Three leaf-peeping, apple-picking brew-tasting road trips for October

Mon, 10/01/2018 - 10:00am

Right now it’s easy to be green, because, as the Fall Foliage Report from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry notes, there is spotty color change out there.  But as we roll into October with crisper nights, the reds, oranges, yellows and golds will pop like a bag of Newman’s Own in the coming weeks. 

Here are three road trips to take this October for leaf peeping, apple picking and the sweet reward of a craft brew or tart hard cider on the way.

Western Maine

The best time for peak color in the western mountains is predicted to be October 6-13.

Grafton Notch Byway

If you start from the tippy top of Rt. 26 in the town of Errol (see map) you’ll have more than 20 miles of absolutely fantastic scenery: of rivers moving through mountain valleys and past Umbagog State Park. Stop at Grafton Notch State Park for a picnic and a walk along the river, or take a short hike to Screw Auger Falls and Mother Walker Falls. Your rewards come at the end of this trip (or beginning, depending which way you choose). First stop: Sunday River Brewing Co. on the access road to the Sunday River Ski Resort. Their selection of beers all pair well with the golden, brown, and red hues of the surrounding mountains. After that, it’s a short trip to Grover Hill Orchard which has pesticide-free pick-your-own orchard as well as free cider tastings on Saturdays.

Northern Maine

Peak conditions are estimated to be October 15-20.

Million Dollar Highway Route 1

It’s going to be a bit of a haul to get to the start of this road trip, which begins in the the town of Danforth (see map), but before you get your million dollar views, stop first at the Maine-ly Apples (346 Moosehead Trail, Dixmont), which specializes in the highly anticipated Honeycrisps. They grow 48 different varieties with five popular varieties for pick-your-own and they have their own cider making facility on site! Once you get to Bangor, hook up with Route 9 going east. You ‘ll hit Airline Brewing Co. along the way.  Enjoy a tasting at their refurbished wood working machinery from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. The toffee and caramel flavors of their Red Ale make a great fall beer.Keep going until you reach U.S. Route 1 north and bang a left, which will take you up the Million Dollar Highway, affording unsurpassed views of the Chiputneticook chain of lakes including East Grand, Brackett and Deering as well as rolling hayfields, Mount Katahdin, Peekaboo Mountain


Peak conditions are estimated to be October 15-30.

Midcoast Ramble

Heading down U.S. Route 1 past Rockland, your first stop will be in Damariscotta to Biscay Orchards, a pick-your-own apple farm voted the Best Orchard in Maine by Down East Magazine in 2018. With 15 varieties to pick from, plus unpreserved cider, this is a refreshing way to start your road trip. Next, wind down toward Wiscasset and head left on Rt. 27, on one of those long, leisurely drives through rural forested areas before you hit Boothbay Craft Brewery  and sip on a flight (definitely try their road trip brew 257 Lager-perfect for the occasion) either inside their rustic Tavern Taphouse or outside on the picnic tables under the trees. After that, there are plenty of ocean views in the town of Boothbay and check out the Fall Foliage Festival October 6  to 8 (which happens a bit before peak season).

Autumn enthusiasts can visit the state’s official foliage website at to sign up to receive weekly reports by email, and can share their photos from throughout the state as the progression of color begins.

Kay Stephens can be reached at