The Most Scenic Drives To Take In Maine

Maine's pristine wilderness, majestic waterfalls, dense forests, mountains, and waterways make it an excellent setting for nature lovers and travelers alike. The best way to ensure you fully enjoy what Maine has to offer is through a scenic drive that will take you through endless nature trails and old-fashioned coastal towns, with natural beauty at every turn. This state has something for you to enjoy regardless of the season, no wonder most people refer to it as Vacationland. For instance, you can try out rafting with your travel companions in one of the glacier rivers or sunbathe on the beach during the summer (via Maine Camp Experience). If you can't help taking photos of awe-inspiring fall foliage, Maine should be at the top of your bucket list — you'll be blown away by the red, gold, and orange colors that spice up the landscape.

If you're already itching for a scenic drive in Maine to interact with nature or understand the history of different parts of the state, you'll be spoiled for choice. Americasycho on Reddit said, "Took some lesser traveled roads to Bar Harbor from Portland. The foliage was breathtaking, and the scenery was really something to behold." Another Redditor noted, "I took my car on Route 26 in western Maine. Maybe the most beautiful drive I ever had. Trees on both sides and mountains." Here are some of the incredible drives in Maine that you should experience at least once in a lifetime.

Grafton Notch Scenic Byway (Route 26)

If leaf peeping is your thing, you won't be able to get enough of this 21-mile byway that starts at Newry and heads toward the New Hampshire Scenic Byway. While traveling along this route, the Grafton Notch State Park is a great stop to consider for picnics since you can enjoy the cool weather as you share a meal with your travel companions. If you have enough time to explore the park, you'll be lucky to view some beautiful bird species such as the yellow-bellied flycatchers, gray jays, bay-breasted warblers, and boreal chickadees (via Scenic USA). Along this route, you can as well get a close view of Mother Walk Falls and Screw Auger Falls to enjoy the scenery or take photos with the waterfalls as your backdrop.

Those who feel more adventurous are not left out because they can stop at one of the many swimming holes along Bear River to soak up the cool waters. Hiking trails are in plenty along the byway if you'd like to get out of the car to stretch your legs as you explore the landscape for other exciting opportunities such as spotting wild animals like bears and moose (per Explore Maine). The other notable features you can check out along this route include Lake Umbagog and Mahoosuc mountain range (via Girl With the Passport).

Saint John Valley Byway

Covering about 92 miles, this route that ends in Hamlin, Maine is rich in historical destinations, so if you're a history buff, there's a lot to marvel at and learn along the way. On the western end, the journey begins at Dickey, which is a short walking distance from the Allagash Historical Society Museum, so you can visit this museum before the trip begins to learn about Irish and Scottish settlers who inhabited different sections of the St. John's River in the early 19th century. Along the way, you'll pass by dense forests, traditional villages, and small towns where local communities embrace their old ways of living. Don't be surprised if you hear some French-speaking locals because the entire route is unified by a common theme, which is its cultural origin. Interacting with these communities is an amazing way to learn French recipes, see ancient tools, and learn the history of Maine Acadians and French-Canadians (per Aroostook County Tourism).

Since a large section of this byway is forested, you'll be lucky to spot various wild animals, including moose and eagles. You can pass by Portage Lake or Eagle Lake, which are amazing spots for fishing, boating, hiking, or camping. If a historical tour sounds more interesting to you, you can stop at history-rich sites such as the Musēe Culturel du Mont-Carmel, Fort Kent Block House, Louie's Antique Chainsaw Museum, and the Acadian Archives (via National Scenic Byway Foundation).

Pequawket Trail Maine Scenic Byway (Route 113)

Try out this 60-mile scenic drive that offers you an opportunity to admire the artworks created by local artists. You can start your journey at Standish to start viewing waterfalls, rivers, and lakes along the way before coming to the final stop at Gilead. Although the entire route is interesting, the first 30 miles are the most exciting because that's where you'll see majority of the attractions. For example, one of the picturesque views you'll enjoy is that of White Mountains in New Hampshire. The byway also cuts across the White Mountain National Forest, offering you a chance to view wildlife or mind-blowing fall foliage (per Enterprise).

