If you're wondering where Oxford County is, I'll start there. This mountainous region of western Maine is bordered by NH to the west and Quebec, Canada to the north. The Appalachian Trail, Grafton Notch State Park, the White Mountains, and endless rivers/lakes can be found in this part of our glorious state.
Last week, Henry and I did some exploring around Coos Canyon, located in Byron. We also did some camping here, but the campground was...meh, so I won't even mention it. I will mention, that if you're able to reserve a camp site, week of, in August, in Maine, there is probably a large, red flag waving somewhere close to your face. Sometimes my enthusiasm and spontaneous nature get the best of me and logic goes out the window. The good news, this area is an easy day trip at less than 2 hours from Portland, so I would recommend that. I would also recommend staying somewhere on Rangeley Lake (1/2 an hour from Coos) or in Bethel (less than an hour), both are great places to visit with kids - or without.
Back to Coos Canyon. Located along the Swift River, this gorgeous swimming gorge can be easily accessed by the roadside Coos Canyon Rest Area. The canyon includes cliffs to jump from, waterfalls, smooth curving rocks, and pools of deep water. For my thrill seekers, be sure to jump with someone who knows the gorge. Or check in with the owner of the Coos Canyon Rock and Gift shop across the street from the rest area. She seems to know what's up when it comes to safely swimming this area. While there, you can also rent equipment to pan for gold, a popular activity along this river.
I was so distracted by all of the activity at this incredible spot, that I only took a few pictures. So, you can find some great ones here: https://seeswim.com/location/coos-canyon/
On our second day in Byron, we decided to visit Angel Falls, which is only a 15 minute drive from Coos Canyon. This place, was such a shocking surprise! We literally picked it off of a list of places to visit near the Canyon (from the back of the campground map) and I felt like we struck gold. I will just go ahead and share the pictures, which will give you an idea:
My cell phone did not work in Byron, so we were forced to rely on a small square of typed directions to Angel Falls that we picked up at the Rock and Gift Shop. Although we eventually found this magical destination, I am going to share some more detailed directions with you. I will also suggest printing them before you leave home, since you will likely not have cell service either:
Directions to Angel Falls: From Coos Canyon, follow Rt. 17 west for 4 miles. Turn left onto a dirt road at the end of a long field (you will see a mailbox and a wooden bridge at the start). Follow this road 3.5 miles to a dirt road on the left. There is a sign for Angel Falls on the tree just to the right of the entrance to this dirt road. Follow this road to the large graffiti rock at the bottom of the hill and park your car. You will see a small path in the woods near the rock that leads down to a stream (at the fork in the path, stay left). Cross the stream and go left on the other side. This trail will soon bring you to a wider dirt trail that includes clearly marked red blazes to guide your way. Go right up the hill, following the blazes to another stream. The red blazes will take you back and forth across the stream several times. Deciding which river rocks to step across was actually one of my favorite aspects of this hike, giving us a bit of a challenge and sense of adventure! Make sure you wear shoes that can get wet and have some grip on the bottom - the rocks were slippery at times. Keep following the blazes until you get to the falls. You will hear them well before they are visible! The entire ascent took us only about 45 minutes, but you'll want to save some time to hang out at the falls.
On our way home, we stopped by for a swim at Ellis Pond, also known as Silver Lake. This glacial lake in Roxbury offers clean, warm water with mountain views. We parked at a small public beach and only saw two other people here. At only 20 minutes from Coos Canyon, this is certainly a stop to add to your itinerary.
We barely skimmed the surface of places to explore in Oxford County, but we will return, and will of course, share our discoveries with you. My biggest lessons from this trip are:
1. always bring a paper map and 2. check reviews on campgrounds before booking. Lastly, camping in a less than ideal campground is still better than not camping...and helps you to appreciate all of the campgrounds you do know and love.