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Maine fall foliage touring

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Maine rarely replants after cutting trees because its forests reseed themselves.
  • Each American uses the equivalent of a 100-foot tree per year.
  • Maine’s lobster harvest averages nearly 40 million pounds yearly.
  • The vast majority (95.6%) of Maine’s timberland is privately owned; government owns 4.4%.
  • Maine’s apple varieties originated in up to 30,000 apple seeds brought by European settlers.

Kodak moments

With nearly 90% of its land covered by trees, Maine is the most forested state in the U.S., and many of the trees are deciduous, meaning they hibernate for the winter by offloading their leaves — after those leaves change color, that is.

The deciduous trees do what comes naturally, and so do tourists. In autumn, they come to Maine by the millions to see the bright golds, oranges and reds of dying leaves.

It is therefore ironic that Maine, famous (among tourists anyway) for trees that change color, is named for a plant that sprouts needles. Maine has been the Pine Tree State since the 19th century because trees have long been more important for their practical commercial uses than the presumably impractical one of looking beautiful.

Even now, lumbering is four to five time more important to the Maine economy than the tourism spending that occurs because the trees are there. Still, it pays to have pretty trees. Forest-related tourism contributes more than $1 billion a year to Maine’s coffers, and leaf peepers account for almost two-thirds of that sum.

It is no surprise then that Maine fall foliage touring rates so well with travelers, and it is probably akin to killing a bug with a hammer to observe it is a good idea to book foliage trips early.

A high percent of vacationers schedule their Maine trips for autumn because of the scenery, but their other interests and activities are as varied as at any other time of the year.

Active travelers are happy to have the great scenery packaged with a biking or hiking trip or as the backdrop while they fish, paddle a canoe or sail on the coast. For others, there is great appeal in combining a scenic drive or train ride with a relaxing weekend at a secluded B&B or at a full-service resort and spa. The colors also go well with a harvest festival, Halloween tomfoolery, wildlife viewing, a personal photo safari or a no-holds-barred shopping expedition to Maine’s outlet stores.

In the end, visitors merge multiple interests with their appreciation for one of nature’s more dazzling shows.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Hike for the views. Choose a trail in Grafton Notch or Peaks Kenney State Park, or pick a trail in Acadia National Park.
  • Get comfortable in a quintessential autumn setting with paintbrush in hand to see how well you can imitate nature.
  • Hunt for big game or waterfowl, taking note of hunting regulations first.
  • For a wet and wonderful way to look at foliage, try whitewater rafting (until mid-October) on the Penobscot.
  • Be silly. Compete in the High Heel Dash and Walk-Off at the October OgunquitFest in Ogunquit (we note that recent winners were all men). Or, join the costume parade, where everyone and his dog are welcome, literally. Other harvest festivals feature such hijinks, too. Bed races are popular.
  • Arrange a one-day seaplane fly-in canoe trip to a site with autumn scenes not otherwise easily viewed. Or make that a two-day camping and fishing fly-in itinerary.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Polish the binoculars and focus on the migrating hawks, warblers and shorebirds.
  • Follow one of the state’s scenic drives such as the Lakes National Scenic Byway. The drive, starting in Byron, is only about 10 miles but seems to cover more territory because of the scenic — and photogenic — outlook at its culmination, a spot with views of five lakes and the mountains around them.
  • Celebrate the apple at the Apple Festival in Rangeley Lakes in October. Or, make that the Great Maine Apple Day in Unity, also in October, where you can attend workshops on cooking with old-time apple recipes, wine and cider making and apple art, among other “apple-onian” things.
  • Plan a trip around a selection of quaint New England B&B establishments. Enjoy the foliage from your room, as well as everywhere else.
  • Let Halloween be your inspiration. Join the Candlelight Ghost Tour in Bangor, a downtown walking tour. Or, you create a scary sight yourself: Compete in Hiram’s pumpkin carving contest, an annual October event.
  • Plan to attend Acadia’s Oktoberfest in the town of Southwest Harbor. This includes a wine and cheese event, too. Or, consider the Swine and Stein Oktoberfest in Gardiner.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Pick your own apples or pumpkins. Several orchards and farms in the state offer the opportunity. Some also sell cider, jams, jellies and apple pies to take home.
  • At night turn your gaze skyward for a sighting of the aurora borealis (Northern Lights).
  • Eat lobster. Autumn is peak season for the area specialty.
  • Ride from Brunswick to Rockland on the Maine Eastern Railroad to save yourself the responsibility of a car while peering at the colors.
  • View foliage from the top of the Penobscot Narrows Observatory in Prospect. The observatory gives a 360-degree view from 440 feet above the Penobscot River.
  • Collect the prettiest fallen leaves and, when you are home, preserve them for display purposes.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Maine Office of Tourism at