Rangeley Lake Maine: Where Wilderness and Comfort Meet

If you’re on the hunt for an outdoor getaway that offers both stunning natural beauty and a variety of recreational activities, Rangeley Lake in Maine should be high on your list. Located in the Western Mountains, this area captures the essence of Maine’s untamed landscape while providing all the amenities to make your stay memorable. From boating to hiking, here are some of the best things to do in Rangeley Lake, Maine.

Rangeley Lakes Maine has always been the darling of the “Sporting” set – those who love to hunt and fish (and now snowmobile). But even those who don’t feel the need to pick up a rifle or rod will find exhilarating landscapes, especially if you’re up here in the fall.

Rangeley Lake Sunset ME

Tour the home/research facility of a controversial mid-1900’s scientist, learn about the humungous trout that put this place on the map, and stay in one of the remaining Victorian Era hotels in the area, on this Rangeley Lakes Region getaway.

Rangeley ME Sign

And here’s a “Fun Fact: Rangeley ME is exactly halfway – 3,107 miles –  between the North Pole and the Equator!

Where Is Rangeley Lake Maine?

Rangeley Lake is situated in the Western Mountains of Maine, approximately 120 miles northwest of Portland ME and about 40 miles east of the New Hampshire border. The lake is part of a larger lake system that includes Mooselookmeguntic Lake and several smaller bodies of water, collectively known as the Rangeley Lakes.

Nestled amid rolling hills and dense forests, the area around Rangeley Lake serves as both a recreational hub and a tranquil retreat, attracting outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and those seeking a respite from the hustle and bustle. The nearby town of Rangeley adds a layer of convenience and charm, providing amenities and cultural attractions to complement the natural surroundings.

Looking for more weekend getaway inspirations? Check out our list of romantic getaways in New England.

Things to Do in Rangeley Lakes ME Rangeley Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum, Oquossoc ME

VISIT:  Outdoor Heritage Museum – Oquossoc

The Outdoor Heritage Museum opened in 2010 on the site of the former Oquassoc Railroad Station. This gem of a museum illustrates the appeal of this blessedly gorgeous region of Maine through its local guides.

Start your “tour” in an authentic outpost cabin owned by Leeman Wilcox, recreated with table set for dinner, birchbark ceiling, and, over the fireplace, the actual gun that killed the last of the state’s caribou in the early 1900’s.

In the cabin are a pair of antique “Bear Paw” snowshoes – a technology at least 5,000 years old introduced by Native Americans. There’s also an elongated megaphone used to call moose, which a docent will demonstrate. (It makes sense that these are now called “bullhorns” as they were used to mimic the sound of Bull Moose).

Rangely Lakes Antique Canoe

Rangeley Lake became a hotspot for fishermen when it was found to contain some of the largest brook trout in the world. New York industrialist, George Sheppard Page, who came to Rangeley to fish in 1877, caught eight 11 lb trout, took a picture of them, and changed the fishing world forever. He sent the photo to newspaper editors in New York.

Until then, fish experts believed Brook Trout grew to only nine pounds.  Consequently, this find blew that idea right out of the water (so to speak).

The railroad brought flocks of tourists to steamboat docks, and whole families would stay with locals who’d serve as guides. A whole tourist industry grew up around this newfound fame.

Cornelia Fly Rod Crosby, Rangeley Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum, ME

Fishing wasn’t completely a man’s domain. This region spawned some pretty incredible women, including Cornelia “Flyrod” Crosby – an avid writer, angler, and personal friend of Annie Oakley who was Maine’s very first Registered Guide.

Carrie Stevens, who many consider the “greatest fly tier that ever lived,” created flies so prized, that they are works of art that today command thousands of dollars. And one of the best wilderness authors, Louise Dickinson Rich, wrote We Took To The Woods, and other accounts of her time spent in the Maine Wilds.

You’ll learn about the intricacies of fly fishing – especially in the late 1800s when a bamboo fly rod cost a whopping $5. Fly fishing line was hand-woven with eight strands of silk (until 1895, when automated) and cost the king’s fortune of $15.

After WWII – the advent of better cars and a thirst for exploration had a deleterious effect on local tourism. No longer limited to trains and boats, tourists could jump in the car and go anywhere at anytime.

But a visit by Eisenhower to Rangeley in 1955 recharged interest for a while. You can watch rare “found” footage of his fly-fishing prowess in a great “Ike” exhibit. Currently, the area is reinventing itself as a four-season adventureland.

Of course, you can fish here, but snowmobilers love this region in the winter. And if you usually steer clear of museums, make it a point to visit this one. It’s that entertaining.

Orgone, Rangeley, ME

TOUR: Wilhelm Reich Museum – Oquossoc

I’ll come flat out and say it – this is one strange attraction, showcasing a very idiosyncratic personality. Wilhelm Reich was either a womanizing Mad Scientist or a Misunderstood Genius. My guess is that he was a bit of both. For sure, he’d have been blasted by the #MeToo movement.

You’ll find a tour of his Institute/Home in the Maine woods a mélange of “Lost,” “Masters of Sex,” with some Flash Gordon thrown in.

Sex-Pol Poster, Orgone, Rangeley ME

A bit of background. Although he claimed no religious affiliation, Reich was born in 1897 to a Jewish family in what is now Ukraine.

