Fall foliage - Maine's fall colors look spectacular

Maine's fall colors are starting to dazzle. Where to drive to see the best fall foliage? Northern Maine is providing the best color.

In Maine, the best fall foliage will be on display in the northernmost areas of the state. Maine tourism experts are recommending drivers take Route 11 for a spectacular show of color.

OK, leafpeepers, this is it. This is the season we've all been waiting for. Maine's fall foliage is back.

You ready to see some color this weekend? Although there are reports of flash throughout the state, your best shot is the hinterlands. Be adventurous. Go north. Northern Maine is where most of the action is happening.

Now, this isn't us talking. We've talked to many Mainers. They say it's all about Zone 6 and Zone 7. Unfamiliar with the zones? Just check out this map.

Although many a New Englander was upset at Mother Nature this summer for all the wet weather, it's gonna pay off, they say.

"The rain really just set us up for a spectacular season," said Gail Ross, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Conservation. "It's left the forest in really good health, so the extra moisture is a huge help."

This is something we've heard from meteorologists all year in the Boston area. They say that when trees are under stress from drought, leaves aren't as colorful. That's good news for us!

Fiery Oranges and Reds

And the proof is evident in Northern Maine.

"It is beautiful," Ross said emphatically. "The fiery oranges and reds are really starting to pop. If you want to see color, this is where you want to go. This is definitely my foliage destination for the weekend."

All Leslie Jackson has to do is look outside her window to confirm it. Jackson is a tourism development specialist for Aroostook County. She lives in Zone 7 -- in the town of Caribou.

"The leaves right now are just about the best they're going to be," Jackson said. "It's beautiful up here."

Route 11

Where to go? The people we talked to all agree: Route 11. Here's a fun drive that our experts promise will be loaded full of technicolor splendor.

If you're traveling north on I-95, take the Medway exit to Route 11. For the next 25 miles up to the town of Sherman, you'll be traveling on the Grindstone Scenic Byway. Touts the Aroostook County Tourism website, "This Byway will remind you of [Robert Frost's] "The Road Not Taken."

Next up, a 68 mile trip to the town of Portage and another picturesque drive. You're still on Route 11 but for the next 38 miles it's known as the Fish River Scenic Byway. Traffic? Not much. Panoramic views? Most definitely.

At Fort Kent, you'll switch over to Route 1 and for most of the next 43 miles, you'll be hugging the border of Canada. Possible diversions are the Four Corners Park in Madawaska and the Acadian Village in Van Buren.

Once in the town of Van Buren, you'll drive through Caribou and Presque Isle before eventually connecting at I-95 at the town of Houlton.

Just a few miles south of Presque Isle, Jackson recommends stopping by Stewart’s Farm to stock up on pumpkins, apples, potatoes, gourds and other Autumn essentials. But there are plenty of “help yourself” farms along this loop as well, she says. That’s where you purchase what you need and make your deposit in a lock-box. The trust system is alive and well in this part of the country.

The whole loop is about 250 miles. Google Maps says it will take you about five hours and 15 minutes. But that's if you're going non-stop -- and what fun is that?

Jackson says that this loop will take you the full day. Not because of traffic -- there's not much. That's an advantage she says about Northern Maine. You get the same beautiful views as in other areas of New England (she'll argue more beautiful) but without the congestion.

"It'll be a great weekend up here," Jackson said. "It's almost peaking. I'm looking out my window right now and it's pretty much here."

More views

By the way, on your way back down, instead of taking I-95, you may want to consider taking Route 2 south. Phil Savignano, senior tourism specialist for the Maine Department of Tourism, says that could provide a great finale to the trip.

"This should give you some spectacular views of Mount Katahdin," he said, noting that the highest mountain in the state probably has sprinklings of snow on its peak.

"You will see unbelievable colors," he said.

Tell us what you see. We'll keep posting. Check back for more.

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