By: Shawn Russell, Staff Reporter

Shawn Russell in Weld, Maine (photo courtesy of Shawn Russell)

Shawn Russell in Weld, Maine (photo courtesy of Shawn Russell)

With fall officially here, deciduous trees throughout the state of Maine are starting to bring out their vibrant shades of red and orange, before losing their leaves to winter’s wrath.  This picturesque time of year is a favorite for many Mainers, but also for the out-of-state tourists who venture their way to see the famous fall foliage.

“Coastal and western mountains of Maine generally are the most popular areas for our visitors from away,” said Gale Ross, Fall Foliage Coordinator for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry.  “This year, because of our extended summer-like weather we are tracking one week behind so it’s possible we will have a later peak in the 7 zones, but mother nature will still perform her magic and ready the trees for their winter protection,” said Ross.

Although other New England states encounter a fantastic foliage season as well, Maine’s foliage is well renowned and famous to many.  “The ideal conditions are warm sunny days and cool, crisp evenings to bring out the most spectacular colors,” said Ross.

To go along with this short, impeccable season also comes tourism.  New England fall foliage tours frequent Farmington and other towns of Western Maine, and give local business much needed demand.  “The leaf peepers are integral to the local economy,” said Andy Keirns, Manager of Java Joes Corner Café on Main Street.  Keirns has been working at the coffee shop for several years, and has seen the leaf peepers come into the café every fall.  “The leaf peepers provide the bulk of the tourists for the fall before ski season hits,” said Keirns.

In an area that is extremely dense with mountains and lakes, Western Maine is a gem when it comes to viewing the beautiful fall foliage. “I would say the best spots are Pico in Industry, Ira Mountain in Kingfield, and Quill Hill on Route 16 east of Rangeley,” said Conor Doherty, a junior ORBA major at UMF.  Doherty, a Massachusetts native, has taken a liking to the array of colors the trees provide at their peak. “The best time to go is when the color of the leaves have changed but have not yet fallen,” said Doherty.

While Western Maine’s peak foliage season is generally the middle of October, other areas of the state have varying weeks of peak season. “Northern Maine is generally at or near peak the last week of September into the 1st week of October.  Central and western mountains reach peak or near peak mid-October.  Southern and coastal Maine can see peak anytime mid to late October,” said Ross.

Ira Mountain in Kingfield on Route 27, and Quill Hill off Route 16 heading west off Eustis, are accessible by vehicle and offer stunning views of the landscape in Western Maine.