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Visitors to the 6.5-mile-long Kennebec River Rail Trail mostly stay within sight of the wide river as the paved trail links the state capital of Augusta with the river towns of Hallowell, Farmingdale, and Gardiner. The trail is part of the off-road East Coast Greenway, which will connect Calais, Maine, with Key West, Florida, when it is complete. No motorized use is allowed on the trail, which is plowed of snow in the winter.
The trail shares the corridor with railroad tracks that the Maine Department of Transportation preserved in hopes that trains will one day return. It follows the route of the Kennebec and Portland Railroad, which the state chartered in 1836 and reached Augusta by 1851. The Maine Central Railroad subsequently bought the 63-mile line and provided rail service to communities along the river until 1983. The new owners, Guilford Transportation (later Pan Am Railways), eventually closed the Augusta-Brunswick segment, which the state acquired.
Beginning at a riverside parking lot in Augusta, the trail heads south beneath the US 201/Memorial Drive bridge. The first mile of trail is often crowded with office workers stretching their legs during lunchtime and after work. About 0.7 mile from the trailhead, a side trail heads right to more parking and Capitol Park at the foot of the State Capitol building. The Maine State Museum and State Library are nearby.
At mile 2, measured by 0.25-mile trailside markers, you’ll arrive at the waterfront in Hallowell, once a logging, mill, and shipbuilding center. Parking and restrooms are at a riverfront park that’s home to the farmers market in season. You might be drawn to the colorful Adirondack chairs that overlook the river here, or you can visit antiques stores, art studios, or restaurants along Water Street.
Leaving Hallowell, the trail veers away from the rail corridor for a short distance, then hugs the shoreline of Kennebec River to Farmingdale. At one time polluted by industrial discharges, the river Kennebec—named so by the area’s original inhabitants for its “large body of still water”—has benefited from clean water laws. Removal of the Edwards Dam in Augusta in 1999 has helped bring back migratory fish. You may see osprey or bald eagles that feed on the river life.
The trail ends at a shopping center on the north end of Gardiner, a former mill town. About a block south is a vintage Maine Central Railroad depot built in 1911 and used by the railroad into the 1950s. Just a few blocks farther south, you’ll find Gardiner Waterfront Park, a popular event space and put-in for boats, kayaks, and canoes. The future Merrymeeting Trail project is proposed to follow the rail corridor south of here for 32 miles to Brunswick on the coast.
To reach the trailhead in Augusta from I-95, take Exit 109A toward Augusta on US 202/SR11/Western Ave. Go 1.4 miles east on US 202 to the Memorial Circle roundabout, and take the third exit onto Water St. Go 0.3 mile, and turn right into Downtown Parking. The trail begins at the south end of the parking lot.
To reach the trail in Gardiner from I-295, take Exit 51 onto SR 9/SR 126/Cobbossee Ave./Lewiston Road. Go 1.8 miles east, and cross the bridge onto SR 9/SR 126/Water St. Go another 1.1 miles, and stay straight on Water St. Go 0.2 mile, and turn left onto Maine Ave. Go 0.2 mile, and turn left into the parking lot. The trailhead is at the north end of the lot.
Started at Capitol park entrance enjoying the walkers passing by. All were saying good morning! Great walk paved with asphalt. Follows the Kennebec River. A little disappointed it was by the waste treatment facility.
There’s a lot to like about this trail: •easy ride and it has some hills and curves to make it interesting •scenic •easy parking •well marked •well maintained with a few bumps But there are a few negatives with the major one being the gap in Hallowell. For roughly 1/2 - 3/4 of a mile, the gap in the trail requires one to ride on busy Water St through the downtown area. It’s certainly not the worst road to ride on, but traffic can be heavy and you need to watch for car doors opening. The trail is also very narrow in spots making it difficult to pass through. But overall a nice trail that is worth a visit.
We rode this trail from the Water St. parking lot in Augusta. This is virtually the beginning of the trail except for a very short segment that goes down to a park at the river level. The trail takes a break in Hallowell's Granite City Park. There is some historical information here and Adirondack chairs set up to view the river. At the Park, the trail goes onto the street for less than a mile (stay on the main street). There are some really cool old buildings in the town. The trail then goes up to the right. This is a relatively flat and easy ride. It is all paved with few bumps.
This really was a very pretty rail trail, with lots of fun stopping places on either end (and in the middle). In Augusta on one end, and Gardiner on the other, and Hallowell in the middle, you have lots of options for food and drink. The trail is super easy and flat. 13 miles round trip.
My husband and I just both got bikes and were at a family outing the day before in Augusta and decided to try out the trail. It was a beautiful trail and a great first ride. We will definitely be back!
This 13 mile, round trip, ride is as easy as it gets. As others have described, it follows the Kennebec, starting out in Augusta and ending in Gardner. But here is tip: if you ride across the parking lot in Gardner, and take a very short ride ( maybe 0.1 miles) along the road, you'll find a boat landing/park on your left. Take the road to the left when you come to a large striped pedestrian crossing. There you can take a seat along the waters edge, watch people loading boats and fishing. If you want to make the round trip ride an even 14 miles you can proceed to the end of the park and take a short ride down a dirt trail. It's not spectacular in there but, it's quiet and affords you some more nice views of the river.
My husband and I biked this trail yesterday (8/20/2010). Absolutely beautiful. The last unpaved stretch (around mile marker 2) is being paved next week.
In Gardiner, my husband's front tire went flat and we set out to look for a bike shop. There is a great one, at around mile marker 5 (just leave the trail and walk up the parallel road). It is called Mathieu's; they did the repair quickly and were friendly and welcoming, with some local stories as well, if you care to ask.
"In Augusta, the trail now also extends to the edge of downtown at the MSHA parking lot. This entrance to the trail is much flatter than the entrance at Capitol Park, which goes downhill steeply and curves. The trail is a great addition to the area and my wife and I both enjoy it. "
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