The Greenville Junction to Shirley Mills Rail Trail, trail follows the abandoned railbed of the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad 6.5 miles (one way) to Shirley Mills and continues east for about 50 miles all the way to Derby. In the winter it becomes a heavily used snowmobile trail and is part of Maine's Interconnected Trail System (ITS), so in the spring and summer it can be rough in spots.
The wide hard-packed gravel trail is flat, ideal for family bike rides and beginner mountain bikers. It travels through some of the best boreal habitat in the region. Look out for black ducks and common Merganser whenever the trail passes a deep section of the stream on the right.
The Greenville Junction-to-Shirley Mills Rail Trail continues along the east branch of the Piscataquis River, ending at Shirley Pond where you can find benches and picnic tables overlooking the pond. It is a lovely spot to rest and enjoy a picnic lunch while enjoying widlife views before the return ride. You may even spot common loons and ducks.
After your mountain bike ride, if you feel like going for a swim, several public beaches are easily accessed from downtown Greenville. (See our Bikes & Beaches : Northern New England feature article for more detail).
The highlight of this rail trail is the bog country that it passes through. A strange mix of plants thrive in the bogs. Cranberries and blueberries from the arctic tundra grow next to orchids and insect-eating plants from the tropical rain forest.
West Shirley Bog:
From the picnic table at the Pond you can extend your ride 3.4 miles to West Shirley Bog by taking the road to the left. (ignore the road to the South. The dirt road that skirts the right side of the Pond is the B&A Railroad Bed North to Greenville). The first mile is paved and the remaining dirt road is rough. Stay on the main trail and be alert for moose watching opportunities. Ignore any side trails and continue until you reach the bog outflow. Relax on the bank and observe the wildlife. This a haven for moose, beaver and otters as well as a variety of birds, ducks and geese.
From about the third week of May until June, Black flies can be a nuisance. Be prepared with insect repellent and wear long pants and sleeves if you are here during that time.
Construction of the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad (B&A), a railroad that never actually reached Bangor with its own tracks, began on July 1, 1893. Great numbers of immigrant laborers, armed with pickaxes, shovels and wheelbarrows, cleared the way through forests, blasted hillsides and filled swamps to create a suitable surface for laying track into northern Maine, some parts of which were served only by wagon trails. They were plagued throughout the summer by swarms of mosquitoes and black flies and lived in small, hastily built shacks or tents eating whatever they could find along the way, including snakes and crows.
Completed in 1906 it ran from South Lagrange to Packard’s Junction to carry potatoes from Aroostook county to Boston. Competition from trucks led to a decline in rail use.
For more information:
For other long distance multi-use rail trails in this region see Maine Rail Trails
Moosehead Lake Region