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Foliage Fantasia

When leaf season rolls around, Mainers and visitors ask only two questions: when are the leaves changing and where are all the good ones?

To answer that first question, scoot on over to Maine Foliage, the State of Maine website devoted to all things leaf. Not only does the foliage report update you how the season is progressing (generally from late September through mid October), but the fall foliage tracker provides a Maine foliage map that zeroes in on specific zones throughout the state, from the farthest north to the deepest south, from ocean to mountain.

As to where to go for leaf peeping…well, we’ve got some suggestions. Specifically, check out Maine’s many Scenic Byways, which are wonderful drives during most of the year and especially nice when the leaves turn.

Want foliage with an ocean view?

  • Consider the DownEast coast and the state’s first national park – Acadia National Park. Start by driving the 40-mile Acadia All-American Road. The route is so scenic it was designated an All-American Road – the gold standard of federal Scenic Byways. The journey goes onto Mt. Desert Island, through the town of Bar Harbor, and into the primary section of the park. The mountains and hills glow with turning leaves, inviting you onto the park trails and Acadia National Park Carriage Roads for walking and cycling.
  • Add to your Acadia leaf-peeping experience by branching out on the 29-mile Schoodic National Scenic Byway. This route meanders through the less-visited – but no less spectacular – Schoodic Peninsula section of the park. It’s known for coastal towns, sea views and great bicycling.
  • For more oceanside, head farther down east to two state Scenic Byways – the Blackwoods and the Bold Coast. The Blackwoods Scenic Byway, at 12.5 miles, ducks between swatches of forest and wild-blueberry barrens, which blaze with autumn color. The Bold Coast Scenic Byway, at 125 miles, takes in the wildest and most dramatic seacoast in Maine, complete with rocky headlands and quiet fishing communities.

Turn inland and Maine offers areas packed with forests, crowded with lakes and hills and bordered with stunning mountains.

  • The Fish River Scenic Byway is 37 miles long and wanders down Route 11 in far-northern Aroostook County. The route rolls over hills by lakes and rivers in the heart of Acadian Maine, settled by early French families. Keep an eye out for moose and deer, who might want to share the road with you.
  • Farther south, rub elbows with Maine’s largest state park – Baxter – as well as its new federal national monument - Katahdin Woods and Waters – when touring on the 89-mile Katahdin Woods & Waters Scenic Byway. Looping through vast tracts of the Northern Maine Woods, you’ll pass the headwaters of the Penobscot River and enjoy views of Katahdin – Maine’s largest mountain – which is especially glorious in the fall.
  • For foliage by Maine’s largest lake, check out the Moosehead Lake Scenic Byway. This 59-mile route follows state Route 15 around Moosehead and its adjacent hills. Nearby, the 78-mile Old Canada Road (Route 201) National Scenic Byway follows the highway along parts of the Kennebec River and up old trading routes from western Maine to the Canadian border. The route heads through long-time timber country with waves of bright autumn leaves lighting up the hills.
  • To enjoy Maine mountain foliage, steer onto the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway. This 52-mile route roams through an area sparkling with lakes and girded with peaks. Viewpoints like the popular Height of Land let you gaze out across the surrounding mountain ranges and the lakes beneath – and all those changing leaves.

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