassett River. Like its counterpart, Pod Two has a great range of options, from winding, flowy single track down by the river, to big climbs and steep descents as you begin to get further into the surrounding mountains. Perhaps the highlight of the entire trail system is Oak Knoll. This section starts with a pretty serious 600 ft. climb up to the Stratton Brook Hut. The reward for your efforts is a flowing rollercoaster of a descent that will have your heart pounding and your crew high-fiving. You can also stop for coffee or lunch at the beautiful Stratton Brook Hut, which is run by Maine Huts & Trails and is also a great place to spend the night.
All in all, these trails are well worth a trip. There’s enough mileage to keep you busy for a while, and the quality of the riding is top notch. Not to mention the incredible mountain setting. Check ’em out ASAP. GoPro footage below:
CRNEMBA & The Trail Crew
Ok, ok, we couldn’t resist diving right into a quick review of the trails. They’re just too good. Well, the story behind their construction is equally compelling. It’s a tale of collaboration between local government, various private groups, and a passionate and involved group of locals. In short, it’s the type of project you wish would happen more often. A resounding cooperative success.
The town of Carrabassett Valley has been home to a solid mountain bike community dating back into the 1980s, but biking has historically taken a bit of a back seat to skiing. At the urging of local riders, the town decided in 2010 that they were ready to make a big investment towards growing and improving the local trail networks. They needed strong support from the community, which led to the formation of CRNEMBA later that year. After some diligent planning, budgeting and training of trail crews in sustainable trail construction, work began in early 2011. Maine Huts & Trails also joined in the work, and there are plans to incorporate more nearby huts into the trail system. With great effort by both volunteer and paid trail crews, the bulk of the current trail system was completed by 2014, but work continues and there are grand plans to keep the network growing.
The trail work is volunteer driven, but the town of also administers a paid trail crew and has committed to matching all CRNEMBA fundraising dollar for dollar. (High quality mountain bike trails can cost in the range of $10/foot.) The trails themselves are built with industry best practices and sustainability as a priority, which makes them both more fun and less environmentally impactful. In addition, Maine Huts & Trails and Sugarloaf have lent plenty of support in terms of both planning and infrastructure. Everybody seems to get the importance of having these great trails, and that shared understanding has enabled success. What sort of beautiful parallel universe is this? See it to believe it!
Go Ride & Get Involved
We highly recommend visiting the trails. You can rent a bike right there if you don’t have one. CRNEMBA holds numerous trail maintenance sessions throughout the year. Tthey also host races, including the upcoming Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge (Saturday, July 14th, with 100k/50k/25k races). Volunteer work and donations drive the whole system, so if you want to get involved in the local mountain bike community and learn about building trails sustainably, this is a great chance.
Mountain bike adventures on Back40:
Join bike guide Cliff Krolick for two days of riding, good food, and lakeside chilling at the legendary Backcountry Excursions bike lodge and mountain bike trails in Parsonsfield, ME.
Experienced guide Ken Haggett takes you on some of the best mountain bike trails in the Stowe, VT area, tailored perfectly to your skill level.