New England is known for its gorgeous autumns full of vivid fall colors. Maine is the largest of the New England states and has large regions of forestland. In the fall, these woodlands turn stunning shades of orange, gold, and crimson.
Although Vermont and New Hampshire may get more tourists in the autumn, Maine has much to offer those willing to make the trek a little further north. When do leaves change color in Maine? And which towns should you visit for the most beautiful foliage? Read on to find out.
When Do Leaves Change Color in Maine?
As the nights grow longer in the fall, trees begin producing less chlorophyll. Once the chlorophyll is destroyed, the green color fades, and the yellows, oranges, and reds appear. In Maine, the fall colors sweep from north to south.
The following is a generalization of when you can expect to see fall colors in Maine. The state publishes a fall foliage map, which will give you an up-to-date weekly report throughout the season. Remember, the exact timing of when leaves change color in Maine can vary each year. Be sure to check current conditions before planning your fall foliage trip.
- Northern Maine is generally at peak conditions the last week of September and into the first week of October.
- The central and western mountain regions reach peak colors around the second week of October.
- Coastal and southern regions have their best colors in mid-to-late October.
Which Colors Do Maine Trees Display in the Fall?
The trees in Maine turn a splendid variety of gorgeous colors. Maine has many varieties of trees. Here are a few of the common types of trees and the colors they turn.
- Red, mountain, and sugar maples
- Flowering dogwood
- Red, scarlet, black, and white oak
- Witch hazel
- White ash
- Pagoda dogwood
- Bigtooth Aspen
- Speckled alder
- Striped and sugar maple
- Mountain ash
- Green and black ash
5 Best Towns to Visit in Maine for Beautiful Fall Foliage
No matter where you are in Maine during autumn, you are sure to see splendid fall colors. Nearly 90% of the state is made up of forests and parks.
Although it was difficult to choose, we’ve put together a list of our top five picks to visit where you can experience beautiful fall scenery and enjoy some fun autumn activities while you’re at it.
1. Fort Kent
It’s not only one of the most northern towns in Maine, it’s home to America’s first mile on Route 1. You could start driving on Route 1 in Fort Kent, and 2,400 miles later, end up in Key West, Florida. This northern town is a prime spot to view Maine’s gorgeous fall colors early in the season.
Fort Kent’s foliage season begins as early as mid-September. The town is located in Aroostook County and sits on the border adjacent to New Brunswick, Canada. Fishing is popular in town on the Fish River and Saint John River. You can also hike the Fort Kent Riverside Trail that follows along the river and through downtown Fort Kent.
Fort Kent’s top attraction is the Fort Kent Blockhouse. Located where the St. John River meets the Fish River. This historic wooden two-story structure was built in 1839. to defend Maine against the British during the Aroostook War. The war was a contentious, although not bloody, dispute over the U.S.-Canadanian boundary.
In the western, mountainous region of Maine lies the town of Rangeley. The Rangeley Lakes region is a top destination for spotting fall colors in Maine. You can view the changing colors amid sparkling lakes and majestic mountains. Early October is typically the best time to see the peak foliage in Rangeley.
Another spot to check out in Rangeley is the Rangelely Lake State Park. The park is not only a prime viewing spot for fall colors but also a great place to bird-watch. Some of the many bird species you may encounter here include black-capped chickadees, loons, golden eagles, and osprey.
While you’re in Rangelely, one of the best ways to view the autumn colors is to take a scenic drive. The Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway follows State Route 17 and SR 4 past the many lakes and streams in the area. The route follows along the Appalachian Mountains, eventually descending into hills and valleys.
Located in the mountains of western Maine, is the small ski town of Bethel. But Bethel offers much more than just winter sports. It’s an ideal spot to watch the changing colors of the season. Bethel is an old city sitting near the border of New Hampshire, and only about 30 minutes from Boston. Founded in 1774, this historic town offers visitors a walking tour of Historic Bethel Village, where you can see structures dating back to the 1770s.
Although you can easily view the gorgeous fall colors from inside the town of Bethel, it’s also an ideal starting point for a scenic country drive. One option is taking the Sunday River Road. The route begins in Bethel on Route 2, then branches off north of town. On the Sunday River Road is the Sunday River Bridge. This famous bridge has been standing since 1872, and it is often called the Artist’s Covered Bridge because it has been photographed and painted by artists many times over the years.
4. Bar Harbor
The town of Bar Harbor is located on Maine’s largest island, Mount Desert. A charming coastal town, Bar Harbor is a fantastic place for a scenic fall tour of Maine. If you’re a fan of the outdoors, you can experience the fall foliage during a hike through the Acadia National Park. Interestingly, the first sunrise in the U.S. occurs in the park at the summit of Cadillac Mountain. However, this is only true for about half of the year from October to March.
Within the park, visitors can take a walk over the historic stone bridges of Bubble Pond Bridge and Duck Brook Bridge. Not only are these picturesque bridges surrounded by stunning autumn colors in the fall, but they are also part of history. They were part of the old carriage roads where locals used to travel around the island.
Head to the town of Camden in late October to catch the stunning fall display when the leaves change color in Maine. Located along the coast, Camden is home to ocean views, mountains, historic sites, scenic drives, great seafood, and outdoor adventures.
Check out the changing trees in Camden Hills State Park where you can hike or take a scenic drive through the park. Head to the top of Mount Battie for a scenic view of Camden, its harbor, and Penobscot Bay. You may be able to see as far away as Cadillac Mountain if the sky is clear. Or check out the fairy tale castle of Norumbega, which operates as a boutique hotel today.
Another option for viewing the fall colors from another perspective is to take a sailing tour. The boats operate through October and offer a way to enjoy views of the scenic fall colors from the sea.
Summary of 5 Maine Towns with Beautiful Foliage
|Number||Town||Location||Timing of Typical Peak Foliage|
|1||Fort Kent||Northern Maine||Mid-September|
|2||Rangeley||Western Maine||Early to Mid-October|
|3||Bethel||Western Maine||Early to Mid-October|
|4||Bar Harbor||Coastal Maine||Late October|
|5||Camden||Coastal Maine||Late October|
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