As autumn approaches, Maine becomes a playground of colors, offering an idyllic setting for leaf peepers. The trees' foliage transforms into vibrant shades of red and orange, and the air becomes crisp with the promise of apple-picking adventures. Maine welcomes thousands of visitors each year to experience the natural beauty of the state's parks, byways, coastlines, and farm stands.
The best time to experience the peak conditions for viewing is typically during the first week of October. However, timing is everything when it comes to this activity, and the colors of the leaves progress from north to south.
With that in mind, we have compiled a guide for the perfect leaf-peeping drive in Maine. Our recommended routes offer picturesque views and memorable experiences for every traveler.
St. John Valley/Fish River National Scenic Byway - Aroostook County
Did you know the first place to see the colors of fall foliage in New England is Maine's Aroostook County? New England's most north easterly location welcomes the colors of the season in Late September and the towns of Allagash, St. Francis, Portage Lake, and Soldier Pond see the first reds, orange, and yellows! One of the best ways to experience the fall foliage in Aroostook County is by taking a scenic drive. The county boasts the St. John Valley/Fish River National Scenic Byway, Million Dollar Scenic Byway, and the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Scenic Byway. Along the way, visitors can stop at various lookout points to take in the panoramic vistas. One of the most popular drives is the Fort Kent to Ashland route, which runs along Route 11. This 53-mile journey takes visitors through rolling hills, tranquil lakes, and dense forests, providing ample opportunities to witness the stunning display of fall colors. When you're in Aroostook County, be sure to stop by The County's Oktoberfest on October 7, 2023.
The Golden Road - The Maine Highlands
Another one of Maine's most scenic leaf-peeping drives is the Golden Road in Northern Maine, a 97-mile stretch from Millinocket to Moosehead Lake. This wilderness thoroughfare is privately maintained and passes through some of Maine's most beautiful forests. A prime viewing location on the Golden Road includes Abol Bridge, which offers a stunning view of Maine's highest peak, Mount Katahdin.
The route from Portland to Camden is an excellent option if you prefer a coastal drive. During the fall months, the scenic coastal drives are less crowded, making them perfect for a leisurely drive.
Mackworth Island is a perfect pit stop for a quick nature walk with vibrant colors and beautiful vistas. Along the way, stop at Sweeter's Apple Barrel and Orchards, located in Cumberland. They offer an array of fall activities, including apple picking, a taste of mouth-watering cider donuts and apple cider, and shopping at the top-notch farm stand overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Swing by the town of Freeport to stop at L.L.Bean's Flagship store and check out the Visit Freeport's 24th Annual Freeport Fall Festival on October 6th. 7th & 8th.
Some of Maine's loveliest little towns along this stretch of scenic driving are even more charming in autumn colors, such as Rockland and Camden, which are vibrant locales for art and culture.
Mountain View Drive - Maine's Lakes & Mountains
Another excellent option for a leaf-peeping drive is the Height of the Land to Flagstaff Lake route. Starting south of Rangeley Plantation along Route 17, this route takes you to one of the most breathtaking vistas in Maine, the Height of the Land overlook. From there, the drive continues to Rangeley Lake State Park and Flagstaff Lake. While you're in Rangeley, stay the night at The Rangeley Inn & Tavern and take a foliage train ride with Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad up until mid-October or celebrate the arrival of fall by taking a scenic chairlift ride at Sunday River during their Fall Festival on October 7, 2023.
Acadia All American Road - DownEast & Acadia
For the national park enthusiast, the Acadia All-American Road is a stunning 40-mile stretch that takes you through Acadia National Park. Here you can witness the foliage changes in the park's many hiking trails and viewpoints.
The drive takes you through the charming towns of Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, and Southwest Harbor, where you can take a break and explore the many shops and roadside seafood restaurants.
Maine's stunning natural landscapes and charming towns make it an ideal destination for leaf peepers searching for fall foliage. The best time to visit depends on the region, but generally, the first three weeks of October offer peak conditions to experience the beauty of autumn colors before winter arrives.
Track the changing colors with mainefoliage.com!