Western Maine in detail

Self-Guided Tours

Driving Tour: Grafton Notch Scenic Byway

  • Start Newry
  • End Upton
  • Length 21 miles; three hours

In the western fringe of the state, this scenic drive follows the Bear River, which winds its way through a rugged mountain valley. Despite the short distance, there are loads of attractions, including waterfalls, mountain streams and dramatic bluffs, with the Mahoosuc Range looming overhead. The road bisects Grafton Notch State Park, which is where most of the highlights are found.

Begin in the small settlement of Newry, just under 7 miles north of Bethel. Look for the sign on the left to Screw Auger Falls, around 9 miles from Newry. Here you can take a short stroll to the 23ft waterfall, which descends down ledges, and over pools in a narrow gorge of the Bear River. This is a popular local picnic spot and swimming hole on hot days.

Another mile up the road is the Mother Walker Falls. This V-shaped gorge (also on the Bear River) stretches for nearly 1000ft, with a series of cascades descending over the broken boulders. Less than a mile further along is Moose Cave, with a short trail leading down to a gorge carved right through granite by melting glacial waters. Be mindful of the slippery rocks: the site is named after an unlucky moose that lost its footing and fell into the gorge. The trail loops back via a lush and moss-covered forest.

Keep driving another mile, and you'll pass a pullout for trailheads leading off both sides of the road. Keep an eye out for hikers, as the Appalachian Trail crosses right over the road. It's less than 10 miles further to reach Upton, though you can also cross into New Hampshire, and have a look at pretty Umbagog Lake State Park just on the other side. There you can go swimming, canoeing, camping or wildlife-watching – you might get lucky and see a moose.

And if you're still not ready to call it a day, you can tack on a visit to the pretty Sunday River Covered Bridge, located 6 miles east of Newry.