Down East 2013 ©
Here are five loops where the foliage is so stunning that the price at the pump seems like an inexpensive ticket to the greatest show in the state.
Run for the Border
Driving Notes: From Gray take Route 26 to Norway. Then take Route 118 to Lynchville. Bear right onto Route 5 to Bethel. Follow Route 2 to Gilead. Then take Route 113 to Fryeburg, and follow Route 302 to Windham. Take Route 115 back to Gray.
Driving Time: 5 hours
Easily accessible from Greater Portland, this daylong driving tour through the scenic Oxford Hills and the White Mountains starts in the suburban town of Gray and heads for the highlands.
From Farm, to Lakes, to Country
Driving Notes: From Farmington take Route 4 through Rangeley to Oquossoc. Then take Route 17 to Rumford. Follow Route 2 back to Farmington.
Driving Time: 4 hours
Franklin County rises from Maine’s central uplands to its western mountains and includes the Rangeley lakes and Mount Blue State Park. This daylong loop begins in the college town of Farmington, set amid rolling hills and cornfields, and travels northwest on Route 4, tunneling through deep woods and sleepy hollows past the tiny towns of Strong and Phillips. (A side trip down Route 142 to Mount Blue State Park, named for the leafy peak rising above Webb Lake in the township of Weld, is a bonus.)
Make Way For Moose
Driving Notes: From Waterville take Route 201 to Skowhegan and on to Jackman. Then take Route 6 to Greenville and on to Guilford. Then take Route 150 to Skowhegan. Then take Route 201 back to Waterville.
Driving Time: 5.5 hours
This expedition through the heart of Maine’s North Woods can be done in a single day or stretched over a long weekend of leisurely sightseeing and side trips. Route 201 will get you from Waterville to Skowhegan, and the stretch of road from Skowhegan to Jackman is absolutely spectacular, with stunning ridge-top views and leisurely curves through river valleys.
Cruising the Coast
Driving Notes: From Damariscotta take Route 130 to New Harbor. Then follow Route 32 to Waldoboro, and take Route 1 to Route 235. Follow Route 235 to Lincolnville, and take Route 173 to Lincolnville Beach. Then take Route 1 back to Damariscotta.
Driving Time: 4 hours
In October, Maine’s busy coastal roads begin to open up as the summer visitors depart, and long leisurely drives become a pleasure once again. This four-hour loop offers a bit of everything the midcoast has to offer: lots of scenic foliage, gentle hills, and mountaintop vistas of Penobscot Bay and offshore islands.
A Day Down East
Driving Notes: From Ellsworth take Route 1 to Gouldsboro. Then take Route 186 to Schoodic Point and back to Route 1. Then take Route 1 to Cherryfield. Then take Route 182 to Hancock and finally rejoin Route 1 to Ellsworth.
Driving Time: 3.5 hours
Eastern Maine doesn’t attract the foliage fans the way the state’s western mountains do, but the land east of Ellsworth has its own bold beauty in autumn. This loop, which can be done in a morning or an afternoon, only hints though at the magnificent scenery to be found farther Down East.
Edited from September 2008 article 'Fueled by Foliage'