Maine Scenic Drives: Old Canada Road Scenic Byway

Highlights of Old Canada Road Scenic Byway
The Kennebec River Valley offfers a mix of vistas  from Old Canada Road Scenic Byway.
The Kennebec River Valley offfers a mix of vistas  from Old Canada Road Scenic Byway.

The northern section of the drive is one of the few places in New England where you can still drive for miles through undeveloped mountains and forest. Look for spectacular mountain views from Attean Overlook in Jackman, where you will see several sparkling lakes at the feet of majestic mountains.

Famous for gorgeous and inspiring fall color, the striking foliage along the byway draws many people. The bright crimson, orange, and gold landscape, worthy to grace a postcard, can be witnessed from early September to October.

Wintertime creates spectacular scenery -- icy rivers snake down craggy mountains and through forests blanketed with fluffy white snow, winter birds perch on branches of snowy trees, and hungry moose venture closer to the road in search of food. Visitors may see a number of species of birds as they snowshoe the winter trails along the Kennebec, or happen across untracked forest clearings.

Springtime along the byway is beautiful, but wet. The rainy season brings lush, green plant life, but also muddy trails, so this season is best enjoyed from the road. Visitors will want to kayak the Kennebec and Moose Rivers during this season, as the area is less crowded and the rivers have the most water.

Summer is the busiest travel season along the byway, but not just for the recreational opportunities. Summer provides some of the most spectacular views of the forest and water near the byway. Be sure to visit some of the many crystal-clear lakes, which are full of lively fish this time of year, and hike trails through green forests, which create a lush backdrop for spectacular animal life.

The byway starts where Route 151 intersects with U.S. 201 north of the town of Lakewood and ends near the Canadian border. Here are some suggested stops along the route.

Solon and Bingham: Drive north on U.S. 201, which passes through two old-time villages, Solon and Bingham. Both are bounded on the west by the Kennebec River. Solon has wintertime snowmobiling trails.

Wyman Lake: Just north of Bingham is 13-mile-long Wyman Lake, a fishing hot spot for perch, bass, and sunfish. In January, there's ice fishing for landlocked salmon and trout.

Appalachian Trail: Farther north, the 2,160-mile-long Appalachian Trail crosses the byway at Caratunk. While the trail runs from Maine all the way to Georgia, day hikes are popular through the rugged terrain here. To cross the Kennebec River at Caratunk, hikers can use a free ferry service that runs from late May to mid-October.

Kennebec and Dead Rivers: Continuing north, the Kennebec River meets the Dead River at The Forks. Both rivers offer thrilling whitewater rafting. The Kennebec heads through remote wilderness and the beautiful Kennebec River Gorge and produces huge roller-coaster waves, with many class IV or higher rapids along 12-mile runs. Along the route, watch for deer, river otters, and eagles. In late spring and early fall, the Dead River has the longest continuous class III-IV white water in New England. It offers milder rapids for much of the summer.

Moxie Falls: Also from The Forks, a short drive and less than a mile walk leads through the pines to the 90-foot-high Moxie Falls, which makes a nice picnic spot. From U.S. 201, turn east onto Lake Moxie Road and follow it to the signposted trailhead for the waterfall. There are also hiking trails near Moxie Falls.

Jackman: North of The Forks, the Jackman area is a recreational mecca. In winter, a huge network of snowmobile trails includes thousands of miles of groomed crisscrossing trails leading up to Canada and across to New Hampshire. In warmer weather, the scenic Moose River, which runs through Jackman, has only mild rapids and features some of the Northeast's most popular canoeing and kayaking, complete with camping on a 34-mile route. Eagles, osprey, deer, and moose are some of the watchable wildlife.

Holeb Falls: Along the Moose River west of Jackman, stunning Holeb Falls has a long vertical drop into a swimming area at its base. With its mountainous backdrop, this area is known as the Switzerland of Maine.

The Old Canada Road Scenic Byway takes you from the long-settled village of Solon along the Kennebec River to the hydro dam in Bingham and on to shimmering Wyman Lake. Follow Benedict Arnold's lead on this scenic drive.

Find more useful information related to Maine's Old Canada Road Scenic Byway:

  • Maine Scenic Drives: Old Canada Road Scenic Byway is just one of the scenic byways in Maine. Check out the others.
  • Bingham: Find out what there is to do in this city along Old Canada Road Scenic Byway.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Maine? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.