The small and quaint town of Bethel, Maine, is barely there, with the pine trees far outnumbering the far-apart houses.
But make no mistake—this place is one of the best-kept secrets in this part of the state.
The mountain destination has a sparse population that just exceeds 2,600 in all, but the community spirit is alive and thriving.
These people serve as the caretakers of Bethel’s vast natural landscapes, which include mountains, rivers, slopes, and valleys.
Because of these features, the town has become a one-of-a-kind destination open all season.
So whether it’s in the middle of summer or winter, there’s something exciting to try here.
Make this charming place your top choice for a thrilling weekend outdoors!
Here are the 15 best things to do in Bethel, ME:
Play a Few Rounds of Golf at The Bethel Inn Resort
For those who have money to spare, The Bethel Inn Resort is a top-notch attraction that can also serve as your accommodation during your Bethel trip.
This destination is a classic New England attraction offering an array of activities, whatever the season may be.
During winter, the resort holds skiing tours that bring you to nearby trails and facilities within Bethel.
Cross-country skiing is highly recommended, especially since the resort is part of the Inland Woods and Trails, Bethel’s trail management organization.
When summer comes, the 18-hole golf course opens for beginners and professionals alike.
It’s a historic course that has been around since 1916 and is actually how Bethel Inn Resort began.
Don’t forget to try the savory dishes offered at The Millbrook Tavern & Terrace, the resort’s own dining facility.
Marvel at the Precious Sontes of Maine Mineral and Gem Museum
The state of Maine has a colorful history with mining—literally—as it is the site of many notable precious stone discoveries.
This mineralogy heritage is preserved and showcased at the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum.
So if you’re a budding geology enthusiast or simply appreciate fine pieces of rock, then this should be the first place you visit.
The most prominent attractions in the museum are the displays of mineral and rock collections mined from various regions of the state.
While marveling at the expansive collection, try spotting the red and green tourmaline, which is Maine’s state gem.
There’s also a large collection of extraterrestrial rocks that have come all the way from the moon, the asteroid belt, and Mars.
It’s a fascinating experience to be close to these intriguing and alien rocks.
Set Up Camp at Bethel Outdoor Adventure and Campground
If you’re looking for a base camp during your trip to Bethel, then this is the perfect place!
Bethel Outdoor Adventure and Campground is a family-oriented destination that offers lots of activities and amenities for your group.
Chief of these is accommodation, as their location has expansive grounds for camping.
So whether you’re bringing an RV or a traditional tent, you’ll find a place to set up your temporary home here.
And since it sits next to the Androscoggin River, the facility offers tours and equipment rentals for fun water adventures!
If you don’t want to get wey just yet, there are still other activities within the facility, such as playing croquet and exploring the nearby trails.
Bring the Whole Family to Valentine Farm Conservation Center
The Valentine Farm Conservation Center is a nature preserve under the care of the Mahoosuc Land Trust.
It was once the land of Dick Valentine before he bequeathed it to the Mahoosuc Land Trust after this death.
Now, the area has been turned into a preserve that has a charming rural ambiance.
The favorite activity here is hiking, as the attraction has a 1.2-mile trail that’s universally accessible.
This means that even those in wheelchairs can explore the beautiful route and marvel at the scenery.
For those feeling more adventurous, you can try exploring the more rugged trail that reaches the Androscoggin River.
There’s also the Habitat For All garden, which is awash with colors from many blooming flowers during spring and summer.
Check Out the Collections at the Museums of the Bethel Historical Society
While Bethel is small, it still boasts a historic downtown.
And the centerpiece of this area is the museums of the Bethel Historical Society.
The organization aims to preserve the vibrant history of Western Maine and the White Mountain Region of New Hampshire.
And they accomplish this by putting on exhibits, collecting artifacts, and sharing them all with the visitors of Bethel.
These displays are divided into two buildings: the 1821 O'Neil Robinson House and the 1813 Dr. Moses Mason House.
So take your time when visiting so you’ll see and appreciate the items of the facilities.
These include period furniture, historical ski equipment, Native American artifacts, and photographs of bygone years.
Visiting here is stepping into the past and seeing the things that shaped the state into what it is today.
Go Hiking at the Bethel Community Forest
Bethel Community Forest is a 978-acre destination that brings together the townsfolk to appreciate, conserve, and play within the vast attraction.
Several organizations came together to establish and manage this large chunk of Bethel’s land, including the Mahoosuc Land Trust and Inland Woods and Trails.
Under their care, the forest has become a tourism and recreation hub for the residents and visitors.
There are several trails dedicated to hiking, bringing families to scenic ridges and rocky outcroppings.
Biking is only allowed on the “Tribute” bike trail.
In addition, camping is prohibited to preserve the pristine state of the forest.
There are still many activities to enjoy, especially during winter when the trails become excellent routes for cross-country skiing and snowmobile rides.
Explore the Length of Bethel Pathway
The Bethel Pathway is a 1.7-mile route that connects the town’s public facilities, attractions, and other important spots.
And it’s a one-way road that’s exclusive for nonmotorized activities.
So you’re welcome to traverse it on foot, on a bike, or on skis when there’s sufficient snow cover.
The path will bring you to several beautiful locations, such as Androscoggin River lookouts, meadows, a skate park, and farms.
Further up north, the pathway reaches the Sunday River Bridge in Newry, a wooden structure that has been around since 1872.
So whenever you want a stress-free walk that brings you to beautiful spots in Bethel and nearby towns, this pathway is your best choice.
Try the Pizza at Matterhorn Ski Bar
The Matterhorn Ski Bar may be in a remote mountain location, but it hasn’t stopped the establishment from becoming a recognized Bethel attraction.
