The beautiful mountain village of Bethel in western Maine goes back to the days of the British colonies, and, even further back, it was an Abenaki settlement. Today, it’s a charming resort town 1.5 hours from Portland, a lovely place for an overnight at a bed and breakfast or inn, whether you’re drawn to outdoor adventures in the mountains or fine dining, antiquing and shopping.
Sunday River Ski Resort is just five miles away in Newry, and with eight mountain peaks and 131 trails, it’s one of the most popular winter sports areas in Maine. Bethel welcomes skiers and other winter sportsmen with an abundance of restaurants and one-of-a-kind shops and studios. And there’s plenty to do, even before the snow flies.
October is prime hiking season, and Bethel is a hiker’s dream, within short distances of White Mountain National Forest and the Appalachian Trail. For shorter treks, explore Grafton Notch State Park (1941 Bear River Road, Bethel), which has hiking trails, caves and spectacular views of waterfalls, or hike the 3.2-mile loop Mount Will Trail in Bethel/Newry (mainetrailfinder.com). If you’re less adventurous, try the Historic Bethel Village “trail.” This 1.9-mile paved walk will take you past sites and architectural structures from the 1770s to 1920s.
Bethel Outdoor Adventure and Campground can get you—or the whole family—out on the water with a canoe, kayak, paddleboard or fishing adventure (121 Mayville Road, 207–824–4224). They also offer mineral and gem sluices from a Western Maine mine through Columbus Day (and maybe later, depending on the weather). Rockhounding is popular in this area, and there’s a new Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in downtown Bethel (99 Main St.), open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Sunday. Nearby restaurants include the Funky Red Barn (prime rib and seafood at 19 Summer St.), DiCocoa’s Café (bagel sandwiches and baked goods at 119 Main St.) and Cho Sun (sushi and Korean food at 141 Main St.).
Sunday River hosts its Fall Festival the weekend of Oct. 6–7, with highlights including the 20th annual North American Wife Carrying Championship (the ultimate test of both your relationship and your stamina) on Saturday and the fifth annual New England Corn Hole Championship on Sunday. There will be live music, a Sunday Bloody Sunday tent devoted to all things Bloody Mary, skydiving and scenic chairlift rides to the Peak Lodge in peak fall foliage (sundayriver.com). Come back to Sunday River on Dec. 2 to see 250 Santas skiing and snowboarding down to South Ridge as part of a memorable fundraiser for the Sunday River Community Fund.
Amy Paradysz is a writer, editor and photographer who lives in Scarborough.