This February, I stayed three nights at the Birches Resort to go XC skiing with my dog. I like to ski long trails, and she trots alongside. Unlike some places that permit dogs on only one short loop, dogs are allowed on ALL the trails at Birches. This makes sense: as one of the staff said, moose and deer can do FAR more damage to a trail than a dog. I especially enjoyed the 10-15 mile run to Baker Pond and back, a beautiful frozen pond in a remote setting in the woods. Looking forward to doing the Poplar Hill Loop when I come back next season.
My dog was allowed in my cabin and in the main Lodge except where food was being served. And $10 surcharge for her per night. All fair enough.
As for an earlier reviewer's comments about the trails, I felt they were fine. Several inches of snow had fallen since they were groomed, but it was easy to see where the trails went and easy to cut tracks in the top layer. I've been to many XC centers where the trails are pristine and frankly to me that's NOT XC skiing, or at least ski touring. Perfect grooming may be needed for ski racing or for skate skiing, but this is touring in a wilderness preserve. That said, I was glad that there was a groomed base because when I ventured into ungroomed areas my skis sank into the snow.
Yes there is a problem with the signs. It's disheartening to arrive at a junction and find that the sun has bleached out the magic marker so that the sign is illegible or blank. Some of the signs have been replaced with proper painted ones, so perhaps they are being upgraded gradually. I did go the wrong way on a trail on the second afternoon, but figured out my mistake from the direction of the sun. After all, route finding is part of ski touring.
I had a minor complaint that snowmobiles were used on some of the XC trails to supply the yurts that were rented for overnight stays. Normally this would not be a problem, but conditions were crusty and the snowmobile tracks chopped up the trail. Perhaps it would be possible to deliver these supplies on one of the grooming machines? Or maybe put wider skis on the snowmobile that is used so that there would be at least one track that would fit an XC ski (the stock snowmobile skis are narrower than touring XC skis)?
Much of the winter business at the Birches seems to be snowmobilers who are either touring or ice fishing. Understandable, that pays the bills. Even so three of the cabins and two of the yurts were rented by XC skiers while I was there. Snowmobiles have a separate trail system, and there was only one occasion (other than the aforementioned yurt resupplying) when touring snowmobilers had used an XC-only trail.
The food on the meal plan was hearty and very tasty. The portions were too big, at least for me.
And the staff are extremely friendly and helpful - that and the old-Maine log cabin character of the place make the Birches special.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located on the northwestern shores of Moosehead Lake, The Birches Resort features the best in north-woods style accommodations, dining, and family fun. Our lodging options right on the lake and with a close up view of Mt. Kineo range from our famous Rustic Cabins, Kozy Cabins, Private Homes, Lodge Rooms, Camp/RV sites, Suites, and more. With so many summer and winter activities to offer you can see why our satisfied guests have come back year after year for generations! ... more less
- Also Known As:
- The Birches Hotel Rockwood
- Birches Hotel Rockwood
- The Birches Resort Rockwood, Maine