Take It Outside | Discovering Rangeley, Maine

A weekend in Rangeley, Maine, promises fresh air and foliage views to spare.

By Yankee Staff

Sep 12 2022


The Rangeley area boasts some of the most spectacular lakeside foliage views in Maine. Exhibit A: The vista provided by the Shelton Noyes Overlook off Route 17, which lets visitors take in a panorama of color that rolls down to Rangeley Lake and marches to the mountains beyond.

Photo Credit : Tristan Spinski

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Rangeley is the other Maine, the one that doesn’t get the same kind of overwhelming attention that the coast does. It’s the Maine of mountains and lakes—the Rangeley Lakes region alone has 112 bodies of water—not to mention vast swaths of hardwood forests, whose autumn brilliance still surprises people who have more than a few New England foliage seasons under their belt.

“I grew up in southern Maine, so I certainly wasn’t a stranger to the foliage,” says Travis Ferland, owner of the Rangeley Inn. “But when I came up here, it was something else entirely. It was like somebody had airbrushed the trees with extra color—as if the landscape had been Photoshopped.”

The Rangeley area boasts some of the most spectacular lakeside foliage views in Maine. Exhibit A: The vista at the Shelton Noyes Overlook off Route 17, which lets visitors take in a panorama of color that rolls down to Rangeley Lake and marches to the mountains beyond.
Photo Credit : Tristan Spinski

Rangeley has been making a big impression on visitors since the 1860s, when newspapers and magazines hailed it as the home of the largest brook trout in the country. The promise of those big fish combined with easy train travel brought tourists flocking here. Up went the big hotels, inns, and sporting camps. Pioneering anglers Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby and Carrie Stevens cemented Rangeley’s status as a premier outdoor getaway.

In the years since, the region has endured by expanding on its core identity. Fishing is still a draw, but so are the kayaking, moose watching, and float plane tours. There are mountains to climb, forest trails to meander, spectacular drives on which to get lost. A flurry of new restaurants and shops in the past few years may have dialed down the “wilderness” mystique a little, but it’s all those trees, lakes, and hills that tie the centuries together—and help make for an unforgettable autumn weekend away.


Plan your trip early enough, and you’ll have lodging options ranging from the 12-room Loon Lodge on Rangeley Lake, to Bald Mountain Camps in Oquossoc, to the Rangeley Inn & Tavern, one of the few remaining large hotels that once populated the region. First opened in 1909, the Rangeley Inn was saved in 2013 when Ferland bought it at auction and subsequently renovated nearly every square inch. The rooms aren’t large, but the main spaces feel grand, giving visitors a step back in time to Rangeley at the turn of the 20th century.

One of the 14 cozy cabins at Oquossoc’s Bald Mountain Camps, which got its start in the 1800s as a sportfishing camp on the shores of Mooselookmeguntic.
Photo Credit : Tristan Spinski

From the Rangeley Inn it’s a short trek to the village center for dinner, where old favorites and new destinations converge. Steak, pizza, and chili are the mainstays at the Red Onion, which has welcomed leaf peepers for half a century. Just a few doors down is the Furbish Brew House & Eats: Opened in 2019, it’s the realization of a dream for Chip Smith, a local landscaper and serious beer hobbyist, who with his wife, Beth, renovated this former Main Street mansion and B&B. The menu leans hard toward pub fare (wood-fired pizzas, barbecue, and, this being Maine, lobster rolls), while the half-dozen beers on tap cater to IPA fans. With its commanding views of the lake and the shoreline park across the street, it’s as fine a place as any to wrap up the day.


First, make a little time to explore downtown. Rangeley’s retail center is compact, with a strong lineup of locally owned shops. Get your Carhartt and North Face fix at Jannace’s Backwoods or the Alpine Shop, then step into Ecopelagicon, which sells and rents all kinds of recreational equipment to go along with your new outdoor duds. The Rangeley Region Sports Shop offers serious fishing equipment upgrades and expertise (inquire here about hiring a Registered Maine Guide to show you the area’s prime fishing spots).

Pack your own picnic or have a basket made for you at Classic Provisions, then treat yourself to some unparalleled leaf peeping. By foot, by plane, or by car—one of the charms of the Rangeley region is all the different ways you can get above the foliage.

Route 17’s famous Height of Land overlook is the most popular photo op, but you can snap equally stunning pictures at Quill Hill in nearby Dallas Plantation, which landowner Adrian Brochu opened to the public in 2013. The 12-minute drive to the top culminates in a panoramic view of the Rangeley region and, in the far distance, New Hampshire’s White Mountains. There are picnic tables for lunching, a wheelchair-accessible path, and a grill with free firewood. The suggested donation can be deposited in an old bank vault as you leave.

Photo ops abound on Quill Hill, an easy drive-to foliage destination near Rangeley that also offers a ¾-mile wheelchair-friendly path between its two scenic lookouts.
Photo Credit : Tristan Spinski

If Quill Hill’s 2,800 feet leaves you craving even more elevation, head back to Rangeley for an afternoon flight with Acadian Seaplanes. While pilot Keith Deschambeault offers several different tours, a favorite option is a 30-minute jaunt that buzzes over five of the region’s lakes and includes a flyover of historic Upper Dam, where Carrie Stevens perfected her Grey Ghost fly lure, still considered a gold standard in the fly fishing community.


Oquossoc Grocery—or the O.G., as locals affectionately call this superb little market—is a great stop for breakfast sandwiches and coffee. Then it’s on to the trailhead at nearby Bald Mountain. On prime autumn days the parking lot fills up quickly, as this short but challenging hike delivers a huge payoff. There are tremendous views of the nearby lakes, and a fire tower atop the summit offers increased elevation.

Local artist and alpaca farmer Jeff Seaberg immerses himself in a spectrum of seasonal color.
Photo Credit : Tristan Spinski

Your final destination in Rangeley before heading home might just be the most memorable. The Rangeley region is anchored by its past, a story that comes together best at the Outdoor Heritage Museum in Oquossoc. The institution tells a lively tale, one that begins with an original 1910 sporting cabin in the front entryway. From there, you can take in vivid displays of tree branch art; some 150 of Carrie Stevens’s flies; an 11-pound, 2-ounce mounted brook trout; and the desk that writer Louise Dickinson Rich used when she penned her 1942 Rangeley-set classic, We Took to the Woods.

It’s a story of what’s always brought people to this neck of the woods—and why they still keep coming back today.   —Ian Aldrich

For more ideas on where to go and what to do in the Rangeley region, visit