Summer Escapes! The Great(est) Lakes

Testing the waters across New England, we uncover nine beauties worth their salt—or lack thereof.



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

Photograph by Bob O'Connor

Photograph by Bob O’Connor


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,

EAT: The restaurant at Loon Lodge serves simple gourmet American cuisine (16 Pickford Rd., Rangeley, 207-864-5666,, while the kid-friendly Red Onion makes a Reuben pizza that sounds weird, tastes great (2515 Main St., Rangeley, 207-864-5022,

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, Those who prefer beds to sleeping bags should reserve a lake-view room at the aforementioned Loon Lodge (call for rates).

  • sue

    Rented a cabin there last year, and had a wonderful time. Breathtaking lake. Look at craigslist vermont for some great cottage rentals.

  • Stu

    The lake is breath taking and certainly should be at the top of any list to visit. NH, the country's best kept secret.

  • Karen

    A wonderful place to visit! Have stayed at the Newcastle Inn. The environs and view are amazing, and the hospitality is unmatched!

  • Anonymous

    Sad to see clean, cold Newfound Lake in NH not on the list.$129,900.00&t=&fcla=1

  • Enzo

    I don't think that Cow Island is secluded or quiet. The last time I went past that island in my glastron foreflite, we were hit by hot dog fragments from some camp which had an impromptu hot dog cannon aimed out over the lake. When we got closer to the island to try and see what was going on we came across a 20ft high bonfire with black smoke and about 40 men running around swearing and throwing bag of gasoline around wily nily. One skinny guy had NO CLOTHES on. That island is far from secluded and peaceful. Don't look for any R & R there. Just Stay Away!

  • Chris

    Man from Camp is trying to keep our little Island paradise a secret!!! ha ha ha

  • Anonymous

    The Hot Dogs on Cow Island are the best..not to mention the free entertainment! Will have to go back since we missed the skinny guy that had no clothes on….

  • Rob

    Diving around Cow Island is a real treat! Who knew there would be so much candy at the bottom of the Lake.

  • Chris

    It's the neighbors on Cow Island that make it such a horrible place to live. Such immature behavior! Makes me want to put my house on the market! Hot Dog Cannon NOT INCLUDED in the sale price!

  • Walt

    Cow Island is not the only island that is quiet and secluded. All its neighboring islands, Little Bear, Dow, Wortleberry, et al are places with sparse development density and nice people. Very few of the island cottages are rentals so if you find one, its a good place to be.

  • Rick

    there are plenty of places at or near Long Lake to get a great sandwich, not to mention downtown Plymouth

  • Don

    In operation for 14 years. The best portal to New England's best lake.

  • Paul

    A marvelous resource of information

  • Mary

    I hope Heaven is like Winnipesaukee!!!