A Day in the Belgrade Lakes Region
The web of pine-lined ponds that make up the Belgrade Lakes region has captured the imagination of travelers and artists for centuries. As E.B. White wrote in his essay “Once More to the Lake,” “None of us ever thought there was any place in the world like that lake in Maine.” To make the most of a day trip to the region is to surrender to the slow pace of a fisherman waiting for a great catch, to idle in tiny pastoral towns, and to pause long enough to hear the babble of the rushing brooks and streams that weave together its seven lakes.
HIT THE TRAILS
While fishing is the biggest draw, there are many ways to enjoy the water, from boating to stand-up paddleboard rentals to guided cruises. A bird’s eye view of these stunning lakes is where to start. Family-friendly day hikes include Rome’s French Mountain. Under a mile long, it’s the biggest bang for your buck: the forested roundtrip hike over granite slabs culminates in a 716-foot-high peak with a spectacular view of Long Pond, the second-largest of the region’s lakes. Mount Phillip offers a longer loop at 1.4 miles, with a look at Great Pond (of On Golden Pond fame). At more than 8,000 acres, it’s the largest lake. Both trails are maintained by the active 7 Lakes Alliance, a conservation nonprofit that often offers group hikes and hosts the weekly farmers’ market in Belgrade Village, located on the jut of land separating Long and Great Ponds. In partnership with the state, the alliance also manages the Kennebec Highlands Public Reserved Land, which, at more than 6,800 acres, is the largest public lands preserve in central Maine. Vienna Mountain was just acquired by the state this spring, filling in a land gap in the preserve, and affords hikers 360-degree views on wild blueberry barrens that are free for the picking.
After working up an appetite, head to Belgrade’s Hello Good Pie to grab a hearty quiche-of-theday or a sandwich on fresh-made bread to take to Peninsula Park, just down the road on the shores of Long Pond. From there you can watch the boating action or look for loons. Nearby Day’s Store is a longtime village staple for a scoop of ice cream or homemade fudge. A gyro and baklava from the seasonal Spiro and Company food truck pair nicely with a browse through the books and art at neighboring Oliver and Friends Bookshop and Reading Room.
Winterberry Farm in Belgrade, one of a handful of farms in the area, is always open for a self-guided tour of its pastures, gardens, and 1870s Shaker-style barn, where chickens roam and friendly horses nuzzle. The farm store offers its produce, including socks made with the wool of its resident sheep, honey from its hives, and frozen organic turkey potpies, perfect for a quick dinner.
DIP + SPIRITS
Finally, go for a swim in Messalonskee Lake—which locals call Snow Pond—at Oakland’s Town Beach. Then end the day at Tree Spirits Winery and Distillery for a tasting of maple wine or pear brandy, both made with ingredients sourced locally.
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