Autumnal Oasis

Grafton Notch State Park offers beautiful foliage views for hikers of all skill levels

Visitors to Grafton Notch State Park in October are greeted with canopies of red, orange, and yellow, signaling the beauty that lies farther up the mountains. The 3,100-acre park, located in Grafton Township in western Maine, is home to some of the best hiking vistas for foliage in the state.

Tim Healy, the manager of the state park,
 recommends leaf peepers visit during the
 first and second weeks of October to see 
the brightest foliage. October weather 
in Maine can be unpredictable, however,
 and it’s not unusual for Grafton Notch to 
see some snow. Hikers should dress in
layers to keep warm and wear boots with
 good traction. The park is open year-round, but rangers are at the park only during its May 15 to October 15 season.

The various trails within the park are accessible from Route 26. Healy recommends one of the shorter trails: Table Rock, a 2.4-mile loop up Old Speck Mountain that takes about two hours to complete. “It’s probably the best view you can get on a short hike,” he says. Another loop trail, the Eyebrow, is very slightly shorter but much more challenging, taking two to three hours to complete. That trail, which also goes up Old Speck, includes iron rungs and cables to hold onto along some parts, making it unsuitable for dogs and small children. Healy suggests that hikers climbing the Eyebrow take the orange trail up so they are climbing up the rungs instead of down them.

More seasoned hikers can trek up the 7.6-mile Old Speck Trail to the top of Old Speck Mountain. According to Healy, the hike is challenging simply because it’s so long: it takes about seven hours. The peak is forested, but there’s a viewing platform hikers can climb to get a great view of the foliage. The presidential mountain range in New Hampshire is visible from the top.

A hike up Baldpate Mountain is another challenge, but a rewarding one. There are two trails to choose from: the 5.8-mile hike up the west peak or the 7.6-mile trail to the east peak. Healy suggests the latter for those looking to see amazing fall colors. “The view from East Baldpate is outstanding if you have good weather,” he says.