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The 28.9-mile Eastern Trail connects the historic towns along Maine’s southern coast from the woods near Kennebunk to South Portland’s harbor lighthouse. Nearly 22 miles of the route follows off-road rail-trail and greenway interrupted by two major on-road gaps in Saco/Biddeford and Scarborough. Plans are underway to close at least one of these gaps and extend the trail another 19 miles southwest to Kittery. The East Coast Greenway incorporates the Eastern Trail on its 3,000-mile-long trail project between Maine and Key West, Florida.
A significant distance uses the old Eastern Railroad route, chartered in the 1830s to run passenger and freight trains between Boston and Portland. Its rival, the Boston & Maine Railroad, leased the Eastern in 1884 and then bought it outright in 1900. Guilford Transportation, which became Pan Am Railways, purchased the Boston & Maine in the 1980s, and later discontinued use on many underperforming routes.
In the southwest, the trail starts just north of the town center of Kennebunk, where quaint, old New England architecture draws tourists in the summer. The Kennebunk Plains blueberry barrens, where you can pick the berries after August 1, and the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge are nearby. The trail surface switches between packed dirt, gravel, and sand as it crosses small roads and streams for 6.2 miles to the first gap in Biddeford. Follow directional signs for 4.5 miles through Biddeford on streets and sidewalks and across the Saco River at Springs Island to regain the trail on Clark Street at Thornton Academy in Saco.
After about 2 miles of paved and crushed stone surface, you’ll cross US 1 on an overpass about 0.5 mile south of Funtown Splashtown USA, a Saco tourism destination. About 4 miles later, you’ll arrive at Scarborough Marsh, a breathtaking expanse of saltwater wetlands that is Maine’s largest at 3,100 acres. Keep an eye out for marine birds and enjoy the ride along nearly 2 miles of beautiful coastal trail. The trail ends after the marsh, and a 4-mile on-road section begins. It’s well marked, but traffic is heavy and fast, so be cautious riding on the shoulder. The Eastern Trail Alliance has been raising funds to close this gap to the Wainwright Recreation Complex, where the trail starts again.
The final 5-mile leg soon becomes urbanized. As you approach the Fore River, which separates South Portland from Portland, the corridor meanders between off-road trail and on-street routes. Follow signs for the South Portland Greenbelt. The trail ends at Bug Light Park, named for the smallish lighthouse that has stood here since 1875. Enjoy the views of tankers and sailboats in the harbor and the Portland skyline.
To reach the Kennebunk trailhead from I-95 N, take Exit 25 toward SR 35/Kennebunk/Kennebunkport. Go 0.4 mile, and turn right onto SR 35, and then go 0.2 mile, and turn right to stay on SR 35/Alewive Road. Go 0.8 mile, and turn right into the Kennebunk Elementary School parking lot. A short path to the trail is at the south end of the parking lot. From I-95 S, take Exit 25, and turn right onto SR 35/Alewive Road. In less than 0.5 mile, the Kennebunk Elementary School will be on your right.
To reach the South Portland trailhead from I-295 N, take Exit 4 toward Casco Bay Bridge/Portland Waterfront. Go 0.7 mile, and merge onto the Veterans Memorial Bridge, and then go 0.4 mile, and merge onto US 1A/Fore River Pkwy./W. Commercial St. Go 1 mile, turn left at the traffic light near Goodyear, and merge onto SR 77/Casco Bay Bridge. Go 1 mile, and continue onto Broadway; then go 1.6 miles, and turn left onto Breakwater Dr./Benjamin W. Pickett St. Go 0.1 mile, and turn right onto Madison St. Go 0.4 mile, and look for parking straight ahead.
To reach the South Portland trailhead from I-295 S, take Exit 4 toward US 1/Main St. Merge onto US 1, go 0.4 mile, and merge onto US 1 S/Main St., and then immediately turn left onto Alton St./Huntress Ave. Go 0.3 mile, and turn left onto Broadway, and then go 1.8 miles, and turn right to stay on Broadway. Go 1.6 miles, and turn left onto Breakwater Dr./Benjamin W. Pickett St. Go 0.1 mile, and turn right onto Madison St. Go 0.4 mile, and look for parking straight ahead.
We did this in two parts: Kennebunk-Biddeford, and South Portland-Saco. To do just Kennebunk to Biddeford & back is a bit too easy and dull - straight, flat, 12 miles round trip; although, you might want to reserve time to explore downtown Biddeford. Biscuits! Doughnuts! Brewery! Etc.
The Portland-Saco stretch is more varied. If you start from Bug Light Park, like we did, I think it comes out to more than 20 miles; for a shorter ride, start from the parking lot on the trail proper. There is the most excellent empanada place in Saco where you should try to have lunch. The marsh is fun with interesting birds.
Most of this trail is over packed earth, which is satisfactory, except following rain. The 4.5+ miles through Biddeford are poorly marked (download a map) and often hazardous. Scarborough marsh is beautiful and the rest of the trail is pleasant, often scenic. I rode the entire trail north one day and south the next. If I were to do it again, I would cut it into two smaller trails, and avoid Biddeford.
