With Wednesday marking the first day of fall, the leaves in parts of Maine have already begun to transition to a red, orange and yellow autumn array.

In the Midcoast, like the rest of the state, the foliage and leaf-peepers that follow are a sure sign of the changing seasons, and below is a list of three recommendations of where to see the vibrant display of leaves locally.

But first, what causes the colorful phenomenon?

According to The Nature Conservancy Senior Conservation Scientist Joshua Royte, the changing colors are a result of a chemical known as chlorophyll breaking down in leaves revealing underlying pigments.

The breakdown takes place when photosynthesis — the plant’s food-making process — becomes less efficient due to the cooler, shorter days, and less moisture. The colorful pigments are to help protect the leave’s cells from excess solar radiation, like sunscreen for people.

The foliage map as of Sept. 15 from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry. The report will be updated Wednesday. Courtesy of Gale Ross, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry

Royte added that climate change is impacting fall foliage in Maine, since spring is trending more than two weeks earlier in the year and fall is later in the year compared to the 80s. This is also causing some “desynchronization” of foliage, Royte said, meaning the same types of trees in the same area aren’t changing all at the same time.

“It means that it’s more spread out over time, so we are likely to see more great foliage over a longer period of time but maybe less of the all one-uniform color,” Royte said. “I wouldn’t say climate change is necessarily hurting our foliage experience, but it’s definitely changing it.”

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Foliage Report predicts that summer 2021 weather conditions will lead to an excellent foliage season this fall. Coastal Maine typically reaches peak season in mid-to-late October.

Here’s a list of three spots recommended by local midcoast parks and conservation organizations:

Bradbury Mountain State Park, Pownal

Bradbury Mountain is not a bad place for leaf-peeping, either. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

Standing just under 500 feet above sea-level, Bradbury Mountain in Pownal is a geographical landmark in the midcoast that offers great foliage viewing.

“The fall foliage season is really Bradbury’s busiest time of the year,” said Park Manager Chris Silsbee. “It’s an easy mountain to climb with fantastic views from the top that you can see out to the ocean, and you can see great views of the fall colors.”

Last year, the park saw just under 100,000 visitors, 40% of which Silsbee estimated came during foliage season. The entire state park is around 800 acres and includes 29 miles of trails.

Silsbee said he recommends the Northern Loop, an easy, one-mile-long trail that takes you right up to summit with two lookouts along the way. For the way down, Silsbee said the Tote Road also offers great colors inside the park.

Deer, owls and hawks are among the wildlife seen at Bradbury, Silsbee said, and a camping option is available. The park is open from 9 a.m. to sunset.

Berry Woods Preserve, Georgetown

A close up image of foliage in Maine. Nancy Sferra / The Nature Conservancy

Berry Woods Preserve in Georgetown is another great option local for foliage seekers, according to The Nature Conservancy.

The 377-acre preserve features 7,450 feet of shoreline on Robinhood Cove, the Kennebec River and Wilson Pond.

According to Royte, in addition to maple trees, the preserve also includes various shrubs and native plants that change color with the seasons and contribute to the foliage.

“What makes great viewing from my perspective in a place to go see foliage is where there is a diversity of habitats,” said Royte. “You’ll see salt marshes where the salt marsh grasses turn this golden color, especially towards the end of the day or the early morning when the sunlight is low. It’s spectacular.”

According to The Nature Conservancy’s website, the preserve also features an old mine and connects with another 1,300 acres of conservation land. The trails are open from sunrise to sunset for foot traffic only and pets are not allowed. Fishing and hunting are permitted.

Crystal Spring Farm, Brunswick

Pumpkins at the Mid-Coast Presbyterian Church in Topsham. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust recommends Crystal Spring Farm, a 321-acre property off Pleasant Hill Road in Brunswick.

“That’s our most visited preserve, but for good reason,” said Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Director of Stewardship Margaret Gerber. “There are five miles of trails there that go in and out of fields, give you a great vantage point to look back and see the tree line against the field.”

Gerber recommended walking on the southern side of the trail system, which leads visitors through the 21-acre blueberry barren that looks back at a mix of pine, beech, maple and oak foliage. A 100-acre active farm also allows visitors to see crops during the fall harvest season.

“The leaves turning this time of year is a time where a lot of people kind of slow down and reflect,” Gerber said. “It’s a great time to kind of reconnect with the difference and impact that trails have had on your own life.”

The land is also good for birdwatching, Gerber said. Dogs are allowed on a leash. Bowhunting is permitted on the land, and Gerber encouraged visitors to wear orange.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.