Since the Saco River extends from Standish to Fryeburg, travelers are spoiled for options when it comes to water activities to engage in along the route as they can try out snowmobiling, fishing, kayaking, or swimming during the summer. In the winter, cross-country skiing is a common activity you can try to get your adrenaline pumping. Other exciting places on this route that you can add to your list include the Sebago Lake, Burnt Meadow Mountain Trail, and Fryeburg Museum (via South Maine Planning and Development Commission).

Katahdin Woods & Waters National Scenic Byway

Wondering what the interior of Maine has to offer? This 89-mile drive, which starts at Togue Pond in Baxter State Park will take you to Mount Katahdin (5,268 feet tall), where you can hike the Appalachian Trail before it comes to an end (via Katahdin Woods and Waters). The drive takes you through Millinocket, Penobscot River, and the Town of Patten before ending at Grand Lake Matagamon. These water bodies you find along the way offer suitable grounds for boating, fishing, kayaking, white water rafting, and canoeing (per Aroostook County Tourism).

If sitting in your car for hours feels unbearable, you can explore exciting attractions along the route such as Shin Falls, Ambejejus Boomhouse Museum, Ash Hill, Debsconeag Ice Caves, Patten Lumbermen's Museum, and Grindstone Falls. During fall, a picnic along the byway will create indelible memories with splendid fall foliage as your background for photos. In the winter, you can still quench your adventurous spirit with thrilling activities like snowmobiling along some sections of the byway (via Katahdin Woods and Waters).

Schoodic National Scenic Byway

Enjoy a unique combination of the sea, mountains, historic sites, and museums along the Schoodic National Scenic Byway, which is about 29 miles long. You can begin the trip at Hancock, Maine, then travel all the way to Winter Harbor, and later have access to the Acadia National Park. This byway allows you to capture different elements of the Downeast culture and the current lifestyle of people living in the area. If you explore the coastal areas around the Schoodic Peninsula, you'll get a better understanding of how people make a living using sea resources through shipbuilding and angling (via How Stuff Works).

If you have enough time, you can participate in various events hosted at Winter Harbor, such as the Lobster Festival, which involves local delicacies and boat races. The Schoodic Arts for All also features festivals, events, and programs that celebrate the local culture through dancing, music, and the sale of artwork made by crafters. Bird watchers will have a good time at the areas close to Schoodic Peninsula, such as Petit Manan, where they can view razorbills, black-capped chickadees, laughing gulls, roseate terns, blue-headed vireos, yellow-shafted flickers (via How Stuff Works). The other Schoodic spots you need to visit along this byway are Prospect Harbor Lighthouse, Frazer Point Picnic Area, and Tidal Falls (per Schoodic Byway).

Acadia All-American Road

The Acadia All-American Road is a 40-mile byway that starts at Trenton and proceeds all the way to Bar Harbor, which is a vibrant town with plenty of restaurants serving up fresh lobster rolls and other seafood dishes. If you're traveling as a family, this town is an excellent stop for eating and attending cultural events. When you're done with activities at Bar Harbor, the next stop you'll enjoy exploring is Acadia National Park, which offers impressive views of ponds, forested areas, woodlands, lakes, rugged terrain, and mountainous regions. The park features numerous trails suitable for all skill levels, so whether you are experienced or a newbie, you'll find a manageable hiking trail (via National Scenic Byway Foundation).

The other points of interest along this byway that you can add to your itinerary include Jordan Pond House, Cadillac Mountain, Sieur de Monts Spring, Echo Lake, Thunder Hole, Jesup Memorial Library, and Sand Beach (per Explore Maine).

Bold Coast Scenic Byway

The Bold Coast Scenic Byway covers about 125 miles, so it's a long drive that can take up to four hours. You can start your trip at Millbridge, Maine to explore what northeastern United States has in store for travelers, and specifically experience the culture, beauty, and lifestyle of Downeast Maine. Along this route, you'll see plantations, lakes, rivers, and tidal marshes that provide residents with a source of income. The traditional villages on the route preserve the local history and culture since they still have ancient structures, which are remnants of the lumbering and shipbuilding processes that occurred hundreds of years ago (per Experience Maritime Maine).

