Skip to main content

Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway - Maine

 



Bringing you to some of the most gorgeous scenery in northwestern Maine is the the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway. Along the way, there are stunning views of Rangeley and Mooselookmeguntic Lakes and fine views of the nearby forested mountains, circling around the region in a sideways C pattern. Utilizing ME 17 and ME 4 from Mexico, Maine to Smalls Falls, southeast of Rangeley, a grand total of 51.75 miles makes up the drive as a Maine scenic byway, of which 35.6 miles make up the national scenic byway. There are a number of scenic overlooks along the way, with the jewel of the crown being the famous Height of Land viewpoint on ME 17 south of Rangeley.

The Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway meanders its way through a region that was settled by a small number of hardy pioneers in the early 19th Century. Rugged and remote, this region grew slowly. During this early period of settlement, the land sustained about a dozen family farms and lumber mills throughout the first half of the century. However, during the 1860s, the small community of Rangeley began to change when vacationers starting coming in from cities along the Eastern Seaboard. As word spread about the unparalleled fishing opportunities for ten to twelve pound brook trout and the unspoiled beauty of the region, large numbers of anglers and their families started to make an annual trek to the region. It was in Rangeley where the concept of "catch and release" was first pioneered and the adoption of fishing seasons first took hold. By 1925, the Rangeley Lakes region had become a premier destination resort area that attracted visitors from all corners of the United States, including Presidents.

While travel and leisure habits have changed and many of the grand resorts are no longer in business, we now have a great scenic byway that can take us to these treasures that the vacationers of yore enjoyed. The Rangeley Lakes are is still popular with outdoorspeople and there are plenty of people who have second homes in the area. Just west of Rangeley is the Wilhelm Reich Museum, devoted to the controversial Austrian psychotherapist and scientist Wilhelm Reich, who had a home and laboratory here. The famed Appalachian Trail crosses the scenic byway in two locations, offering thru hikers chances to check out the views the byway has to offer along their journey. You'll still find plenty of people boating and fishing as well. Here, we will take the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway in a clockwise fashion, starting at the mill town of Mexico, Maine.

Heading westbound on ME 17 in Mexico, although the highway heads mostly north and south between Mexico and the Rangeley area.

Leaving Mexico, some hills start coming into view.

ME 120 parallels ME 17 on the west side of the Swift River. The Swift River offers a good challenge for experienced canoeists and kayakers (with class I-III white water) and is known for its scenic, natural, and recreational splendor.

Continuing north towards the towns of Roxbury and Byron.


Named for British poet Lord Byron, we have arrived in Byron, Maine, home of Coos Canyon. Here we have the one room Coos Canyon School, which also hosts the town's annual meeting.

There is a roadside pulloff for Coos Canyon, which I feel is well worth the stop. There are a few small waterfalls, some interesting geologic features and this area is popular for gold panning as well.







Back on the road. ME 17 follows the Swift River for a distance, before peeling off to climb in elevation towards the Height of Land.






Looking towards the Western Maine Mountains, part of the Longfellow Mountains. Some of the mountains you may encounter hiking in this area include Bemis Mountain and Elephant Mountain.


Bleak and blurry amongst the clouds.


Mooselookmeguntic Lake (an Indian word meaning "portage to the moose feeding place"), Maine's second largest lake. This is the view from the Height of Land, considered one of the top scenic overlooks in all of New England, with views of the lake, forests, and mountains. The Appalachian Trail crosses the byway here.

This is why we take road trips.

The Height of Land measures up as a scenic overlook.

Back on the road, we continue north on ME 17 on our way to another scenic overlook.

The Sheldon Noyes Overlook, providing great views of Rangeley Lake. On a clear day, you should be able to see the mountains in the distance, such as Saddleback Mountain.




Starting to make our descent into Oquossoc, a small hamlet at the end of ME 17.

ME 17 ends. We're a long way from ME 17's other end at US 1 in Rockland, Maine. ME 17 also goes through the capital city of Augusta during its journey.

The Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway turns right here. However, we're going to make a quick detour to the left.

ME 4 also ends in the area. ME 4 is a north-south highway that goes through Farmington, Auburn and Lewiston on its way to far southern Maine at the Piscataqua River in South Berwick.

ME 4 ends at the boat landing at Haines Landing, on Mooselookmeguntic Lake. From Haines Landing, you can also continue south a short distance to Bald Mountain, and take the hike up to its observation tower, affording even more views of the area's lakes and mountains.




