Vacationland beckons visitors with stunning landscapes and a rural, relaxed vibe. On top of all that — indeed, part of all that — Maine is a haven for folks who wouldn’t think of going on vacation without their dog, or at least howl with joy at the chance to visit such a dog-friendly state. Our guide for getting out and about in rugged, mountainous western Maine with your dog — or dogs — includes suggestions, tips and, oh woof, some rules. Please note: “Off-leash” (and on-leash!) references presume voice control of your dog, in keeping with local laws.

DOG PARKS (OR THE LACK THEREOF) In this rural region, even larger towns likely don’t have dog parks. But there’s one in Lewiston, Maine’s second largest city, though it’s not run by the municipality. Robin’s Garden & Dog Park (on Facebook) is beside Greater Androscoggin Humane Society, 55 Strawberry Ave.

STATE PARKS AND PUBLIC LANDS (maine.gov/dacf/parks) Dogs must be on-leash in state parks and historic sites and aren’t allowed on park beaches (lake or seaside) April–Sept. At public lands, off-leash is allowed except in campsites. Western Maine has state parks and lands aplenty. Our picks of the litter:

Androscoggin Riverlands: Center Bridge Road, Turner Near Lewiston-Auburn, this unique state park is on both sides of the river, though most of its 2,500-plus acres are on the western shore. Along with river access, visitors enjoy miles of multi-use and foot trails.

Bigelow Preserve Public Land: Somerset and Franklin counties About 40 miles north of Farmington near the village of Stratton, this 36,000-acre preserve includes the 7-summit Bigelow Range. On the north, 20,000-acre Flagstaff Lake skirts the preserve, which offers primitive camping.

Mt. Blue State Park: 299 Center Hill Road, Weld (adults $5, nonresidents $7) Webb Lake’s swimming beach is off-limits to dogs in summer, but Maine’s largest state park — 8,000 acres among two parcels — offers much more. There’s a campground, boat launch and summer kayak, canoe, and paddleboard and paddleboat rentals. Trails lead to the mount’s summit, traverse Center Hill and wend near the lake, and there are miles of multiuse trails. In adjoining Tumbledown Public Land, trails lead to several summits.

Rangeley Lake State Park: South Shore Drive (turn off Route 4 or Route 17) (adults $4, nonresidents $6) An 869-acre park fronting the lake (the beach is off-limits to dogs in the warmer months), with short trails through the woods and along the water, plus a boat launch and campground.

Bald Mountain Public Land: access from Bald Mountain Road, Oquossoc (Rangeley) A one-mile hike to the summit entices visitors with views of Height of Land and Cupsuptic and Mooselookmeguntic lakes.

Grafton Notch State Park: 1941 Bear River Road Newry (adults $3, nonresidents $4) Along with easy, short walks to waterfalls, the park has challenging trails into surrounding Mahoosuc Public Land. A tough stretch of the Appalachian Trail crosses the mountainous expanse, which has backcountry campsites.

BOWWOW! Tail-wagging recreation in western Maine isn’t limited to hiking!

At Sunday River ski resort (sundayriver.com/summer-activities/scenic-lift-rides) in Newry, Fido rides free with his fee-paying companion (adults $15; ages 6–12 $10; under age 6 or 80 and over, free; access is from South Ridge Lodge).

Rangeley’s Independence Day Celebration (rangeleymaine.com/calendar/event/4978), held the day before the holiday on the lakefront Town Park, includes a dog parade. Note: Dogs must be on-leash in the park and aren’t allowed on the beach area, dock or playground.

SCENIC DRIVES Several scenic byways traverse western Maine (exploremaine.org/byways; search “Maine Lakes & Mountains” and “Kennebec & Moose River Valley” regions), offering a convenient way for dogs and their humans to soak up some of Maine’s best scenery. Two are “National Scenic Byways”:

Rangeley Lakes Byway The 36-mile byway’s eastern terminus is west of Farmington on Route 4, near Smalls Falls rest area. Running through Rangeley, the byway climbs Route 17 from Oquossoc, passing two overlooks: Rangeley Lake’s, then showstopper Height of Land. Lakes unfold in the forestland below, mountains command the view, and there’s a path to the nearby Appalachian Trail. Coos Canyon rest area is a great stop on Route 17 along the adjoining 16-mile state byway, which ends in Mexico.

Old Canada Road (Route 201) With 10 or so scenic rest areas, overlooks and small parks along this 78-mile byway from Solon to the Jackman Canadian border crossing, there’s lots of chances for dogs and their owners to stretch their legs. The southern half of the drive follows the Kennebec River to The Forks. At mesmerizing Attean Overlook on the northern end, Canadian mountains sprawl on the horizon.

DOGGIE DIGS Campgrounds usually welcome dogs, but so do many other lodgings. When making reservations, ask about dog weight limits and fees (often per reservation, not nightly). Two dogs may be allowed. A sampling of pet-friendly lodgings in western Maine:

Grant’s Kennebago Camps: outside Rangeley (grantscamps.com) This traditional lakeside sporting camp — rates include three meals a day — touts itself as an “extremely pet friendly venue.”

Bethel Inn Resort: 21 Broad St. Bethel (bethelinn.com) Conveniently located for four-legged guests on the namesake’s town green, the resort allows dogs in some quarters and can arrange dog-sitting.

Hampton Inns: 151 Main St. Oxford, 15 Lincoln St. Lewiston (hamptoninn3.hilton.com) Tip: While both these hotels allow dogs, not all Hampton Inns — in Maine and elsewhere — do.

DINING AND DRINKING OUT WITH DOGGIE This is par for the course at many area restaurants with decks, patios or sidewalk cafes (state law only allows service animals inside restaurants). A sampling:

Guthries Restaurant & Café (guthriesplace.com): 115 Middle St. Lewiston During warmer weather, guests with dogs dine at the sidewalk cafe. Note: Closed Saturday and Sunday, open until 10 p.m. Friday.

The Red Onion: 2511 Main St. Rangeley (therangeleyredonion.com) Come summertime, water bowls for dogs are on the deck overlooking Main Street and “canine care packages,” with dog biscuits and crunchies, are on the menu.

TOURISM PROMOTION RESOURCES Chamber of commerce and tourism promotion agency websites and visitor guides often have information for folks recreating and traveling with their dogs. At the website of trade organization Hospitality Maine (hospitalitymaine.com), you can search for pet-friendly hotels, inns, cottages, etc. (follow links from “Visiting Maine”).

Mary Ruoff is a freelance writer living in Belfast.


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