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Rangeley, Maine: Ride in Paradise

Great trails, backcountry, food and more -- Rangeley has something for everyone!
Rangeley Maine winter scene view snow snowmobile trail
There are a lot of breathtaking scenes in the Rangeley, Maine, area, making it a primo snowmobiling site.
Rangeley Maine winter snow bike
Oodles of powder make snowmobiling or snow biking the Maine thing in this little piece of heaven.
Planning a snowmobile trip for your family or especially your “snowmobile-family” can be stressful. I mean so many things to consider; lodging, food, trails, terrain, night life, dealerships, accessibility, timing. Finding a place that offers something for everyone, no matter what their skill level or riding preference. A town that seems like its founding father was a sled head. A mythical place that has everything a snowmobiler could ever want or dream of. This place does exist. It’s called Rangeley, Maine!

For most, the pilgrimage to Rangeley starts on the Mass Turnpike. Bobbing and weaving through four lanes of traffic as you head north. Envision driving on an ant hill that just got kicked. Once you pass Lowell the number of ants decreases. Crossing the border into the Live Free or Die state allows you to take a breath and relax your death grip on the wheel.

It’s a short trip across the corner of New Hampshire. Just long enough to get your phone ready for what comes next. The mandatory photo of the Piscutaqua River Bridge. Posting the photo to social media announces your arrival in Maine and digs the knife in deeper to all those who opted out of this trip.

If you are not familiar with Maine, most residents and tourists congregate in the “Downeast” region along the seacoast. Kittery welcomes you to Maine with th opportunity to shop till you drop in the sprawling outlet stores. Moving north on I-95 you approach the beautiful beaches of Ogunquint and Old Orchard. A stroll on the beach, even in winter, is beautiful.
Rangeley Maine winter scene view snow snowmobile trail
■ Dinner stop
With Portland in your sights, a quick stop for fresh lobster, New England clam chowder, and a craft beer is logical. DiMillo’s, a floating restaurant in the heart of Portland, is a must. Harbor views from your table give a new meaning to “catch of the day.” With a belly full of fresh seafood, it’s time to get back on the road. 

Progressing north you get off the main highway and start losing traffic lanes along with your stress level. The space between houses and towns grows, allowing nature to take over. Slipping past Turner, you are faced with a decision, route 4 or 17?

Route 17 is the course most people’s GPS aims them toward as it is a few miles shorter. Full of amazing views and overlooks 17 is gorgeous, but secluded and features crazy frost heaves. We usually take route 4 for several reasons, primarily having a better chance for getting help if we run into trouble. Plus 4 gets us to Rangeley faster with its smoother straighter road, even though it’s longer.

Rangeley welcomes guests with a parking area overlooking its massive lake and a well-stocked IGA grocery. After loading up with the essential snacks for tomorrow’s adventures, we drop into town. There are several places to stay but our go-to is Town & Lake Motel & Cottages. Right on Rangeley Lake and in the middle of town it allows you access to everything by sled.
Rangeley Maine winter snow snowmobile powder
The next morning you bound out of bed like a kid on Christmas morning, grab a fresh cup of coffee, and stare out the cottage window at your freshly coated snowmobiles. By the second cup, the snow retreats and reveals the “Northwoods” mountains. Time to make tracks!

Crossing the lake into the adjacent cove leads to the trail head and the Loony Bin variety store. This is where you squeeze in every last drop of fuel and grab any forgotten provisions before taking on the Black Fly.

■ Attack the Black Fly
Maine has three major loop trails, the largest, the Black Fly Loop, is in the Rangeley Lake region. This loop covers 228 miles and meanders through the forest giving way to several mountaintop views. The loop passes through Phillips, Strong, Kingfield, Carrabassett, and Stratton.

If the loop isn’t long enough for you, head for the Grand Falls, the largest horseshoe falls in Maine. Located on the Dead River just off the ITS 86 trail its 100-foot span and 40-foot drop is a must see. Another loop deviation we try to make around lunch is to the 3,500-foot summit of East Kennebago Mountain. The 2-mile trip away from ITS 89 / Black Fly Loop rewards with one of the most panoramic views of the Rangeley Lake Region.
Rangeley Maine winter scene snow snowmobile
Rangeley Maine winter snow snowmobile trail
The hundreds of miles of trails and logging roads allow you access to endless play areas.
Not interested in conquering the Fly? Try setting your sights on one of the many far-flung mountain camps. Two of our favorites are Bosebuck and Tea Pond. These havens of the Northwoods offer everything your group could need. Sip on some hot cocoa by the fire while your food is being prepared. Soak up the history of old photos and recharge before logging more miles.

Without a doubt, the Rangeley Lakes Region trails are spectacular. Heck, they were just awarded 2019 Club of the year by the Maine Snowmobile Association!

But if you are like my crew and are more interested in off-trail riding than on, Rangeley is still King. The hundreds of miles of trails and logging roads allow you endless access to play areas. Many skidder trails from previous timber cuttings are popular among new backcountry riders, giving them a mostly clear path to practice. For the more experienced tree hustlers, there are zones that are so advanced and technical that you may never reach the top, no matter how many tries, angles, or lines you take. If you get to your favorite shred spot and it’s all tracked out, no big deal. Slide around the corner or to the next mountain and feed ’er the beans. Rangeley is a paradise for long-tracks and snow bikes.

Inevitably things break, either self-inflicted or from natural causes. This is where Rangeley really starts to distance itself from other snowmobiling destinations. The town is home to two top dealers, Oquossoc Marine for Polaris, and Boss Power Equipment for Ski-Doo and Arctic Cat. These dealers are fully stocked. 
snow snowmobile trail
Rangeley Maine winter scene view snow snowmobile
There’s great riding in the Rangeley area and good chow, repair shops and activities to be found in town.
We have broken plenty of items and have had both Larry at Oquossoc and Jake at Boss stay open late for us to use their shops, making necessary repairs or even snagging parts from new sleds to get us back in action before the next day’s ride. Such help is a rare find these days.

■ Special event
If you’re looking to tie your ride into an event, Rangeley’s biggest is its Snodeo each January. This full-day event includes Rock Maple Cross Country races, radar runs, a parade, fireworks on the lake, and a freestyle show. All are accessible by foot or snowmobile.

The freestyle event is hosted by Boss Power Equipment and is staged in the dealerships’ parking lot at 2 p.m. Our friends at Rave X put on a fantastic show with their talented freestyle riders and the crowds are so big that Main Street is shut down for the show.

The party doesn’t stop after the fireworks. There are several great restaurants in town. We usually eat at Park Side or The Shed with the night usually ending at Moose Alley. It’s more an events center than bowling alley with live bands on the weekend, full kitchen and bar, arcade, pool tables, and an indoor fire pit. Rangeley’s Snodeo will be Jan. 25.

With all the pressure on our sport to maintain accessible trails, it is refreshing to come to an area that is so welcoming to snowmobilers. Rangeley, Maine should be on your sledding bucket list.
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