Maine’s “Airline” Highway: Route 9 to Canada


Highway 1 is scenic, but if you just want to get out of Maine and into Canada, it’s painfully slow and indirect.  Interstate 95 is quick, but it takes you a long way north into the interior of Maine.  For me, the best choice was “The Airline” – a fairly direct route from Bangor to Calais, Maine, and the international boundary.


“The Airline” follows Maine Route 9 between Bangor and Calais.  I was following Route 1 up until the Penobscot Narrows, then cut north on Maine 46, joining Maine 9 east of Bangor.

My Visit


Once you reach this portion of Maine, it’s just you and a million trees. And some of those trees were starting to change colors, when I visited at the end of September, 2016.  I found a handful of scenic spots to stop at the side of the road, and try to take a picture of the turning leaves.


I also pulled off the road in between Aurora and Beddington, to take this photo.  That big hill in the distance is Lead Mountain, elevation 1,479 feet (451 meters).  That’s not quite a towering peak, but it is high enough to stand out in this part of Maine.



I didn’t stop again until after Route 9 joined US 1 on the final stretch into Calais.  The Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge provided a nice spot to view the sunset – although I did have to scare off some geese. Check out the Drivelapse video below to see the entire route.

While driving the Airline, I thought the name might refer to the feeling of being on top of the mountains — Route 9 does seem to skirt the tops of ridgelines alonge the way.  More likely though, it’s a reference to an old railroad term, meant to describe the straightest, most direct route between two locations.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a look at the drive along the Airline into Calais:

The Bottom Line

The Airline is a pretty drive, but it’s mostly there to provide a quick route between Bangor and Calais.  Drive it if you need to get where you’re going, not to enjoy a relaxed scenic drive.  Also remember, this area is remote, and you won’t see a lot of other cars, or small towns.


1 comment

  1. Susan p Collins 24 September, 2020 at 18:31 Reply

    This route 9 leaving Bangor to Calais is the most amazing ride. There is nothing there! Just you and the woods. It is so beautiful it’s like you’re the only one for miles!!

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