Back to the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway. Let's continue on ME 4.

Oquossoc Union Church. I am digging the rustic architecture.

ME 16 joins the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway for a few miles. ME 16 comes to us from the White Mountains of New Hampshire. After ME 16 ventures off on its own again after Rangeley, it passes by the Carrabassett Valley and Dover-Foxcroft on its way to the Penobscot River town of Orono, home of the University of Maine.

It is a scenic, rolling stretch of road on the way to Rangeley.


ME 16 parts ways with ME 4 as we enter Rangeley. 

Rangeley, Maine was named after James Rangeley. In 1796, four investors, including Philadelphian James Rangeley, Sr., purchased nearly 31,000 acres of land in the western mountains of Maine for timber and mineral rights. When James Rangeley, Sr., died, his son inherited the land and bought out the remaining partners. James, Jr., and his family decided to make this wild place their home. Later, the area was officially renamed Rangeley, and by 1840, the population of Rangeley had increased to 39 families.

View of Rangeley Lake from the Whip Willow Overlook on ME 4.

This must be a great place to watch a sunset.

Continuing south on ME 4 as we start to follow the Sandy River.

Watch out for moose!


Smalls Falls, a 54 foot waterfall along the Sandy River.

The Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway ends here at Smalls Falls. There is a roadside picnic area and a few small trails where you can enjoy the surrounding scenery and give yourself a pat on the pack for driving such an awesome road.


How to Get There:



Sources and Links:
Maine Department of Transportation - Maine's Scenic Byways (PDF)
Federal Highway Administration - Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway
Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust - Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway
How Stuff Works - Maine Scenic Drives: Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway
National Scenic Byway Foundation - Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Dummy Lights of New York

  A relic of the early days of motoring, dummy lights were traffic lights  that  were  placed  in the middle of a street intersection. In those early days, traffic shuffled through busy intersections with the help of a police officer who stood on top of a pedestal. As technology improved and electric traffic signals became commonplace, they were also  originally  positioned on a platform at the center of the intersection. Those traffic signals became known as  " dummy lights "  and were common until  traffic lights were moved  onto wires and poles that crossed above the intersection.  In New York State, only a handful of these dummy lights exist. The dummy lights  are found  in the Hudson Valley towns of Beacon and Croton-on-Hudson, plus there is an ongoing tug of war in Canajoharie in the Mohawk Valley, where their dummy light has been knocked down and replaced a few times. The dummy light in Canajoharie is currently out of commission, but popular demand has caused the dummy

Colorado Road (Fresno County)

Colorado Road is a rural highway located in San Joaquin Valley of western Fresno County.  Colorado Road services the city of San Joaquin in addition the unincorporated communities of Helm and Tranquility.  Colorado Road was constructed between 1910 and 1912 as a frontage road of the Hanford & Summit Lake Railway.  The roadway begins at California State Route 145 near Helm and terminates to the west at James Road in Tranquility.   Part 1; the history of Colorado Road Colorado Road was constructed as frontage road connecting the sidings of the Hanford & Summit Lake Railway.  The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway spanned from South Pacific Railroad West Side Line at Ingle junction southeast to the Coalinga Branch at Armona.  The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway broke ground during August 1910 and was complete by April 1912. The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway established numerous new sidings.  From Ingle the sidings of the line were Tranquility, Graham, San Joaquin, Caldwell, H

Madera County Road 400 and the 1882-1886 Yosemite Stage Road

Madera County Road 400 is an approximately twenty-four-mile roadway following the course of the Fresno River in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Road 400 begins at California State Route 145 near Madera and terminates to the north at Road 415 near Coarsegold.  Traditionally Road 400 was known as "River Road" prior to Madera County dropping naming conventions on county highways.  Road 400 was part of the original Yosemite Stage Route by the Washburn Brothers which began in 1882.  The Yosemite Stage Route would be realigned to the west in 1886 along what is now Road 600 to a rail terminus in Raymond.  Parts of Road 400 were realigned in 1974 to make way for the Hensley Lake Reservoir.  Part 1; the history of Madera County Road 400 Road 400 is historically tied to the Wawona Road and Hotel.  The Wawona Hotel is located near the Mariposa Grove in the modern southern extent of Yosemite National Park.   The origins of the Wawona Road are tied to the Wawona Hotel but it does predate th