Traveling has always been one of my passions. The world is full of fascinating places and cultures and I hope to see as much of it as I can.
Bethel is a rural village located in west-central Maine on the Androscoggin River. Its picturesque landscape and abundance of outdoor activities make it a popular destination for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life for the great outdoors. The village center is small and walkable with a smattering of restaurants, B&Bs, and the historic Bethel Inn Resort right off the town green. Bethel is located just six miles from the Sunday River Ski Resort so there are plenty of winter activities in the area as well.
We spent a week here in late September for a family reunion and found plenty of outdoor recreation to keep us busy. Throw in a few unique museums, an abundance of hiking options, plenty of waterfalls, a couple of covered bridges, and numerous scenic drives, and it was an enjoyable week away.
If you’re staying in Bethel, a great place for a morning walk, run, or bike ride is the Bethel Pathway. The 1.7-mile path takes you over the Androscoggin River and even through a miniature covered bridge. The path is safe, mostly flat, scenic, and even has benches along the way should you need a break. It is a picturesque way to start your day and there is even a skate park and playground along the path at Davis Park for kids to enjoy.
Maine Mineral and Gem Museum
The Maine Mineral and Gem Museum is the crown jewel of Bethel and offers visitors a fascinating look at the unique geology of this region of Maine. They have a world-class collection of meteorites from the moon, mars, and the asteroid belt including the five largest pieces of the moon here on earth. This area of Maine is known for its deposits of gem tourmaline and the museum contains some stunning pieces mined locally. With its rock garden located right out front you can’t miss this interesting and educational museum located right on Main Street in the heart of Bethel.
Screw Auger Falls
Located about 20 minutes north of Bethel is a beautiful set of waterfalls called Screw Auger Falls. There is plenty of parking and it’s just a short walk from the parking lot to the falls. The 23-foot waterfall is in a narrow gorge of the Bear River and offers a scenic and serene spot for a picnic or short hike. Just above the falls is a quiet area with large flat stones for chilling and pools for a quick dip to cool off during the heat of summer.
Moose Cave Gorge
Just up Route 26 from Screw Auger Falls is another interesting stop called Moose Cave Gorge. The .25-mile loop trail takes you into the 600-foot-long gorge carved by the Bear River, and the hole where an unlucky moose slipped and fell into the hole thus giving the cave its name. The trail also takes you through an area covered with reindeer moss, which is a species of lichen that survives here in the moist, cool forests of northern New England.
Table Rock Trail
Just a short skip up Route 26 from Moose Cave is the trailhead that will take you to Table Rock. This challenging 2.4-mile loop trail will take you to a beautiful vista overlooking Grafton Notch State Park. The trail does have sections with large boulders so be careful. On our visit we didn’t make it to the top as it started to rain, and the rocks became quite slippery, but on a nice day the views from Table Rock are impressive.
Sunday River Covered Bridge
Just seven miles north of Bethel is one of Maine’s most historic covered bridges. The Sunday River Bridge was built in 1872, and although closed to traffic today, it still offers visitors a chance to examine the craftsmanship that went into constructing these monuments to a bygone era. Known as the Artist’s Bridge, it measures 87 feet in length over the Sunday River and is a popular spot for wedding photos, picnics, and swimming in the river.
Lovejoy Covered Bridge
Still in use today is Maine’s shortest covered bridge, the Lovejoy Bridge, located in Andover. Stretching just 70 feet over the Ellis River this bridge is in a somewhat remote area, and is one of only nine covered bridges remaining in the state of Maine. Constructed in 1867, the bridge is listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1970.
Gorham, New Hampshire
Gorham is located about 30 minutes west of Bethel just across the border with New Hampshire. It’s a quaint New England community and with the Appalachian Trail running right through the town it draws lots of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. We spent an afternoon walking the town and discovered the Gorham Historical Society and Railroad Museum. It’s an interesting look at the history of Gorham and the impact railroads have had on the region. Two of the boxcars on display have been converted into walk through exhibits and one of them contains a sizable model railroad that was up and running on our visit.
If you’re looking to do a little shopping while in Gorham stop by the Scoggins General Store. This locally owned and operated store offers all kinds of great locally produced goods and unique gifts, and really does have something for everyone. We found it a fascinating place to browse and picked up a few gift items to bring home with us. The owners work the store and are more than happy to share their knowledge of the area with you.
And if old doors and Italian food interest you, stop by Nonna’s Kitchen, located on historic Exchange Street. While we didn’t get to sample any of Nonna’s tasty Italian food, they were closed, we did discover a bunch of neat old doors in the driveway just to the right of the restaurant. We’ll have to return someday to ask about the significance of the old doors, and to try what reviews say is the best Italian food In the area.
Red Barn Museum
At the foot of Mount Washington is an interesting museum that highlights the over 150 years of history of the Mount Washington Auto Road. From the days of horse drawn carriages taking visitors on the 7-hour roundtrip journey to today when athletes race up the mountain, the museum covers it all. The Red Barn has several vehicles in mint condition on display that have taken visitors to the top of the mountain and the docent will entertain you with stories of the mountain and auto road.
Mount Washington Base Lodge
Right next to the Red Barn Museum is the Mount Washington Base Lodge. It contains a few displays highlighting the wildlife of the region and some neat historical photos to view in addition to a gift shop and café. If you want to book a ride to the top of Mount Washington, you can do that here also. And be sure to step out onto the large deck that faces the mountain for a stunning view of the Presidential Range.
Mount Washington Auto Road
If you have a desire to get to the top of Mount Washington there are a few options available to you. You can drive your vehicle to the top on the Mount Washington Auto Road and earn one of those coveted bumper stickers. Shuttle tours are also available which lets someone else do the driving so you can enjoy the view while not driving off a cliff. And then there is the historic Cog Railway, which sounds like a fun way to get to the top. The auto road is located on the east side of the mountain on Route 16 while the Cog Railway is located on the west side of the mountain at the end of Base Station Road.
Glen Ellis Waterfall
Just a few miles down the road from the Red Barn Museum is the stunning Glen Ellis Waterfall. Located right off Route 16, it’s a short hike to the Ellis River and the 64-foot waterfall. The video below is the upper part of the waterfall. To get to the view in the photo at the bottom of the falls requires traversing 185 steps. If this is physically possible for you it is worth the effort. The Glen Ellis Waterfall is a great stop if you’re in the area and will only take 30 to 45 minutes of your time.
- Red Barn Museum
- Mount Washington Auto Road
- Maine Mineral and Gem Museum
- Sunday River Bridge
- Lovejoy Covered Bridge
© 2022 Bill De Giulio