I rode the entire trail starting at Bug Light Park in South Portland and ending at Kennebunk; roughly 30 miles each way. I knew about the on road gaps and found them to be a positive as it added variety to the trail. The on road sections are fairly well marked and I only had an issue finding my way through Biddeford. The shoulders are very wide and I must say I found Maine drivers to be very courteous to me at every road crossing.
The off road sections of the trail are very well marked, shaded and very flat. I rode through forests and marshes and around residential neighborhoods. There is a fundraising effort to close one of the on road gaps on this trail. If that gap is closed I would give this trail five stars. I still highly recommend this trail as you can have a nice ride no matter what section you chose to ride.
the first 6 miles was somewhat boring, just a dirt path in the woods but the remaining trail to Saco was fun weaving through neighborhoods and Saco river crossing was cool. excited to do the second section :)
My 9 year old and I found this and loved it. We started at Kennebunk Elementary, which was easy to find, and went about 5 miles. The trail has a very nominal and unnoticeable grade. The trail is shaded and has numerous small bridges crossing streams. It’s a beautiful and easy ride.
We rode as a pair from the Kennebunk Elementary School, which is at the southern end of the trail - marked as "mile 28" northward.(It's about .2 miles from the parking lot) Aside from crossing over Rt. 95 just at the base of the trail, from then on it was flat, perhaps a slight grade up while heading north. The surface is sand, and fine gravel. There are a few benches along the trail. Very scenic trail with dense woods and streams. It's an easy trail, with no hills to climb, if that's what you're looking for. I recommend it.
We parked at Kennebunk Elementary School, cycled to Biddeford, and had a great breakfast at All Day Breakfast Two, just a couple of blocks from the trailhead, before returning to Kennebunk. The trail is in excellent condition. We used our regular road bikes with no trouble. A highlight was the sight of a fox sauntering down the trail!
The trail was a great find, excellent place to ride bikes with our grandchildren, when they got tired, just locked up their bikes and put them in the burlee for a lovely ride.
Unfortunately, my son in law lost his prescription glasses, black wire frame in a black case. If anyone finds them please Email , Lynblanchette@ aol.com
We rode to the trailhead from Wells, which was a 10-mile ride. The shoulder on Rte. 1 is very wide, which makes for easy road riding. The directions on the RTC website to the Kennebunk trailhead are spot on. The trail itself was wicked easy to ride. The gravel and dirt surface are very well packed. While hybrids or mountain bikes are better for this surface, it's doable with a road bike too. There was hardly anyone on this trail on a lovely June day. There are no services along the trail; however, it's only 6 miles long.
We sought out this trail after seeing it pass over I95. I'm glad we found it and got to enjoy the fall foliage today. It was a bit beyond peak colors but still nice tree cover and parking at the elementary school was plentiful, even on a school day.
A few places are soft sand so I appreciated the caution tape indicating those troublesome spots (I was on my road bike). Our son rode in his Chariot Carrier and complained of sand and small rocks flying up at him so we had to improvise a cover to shield him.
One more thing to note. I used the port-a-johns on the Kennebunk end and it was the cleanest one I have ever used!
This is an excellent trail with a great variety of environments from the large public sports fields and playgrounds at the southern end, then some woods, pleasant neighborhoods, public parks, marshy areas, along the Fore river, and then finally ending at Bug Light Park. There is a business district on Route 77 near the eastern end with a number of places if you want to stop for something to eat or drink. The road crossing at this location has good crosswalks and signals but can still be a little stressful with kids because of many lanes and high traffic volume. I recommend starting at Wainwright and continuing to Bug Light because Bug Light is so awesome it gives you a destination to look forward to throughout your ride and is a great spot for a picnic.
This is a very pretty trail mostly through woods. There is a small stream running along the trail for a while and that is especially nice. The bridge over the Kennebunk River has pretty views and a nice big patch of grass next to it so it makes for a great spot to rest and take some photos. The wooden railings along much of the trail provide a really nice touch. These aspects make it more interesting and enjoyable than a typical trail just through woods.There might be a few places where you would have difficulty going through here with a road bike but with a hybrid it is no problem and is mostly smooth.
This segment of the ET is long enough to make for an excellent bike ride with varied environments or you can do smaller segments. The northernmost part between Black Point Rd. and Eastern Rd. is the most scenic as it passes through Scarborough Marsh with outstanding views in both directions. Be aware, it is often quite windy here. The middle part of this trail is a mix of woods and backyards and can be a little rough in places; it is fine for a hybrid but I would not recommend a road bike. The Saco section is partially paved and is nice also.
Experience is that it's pave and it's all flat and sometimes you have to go through Sand. Nice trail overall could be better.
My wife and I did a midweek ride, from Kennebunk to Biddeford and saw only a handful of people. Trail is packed dirt and mostly level. Did this ride the day after riding the Mountain Division Trail in Fryeburg, and enjoyed Kennebunk more. The paved trail in Fryeburg is nice, but there is no shade. This trail has shade 90% of the way and has the novelty of a bridge over RT 95. The 12 miles took us a little over an hour of easy peddling. The only drawback is the lack of water/facilities along the trail.
