About this Itinerary
In central Maine, this serene trail follows a former narrow-gauge logging railroad, cutting through dense woodlands and following the beautiful Kennebec River for much of its 14.6 miles. The Kennebec Valley Trail (KVT) stretches between the towns of North Anson and Bingham to include the historical route taken by Benedict Arnold during the American Revolutionary War, on orders from General George Washington to capture Quebec from the British. The KVT has one other claim to fame in that it crosses the 45th parallel, the midpoint between the Equator and the North Pole. A popular multi-use trail with a surface of packed dirt and crushed stone, the pathway is enjoyed by skiers, snowmobilers, ATV and equestrian riders, walkers and bikers. Cyclists will want to ride mountain bikes as there are occasional sandy stretches and intermittent rolling dips from ATV use.
The Kennebec Valley Trail can be accessed from either its northern or southern trailhead or at the mid-way point of the trail in Solon. We suggest beginning and ending in Bingham, the trail’s northern terminus. Bicycle rentals are available at North Country Rivers, which also offers cabin and cottage rentals, campsites, and guided white-water rafting trips. Additionally, you can find overnight lodging at the Bingham Motor Inn & Sports Complex, less than a half mile from the trailhead and parking area on Goodrich Road. Just down the street from Bridge Motor Inn is Jimmy’s Shop n Save, where you can purchase water, snacks, and a picnic lunch. This is a rural ride, so come prepared with all the supplies you will need. Have a hearty breakfast of eggs, biscuits and gravy, or pancakes at Thompson’s Restaurant and you are good to go!
Beginning just south of downtown Bingham, the KVT very quickly sidles up to the Kennebec River and stays close to its side for the next 7 miles to Arnold’s Landing. Once the trail crosses US Highway 201, you won’t encounter car traffic for a long time. Enjoy the secluded, tree-lined path which offers summer-time shade and a colorful canopy of foliage in the fall. Occasionally you may see a farm field lining the eastern edge of the trail, but mostly you’ll enjoy river views and, if you are lucky, the haunting cries of loons. Of course, the valley is a rich habitat for wildlife including the state’s iconic and abundant moose population. The river is also home to salmon, bass, brook, and rainbow trout; anglers can research ahead of time Kennebec River fishing regulations and locations (there are 9 dams along the entire 75 miles of the river).
Early inhabitants of the river valley were the Abenaki, an Eastern Algonquian tribein whose language “Kennebec” translates to “large body of still water.” Indeed, the river is so wide and calm at times that it can appear more lake-like. English settlers started coming to the region in the 1600s to establish trading posts and ship yards and the Kennebec River became an early trade corridor from the Atlantic coast to interior Maine. The thick forests and fertile soil of the river valley was ideal for the development of agriculture and lumber trades and the coming of the railroad certainly played a large part in the growth of these industries. Today’s rail-trail runs through the corridor of the Maine Central (MC), one of the state’s largest and best remembered rail systems. Constructed in the early 1870s, this branch of the MC handled large amounts of freight traffic (primarily paper, timber, lumber, and agriculture) as well as some passenger traffic. During the peak years of logging, the mills at and north of Bingham were producing more than one million board feet of lumber annually. The MC, however, was eventually abandoned in the 1970s when more stringent environmental regulations and a declining customer base caused freight tonnage to drop sharply.
Maine’s forests are a mix of hard and softwoods, including aspen, birch, maples, pines, spruces, and fir. You’ll have plenty of time on the relatively remote stretch to Solon to familiarize yourself with the local flora and fauna. North of Solon at an electrical generating station near Arnolds Landing (mile 6.5), the trail crosses the river on a former railroad bridge. A trail parking area is to your left as you approach this crossing. Before crossing the river, take some time to explore Arnolds Landing. Benedict Arnold and his army camped here, just below Caratunk Falls, on October 7, 1775. The next day they carried their boats around the falls and continued on to the ill-fated Battle of Quebec. Look for the Arnold Trail, the portage route leading from the river to West Carry Pond, and helpful interpretive signs erected by the Arnold Expedition Historical Society.
The KVT skirts around Solon but you can get to the village center by riding Falls Road (before crossing the dam) east about a half-mile to join N. Main Street which will then take you south into the downtown area. There is a market with groceries and some take-out items and (we are in Maine) live lobsters. You’ll have another chance to get to Solon once south of Arnolds Landing as well. Staying on the trail and continuing south of the dam, the KVT travels on the west side of the Kennebec River though no longer alongside it.The first mile of the KVT on this southern stretch is an on-road segment. When the KVT crosses Kennebec River Road, you can continue on the trail or take the road to another bridge crossing; the bridge takes you back to the east side of the river where you can back-track north to Solon or enjoy riverfront dining, swimming, fishing, canoeing, and camping at Evergreens Campground & Restaurant.
The trail continues to cut through wooded areas, but you will have a few more rural road crossings and pass closer to homes and farm fields than on the northern stretch. Entering the small community of Embden(no services) at mile 10, you cross Station Road and run beside Jackin Brook for a short stint before leaving water altogether to enter North Anson and the southern terminus of the trail. North Anson is a primarily residential village in the town of Anson.
If you’re up for more outdoor adventure, west of the trail lies the Bigelow Preserve, which spans a massive 36,000 acres and a mountain range with seven peaks. A portion of the Appalachian Trail is here, as well as other hiking trails and opportunities for camping, wildlife viewing, fishing, and swimming.