Fall in Maine
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Foliage ZonesZone 7: Northeastern Maine, including Fort Kent, Caribou, and Presque Isle Zone 6: Northwestern Maine Zone 5: Western Mid-Maine, including Greenville, Rangeley, Bethel Zone 4: Eastern Mid-Maine, including Houlton, Millinocket, and Calais Zone 3: Central and Southwestern Maine, including Bangor, Augusta, and Fryeburg Zone 2: DowneastMaine, including Machias, Bar Harbor, and Penobscot Bay Zone 1: Mid-Coast and South Coastal Maine, including Camden, Portland, Kennebunkport, and Kittery
The Maine Fall Foliage
The color of the leaves, depends on a lot of factors such as how much moisture has been available, the temperatures and available daylight. Fortunately, you don't have to be an arborist to figure this out. The state tells us how the color is progressing through the state.
That's nice. Except the weekly reports are about what the leaves looked like in the past week. So how do you know what they will look like when you're planning to travel?
First, some basic geography. The scenery gets colorful in the northern part of the state first. Then like a wave, it makes its way south. Let's assume it's going to look pretty colorful in the very northern part of the state - Fort Kent, Caribou, Presque Isle - this weekend. Maybe it's peak up there next weekend.
That next weekend - the last in September - will be good for leaf peeping from Jackman to Greenville to Millinocket to Houlton.
That means the first weekend in October likely will be excellent for visiting Bethel and Rangeley through Bangor.
You can see how this all played out in previous years. But I say it's a little foolish to guess what the colors will be doing around the state after that point. That doesn't mean you can't plan a leaf peeping trip later in October. You just have to be flexible about where you're going. There is going to be great color somewhere in Maine. Be ready to go to it.
If you don't believe me, check Yankee Magazine's foliage prediction map. It's pretty neat and will show you the peak foliage location for any date this fall. But it does bring up an issue that bugs me.
Maine is beautiful even after foliage colors are past their peak. Too many people approach a scenic view like they're art critics at a gallery opening. Just enjoy the view instead of judging it.
And plan to do more than photograph foliage. Fall is a great time for fairs and festivals. If the landscape doesn't meet your artistic criteria then you can have a good time doing something else.
Probably the best place in Maine to enjoy it is the western lakes and mountains region. Mostly because all those lakes and mountains provide great canvases for the colors of fall. The roads travel up and over rolling hills that give you enough altitude to see farther and give you new perspectives.
The best leaf-peeping trip
The best leaf-peeping road trip starts in Mexico. It starts out with less-than-impressive views of the Rumford paper mills. But it gets better quickly after you head north on Route 17 toward the Rangeley Lakes region. It's a winding climb up to the height of land that looks west over Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Keep an eye out for moose wandering into the road. There is a spot to park soon after the road crosses the Appalachian Trail so you can safely photograph the scene.
Keep going down and you will soon come across another parking area that lets you look north over Rangeley Lake. Included in the view at no extra charge is the Bigelow Mountain Range.
The road ends in the town of Oquossoc. A couple stores and restaurant are about all you will find here. It's also the terminus of Route 4 - which will lead you to Rangeley. The tourist town sits on the north shore of Rangeley Lake and is home to a variety of restaurants and shops.
To leave Rangeley, keep going on Route 4 until you find South Shore Drive just out of town. By going west, it will lead you past the lake and reconnect you with Route 17 for your return trip. The road is lined with trees and also goes past Rangeley Lakes State Park.
Maine is a top destination in so many categories and when autumn comes only a few other places compare when it comes to our foliage. One route in particular, the drive along route 201 from Solon to the Canadian Border is well worth the journey and has long been the featured drive for tour companies, drivers and motorcyclists alike. Maybe because it is so easy to find, or maybe because it offers such a visual feast regardless of the time of year. Look for more great routes by clicking here . Happy Driving.
Or take this route
Yankee Magazine recommends driving Route 201 from Solon to the Canadian border. It is a beautiful drive anytime of year. It follows the Kennebec River up to The Forks. You will want to stop in The Forks because it is a relaxing place that seems a world away from where you just left.If you're going to keep going to Jackman, consider heading east on Routes 6/15 toward Moosehead Lake. There's plenty to enjoy and see there. Carl Natale enjoys leaf peeping from mountain summits and lakes. But he has to drive to get to those spots and finds himself admiring the foliage even if an official map says he shouldn't.