About this Itinerary
In the remote northern woods of Maine, the Aroostook Valley Trail provides a backcountry-like recreational experience while passing through several small communities between Presque Isle, Caribou and New Sweden. This 28-mile rail-trail has a surface of crushed stone and uses the old Aroostook Valley Railroad bed to explore the beautiful and varied scenery of Maine’s northernmost county. The Aroostook Valley Trail (AVT) meanders along lazy streams and the big Aroostook River, cuts through deep woods and past farm fields, and is a popular year-round, multi-use trail for both motorized and non-motorized users. The AVT also connects to the 61-mile Bangor–Aroostook Trail and is part of northern Maine's Interconnected Trail System, which comprises more than 3,000 miles of ATV and snowmobile track. You can easily explore the Aroostook Valley Trail as a day trip or part of a multi-day excursion.
Presque Isle is the largest city along the trail and, with the Northern Maine Regional Airport nearby, a good home base from which to begin the AVT. You can lodge at Hampton Inn Presque Isle and be conveniently close to the trailhead, only a half mile away, or head south on Main Street for several other motel and hotel options. Camping is available on the outskirts of town at Arndt’s Aroostook River Lodge & Campground (4 miles northeast on the banks of the Aroostook River) and in Maine’s first state park, Aroostook State Park (5 miles south of downtown). Mountain bikes can be rented from the Nordic Heritage Center, which is near to Arndt’s Aroostook River Lodge and Campground. Mountain bikes are also available free-of-charge to guests of Rum Rapids Inn, a bed and breakfast close to the trail in the village of Crouseville.
A small parking area is located off of Presque Isle’s Main Street/U.S. Highway 1 and the southern banks of the Aroostook River. Almost immediately after leaving the parking area, a small bridge takes you over Presque Isle Stream and into a rural agricultural landscape predominated largely by potato farms. Keep an eye out for farm machinery crossing the trail, particularly during the potato harvest in September. When Presque Isle was founded in the early 1800s, the region’s primary industry was lumber, not potatoes. Though it is not the densely wooded landscape of the 19th century, you’ll still see forests of spruce, fir, beech, poplar, birch, and other hardwoods.
The ART follows the river for 10 miles to Washburn where the waterway then curves west and the AVT continues its northerly trajectory. At mile 5, an old railroad bridge takes you over the river and close to Rum Rapids Inn (take Washburn Road one mile east). The rail-trail quickly passes through the small village of Crouseville and, 3 miles later, past the local diner/gas station Washburn Trailside where you can stop for drinks, snacks, or a meal. Beyond the diner, the ART joins with the Bangor–Aroostook Trail for a mile as it travels through downtown Washburn(mile 10.0). The trail parallels Washburn Road; go right on Bridge Street to get to Washburn Road and Country Farms Market for grocery and deli items.
North of Washburn, evergreens and deciduous trees provide canopy over the route as well as habitat for a variety of birds and mammals. The AVT bisects the Woodland Bog Preserve which is home to numerous rare plant species. You may be keeping your eyes close to the ground in search of the Pygmy Water-Lily or Showy Lady’s Slipper but don’t forget to look up occasionally and watch for roaming moose.
Just over 4 miles from Washburn (north of Carson Road), the Aroostook Valley Trail splits with one branch of the trail heading north 7 miles toward New Sweden and the other traveling east 6.5 miles to Caribou. Either direction, the ART continues to run along the right-of-way of the former Aroostook Valley Railroad, Aroostook County's only electric railroad. Construction of the Aroostook Valley Railroad began in 1909, the dream of U.S. Senator Arthur Gould who owned a sawmill in Presque Isle and needed a railroad to transport logs to the facility. Original tracks ran between Washburn and Presque Isle, transporting passengers as well as freight, with branch lines later serving the localities of New Sweden, Carson, and Caribou. The rail corridor was abandoned in the 1950s.
New Sweden Branch: The AVT is largely surrounded by woodlands as it heads to New Sweden, crisscrossing brooks and streams and a few country roads. The trail ends at Westmanland Road in this small town that began as a Swedish-immigrant colony in 1870. Don’t expect a lot of services here but you can get snacks and drinks at the Northstar Variety convenience store, about a block to the east of the trail terminus. Follow Westmanland Road/Station Road for a mile to the New Sweden Historical Society and Museum which, if you find it open, is a good place to learn about the early years of Maine’s Swedish settlement. Beyond the museum is Thomas Park where many Swedish traditions are still celebrated today, such as the annual June Midsommar Fest. New Sweden also hosts the Arootsakoostik Music Festivalhere each July. Before leaving town, take a quick jaunt south on Capitol Hill Road to see New Sweden’s historical Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church, a gothic revival church built in 1879 in honor of the 17th-century King of Sweden.
Caribou Branch: The AVT’s route to Caribou feels similarly remote, but once in Caribou you may be tempted to stay and linger in this second largest town of Aroostook County. If so, you can find overnight lodging at Old Iron Inn B&B, a turn-of-the-century house furnished in antiques and 0.8 miles from the trail terminus in Caribou’s downtown district. The AVT ends at Washburn Street. To get to the inn, head right on Washburn Street to Main Street (on the way you will pass Napoli’s Italian restaurant if you are in the mood for pizza and pasta); take a left on Main Street and another right at High Street. There are numerous cafes and shops in this downtown area. Bennett Drive north will lead you to Farms Bakery for coffee and baked goods or continue on to Houlton Farms Dairy Bar for locally made ice cream.
Many Swedish immigrants came through Caribou during the 19th century, including Olof Nylander, a self-taught naturalist who became the first curator of the Nylander Museum, a natural science museum on Main Street that houses Nylander’s original collections. When the rail arrived to Caribou, the business of exporting agricultural products boomed and Caribou became a leading potato shipping hub. Potato and broccoli are still Caribou’s major crops today, but during the summer look for the u-pick strawberry and raspberry farms (and small diverse vegetable farms) that also fill-out the agricultural bounty of this region. If in Caribou on a Thursday summer evening, head downtown to enjoy music, food, and vendors during the weekly Thursdays on Sweden event. Also the Caribou Performing Arts Center is the local venue for concerts and may be offering an evening performance while you are in town.
Save energy for your return ride back to Presque Isle (an ice cream might be the ticket) and plan on celebrating the end of your AVT ride with a delightful meal at Sorpreso Café. This fully-licensed café features an experimental menu which changes weekly to reflect the seasons and feature local produce as available. For a more casual burger and beer fare, find the Irish Setter Pub on Main Street about a half-mile south of Hampton Inn.
Today is your day to further explore some of the attractions you passed on yesterday’s ride. If you’re up for more riding, you can travel down the 61-mile Bangor–Aroostook Trail, which connects to the AVT in Washburn.