Coastal Maine can be a bit of an enigma at times, especially when it comes to mountain biking. A lot of the local trail networks that I’ve ridden generally consist of copious amounts of rocks mixed in with a generous helping of roots and a lack of elevation which, at best, makes for a pedalfest. Don’t get me wrong, these trails are where I do about 90% of my riding, and are great for working on one’s technical climbing and descending abilities. However, if you’re like me sometimes you may need to take a break from the glory that is charging through rocks and roots at slightly pants-shitting speeds and instead search for something–dare I say–different. This search led me to branching out to trail networks outside of my immediate home area in Bath, Maine, and brought me to Yarmouth (about a 15 minute drive from Maine’s cultural epicenter and largest city, Portland) where I found myself at the Yarmouth West Side Trail.
Gray clouds and green flora, contrast against the tan trail. Beauty.
The Yarmouth West Side trail is about as flowy and rhythmic of a trail system that I’ve found since I moved to Maine a year ago. Disclaimer: this is not to say that technical trails cannot be flowy, because they can be, one just needs to work a bit harder to find the flow through the chunky stuff and that is not the modus operandi of the West Side Trail. With that being said, what Yarmouth lacks in technicality it certainly makes up for in its ability to attract riders of all disciplines and preferences. For a beginner, this is a great place to hone in on your skills: the trails are smooth, well-built and maintained, and there’s not a ton of elevation gain. If you’re an experienced rider, you’ll most likely find the trails fast and grin-inducingly fun. The length of the Yarmouth West Side trail out and back ends up being roughly 12 miles, with an approximate 500 feet of elevation gain, and because the trail is multi use you’re most likely going to encounter other riders, runners, hikers, etc.
I’ve had the distinct pleasure of riding Yarmouth a few times last summer, but only got to know the trail system well at the turn of the year. Aesthetically, the trails are quite pleasing: they roll through several ecosystems and feature a variety of soils ranging from sand, gravel, loam, and clay. They’re designed sustainably and have a low environmental impact because of the use of well-placed bench cuts and switchbacks to navigate the punchy topography. The West Side Trail runs in and out of a powerline corridor, but unlike other powerline trails, it is exclusively singletrack and spends a majority of its length running parallel to the power lines themselves. The trail system also connects to the Fels-Grove Farm Preserve (which is mostly comprised of hiking trails that are off limits to cyclists), Sandy Point Beach on Cousin’s Island, and several other Yarmouth neighborhoods.
This trail system is unique in its ability to appeal to a plethora of riders of different disciplines and skillsets, and because of its moderate length the Yarmouth West Side trail serves as a great place for a post-work ride, or if you’re in the mood to slow down you can enjoy the more scenic things that the trail has to offer and even take a dip in the Casco Bay as you cross trails segments from Yarmouth to Cousin’s Island. The Yarmouth West Side Trails presents riders with options, and that’s a concept that I can absolutely rally around. Want to ride skinny tires? Feel free to do so. Want to break out the fat bike? Be my guest. Tired from a long day of work at your 9-5? Alleviate the pressures by spending some quality trail time. Feel like sprinting your ass off until you puke? Your life, your choice. No type of riding is out of place at the Yarmouth West Side Trail, and it’s crucial for every mountain bike community to have a trail system like that.
Casco Bay viewed from Cousins Island.
Editor’s Note: A lot of organizations are to thank for the Yarmouth West Side Trail, as the building of this trail was a large scale, community-based effort. The list includes the Greater Portland Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association, the Royal River Conservation Trust, The Town of Yarmouth, the Rotary Club of Yarmouth, and Central Maine Power, to name a few. For the time being, construction at Tyler Technologies has closed a small portion of the trail. Please keep posted on the Yarmouth West Side Trail Facebook page for updates regarding trail access and parking lot usage at Tyler Technologies.