I know many Mainers wait all year for summer to arrive, and understandably so; summers here are near perfect. But I personally wait all year for a different season: fall. I love everything about fall. I love breathing in the cool morning air when I take my dog for a walk before heading to the office. I love apple picking at one of the state’s amazing orchards. But most of all, I love seeing the trees turn vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red.
My favorite way to experience the radiance of a Maine fall is by cruising along one of thestate’s scenic byways. Maine is packed with beautiful and pristine byways, so choosing a favorite is near impossible. But here are a few that I have recently explored and loved.
The Grafton Notch Scenic Byway is 21 miles of winding roads, unfettered wilderness, and gorgeous views. Start out in Newry driving along the Bear River, where mountains sharply rise from the banks of the river. When you arrive at the top of Grafton Notch, pull over and look out into a valley aglow with fall foliage.
All along the byway there are amazing hikes, stunning waterfalls, and caves perfect for exploring. A must stop attraction is Screw Auger Falls. Only a short walk off the road, this 23-foot falls pours into a narrow gorge, which then flows into a series of shallow pools and grottoes. If you are feeling a little more ambitious, this scenic byway also has the toughest mile of the Appalachian Trail.
After exploring the Grafton Notch Scenic Byway, I head to the Millbrook Tavern and Grillelocated in the Bethel Inn Resort. The Millbrook Tavern is my favorite dinner spot when I am in the area. They serve a wide array of delicious food and drink perfect for a road-weary traveler. I normally pair one of their signature drinks with a hand-tossed pizza. If you are looking for something on the lighter side, don’t miss half-price appetizers and $2 drafts during their Taps & Apps happy hour.
In the Northern part of our state, I love theKatahdin Woods and Waters Scenic Byway. The highlight of this byway is Mount Katahdin, a towering 5,268-foot monolith that is a breathtaking reminder of Maine’s wild and boundless natural beauty. All along the byway there are breathtaking views of Katahdin.
Starting out from the south end of Baxter State Park the first stop I make is Debsconeag Ice Caves. This is a short one mile hike that leads you through tall pine forests, with moss covered boulders and beautiful lakes. The entrance is a metal-rung ladder that leads you down into the caves. As you climb down the temperature quickly drops. In the cave, the walls are covered in ice and there are numerous small rooms to explore.
On a crisp fall evening after a day of exploring the Katahdin Woods and Waters Byway, when I am looking for a rustic, warm, and inviting place to enjoy a delicious meal, I stop byBig Moose Inn, Cabins, & Campgrounds. The restaurant is on the first floor of the inn and offers guests a spectacular view of Millinocket Lake. I love stopping here with my family because everyone always finds something they love. As a creature of habit, I normally get the unbelievably tasty Baxter Burger, but anything you order is going to be amazing.
Head Downeast for a trip along the Bold Coast Scenic Byway. The route takes you from Milbridge to Lubec, and then hooks around Cobscook Bay, ending in Eastport. The byway winds along the coast passing through working fishing villages, historic townships, and the heart of Maine’s wild blueberry land. Between Cutler and Lubec, stop off at the Cutler Coast Preserve, a veritable trove of natural wonders. Throughout the preserve there are 10 miles of hiking trails leading travelers to rocky beaches perfect for exploring, and jagged cliffs offering some of the most striking views in Maine.
After exploring Maine’s Bold Coast, stop by the Riverside Inn & Restaurant. Overlooking the East Machias River, this 19 th century inn has some of the best food in Downeast Maine. The restaurant’s menu relies heavily on fresh, local produce selected from one or more of the nearby farmer’s markets or straight from the Atlantic.
From inland byways past beautiful lakes and mountains, to coastal roadways through quaint villages, there is definitely a trip worth taking. Bon Voyage!