One of the most notable views you'll find along the byway is large tracts of wild blueberries in Eastport, which form awe-inspiring flowers during spring and then turn into purple berries in the summer. The chameleonic hues of these blueberry barrens create spectacular spots for taking photos with the entire family (per Discover Bold Coast).

Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway

The Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway is a 52-mile drive that takes you past a chain of mountains and lakes. After starting your journey at Romford, the Height of Land is an amazing stop you should consider if you want to enjoy uninterrupted views of Rangeley Lakes regions or take a walk by exploring a small section of the Appalachian Trail. As you continue with your drive, another worthy stop is the Oquossoc village, where you can easily access Mooselookmeguntic Lake and Rangeley Lake. This quaint village is a phenomenal summer destination where you can enjoy various activities such as swimming, kayaking, or attending an event, such as the Oquossoc Day Festival, which features live music, artwork vendors, food, and a boat parade (via National Scenic Byway Foundation).

During fall, this byway offers breathtaking views of a series of mountains covered in fiery colors, so you can take your time to capture Instagram-worthy photos, breathe in some fresh air as you stretch your legs before proceeding with your journey, or hike to discover more. Alternatively, you can visit the Wilhelm Reich Museum or attend the Apple Festival for some fresh drinks. If you've decided to take a drive during winter, the 12-foot snow in the surrounding areas will provide the perfect grounds for snowmobiling, ice skating, and skiing (via National Scenic Byway Foundation). The other highlights of this route include visiting the Rangeley Logging Museum, camping at Cathedral Pines, exploring hiking trails at Rangeley Lakes State Park, checking out the Coos Canyon, or taking a hike at Carrabassett Valley (per Girl With the Passport).

Old Canada Road Scenic Byway (Route 201)

The 78-mile Old Canada Road Scenic Byway is a great pick for history buffs since it features the paths that the Abenaki Tribe used to trade their products (per Visit Kennebec Valley). In addition, you can explore the route that Benedict Arnold (a heroic American military officer) and his 1,200 militiamen followed to Québec (via Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Along the way, you'll find Robbins Hill Scenic Area, which is an awesome locale for picnicking or learning more about the region since it features history markers. Between September and October, nature lovers enjoy taking this route to view stunning fall colors that dominate miles of forests

Before the drive ends at Sandy Bay, trying whitewater rafting at Dead River, checking out Holed Falls, exploring the Bingham Rail Trail, taking a hike at the renowned Appalachian Trail, and boating with your travel partners on Wyman Lake are activities you should add to your bucket list (per Visit Kennebec Valley). You can also visit the Lakewood Theater, which is a magnificent spot for kids to learn and enjoy performances (per Girl With the Passport).

Golden Road Scenic Byway

The Golden Road Scenic Byway is a must-try if you love off-road experiences since it features many unpaved roads. Prepare yourself with a Jeep or any other four-wheel drive car to start exploring this 96-mile byway that was primarily used by the Great Northern Paper Company to haul logs by trucks. This byway, which took about four years to build, is now helpful to many local logging companies for transporting wood (per The Historical Marker Database). Unlike most byways on this list, you have to pack enough drinks to quench your thirst or carry an extra tank of gas if necessary since you'll be passing by remote areas, which barely have shops and restaurants. You'll have enough time to soak up the calm environment of densely packed trees along the way because it's recommended to drive at 45 miles per hour (via The Maine Mag).

You can include the Abol Bridge Campground as one of your stops if you want to interact with other travelers, or you can drive to Abol Bridge to take pictures with Mount Katahdin as your background. If you're a lover of outdoor adventures, camping at the Big Eddy Campground is a great idea. But for picnics, consider the shores of Caribou Lake, especially if you've traveled with kids. Before you wind up your trip at St. Zacharie, the other stops you don't want to miss are Ambajejus Lake and Seboomook Lake (via Girl With the Passport).