Inland Woods + Trails, in collaboration with the Trust for Public Land and the Northern Forest Center, purchased the 978-acre BCF in 2019. By the time the forest had its grand opening at the end of the summer in 2019, the first hiking trail “Summit Ridge Trail” was built. In 2020, the first single track bike “Tribute” and enduro bike trail “Parietal” were built, and the first hiking trail was built from the BCF to the Bingham Forest. In 2021, even more single track and enduro were built.
Since 2019, IWT has built hiking trails, single track biking trails, and enduro bike trails on the property, as well as rehabilitating the woods roads located on the property, and planted over 17,000 trees. In spring, we hold annual “Plant it Forward” tree planting events at the BCF as part of our efforts to restore the forest to a more balanced and healthy state leading towards an exemplary forest. Enrichment tree plantings create an environment that supports biodiversity, reduces erosion, enriches soil, and fosters healthy wildlife habitat. Eastern white pine, balsam fir, red pine, red oak, northern white cedar, white spruce, red spruce, sugar maple, and a variety of heritage apple trees have been planted so far. In addition to our tree planting efforts, we manage the BCF to protect the feeder streams to Chapman Brook and the Androscoggin River and protect one of the most productive deer wintering areas in the state. In the fall and winter, the BCF is open and plowed to a point on the Locke Mtn Road, and traditional recreation uses of the forest such as hunting and snowmobiling on the #13 snowmobile trail are ensured forever. To view the Management Plan, CLICK HERE. You can find the Bethel Community Forest at 121 Locke Mountain Road, Bethel ME.
Bingham Forest: The 2,358-acre Bingham Forest was conveyed to the Bethel Water Company by William Bingham II in 1925. In 2007, a torrential rainstorm caused the Chapman Brook, which was the primary source of water for the town, to flood, severely scarring either side of its banks and damaging the infrastructure of the drinking water supply. 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. It is managed for water quality protection, wildlife habitat protection, public recreation, and sustainable timber management, and IWT serves as the recreation managers for the forest. In 2019, a clean and clear route of access was available to the Bingham Forest when IWT purchased the Bethel Community Forest. In 2020, the first hiking trail was built in the forest. The Bingham Cascades Trail branches off the Summit Ridge Trail in the BCF to a series of waterfalls and cascades off the Chapman Brook, Library Brook, and Spruce Spring Stream. In 2021, a single-track bike trail “Flux” was built as a connector trail from the BCF to the single-track bike trail located on Bethel Water District land called “Ghost”, and a series of other 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 multi tract forest originally purchased as one ownership of working forest under 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 TCF’s Chadbourne Conservation Partnership plan. While TCF owns the forest, IWT is the recreation manager for the property. In March of 2021, IWT discovered three viewpoints on the property, which were dubbed “Ellingwood Ledges”, “Porcupine Panorama”, and “The Prow”, and quickly multiple miles of hiking trails were built. 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 Bingham Forest, Bethel’s town forest for decades, was a piece directly abutting Sunday River, and the Bethel Community Forest, which abuts North Road in Bethel, creates clean and clear access from the roads and pathways connecting to Bethel Village through the community forest and town forest to the resort. In short, 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 contain trail corridors that will allow folks to 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.
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: