Inland Woods + Trails and The Conservation Fund partner to expand community recreation, prevent fragmentation of historic working forest!
In 2019, Inland Woods + Trails, purchased the Bethel Community Forest. This 978-acre forest was purchased in collaboration with the Trust for Public Land and the Northern Forest Center. Since 2019 a variety of hiking and mountain biking trails have been built.
Each spring Inland Woods + Trails hosts the “Plant it Forward” event series. So far over 17,000 trees have been planted in the Community Forest as part of our efforts to restore the landscape to a more balanced ecosystem. The goal is for an exemplary forest that supports biodiversity, reduces erosion, enriches soil, and hosts healthy wildlife habitat.
The Bethel Community Forest is also managed to protect the feeder streams to Chapman Brook and the Androscoggin River and to protect one of the most productive deer wintering areas in the state.
In the fall and winter the forest is open to traditional recreation uses such as hunting (with permission) and snowmobiling.
Visit our Resources page to see the forest management plan.
Bingham Forest: The 2,358-acre Bingham Forest was conveyed to the Bethel Water Company in 1925. In 2007, a torrential rainstorm severely damaged a brook in the forest which was a key part of the infrastructure for the drinking water supply for Bethel. The town then shifted to sourcing water from subsurface wells, and in 2010 the trusteeship of the forest was conveyed to the Town of Bethel. The Bingham Forest is managed for watershed protection, wildlife habitat protection, public recreation, and sustainable timber management. IWT serves as the recreation managers for the forest.
In 2019, a clear route of access was available to the Bingham Forest when IWT purchased the Bethel Community Forest. In 2020, the Bingham Cascades Trail was built off the Summit Ridge Trail. It travels through the Bingham Forest and visits a series of waterfalls and cascades. In 2021, a single-track mountain bike trail “Flux” was built as a connector from the BCF to a bike trail located on Bethel Water District land called “Ghost”. Additional single track has been built since then, and various double track woods roads have been rehabilitated for recreation use.
Bethel Community Forest West (BCF West): BCF West is a 532 acre forest originally part of the Chadbourne Tree Farm forest network. In 2020, the property was sold, along with nearly 15,000 acres of Chadbourne Tree Farm land to The Conservation Fund (TCF). In 2022, it will be purchased by IWT and converted to the Bethel Community Forest as part of the Chadbourne Conservation Partnership plan.
Currently there is 3 miles of hiking trails and the trailhead can be found at 753 North Road, Bethel ME.
The connection: When Inland Woods + Trails was founded, a foundational goal was to connect Sunday River to the Bethel village through a system of trails. The Bethel Community Forest and Bingham Forest are enormous puzzle pieces in IWT’s mission to create a 3,600-acre tapestry of conserved land to connect communities of Bethel and beyond with the peaks of Sunday River. These forests host trail corridors that will allow travel from Bethel to Sunday River via a traditional hiking trail, a single-track bike trail, a multiple use double track trail, or a snowmobile trail.
During at least the next two winters the Town of Bethel will be conducting a timber harvest
in the Bingham Forest.
What does that mean for Bethel Community Forest visitors in the winter?
Trails available & stats:
Traditional hiking trail: 10.69 mi
Single track bike trail: 6.01 mi
Enduro-style bike trail: 1.79 mi
Double track, multiple use pathways and woods roads: 7.56 mi
Maine Trail Finder links:
Bethel Community Forest & Bingham Forest – Hiking Trails