He attended Medical School in Vienna, was a student of and then worked with Sigmund Freud, joined the Socialist Communist Party promoting sexual freedom and reproductive rights for women, opposed Hitler and the Nazi Party, moved to Norway where he began a series of experiments searching for energy relating to emotions and sexual release (what he coined “Orgone,” derived from Orgasm), moved to Forest Hills, NY in the late 1930’s to continue his work, taught at the New School for Social Research, moved to Oquossoc Maine to set up a research lab and observatory he called Orgonon, and continued his unorthodox experiments through the ‘40’s.

In the early 50’s, Reich was “smeared” (his words) by an article in New Republic Magazine. The article decried his use of “Orgone Accumulator” boxes to cure cancer, though he never claimed it did. Reich wrote, “I am not offering any final solutions, but submitting a report of my findings, even though they are punctuated by gaps, doubt, and uncertainties.” He died in jail at age 60 of heart failure.
Orgone roof, Rangeley ME

Was Reich a man ahead of his time? He led the Sexual Political Movement in Oslo in the 1920’s, advocating for a woman’s right to safe abortions and uninhibited sex (splitting with Freud on this issue).

He explored the theory of electrical impulses in the human body and studied weather manipulation. But he was also seen as a Svengali – carrying on affairs with research assistants while married. Multiple times. And with his “cancer treatments,” he drew the ire of the FDA.

A visit to his Institute, now a museum, begins with a 30-minute movie about Reich’s life and work followed by a tour. Visit the lab full of objects Reich invented, including one of the Orgone Accumulators, a pre-cursor to a lie detector machine, and a “Cloud Buster” used to draw energy from the air to reseed clouds elsewhere.

Sex And Disease

Sexual release featured prominently in Reich’s work. The function of orgasm was to discharge negative energy in the body. Pent up, it led to disease, or so he believed. Informational signs throughout the lab provide a deeper dive into Reich’s experiments. A tour includes the art-studded office where he researched and slept.

Wilheim Reich Office at Orgone, Rangeley ME

The building itself, a boxy modernist stone structure designed and built by James Bell in 1948, is on the National Register of Historic Places. You’ll find it off of the dirt Dodge Pond Road .4 miles from Route 4. The white house you first see is merely the Program Center. You must drive up a steep driveway, through gates, to get to Orgonon itself. 

Height of Land Overlook, Route 17, ME

STOP: Height of the Land Overlook on Route 17

Travel south on Route 17, The Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway, a few miles to one of the most splendiferous overlooks in the world. No lie. It is stunning in every season, but most breathtaking in the fall.

Restaurants in Rangeley Lakes ME
EAT: Parkside & Main

Located in the heart of Rangeley, Parkside & Main offers a mix of traditional New England fare and contemporary American cuisine. With its relaxed setting and views of the nearby park, the restaurant is a favorite spot for enjoying locally sourced seafood and a selection of craft beers.

EAT: The Rangeley Tavern

The Rangeley Tavern, located at the Rangeley Inn, serves outstanding food. In the morning, a Continental Breakfast is served in a soaring magenta “event” room.

EAT: Furbish Brewhouse & Eats

The Furbish Brewhouse in Rangeley Lakes is a local microbrewery and pub that has quickly become a gathering spot for both residents and visitors. Featuring an assortment of craft beers brewed on-site, the establishment offers a cozy, rustic atmosphere that complements the natural beauty of the surrounding area. With its focus on quality and local ingredients, Furbish Brewhouse provides a unique, laid-back setting for enjoying a pint after a day of outdoor adventures.

Rangeley Lake Maine Hotels

The Rangely Inn ME

STAY: Rangeley Inn

This hotel, built in 1897, is one of the only remaining Victorian Age lodgings that peppered the area when city residents came to the Maine Lakes Region for the summer. Rooms are not exactly “luxe,” but comfy and clean. Décor reflects turn of last century with upscale amenities and updated bathrooms.

STAY: Rangeley Lake Resort

Nestled in the heart of Maine’s Western Mountains, the Rangeley Resort is a haven for those seeking the quintessential New England experience. With the stunning Rangeley Lakes at its doorstep and the Appalachian Trail running nearby, the resort serves as a gateway to an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Whether it’s fishing for brook trout, hiking through lush forests, or taking on the slopes during the winter season, the range of outdoor activities is virtually endless here.

The resort itself offers an eclectic blend of comfort and rustic charm, capturing the spirit of Maine’s mountainous landscape. Accommodations range from cozy cabins to luxurious lodges, all thoughtfully designed to offer scenic lake or mountain views. The on-site amenities further elevate the stay, including a spa for those seeking relaxation, and dining options that celebrate local produce and culinary traditions.

For visitors who manage to tear themselves away from the captivating natural surroundings, the nearby town of Rangeley adds a dose of small-town charm with its artisan shops and local history. All in all, Rangeley Resort offers a comprehensive vacation experience that effortlessly combines outdoor adventure with relaxation and culture.

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  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine, Shape.com, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.

4 thoughts on “Rangeley Lake Maine: Where Wilderness and Comfort Meet”

  1. Hi Valen – Yes it was. I wish I could have had more meals there! You’ve got a great blog as well. I love eating the best food around the world! Thanks for reading and commenting –

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