As temperatures start to cool and our days at the beach come to an end, it does not mean that we need to put our travel adventures on hold. Mid-September through October offers the perfect time to take a trip to Maine and enjoy the beautiful fall colors and crispy fall weather. Bordering the Canadian border and full of quaint and relaxing towns, Maine is the perfect place to take a break to observe fall foliage. As New England’s largest state, it offers a variety of different scenery with few crowds and peak foliage.
1. Baxter State Park
First on our list of must-visit fall sites is Baxter Park. Located in north-central Maine in northeast Pascitaquis. It features over 215 miles of trails and hikes for all nature lovers and hikers. The campgrounds are usually from May 15 to Oct 15 and have cabins available for onsite camping.
Temperatures range from 28-48 degrees Fahrenheit in the month of October, so make sure to pack warm clothes if you are going to take a camping trip. Fall foliage usually peaks in mid-October, so it is important that if you want to witness epic sceneries you book your trip before the 15th of October.
If you are a history buff, Baxter State Park is also part of the famous Appalachian Trail which extends from Georgia to Maine. For outdoor enthusiasts that not only want to observe fall foliage, the camp also features fishing, hunting, and trapping opportunities. October is also a great time to get some great Maine lobster so after you take in the beautiful fall foliage make sure to sample some authentic Maine lobster.
2. Grafton Notch State Park
In addition to offering some of the most spectacular Maine fall foliage views, Grafton Notch State Park, also offers visitors some of the most challenging hikes on the Appalachian Trail. Nestled in northern Maine, the fall foliage in Grafton Notch is popularly observed along Route 26 and the summit of Old Peck Mountain.
Grafton Notch Park is a popular destination in the second week of October, as that is when the fall foliage is in its peak beauty. An extra perk of this destination is that in addition to beautiful foliage it is also a paradise for birdwatchers. The Maine Birding Trail is very active in this part of the park. While you take in the majestic fall colors, you may also observe birds such as peregrine falcons.
3. Lake Sebec
Located 45 miles from Bangor, Maine is Lake Sebec. Similar to our other location, you want to visit Lake Sebec in mid-October to truly take advantage of the fall foliage. Lake Sebec offers stunning views of Mount Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak, and the ambers, reds, and oranges of fall.
Lake Sebec is also full of recreational activities to help any nature lover stay busy. Whether hiking a trail or fishing, there’s an activity here for anyone that wants to do more than just observe the foliage. The lake spans a total of 6, 800 acres so there are plenty of adventures and views to take in.
Some of our recommended spots to take in the Main foliage are Peaks-Kenny State Park. You can find many picnic areas and campsites in which to relax and enjoy the seasonal views. After you take in some amazing views, you can head to Dover-Foxcroft, the nearby town, and visit antique shops and museums.
4. Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is the only national park in New England and also boasts impressive fall foliage views. It is unique in that it has 16 smaller islands and provides visitors a fall foliage scenery of Maine’s rugged coast. There are many Ranger lead programs that can provide guided tours of the park. If you prefer to do it alone there are 120 miles of hiking trails that you can take advantage of.
They have camping sites and nearby accommodations to help you in planning your trip. The fall is a busy time for this park as it is the only national park in New England. Plan your trip with plenty of time to not only catch the spectacular fall foliage but also to take in the various activities offered. A benefit of visiting this location is that peak foliage usually is in late October so unlike other destinations you have more options to book travel.
A couple of interesting facts about Acadia National Park are that it has granite-domed mountains and more than two dozen mountains rise above 1,500 feet! At night through the foliage, you can also view the Milky Way.
Camden is another location in which peak fall foliage season is in late October. It offers a variety of options for those that are eager to see a New England fall. In case a hike is not on your itinerary, you can take an excursion by boat and cruise through the beautiful fall foliage.
Temperatures around this time of the year range from 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit, so on a boat it will feel colder, remember to pack warm clothing if you chose to go on a boat foliage tour. Another option for those wanting to visit is Camden Hills, State Park.
The Mount Battie Trail is a low-level and easy hike that sports incredible views of Camden. Its easy level makes it a very popular trail during the fall months. Camden can have heavy fog during this time of the year so be careful when selecting a time to hike.
6. Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway
If perhaps you prefer more of a road adventure, the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway has 52 miles of road filled with dazzling Maine fall foliage views. The stark contrast between the reds and oranges of the foliage and the blue lakes is sure to leave you not only in appreciation of nature but also relaxed. This area of Maine is also known for its great fishing opportunities for salmon and trout.
As with many of our other Maine destinations, hiking, camping, biking, and other outdoor activities are available for all nature enthusiasts. You can take a day to explore the byway but if you have a limited amount of time, you can complete the drive in approximately 2.5 hours.
If ever you feel lost on the byway, the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway Ambassadors are present to help guide you on your exploration of fall foliage. These volunteers are eager to connect with visitors on the many fall things to view in this area.
Other Places to Visit
If perhaps you do not want to travel to one specific location or want to observe the Maine fall foliage in a different venue there are plenty of other activities.
Maine is known as the “Lighthouse State.” You can visit any lighthouse and spectate the fall foliage. The state boasts 60 lighthouses. We recommend you visit the Burnt Island Lighthouse or the Whaleback Lighthouse. These are two that should leave you in amazement at the incredible fall colors.
Annual Fall Foliage Festival
There are plenty of fall festivals throughout the state that celebrates the changing of the seasons. One of the main festivals takes place in Boothbay Railway Village. The festival offers many local vendors, artists, and others that want to celebrate anything fall.
Maine Wine Trail
What better way to enjoy the fall foliage than at a winery? Maine may not be known for its wine as much as other states, but it has some of the best wines in the country. Some of the more popular wineries to visit and enjoy the scenic views are Cellardoor Wineries, Blue Current Brewery, and Bar Harbor Cellars Winery.
