Your Ultimate 324-mile 3-Day 2-Night Fall Foliage Tour
By Virginia M. Wright
Photographed by Mark Fleming
Day 1Orchards, Hills, and Hidden Ponds
This is the forgotten Maine. Lakes and woods. Mountains round, humble, and lush. There’s a ton of great culture and good, hardworking people — we say there’s a carpenter for every tree. — Carol Noonan, musician and owner of Stone Mountain Arts Center, Brownfield.
◆ Shop for antiques in Cornish. Ten (at least) antiques shops are within walking distance of each other in this colonial village on the Ossipee River. Before resuming your journey, zip up High Road for spectacular views of the White Mountains.
◆ Pick apples at Five Fields Farm on the slope of Ministers Hill. Third-generation orchardist Tom Gyger grows McIntoshes, Cortlands, Macouns, Paula Reds, Honey Crisps, and more. Rte. 107, South Bridgton. 207-647-2425. fivefieldsski.com
◆ Take a beer break. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but Standard Gastropub, a working gas station, has 11 regional taps, a couple hundred varieties of bottled beers, and a small but well-executed menu of savory pub snacks. 233 Main St., Bridgton. 207-647-4100. Or shoot over to Lovell to visit the place BeerAdvocate proclaims “the best beer bar on the planet.” Ebenezer’s Pub has 35 Belgian beers on tap and more than 1,000 bottled beers. 44 Allen Rd., Lovell. 207-925-3200. ebenezerspub.net
◆ Grab some sandwiches from the Stow Corner Store on Route 113 (they make everything from a traditional roast turkey to tequila-lime shrimp with onions and banana peppers), then follow Route 113 to Evans Notch. Work up an appetite on The Roost, a 2-mile loop hike with outstanding views of the Wild River Valley. Picnic at the Wild River footbridge.
North on Route 117, from Cornish to West Baldwin (2 miles)
North on the Pequawket Trail Scenic Byway (Route 113), from West Baldwin to Fryeburg (18 miles)
North on Route 113, from Fryeburg to Gilead (30 miles)
East on Route 2 from Gilead to Bethel (13 miles)
Where to Sleep
With an abundance of B&Bs and motels, Bridgton and Bethel are your best options for lodging. Get suggestions from the Greater Bridgton Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce (207-647-3472. mainelakeschamber.com) and the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce (207-824-2282. bethelmaine.com). There are several campgrounds in the area, including four White Mountain National Forest campgrounds on Route 113 in Evans Notch. 877-444-6777. forestcamping.com
Day 2Mountains and Waterfalls
We have moose. We have bear. We have these bright-blue lakes surrounded by big mountains. I call this place ‘my little Alaska.’ — Keith Deschambeault, pilot and owner of Acadian Seaplanes, Rangeley
◆ Stroll around the maple-edged Bethel Hill Common, a classic New England town green with a gazebo, then pop into the Bethel Historical Society’s 1821 O’Neil Robinson House and learn about “the Athens of Oxford County.” Broad Street on the Common. 207-824-2908.
◆ Ride the Sunday River Chondola and see the Mahoosuc Mountains in all their golden glory. Sunday River Rd., Newry. 800-543-2754.
◆ Go higher: Acadian Seaplanes offers both seaplane and helicopter tours of the Rangeley Lakes Region. 2640 Main St., Rangeley. 207-864-5307. acadianseaplanes.com
◆ Brush up on Maine’s sporting camp history at the Rangeley Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum. Exhibits include a display of vintage, handcrafted equipment like fishing rods, paddles, creels, and canoes, as well as memorabilia from President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1955 Rangeley vacation. Rtes. 4 and 17, Oquossoc. 207-864-3091.
Northeast on Route 2, from Bethel to Mexico (24 miles)
North on Route 17, from Mexico to Oquossoc (36 miles)
Southeast to Smalls Falls along the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway (Route 4), returning via South Shore Road (39 miles)
Where to Sleep
A wide range of lodging, from B&Bs and hotels to sporting camps, cabins, and campgrounds can be found in the Rangeley area. The Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce maintains a comprehensive list. 207-864-5571. rangeleymaine.com
Day 3Wild Rivers and Lakes
Fill up your gas tank and stock your cooler: the road from Solon to Jackman is so wild and isolated that it can make the Rangeley Lakes seem settled and tame. For more than 25 miles, the Old Canada Road Scenic Byway hugs the Kennebec River, at times so wide it looks more like a lake (and, in fact, it is just above Moscow, where the river has been dammed to form Wyman Lake). The riverbanks are heavily forested, and the towns — what few there are — are mere whispers. You are on what the locals call Moose Alley, so named for the number of moose spotted along this route (countless moose-crossing road signs, some with flashing lights, warn drivers to be alert). In Jackman, you turn east on the Moosehead Lake Scenic Byway, following a chain of lakes — Long Pond, Brassua, and Moosehead, all the way to the rustic resort village of Greenville.
The Moosehead Lake region is so wild, the scenery so spectacular. We’re in the heart of two great whitewater rivers, so you can go rafting in either direction, and there are beautiful waterfalls you can reach on a nice leisurely hike. — Jessica Hargreaves, Northeast Whitewater
◆ Float for foliage. Northern Outdoors’ whitewater rafting trips on the Kennebec extend into October. 1771 US Route 201, The Forks, Maine, 800-765-7238. northernoutdoors.com
◆ Cruise to the tip of the Kineo peninsula, where Mount Kineo, a 700-foot monolith, rises over Moosehead Lake. The Kineo Shuttle makes the 10-minute trip from Rockwood Public Landing four times a day until October 12. 207-534-9012. greenvilleme.com
◆ Go on a moose safari. Northeast Whitewater’s Registered Maine Guides take visitors to the gangly beasts’ favorite haunts via van or canoe. 142 Moosehead Lake Rd., Greenville. 207-695-0151, 888-484-3317. mainemoosewatching.com
◆ Find your inner sportsman at Kamp Kamp. This Greenville fixture captures the North Woods spirit with camp furnishings, plaid wool shirts, balsam pillows, fishing lures, and taxidermy mounts. Where else are you going to find a salmon leaping over a moose antler? 3 Lily Bay Rd., Greenville. 207-695-0789. kampkamp.com
East on Route 4, from Rangeley to Strong (29 miles)
East on Route 234, from Strong to North Anson (19 miles)
North on Route 201A, from North Anson to Solon (8 miles)
North on Old Canada Road Scenic Byway (Route 201), from Solon to Jackman (57 miles)
East on the Moosehead Lake Scenic Byway (Routes 6/15), from Jackman to Greenville (49 miles)