Summer Escapes! The Great(est) Lakes
Testing the waters across New England, we uncover nine beauties worth their salt—or lack thereof.
RANGELEY LAKE: The Wild One
Sherbety sunsets! Moose on the loose! Little miss wood chip!
Dazzling sunsets are reason enough to visit Rangeley, one of a cluster of lakes and rivers found in the hilly northwest corner of Maine. The fishing’s not bad, either: For trout, it doesn’t get much better than this, and the illustrious Gray Ghost fishing tie was even invented by a local. But it’s the chance to commune with four-legged fauna that’s the main draw for city folk who travel to the Rangeley Lakes Region. “Most who come here are anticipating seeing a moose, and if they don’t, they’ll come in asking where they can find one,” says Wess Connally, proprietor of Books, Lines & Thinkers, a bookstore in the town of Rangeley, which borders the lake to the north and east. They’re rarely disappointed. Moose occasionally wander through this hamlet, even in July and August, when its population balloons with seasonal visitors, including Weimaraner-obsessed photographer William Wegman and Toscanini’s owner Gus Rancatore. The town fills its summers with events that reflect its woodsy heritage. The Logging Museum Festival in July, for example, features an event called “the burying of the bean-hole beans” and the crowning of Little Miss Wood Chip. —Carmen Nobel
DIMENSIONS 6,000 acres | DEEPEST POINT 149 feet | WATER QUALITY Cool, crystalline, and well oxygenated (meaning it’s full of, but doesn’t smell like, fish) | AQUATIC LIFE Brown trout, salmon | CRITTERS Bald eagles, black bears, foxes, herons, loons, moose, ospreys | OFF-LAKE ACTION Wilderness movie night; logging-lore immersion
PLAY: Explore (carefully) the stretch of Route 16 that runs between the towns of Stratton and Rangeley, called Moose Alley for good reason. Take the hourlong hike up Bald Mountain for panoramic views of Rangeley Lake; way-more-fun-to-say Mooselookmeguntic Lake is also visible from the summit (trailhead off Bald Mountain Road, Oquossoc). On a clear night, soak up the sunset from any overlook on Rangeley’s Dallas Hill Road. The single-screen Lakeside Theater shows independent films—although it has a metal roof, so things can get interesting during a rainstorm (2493 Main St., Rangeley, 207-864-5000, rangeleymovies.com).
EAT: The restaurant at Loon Lodge serves simple gourmet American cuisine (16 Pickford Rd., Rangeley, 207-864-5666, loonlodgeme.com), while the kid-friendly Red Onion makes a Reuben pizza that sounds weird, tastes great (2515 Main St., Rangeley, 207-864-5022, rangeleyredonion.com).
SLEEP: The campground at the 869-acre Rangeley Lake State Park has waterfront sites and actual bathrooms with hot showers ($28.75 per night; South Shore Drive, Rangeley, 207-864-3858, campwithme.com). Those who prefer beds to sleeping bags should reserve a lake-view room at the aforementioned Loon Lodge (call for rates).