Located less than two and a half hours northwest of Portland, the small village of Kingfield in the Western Maine Mountains offers much in the way of pristine rustic splendor and, in recent years, an emerging arts scene.
An original Stanley Steamer, part of the Stanley Museum's collection. — Photo courtesy of Mark PechenikKingfield was best known as the birthplace of the Stanley twins. The two brothers, Francis E. and Freelan O., invented the Stanley Steamer, America’s first and most famous steam-powered automobile. The history of their motor car company – as well as their own ventures into the photography and violin-making businesses – are contained in the Stanley Museum (www.stanleymuseum.org). Here you can actually view several Stanley cars as well as other artifacts associated with their interesting lives.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Kingfield and the surrounding Western Maine Mountains are unquestionably nature’s playground. In the warmer months, hikers can make their way up rugged trails leading to the peaks of Mt. Abrams (at 4,049 feet, it is one of Maine’s highest 4,000 foot peaks), 3,600 foot Burnt Mountain, or any of the nearby Bigelow Mountain Range summits. Each offers spectacular views of the surrounding Carrabassett Valley, one of Maine's most appealing wilderness regions.
Mountain Biking along the Maine Huts and Trails network. — Photo courtesy of Maine Huts and TrailsMountain biking is another popular local pursuit. Cyclists give high marks to the Carrabassett River Rail Trail, developed from a now defunct local railway, which offers scenic views of the Carrabassett River as well as surrounding peaks and forest. Also in spring, summer and fall, hikers and bikers alike take advantage of trails maintained by Maine Huts and Trails (www.mainehuts.org). These trails range from level and smooth to more challenging technical terrain. It’s also possible to enjoy multi-day hikes by bedding down overnight at the well appointed huts operated by the Maine Huts group. Each features comfortable cots, hot meals, and a relaxed, welcome atmosphere. Maine Huts and Trails’ trails are free and open to the public, year-round.
Poplar Falls in winter. — Photo courtesy of Mark PechenikWinter is undoubtedly Kingfield’s prime season. Each year, thousands of skiers flock to the nearby Sugarloaf Mountain Resort (www.sugarloaf.com) for some of the best downhill skiing in the East. Nordic skiers and snowshoeing fans have their choice of many deep woods trails which criss cross the region. There is also Sugarloaf’s Outdoor Center which has groomed and tracked pathways. Maine Huts and Trails’ network of trails are especially attractive in the winter. The Poplar Stream Falls trail, in particular, offers a dramatic, compelling visage of a frozen waterfall.
A Schoolhouse Gallery original. — Photo courtesy of The Schoolhouse GalleryIncreasingly, Kingfield is being rediscovered by artists and professionals who are settling into the area. This is perhaps most evident in the Maine Street galleries that have opened their doors in recent years. Among the best of these is the Schoolhouse Gallery (www.schoolhouseartgallery.com). Here, the husband and wife team of John and Cynthia Orcutt have created exhibit space dedicated to the photography of Kingfield’s natural wonders. John trains his camera on broad landscapes which capture the region's true backwoods majesty. Meanwhile, Cynthia is gaining a well deserved reputation for fiber arts masterpieces. The Orcutts are also enthusiastic boosters of the community, never missing an opportunity to herald the benefits and beauty of living so close to this untamed land. Another local attraction worth checking out is the Maine Ski Museum, located on the second floor of the Sugarloaf Skiing Outlet on Main Street. While small, the museum has exhibits and artifacts which depict the Pine Tree State’s enduring love affair with skiing (be sure to check out its collection of wooden skis!).
Stanley Avenue B & B in Kingfield — Photo courtesy of Mark PechenikFor those seeking to make the most of their sojourn to Kingfield, an overnight stay is always a good idea. One of the best places to lay your head down for an evening – or several nights – is Three Stanley Avenue (www.StanleyAvenue.com). This address offers much in the way of classic bed and breakfast hospitality, grace and comfort. In the winter, the adjoining One Stanley Avenue offers sustenance in the form of delicious gourmet, Maine-influenced cuisine. Other good bets for tasty meals are the Orange Cat Café (www.orangecatcafe.com) which specializes in organic and vegan recipes, and Longfellow Restaurant at 247 Main Street (207-265-4394) that has an eclectic menu of hearty seafood, pasta and meat dishes.
While winter is wonderful in Kingfield, any time of the year is great for visiting this choice vacation destination in Maine.