There are more than 700 miles of state and national scenic byways throughout Maine, sections of roads and highways specially designated for the archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities along the way, including many miles of hiking trails.
Any time of year is good for road-tripping, but perhaps none is better than autumn, so grab your boots and day pack, DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer and AMC Maine Mountain Guide, and hit the road for some outdoor fun. Here’s a sample of byways and hikes to get you started.
Blackwoods Scenic Byway
Relatively short as Maine byways go, this 13-mile drive from Franklin to Cherryfield on Route 182 leads through the heart of Donnell Pond Public Reserved Land, a 15,500-acre preserve of mountains, lakes and ponds that is home to the Tunk Lake Ecological Reserve.
The Tunk Mountain Trail leads north around Mud Pond to extensive sub-Alpine areas, open granite ledges and far-reaching views over the Downeast countryside. Combine the walk up Tunk with the Hidden Ponds Trail to Salmon and Little Long ponds for a nice five-mile loop.
Grafton Notch Scenic Byway
This 21-mile drive on Route 26 connects Route 2 in Newry to the New Hampshire border at Upton, taking in Grafton Notch State Park and the great 800-foot Eyebrow cliff, as well as Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, along the way.
For a good look at the rugged Mahoosuc Range, climb Puzzle Mountain via the Grafton Loop Trail, a steep pull of about three miles one way. The craggy southwest summit of Puzzle exceeds 3,000 feet and offers views from Grafton Notch to Sunday River Ski Resort to the Presidentials.
Katahdin Woods and Waters Scenic Byway
A meandering 89-mile route from Baxter State Park’s northern gate at Matagamon Lake to its southern entrance at Togue Pond, this byway combines sections of Route 11 and Route 157 through Patten, Sherman, Stacyville, Medway, East Millinocket and Millinocket, making a big arc around the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
At Togue Pond, enter Baxter State Park and follow Roaring Brook Road to its end. Hike into Sandy Stream Pond for stunning views of the Katahdin massif and perhaps a moose or two, then climb South Turner Mountain for sweeping vistas west over the park and east across the monument. About four miles round trip.
Moosehead Lake Scenic Byway
See many of the highlights of the Moosehead Lake Region on this 59-mile drive from Kokadjo to Greenville to Jackman via the Lily Bay Road and Route 15/6, including iconic Mount Kineo, the Kennebec and Moose rivers and the edge of the 100-Mile Wilderness.
Veer off the beaten path at Little Moose Public Reserved Land for a terrific hike on the new Eagle Rock Trail, a nearly seven-mile out-and-back walk leading to an airy perch on Eagle Rock and one of the finest mountaintop panoramas anywhere in the state.
Pequawket Trail Scenic Byway
Named for the native Sokokis tribe that once inhabited the Saco River Valley, this byway follows Route 113 for 60 miles, from Standish to Fryeburg and on through Evans Notch to Gilead, a few miles west of Bethel.
Stop off in Brownfield to climb Burnt Meadow Mountain via its namesake trail for expansive views north to the White Mountains, then continue on the Twin Brook and Stone Mountain trails for a pleasant loop hike of about five miles.
State Route 27 Scenic Byway
Winding for 47 miles through the heart of the High Peaks Region, this outstanding drive from Kingfield to Stratton to the Canadian border at Coburn Gore features some of the best roadside scenery in Maine, including the Carrabassett River, Sugarloaf and the Bigelows, and Flagstaff Lake.
Tackle a section of the Bigelows on a surprisingly strenuous trek to Cranberry Peak via the Appalachian and Bigelow Range trails. The 3,194-foot peak affords an excellent look along the high Alpine ridgeline to North and South Horn, West and Avery peaks, and Little Bigelow Mountain.
Four other state scenic byways plus three national scenic byways and an All-American Road provide many more opportunities for road-tripping to good hiking spots around Maine. Find more info at www.exploremaine.org/byways.