On Fall's Trail in Maine

What to Do & Where to Do It

Paddle the Penobscot River's West Branch

The West Branch of the Penobscot is a flat, clear backcountry float (or a raging whitewater rollick, depending on the section) among red maple fireworks, abundant wildlife, and not much else. Few visitors make the trek to the far side of Moosehead Lake to enjoy the bountiful forests that remain resilient in the face of logging efforts that continue to this day. You might run into a moose grazing along the banks, or quite possibly a bona fide Maine Yankee prepping the homestead for yet another brutal Maine winter.

Access: Contact the Maine Office of Tourism (see contact information below) for more information on guides and outfitters in the West Branch area.
Peak color: Early October
More on the West Branch of the Penobscot.

Walk in the North Maine Woods

What better place to witness the fall color explosion in Maine than the North Maine Woods? Immortalized by Henry David Thoreau in his book The Maine Woods, this expansive wilderness in Aroostook County has managed to retain much of the untamed character Thoreau observed during his travels here. The terrain is noticably flatter than in the Appalachians in the southern part of the state, though some of the best hikes—and views—are in the southeastern part of the region where it gets a little more hilly. While much of the area is controlled by timber companies, preserves like the Deboullie Public Reserved Lands let you get up close and personal with area wildlife, including black bear and moose.

Access: To reach the Deboullie Public Reserved Lands, take Maine 11 north to the town of Portage. From here travel northwest on unpaved gravel road 30+ miles to Deboullie.
Peak color: Early October
More on Aroostook County.

Visit Acadia National Park

Here where the forest runs down to meet the sea, Acadia's fall color has a style all its own. From the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the east coast, hillsides of red, orange, and gold slope down to Frenchman's Bay. Miles of carriage roads that once served as a playground for the Rockefeller family now serve as forest pathways for bikers, hikers, and horseback riders. Take a sea kayak down to Bass Harbor Lighthouse for a taste of Maine's nautical past or bike around Echo Lake and Long Pond on the largely undeveloped western side of the park

Access: Acadia National Park lies on Mt. Desert Island on Maine's central coast on Maine 3. The drive from Boston takes about seven hours.
Peak color: Second week of October
More on Acadia National Park.

Bike the Baxter Perimeter Road

Baxter Perimeter Road will take you through some of the most remote wildlands in the state. The route follows a graded, two-wheel-drive dirt road around the rim of Baxter State Park, home of the famous Mt. Katahdin. By the fall, black fly season is a distant memory, and riders can cover the 43-mile route in relative comfort. Still, long climbs will tire even the most physically fit. Plan for a multi-day excursion.

Access: To reach Togue Pond Gate, the road's southern entrance, follow signs to Baxter State Park from Millinocket.
Peak color: Early October
More on biking Baxter State Park.

Paddle the Allagash River

Many consider the Allagash the ultimate Maine paddle—a seven to ten day float down a deeply secluded wilderness waterway, endless miles from a single paved road in the largest uninhabited region in the lower 48 states. Loon calls are probably the only sounds you'll hear besides paddles dipping in the water and wind humming in the trees. In the fall, the nights are cool here, but the days are still warm, and plentiful native brook trout make great campfire fare.

Access: Contact the Maine Bureau of Parks and Recreation (see contact information below) for more information on guides and outfitters in the Allagash area.
Peak color: Early October
More on the Allagash River.

Take a Scenic Drive in Downeast Maine

Fog rolls in off the Penobscot Bay, lobster buoys bob in the surf, and a lone bell tolls plaintively in the distance, warning fishermen to steer clear of the rocks ahead. There is a rich mystique that surrounds Downeast Maine, the coastal region where lobstering is still a major industry and the nearest mall might be hundreds of miles away. With the decline of the timber industry on the coast, the rich forests that once covered the region are fast returning, making for an autumn drive that combines great leaf-peeping with salt-water vistas along Maine's granite shoreline.

Route: For a detailed route description that includes Deer Isle, the Penobscot Bay region, and Acadia National Park, see Downeast Fall Foliage Drive.
Peak color: Second week of October

Sea Kayak the Maine Island Trail

Countless small islands dot the coast of Downeast Maine from Casco Bay in the west to Machias Bay in the east, forming one of the eastern seaboard's longest archipelagos. Connecting these islands is a 325-mile long waterway designated the Maine Island Trail, a sea kayaking paradise where undeveloped islands serve as convenient overnight campsites for paddlers on multiday excursions. During the first half of the century, many of these islands were harvested for their timber and granite. Those industries have long since faded, but have left intriguing ecosystems in their wake: fragile grasslands that resemble tundra more than the temperate coastal forests a few miles away on shore. Deer are known to swim out to these islands to pasture, and you often find the descendents of sheep brought here years ago by Maine farmers still grazing.

Access: The town of Stonington at the southern tip of Deer Isle makes a great put-in. From US 1, take Maine 15 south to Stonington.
Peak color: Second week of October

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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