It’s a bit of a fantasy, isn’t? The idea of stuffing a backpack full of the essentials (a sleeping bag, warm socks, a few layers of fleece) and disappearing into the Maine woods to some off-the-grid place where we can warm our feet by a fire and busy ourselves with a book, a spiked hot cocoa, and the brightness of the stars outside.
Maine Huts and Trails is kind of like that.
It’s hardly “roughing it,” either. Each of the four huts (Poplar, Stratton Brook, Flagstaff, and Grand Falls) are sharp-looking and sustainable lodges with vaulted ceilings, big windows, and radiant heat floors.
During the full-service summer and winter, you’ll be greeted by staff upon your arrival (who might be prepping that evening’s dinner in the commercial kitchen), and you can purchase yourself a glass of wine or a beer and kick back on the couch in the reading area or take in the breeze on the screened-in porch.
Overnight stays include three meals – including a homemade dinner served family-style at the long tables in the great room, where you’ll undoubtedly make friends with the fellow hut-goers at your table. And day hikers and mountain bikers come and go throughout the day, popping in for lunch or to just hang out for a while.
It’s a social experience as much as it is a “get out of dodge” one.
But I especially love visiting the huts during the fall self-service season.
During self-service season, the huts are open but not staffed (there is a caretaker there who’ll keep the place humming), and meals aren’t provided. Instead, you pack in your food, cook for yourself food (and have access to the pots, pans, and cooking utensils of the commercial kitchen), and – this is important – bring your own beer and wine. You’re responsible for packing out all your own trash, too, just like you do when camping.
I love this time of year because the huts get decidedly quieter. Fewer guests visit this time of year – one November weekend a couple years ago, my friend Anne and I were the only guests there – which means you kind of have run of the place. And the rates drop, too. ($40 a night during self-service season versus $90 a night during full-service season.)
It’s an entirely different experience – easy-going and quiet and at your own pace. And while I admittedly like the near-solitude, I also think more people should visit the huts in the late fall, when there’s likely to be snow on the ground, ice in the lakes and rivers, and sunsets that turn the sky into sherbet.
There will also be all the hiking you could ask for, a cozy lodge to return to, and a fire to warm your feet by.
This year, self-service season at the huts this fall runs from October 15 to December 20 at all four huts: Flagstaff, Poplar and Stratton Brook Huts, and Grand Falls Hut.
Flagstaff Hut happens to be my favorite. During warmer months, you can rent kayaks and SUPs and paddle Flagstaff Lake (it’s a nice hut for families, too). But even when the weather’s cold and there’s ice forming around the edges of the lake, Flagstaff is still a mighty fine place to be.
The 1.8-mile hike in from the trailhead is fairly easy-going, even in the late fall and winter when there’s snow on the ground (and when your backpack is loaded down with food and boxed wine), and there’s plenty of shoreline and nearby trails to explore.
Maine Huts and Trails
There are four huts: Stratton Brook, Poplar, Grand Falls, and Flagstaff.
Learn about all the huts and more at mainehuts.org
Self-service season at the huts this fall runs from October 15 to December 20 at all four huts: Flagstaff, Poplar and Stratton Brook Huts, and Grand Falls Hut. Rates are $40 for adults and $20 for youth. You can also rent our the entire hut. More about the rates.
Also check out the Maine Huts and Trails trips, which include guided and multi-hut adventures through the winter. Find out more.