In fact, the bar has graced the lists of magazines as one of the best ski bars in the region and the whole country.
It prides itself as a mosaic of cultures from all over the world, with festive decorations, a Switzerland theme, an American menu, and Neopolitan-style pizza.
So there’s a lot going on here, but the centerpiece is the wood-burning brick oven where the savory pizzas are prepared.
The rest of the extensive menu consists of burgers, wings, salads, glazed salmon, and steak.
And since it’s a bar, the establishment has a wide selection of mixed drinks, beers, cocktails, and many other refreshing beverages.
It’s the perfect stop after you spend hours on the snowy slopes of Bethel, and you’re just looking for a cozy place to warm up.
Cruise the Waters of Androscoggin River
Spanning 178 miles, the rushing Androscoggin River starts in New Hampshire, traverses Maine, before finally spilling out into the Atlantic.
It passes through Bethel, irrigating its lands and providing plenty of water-related activities for the townsfolk and visitors.
There are a few businesses that offer equipment rentals and tours of the river, and the most famous one is Bethel Outdoor Adventure and Campground.
With these outfitters, you can go kayaking, tubing, paddle boarding, and canoeing to the more isolated segments and appreciate the peaceful ambiance.
Androscoggin River is also famous for the many angling opportunities, and there’s a lot of options to try: fly fishing, shore fishing, and fishing on traditional boats.
Join a local Bethel fisherman and head to the best spots!
You can try catching walleye, rainbow trout, northern pike, and yellow perch.
Trek the Panoramic Mount Will Walking Trail
One of the family-friendly small mountains in Bethel is Mount Will, and it has a walking trail frequently visited by residents and visitors.
It’s a scenic route that spans 3 miles and loops back to its beginning.
Along the way, hikers will encounter bushes of wildflowers, open ledges that provide views of the valley, and segments of thick woodland.
The section of the trail farthest from the road is on the summit of Mount Will.
When you’re here, you’d be treated to expansive and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and forests.
It’s an exhilarating experience, especially in fall when the landscape is tinged with orange, red, and yellow.
Since the trail is just moderately difficult, you can bring kids and pets along the journey so they too can have fun.
Catch a Show at The Gem Theater
If you need a break from all the outdoor adventures in Bethel, one of the best places to simply sit back and relax is at The Gem Theater.
All the latest blockbusters are screened in this small and cozy movie theater.
And as the only facility of its kind in the city, the attraction has become a favorite gathering spot for the whole town.
The operators serve the standard fare of popcorn and drinks, but their menu also has pizza, beer, and wine!
Aside from being a theater, this building has a gallery and a live music venue.
So after catching the latest releases, you can linger around for an hour or two and check out the intriguing works on display.
Buy Bethel Memorabilia at Elements Art Gallery
The Elements Art Gallery is not like regular art museums with grand, empty halls or sophisticated lighting to emphasize artworks.
Instead, it’s more of a cozy little attraction where the handmade crafts and art pieces of Bethel’s townsfolk are showcased.
Within the small space, the vibrant products are just spilling out from every corner.
You’d find artisanal furniture, paintings, framed pictures, artworks on wood, and other products.
All these are handmade by local artisans and craftsmen, so each piece is unique.
Take your time and browse for unique vases, colorful soaps, and fine home decor inspired by the town’s landscapes and wildlife.
It’s the perfect place to get souvenirs of your Bethel trip.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Once you’re done with your adventures in Bethel, check out these other places just a few minutes away.
Enjoy the Slopes of Sunday River Resort
Sunday River Resort is arguably the most sought-after destination in the region, and for a good reason.
This Newry attraction is one the top ski spots in the whole of Maine, increasing the town’s population by tenfold during the peak season.
It’s located next to Bethel’s border, so it’s like you’re not leaving the town at all.
The resort is famous for its many peaks and modern skiing amenities, including 19 ski lifts.
And whether you’re a beginner, advanced, or professional-level skier, there are many slopes to try that cater to any skill level.
When summer comes, the landscape turns into lush mountain scenery ideal for hiking, mountain biking, and sightseeing on the lifts.
There’s also an 18-hole golf course that opens during summer through fall, which is incidentally ranked as the top golf course in all of Maine.
Drink Your Worries Away at Sunday River Brewing Company
To cap off days of skiing and outdoor adventures, grab a mug of refreshing beer at Sunday River Brewing Company.
This establishment is also a famous attraction, serving as the gathering and entertainment destination for the many visitors of Newry and Bethel.
Their home-brewed beer is a must-try, with various kinds available on tap.
To complement these beverages, they have a selection of hearty snacks like fries, wings, and burgers.
On weekends, there’s live music to serenade you while you dine and drink, elevating your overall experience.
Marvel at the Views of Grafton Notch State Park
Less than 20 minutes away from the Bethel lies the grand Grafton Notch State Park, a 3,129-acre attraction with plenty of hidden wonders.
This forest is part of the Mahoosuc Range, so tall and rugged mountains are a given.
However, most people come for the unique landscapes shaped by retreating glaciers during the Earth’s past.
These have resulted in unusual rock formations, deep canyons, and other features that create a delicate ecosystem.
So while exploring the trails, keep an eye for exposed outcroppings next to rushing rivers, moss-covered ravines, and curious wildlife scurrying in the undergrowth.
Aside from hiking, you’re welcome to set up camp, go cross-country skiing, and go birdwatching.
There are plenty of activities to do here, so make sure you have enough time in your itinerary to try them all!
While it may be small, Bethel has an array of attractions and activities that will leave you tired but satisfied.
So go skiing, visit a gem museum, reach the top of a mountain, or cruise the deepest part of a river—all these you can do here.
Check out this list and add the top spots to your itinerary today!