Foliage around Wyman Lake, north of Bingham along Route 201. Photo by Ron Lovaglio

Last year, if you wanted to take a foliage drive, you couldn’t be sure you’d find a restroom or a place to eat. Vaccines weren’t out yet, and lots of people felt uncomfortable traveling further than an hour from home.

That’s not the case this year. Even though COVID-19 cases are still relatively high, most state restrictions were dropped in May and most everything is open. For foliage lovers, that means there aren’t really any limits on how far afield you can travel to see Maine’s annual showcase of vibrant fall colors. If you want to.

That’s a good thing because some foliage forecasters are predicting the humid and hot summer in southern Maine could result in a later and somewhat muted burst of color. Conversely, places in northern Maine, including all of Aroostook County and the state’s western mountains, could see a bright but shorter color pop this year, said Ryan Breton, a meteorologist on the TV stations of NewsCenter Maine. In the northern and western parts of the state, it’s been a lot dryer, Breton said, and trees “stressed” by a lack of moisture tend to turn colors more quickly and often brighter.

Venture further afield for your Maine foliage fix this year. Here’s some color at Magalloway Plantation, north of Rumford. Photo courtesy MaineFoliage.com

So this may be the year to venture to parts of Maine you might not have visited for your foliage fix. If you’re thinking of Aroostook County, go soon, as there could be “high” or “peak” conditions there by this weekend or next week, says Gale Ross, the state’s long-time foliage report compiler. The reports come out every Wednesday at MaineFoliage.com, and the Sept. 22 issue had northern Maine already listed as “moderate” in terms of color. The conditions come in from forest rangers all over the state.

Besides letting you know about the colors, the Maine Foliage website also recommends places to see and events happening. You can also find things to do and spots to visit on your foliage jaunts by going to the state tourism site, visitmaine.com.

Here are some suggestions for some places in Maine to see foliage that may be a little more remote than your go-to spots. And some lend themselves to different ways of experiencing the foliage, including biking, hiking or kayaking.

Colorful foliage is reflected in the Cold River in Evans Notch, north of Fryeburg. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

A DRIVE-BY

See the colors from the very top of Maine by driving along the St. John Valley/Fish River National Scenic Byway. It runs for some 129 miles along the border between Maine and Canada, and along Route 11 between Fort Kent and Portage Lake. The western end of the byway is in the small town of Dickey and the east end is in Hamlin, north of Limestone. Between the two, you pass through Allagash, Fort Kent, Frenchville and Van Buren and other towns important in Acadian history and culture. The Fish River portion takes you past Eagle Lake. For more information on driving the byway, including a list of places to stop and things to see, go to visitaroostook.com. 

The Old Canada Road National Scenic Byway is another great place to drive along some flashy foliage. The byway follows Route 201 from Solon, north through Jackman to the Canadian border, about 80 miles. There’s a rest area called the Attean Overlook near Jackman which provides great picture-taking opportunities. You also drive by Wyman Lake and The Forks, where the Dead and Kennebec rivers meet. For more information, go to oldcanadaroadbyway.org.

Fall foliage at Androscoggin Riverlands State Park in Turner. Photo courtesy MaineFoliage.com

TAKE A HIKE

If you want to get out of your car and see Maine’s North Woods from the inside, try Aroostook State Park on Echo Lake near Presque Isle. It’s Maine’s first state park (1939) and includes Quaggy Jo Mountain, shortened from its Native American name of Qua Qua Jo, which roughly means “twin peaked.” Some trails are moderate to difficult, like the North Peak Trail, about a half mile up steep terrain. Others are easy, like the 1-mile Ridge Trail that meanders between the peaks. Other trails bring you past flowing springs and wildlife. For more information, including fees and a map, go to maine.gov.dacf/parks and search for Aroostook State Park.

For some hiking in the western mountains, you can try Grafton Notch State Park, north of Bethel. The park has some challenging hiking along the Appalachian Trail, but there are also places along Route 26 in the park where you can stop and see the scenery with little effort. There are short walking paths to Screw Auger Falls, Mother Walker Falls, Moose Cave and the Spruce Meadow Picnic Area. For more information, go to maine.gov.dacf/parks and search for Grafton Notch State Park.

Try biking through foliage this fall Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

PEDAL OR PADDLE?

The Androscoggin Riverlands State Park in Turner might fall into the category of lesser-known state parks, at least for casual foliage seekers from southern Maine. The 2,600-acre park has 12 miles of river frontage and a boat launch. So you can paddle your along the river against a backdrop of leafy color. There are are several shallow pull-out areas along the river where you can stop, plus there are picnic spots on small islands managed by Brookfield Renewable. For more information go to maine.gov.dacf/parks and search for Androscoggin Riverlands State Park. 

One of the classic fall biking spots in Maine is along the historic carriage roads at Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island. Forty-five miles of rustic carriage roads were donated by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his family and built between 1913 and 1940. A devoted horseman, Rockefeller wanted some roads through the park to remain car-free. The broken-stone roads meander past hills, cliffs, waterfalls and through the woods. You can spend the day on the carriage roads, then take a drive around the island or enjoy dinner in Bar Harbor. For more information on the carriage roads go to nps.gov/acad and for information on Bar Harbor, go to visitbarharbor.com.


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