48 Hours in Carrabassett Valley

One of the most picturesque destinations for outdoor recreation, the Carrabassett Valley area attracts a variety of visitors in the summer.

On-mountain dining

A short drive down the Access Road from Route 27 in Carrabassett Valley is Sugarloaf, my hub for a weekend of outdoor exploration. After checking in to the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel, I grab a quick dinner at 45 North, the hotel’s restaurant. The restaurant has rustic decor and serves a great burger made with Maine Family Farms ground sirloin and brisket and topped with maple-candied bacon, IPA onion jam, and cheddar cheese.

Hiking with mountain views

Up early, I stop at D’Ellies Bakery and Deli for breakfast. Generous-sized sandwiches on house-made breads make this a good option for a quick bite throughout the day, although the breakfast sandwiches are served only until 11 a.m. Afterward, I stop in at Winterstick Snowboards for a quick factory tour before hiking. During my visit, they show me how the process for laminating snowboards.

Although it’s still a few months until the lifts start running for skiers and snowboarders, there are other ways of getting some elevation. The surrounding area offers a variety of hiking options, including Sugarloaf Mountain itself and Burnt Mountain, which features side-country skiing during the winter. The trailhead for Burnt Mountain is at the end of Bigelow Road, near the Base Lodge. The 5.6-mile round trip provides views of Sugarloaf’s peak and the surrounding mountains.

Summertime adventures

Kingfield, a small town along the Carrabassett River, is less than a half-hour’s drive from the mountain. Near the center of town, the Kingfield Woodsman has homemade comfort food and a friendly atmosphere. The counter-service restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, and the black bean soup and a grilled cheese are just what I need after a morning of hiking.

On my way back to the hotel, I stop at Sugarloaf’s Outdoor Center, which is primarily used for mountain biking in the summer. The center has mountain bike rentals, gear, and lessons through Allspeed Cyclery and Snow. Sugarloaf’s Outpost Adventure Center provides guided trips during the week, including boat tours on Flagstaff Lake, moose-viewing cruises, and fly-fishing. I’m here on the weekend, so I visit the catch-and-release pond near the Outdoor Center to try fly-fishing on my own. I don’t catch anything, but it’s a peaceful experience, with a stunning view of the Bigelow Range in the distance.

Local dining in Stratton

The Coplin Dinner House comes highly recommended, so I drive off-mountain to Stratton for dinner. The restaurant is located in a converted farmhouse and has a menu full of locally sourced food. I always judge a place by its crab cakes, and the Coplin Dinner House’s version, served with curried sweet corn aioli, does not disappoint.

Trail Magic

After a quick breakfast and coffee at 45 North, I drive northwest of Sugarloaf to where the Appalachian Trail crosses Route 27 on its way to the Bigelows. I had never seen any parts of the AT before, and I meet a couple who introduce me to the term “Trail Magic.” They are set up at the trail crossing and are offering food, drink, and supplies to any thru-hikers. I see several hikers on the road waiting for rides to local lodging.

Exploring Kingfield

I return to Kingfield for lunch at the Orange Cat Cafe, which is located in a funky old house. It serves breakfast and lunch and has excellent salads and wraps. Just down the road is Carrabassett Coffee Company’s roastery and shop, which is usually open Monday through Saturday.

My next stop is the Ski Museum of Maine in  the center of Kingfield. This wonderful little museum  is dedicated to the rich history of the ski industry in  the state. The space was recently renovated, and it’s interesting to learn about the people and places that have made skiing in Maine what it is today.

Pub food and bowling lanes

On my way home I stop for dinner at The Sugarbowl Family Entertainment Center. The restaurant’s menu has pub fare in generous portions and plenty of Maine beers on tap. The center also has eight bowling lanes and a virtual golf simulator. Although I’m ending my trip indoors, I’m thankful I was able to spend so much of it exploring the region’s outdoor opportunities before the snow flies.

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