I don’t love shoveling snow any more than the next person. And I’m not all that fond of ice-covered windshields.
But when my friendly local meteorologist informs me there’s 6-10 inches of snow headed my way, I get happy. I whoop it up in my family room, loud enough that it startles the neighbors. Then I get down to plotting: where are my snow pants and where am I going to enjoy the snow?
It’s not that I’m in denial about snow’s unique complexities. I know snow is a hassle to contend with, particularly when it buries your car, crowds the sidewalks, and slicks up the roads. Snow can be a hard-to-love aspect of the season.
But snow has its perks, too. It’s downright pretty, for starters, the way it casually drapes itself on trees and roofs and the lawn furniture in the back yard that you meant to put away in the fall but never did.
Snow brings a special kind of quiet to the streets, like nature’s noise-cancelling insulation. It’s a magical form of precipitation, even if it doesn’t feel very magical because snow in New England feels constant and ever-deepening. Snow doesn’t care if you don’t like it.
If you’re still learning how to love the snow (and winter, too), I find the best way to appreciate it is to get out in it. Up close and personal.
I highly recommend acquiring a pair of snowshoes.
Snowshoeing is a stellar way to get outdoors in the winter. You don’t have to drive for miles or trek deep into the wilderness to take advantage of the snow (although you’re welcome to do that, too). A hefty snowfall turns every trail and field and golf course into snowshoeing territory. Heck, I’ve snowshoed down my South Portland sidewalk before the plows and shovels got to it.
And if you’re new to the world of winter activity, snowshoeing is an easy-to-learn place to start. Just strap those puppies on and start walking.
Here are some beginner-friendly snowshoe trails to get you started.
Fore River Sanctuary
The Fore River Sanctuary is part of the Portland Trails network and offers several miles of trail that passes through marsh and woods. You can also make a pit stop at Jewell Falls, the city’s only natural waterfall. Because who doesn’t love a waterfall? Trailheads and parking are on Rowe Street and Frost Street (close to the intersection of Congress Street). Trail map, directions, and more info: trails.org.
Clocking in at 1.25 miles, the trail on Mackworth Island in Falmouth is long enough to get your post-storm fill of snow and scenery, but it’s short and flat enough to be supremely welcoming to beginners and kids. You’ll be greeted with fine views of Casco Bay and a snow-covered fairy village. When the tide’s out, you can walk the beach, too. Take Andrews Avenue to Mackworth Island; parking and trailhead are just beyond the gate. There is a fee to use the trails ($3 Maine resident, $4 non-resident, $1 seniors). Trail map, directions, and more info: trails.org.
After a snowfall, Sewell Woods in Scarborough becomes a mini winter wonderland. This small trail network has one happy mile of trail, which makes it a perfect spot for a quick winter walk or a first-time-snowshoer expedition. The terrain is flat and easy-going, making it accessible whatever your hiking level. Trailhead and parking are off Ash Swamp Road. Trail maps, directions, and more info at scarboroughlandtrust.org.
Cathance River Preserve
Between the trails lined with birch trees, the rolling Cathance River, and the evergreens piled with puffs of snow, Cathance River Preserve in Topsham is about as idyllic as it gets. The preserve is in Highland Green Village and includes 5.6 miles of easy to moderate terrain. The connector trails make it easy to craft a snowshoe excursion that’s just as long or short as you’d like. Trail map, directions, and more info: creamaine.org.
Eastern Trail through Scarborough Marsh
Pick up the Eastern Trail at any point along its 22 miles, from South Portland to Kennebunk, for a flat and easy snowshoe. The segment that travels through the Scarborough Marsh is particularly lovely. It’s a wide and straight path with pretty views of the marsh for a nice stretch, then moving into the woods. Trailhead and parking are on Pine Point Road in Scarborough. Trail map, directions, and more info: easterntrail.org.
Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park
There are five miles of trails at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport, ranging in length from short jaunts straight to water views and longer treks through evergreens, with some gentle hills thrown in for good measure. Definitely leave time to sit on the rocks by the water a while. There is a fee to use the trails ($4 Maine resident, $6 non-resident, $2 seniors). Trailhead and parking are at the end of Wolfe’s Neck Road. Trail map, directions, and more info: maine.gov.
Freelance writer Shannon Bryan lives in South Portland and is the founder of fitmaine.com, where she writes about the coolest ways to be active and get outdoors in Maine.