After living in Maine for 6 years we just discovered this trail. It's easy to find parking at the trail head (Bug Light). We were amazed by how scenic it is right in town. Views of the coast, tree cover and rolling hills on either side of the closed landfill along the trail. Landfill sounds gross, but we wouldn't have known without the signs marking it. Our toddler loved the park at the Wainwright end of the trail. We made use of the port-o-johns after playing and headed back to Bug Light where we had parked.
Probably the hardest pack of the off-road ET so far.Couple of soft spots from recent flooding,but repaired and signed,ok.Long ride through the Maine woods with only one real grade crossing at Limerick Road.Ample parking at school on rt. 35,North of Kennebunk exit, and at Southern Maine Medical center out back,in Biddeford.I ride this many times at night, work daily, and it's a pleasure.Very good surface,probably for road bike, but I use hybrid.A pleasure to navigate.
My better half and myself were vacationing in Saco. Spent some time riding roads to get to this section and then again to get to the South Portland Pathway but was well worth it. Nice trail not real busy. 34 miles round trip
This trail was definitely great for running, with flat surfaces and wide enough for bikes to pass easily around me. The hard packed gravel made it a good surface as far as taking it easy on the joints (knees especially), while still wearing regular street/road running shoes. No trail shoes needed. The partial sun/shade made even a warmer day (83-85 degrees) feel significantly cooler and enjoyable. We parked at the Kennebunk Elementary School parking lot just off of I-95, and I ran to the end of the trail (6 miles) and back for a great round-trip long run. Lots of people out and about on a Saturday afternoon, definitely made me feel safe. All in all, a great trail I would recommend to the off-road runner.
My girlfriend ran the trail yesterday, mid-day, 80 degrees and sunny. The trees really keep you in the shade and cool the whole way. Didn't notice any deer flies (as noted by an earlier reviewer) perhaps because of the time of day. I bike (on my hybrid) from the south and then followed the Eastern Trail signs and connected to the Saco-Scarborough trail. The signs lead you on safe roads through Biddeford, but I wouldn't recommend them if you have young kids on bikes to worry about. Great day! Kennebunk-Biddeford trail surface was great. View wasn't anything special. Only a few spots with some deeper sand. Only did the first mile of the Saco-Scarborough trail, but it looked to be in superb condition.
We discovered the trail last weekend as we were enroute to Portland, but bailed after encountering traffic. The trail isn't too far from I-95 for those coming from out of town. The parking at a school gives an opportunity to play on the playground before/after the ride for kids. The trail is gravel/ballast. It is a smooth solid surface (no potholes) so it was great with the kids on a tag-along. There are a few places where there are yellow posts preventing motor vehicles from entering the trail, which might make it difficult for bikers with kids in trailers (I didn't measure the distance between the posts - next time). We did cut our ride short due to nasty deer flies and will come more prepared the next time. Also we discovered a new yummy restaurant nearby on Alfred Rd (bikeable) that opened Dec 2012, that helped satisfy our hunger while avoiding the Kennebunk summer crowds. We will definitely return to this ride again.
I run and bike this trail (and walk dog). It is a wonderful trail.
Since Dec./2010,trail completed to Saco,behind Thornton Academy,to Clark St.,like the above says.Bike/ped bridge was installed across rte.1,Saco,Oct 27,2011.Trail now 8.6 miles,Clark St to Black Point Rd,Scarborough.ETMD,MDOT,currently working to conect trail to Greenbelt,South Portland,northern terminus of ET.Trail surface is very smooth,and a pleasure to cycle on.Connection to Biddeford section behind Southern Maine Medical Center also being worked on as we speak.From SMMC(parking behind hospital-follow signs)to rt 35 Kennebunk,is 6.2 miles,with really only one grade crossing.Bridge across Kennebunk River,bridge across Maine Turnpike are complete.Sign on Turnpike bridge,interstate 95,reads"Eastern Trail-East Coast Greenway".Trail in planning to continue to Kittery,Maine.
This is a great trail for geocaching on bikes. The ride is flat and easy terraine for most bikes. The geocaches are varied and interesting, without much bush whacking.
Went cycling today on this trail. Stunning views of nature. Peaceful. Flat and easy to enjoy the ride.
Eastern Trail is S. Maine part of East Coast Greenway. Scarborough is one section. Another section was opened 11/30/10 from S. Me Medical Center to turnpike exit at Kennebunk,Me. approx 6 miles. Both sections are stonedust surface, no motorized vehicles allowed. Bridge over Me. turnpike scheduled to be completed spring 2011, to connect up with route 35 Kennebunk. Remaining on-trail(off road) currently in planning stages, 19 miles to be done in one fell swoop, to Jewett in Maine. New sections are very smooth and deserve consideration. Sections connecting S.Portland Greenbelt(N. terminus E.T.) to Scarborough and connector from Scarborough to Saco Me. are in works.(Cascade Rd. to Saco bidded out for 2011) Trail is in construction, but progress is steady.
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