Top Ten Adventures in Western Maine

October 17, 2019
Illustration by John S. Dykes

The wilderness that surrounds Gould is one big playground and classroom for our students. They regularly get to have transformative outdoor experiences in Western Maine. Here are ten of our favorites.

What are your Western Maine favorites?
Let us know in the comments below.


1. Paddle the Androscoggin River

There are 40 Public Access Sites along the Androscoggin River Trail, which runs 168 miles from its source at Lake Umbagog to Merrymeeting Bay. Orientation groups and outing clubs at Gould paddle our spectacular local waterways often.

Western Maine

2. Hike through Mahoosuc Notch, the toughest mile of the Appalachian Trail

It’s true, the toughest stretch of the Appalachian Trail is just down the road. See if you’re up to the test, but don’t stop there. There are literally hundreds of trails just a short distance from campus. From Grafton to Evans Notch, you’ll never run out of hiking trails to explore. Check out Maine Trail Finder for a few options.

Western Maine

3. Earn your turns

Skin up Lollapalooza before the lifts open! Faculty-led groups head to Sunday River in the morning to get a hike and a ski run in before starting the academic day throughout the winter trimester. Sometimes sooner!

Western Maine

Sunday River allows skinning, snowshoeing, and other types of uphill travel at the resort. The mountain is open to uphill travel from 30 minutes before the start of operations to 30 minutes after last chair. You may only travel on terrain that is designated as open on the trail report, and you must ensure that you are visible to downhill traffic at all times. Check out the full safety guidelines here.


4. Jump in at Frenchman’s Hole

Are you really a Mainer if you haven’t jumped into a swimming hole like Frenchman’s? Trust us, it’s worth the trip.

Directions: From Main Street in Bethel, head north on Route 26. Turn left onto Sunday River Road. Turn left onto Twin Bridges Road. After a small bridge, the road turns right becoming Bull Branch Road. Parking for Frenchman’s Hole will be on the left just beyond the swimming area. 


Like what you’ve seen so far?


5. Mountain Bike 50 km+ of trails in Bethel and on campus.

The Bethel Inn, Mahoosuc Pathways, and Gould Academy maintain a number of trails in the area, as well as the Bethel Community Forest, over 4,000 acres of terrain between Bethel and Sunday River that will soon be developed! No matter what your experience level, you can find the perfect trail in Western Maine.

Bonus pick! If gravity mountain biking is your thing, a new park is opening soon at Mt Abram in nearby Greenwood, Maine.

Western Maine Mountain biking

6. Golf at Bethel Inn or a Robert Trent Jones Jr. course at Sunday River

If you’d rather enjoy the bucolic scenery of Western Maine while simultaneously working on your short game, we’ve got you covered. The Bethel Inn and Sunday River are two of the most stunning and challenging courses in New England.

Western Maine Golf

7. Rock or Ice Climb in Grafton Notch

Regardless of the season, there are excellent climbing spots in Grafton Notch State Park. Be sure to always go with a pro or an experienced climber who knows the right gear for the climb.

Gould’s outing club goes climbing several times a trimester. Schedule a visit and mention you’re interested in tagging along!


8. Take a Polar Bear plunge in Songo Pond after ice-out

Western Maine Polar Bear Plunge

What better way to get the blood pumping early in the morning than hucking yourself into a frigid pond?

Polar Bears Club is a long-standing spring tradition at Gould. The prize for getting up before sunrise and plunging into icy water for every official event during your four years at Gould? A block of ice that will soon be a puddle. But it was never about awards anyway. Bragging rights? Maybe.


9. Flyfish the Wild River in Evans Notch

We’re not at liberty to give away any secret fishing spots, but the Wild River in Gilead, off Maine State Route 113, has plenty of places to wet a line.

Gould students have an opportunity to fish and learn about the surrounding ecosystem in our river ecology class. Science credit, while fly fishing with Master Maine Guides.


10. Visit Gould Academy!

Students have access to all of these adventures — and many more — less than 30 minutes from campus. Tours are available Monday-Saturday. Contact Admissions at 207-824-7777 or…


Chris Hayward, director of experiential learning at Gould, is a Registered Maine Guide, Ski Patroller, Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician, American Mountain Guide rock climbing instructor, and a local search and rescue team leader. He ran Maine’s 100-mile wilderness in under 40 hours and has skied Katahdin’s Chimney Couloir. He shares that passion for the outdoors with Gould students all year long.


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