Bethel, Maine: Go West for Maine's Best Fall Leaf Peeping

Bethel Maine Fall Foliage
••• Bethel, Maine, is a dazzling destination for fall colors. Photo courtesy of Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce.

Looking for Maine's best fall foliage home base? The western Maine town of Bethel is perfectly situated for leaf peeping getaways as the fall colors change. Here's why:

Location and When to Go to Bethel, Maine

The historic town of Bethel, Maine, founded in 1774, is located in western Maine at the intersection of Routes 26 and 2. It is about a 3-1/2-hour drive from Boston, 7 hours from New York City and 5 hours from Albany, New York, or Hartford, Connecticut. The closest airport is the Portland International Jetport (PWM) in Portland, Maine. Fall colors can usually be observed starting in late September, with peak likely to occur the first week of October. 

Bethel's Fall Appeal

Bethel is best known as a ski town, but the same peaks that appeal to skiers when covered in wintry white are even more spectacular when dressed in vivid autumn hues. Leaves reflect in shining mountain lakes, adding to this region's fall beauty. Its proximity to the New Hampshire border makes Bethel a prime destination for those who want to see foliage in the White Mountains, too. A fall visit to Bethel puts leaf peepers in the heart of a region noted for scenic driving, hiking, biking, moose watching and more.

Best Places to Stay in Bethel, Maine

  • The Bethel Inn Resort has been a fixture on the village common since 1913; it's your choice for fine lodging and resort activities including golf, tennis and swimming (the outdoor pool is heated year-round).
  • The cozy Sudbury Inn is centrally located and offers 17 rooms and suites, plus a three-bedroom apartment. A full country breakfast will fuel you for a day of chasing fall color photo ops.
  • Bethel Village Motel offers budget-friendly rooms in the heart of this Maine mountain village.
  • Nearby, Sunday River ski area resort properties and condos typically have plenty of available in the fall.

    For one-stop assistance with hotel reservations, call the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce toll free at 800-442-5826.

    Nearby Scenic Drives

    During fall foliage season, you'd be hard pressed to find a better home base for scenic driving than Bethel. Wind your way through Grafton Notch State Park along Route 26, and don't miss the drive north to Rangeley, Maine, along Route 17: The Height of Land overlook is spectacular. The start of New Hampshire's Kancamagus Highway, one of New England's most superb fall drives, is just over an hour away.

    Bethel's Best Local Attractions

    While you're in Bethel, learn about local history at the Bethel Historical Society's O'Neil Robinson House. Visit the Sunday River Covered Bridge—nicknamed the Artist's Bridge—a picturesque covered bridge in Newry. Soar above the leaves on a scenic chairlift ride at Sunday River. Visit the Shaker Village a short drive away in Sabbathday Lake. And don't miss the annual Harvestfest and "Chowdah" Cook-off held in September. In the fall of 2018, be among the first to visit Bethel's newest attraction: the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum.

    You'll want to buy a colorful souvenir of your visit in the museum shop, which will sell jewelry featuring Maine-mined gemstones.

    Within Three Hours of Bethel

    If you'd like to take day trips from Bethel, there are many wonderful places to visit in the fall including the L.L. Bean Flagship Store and shopping outlets in Freeport, Maine; Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, New Hampshire; and The Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center in Rockland, Maine. Enjoy a scenic fall train ride aboard the Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway, New Hampshire.

    Dining Delights in Bethel

    In the Bethel area, popular dining choices include The Suds Pub and the more formal dining room at The Sudbury Inn; the casual Rooster's Roadhouse; and the brew pub at Sunday River Brewing Co. The Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce provides additional dining listings.

    More Fall Fun in Western Maine

    There's more fall fun near Bethel: pick your own apples at Lyon Orchard in Bethel; head to Sunday River for the North American Wife Carrying Championship in October; or depart from the Telemark Wilderness Lodge in Bethel on a White Mountains llama trek or horseback riding or carriage driving adventure.

    For More Information About Bethel

    Request or download a free Bethel Area Visitors' Guide online or by calling the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce at 207-824-2282 or toll free, 800-442-5826.