Train Foliage Tours
The Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad offers one to two-hour train tours through Waldo county exclusively for fall foliage views. Some of the tours offer delicacies such as hot apple cider and apple cider donuts.
Blueberry Fall Foliage
Yes, you read that right- you can see blueberry foliage in Maine. Maine produces 99% of all blueberries in the United States. The peak season for blueberries ends in September, making October the perfect month to go see the blueberry foliage.
What Makes Maine Fall Foliage So Special?
Our list is by now means an exhaustive list of all the Maine foliage sites in Maine. They are simply an easy way to start your travel adventures to New England. Some of the other locations that we recommend you visit our Greenville, Moosehead, and Lily Bay State Park to name a few.
You may be wondering what makes Maine such a special state to view fall foliage? The answer is twofold: the amount of forested area and the type of trees.
Part of what makes a perfect location to observe fall foliage is that 90% of the state is forested. That means that no matter in which direction you go you are bound to run into the beautiful fall colors. Although it is New England’s largest state, it is the least populated which makes it easy to travel around and avoid crowds.
The maple trees are also a reason for the spectacular deep fall colors. The maple trees fade into rich reds and oranges. However, the white ash provides a unique deep purple color to the foliage landscape.
Why do leaves change color?
If you are wondering why Maine Fall Foliage happens, there is an actual scientific reason why leaves change color. The state of Maine is filled with deciduous trees. These types of trees, such as oak, maple, and elm lose their leaves in the fall and winter. Deciduous trees usually lose their broad leaves. As we all know the leaves grow back in the spring.
The term deciduous itself means ” falling of at maturity.” In essence, the leaves have reached maturity for the year and prepare trees to survive the winter months. Deciduous trees are able better to survive the winter months because they can conserve water with less foliage. Additionally, these types of trees also have less damage from bugs because they lose their leaves.
The Science of Color
The magic of the Maine fall foliage occurs because of the temperature drop. As temperatures drop and sunlight begins to decrease, chlorophyll is affected. Chlorophyll is the chemical that leaves absorb that is used in conjunction with sunlight to make the leaves green.
The lack of chlorophyll due to decreased sunlight is what causes the leaves to change colors. Leaves have pigments in them already that are not active in the summer months because of the large quantities of chlorophyll. Once this is reduced, the pigment in the leaves begins to show.
The speed at which the leaves fall to the ground and the vivid leave colors are also largely dependent on the weather. The longer the weather is dry, sunny, and cool the more likely the fall foliage will be vibrant in color. It is also more likely that the leaves will hang on the tree long before falling to the ground. If you live in a place with cloudy, damp, or warm weather you are likely not to see the majestic colors of fall. As such, the best places to see fall foliage are those with Maine-like weather.
How to Preserve Your Foliage
During your Maine fall foliage adventure, you may find beautiful leaves that you may want to preserve. Preserving leaves is a very common hobby that can add to the beauty of your home and can make easy souvenirs. Although preserving leaves helps with keeping them around for a longer period of time, nothing lasts forever. Eventually, your preserved fall foliage will darken in color. However, with our ideas, you may be able to prolong the effects of nature.
Pressing leaves is a great way to save your fall foliage memories. You can choose to use a heavy book to press the leaves or use wax paper. The main thing to remember is to make sure that the leaves you choose for this method are relatively flat. If you pick leaves that are curled you may break the leaf by forcing it to lay flat. You may also want to look for fall foliage that is yellow as that tends to survive longer when pressed compared to red and orange.
This method of preserving your Maine fall foliage treasures is a bit more complicated. Laminating leaves will require a laminating machine. This method is also less eco-friendly but provides a great advantage in preserving leaves for a longer period of time.
If perhaps you just want to use your Maine fall foliage collections for a shorter time instead of preserving them for years, there are plenty of DIY projects that you can your leaves for. Foliage is used as a popular home decoration. For example, you can use leave for:
- decorating mason jars
- decorating party bowls
- make a leaf garland
- stain windows with leaves
- make an Instagram backdrop decorated with leaves
- create a wreath
What to Bring on Your Maine Fall Foliage Adventure
No adventure is complete without the necessary items to ensure your trip is a success. Some of our recommended items for your Main Fall Foliage adventure are simple yet important.
- Camera/Smartphone- Make sure that when you head on your adventure to capture the beautiful leaves you bring a camera and/ or a charged smartphone.
- Cash- Many of the quaint towns in Maine may not have access to card readers. Additionally, there are many outdoor festivals that take place in the fall that may only accept cash.
- Gear- Do not forget to pack your gear for any foliage activity that may require more than just walking.
- Warm Clothes- Depending on the year, the fall can have a variety of temperatures that make chilly evening temperatures drop. Make sure to pack sweaters and jackets for your adventures.
- Extra battery pack- Since most of Maine is forested, it may drain the battery on your smartphones and other devices. Make sure to bring a portable battery.
- Pets- Due to Maine’s heavy outdoor recreational activities, many hotels are pet friendly. Don’t forget to bring your four-legged friends. They are bound to love the fall foliage as much as you!
- Vehicle Pass- Many of the parks in Maine offer a seasonal pass for purchase if you plan to road trip.
- Bug Spray- Depending on the weather, there might be bugs in the thick foliage. Make sure that you bring bug spray if you are hitting the trails.
You must add Maine to your list to travel this fall. The Maine fall foliage is one of the best in the world and their many quaint towns make visiting easy and relaxing. Whether you want a coastal town or want to partake in the many outdoor activities at state parks, Maine has something for everyone. With only a couple days left in September, this is the perfect time to look into traveling to spectate the splendors of the Maine fall foliage.