The Golden Road

Total Miles


551.06 ft


4 Hours

Technical Rating



Best Time

Spring, Summer, Fall

Trail Overview

The famous Golden Road from Millinocket to the Canadian Border, with stops at Ripogenus Falls, Ripogenus Gorge, and Ripogenus Dam. This route does enter North Maine Woods which requires paying an entrance fee at the checkpoint about halfway through the route (after the Falls/Gorge/Dam). North Maine Woods had 100s of dispersed campsites, about a dozen of which are right off of the Golden Road. You are driving through active logging sites and all logging trucks have the right of way, please pull over and stop moving while they pass.


Spring: It is very common for a section of the road to be washed out (but easily passable at a low speed) after the thaw, usually washouts are marked with ribbon on a nearby tree. Soft shoulders are also common. Summer: This road is usually well-maintained and smooth during the summer, occasionally during heavy rains you might encounter rutting. Fall: In my opinion the best time of year to explore this area as there are massively fewer bugs, road conditions are typically more of a 1 (Easy) at this time of year. Winter: During the winter the road may take a few days to be plowed after a storm, and will be slick from first icing until thaw, most offshoots are not plowed but some other main roads in the area are. There is minimal traffic in the winter as well so it's not advisable to go alone (in the winter).


The Golden Road is a 96-mile (154 km) private road built by the Great Northern Paper Company that stretches from the St. Zacharie Border Crossing to its former mill at Millinocket, Maine. The road, which parallels the West Branch of the Penobscot River, was built between 1969 and 1972 to bring raw wood to the mill from the company's 2.1 million acres (8,500 km2) of woodland in the Maine North Woods. Before the road was built logs were floated down the river to the mill. The 32 miles (51 km) of the road from the Millinocket mill to Ripogenus Dam is partly paved and the remaining 65 miles (105 km) is stone. Great Northern had always allowed private drivers access to the road (except for the portion next to the mill) and it is a major thoroughfare into the North Woods for sportsmen and white water paddlers on the Penobscot. The road's name is often believed to have been because of its cost (Great Northern said in the 1980s the cost of maintaining its road network was $6.8 million/year) but company officials said the road was actually considered a big cost savings--noting the shipping timber down the river took about 18 months and there would be loss of logs in the process and the road shortened the process to a few days. Others believe that the road was named after its appearance; the color of the dirt was so yellow that the road appeared to be the color gold. Great Northern's economic hold on the road has been greatly diminished, and it has announced plans to tear down almost all of the buildings at the Millinocket mill. The road is now owned by four companies. A proposal in 2007 for the state of Maine to investigate acquiring the road was defeated.

Technical Rating


Status Reports

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Access Description

There are several great campgrounds in Millinocket, I recommend Wilderness Edge Campground which is a few miles from the start of the trail.

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