6 Fun and Easy Hikes Around Acadia National Park

My wife and I enjoy traveling and spending time at our camp on a lake in Maine. Sharing the beauty and wonders of Maine is our passion.

Shore Path, Bar Harbor Maine

Shore Path, Bar Harbor Maine

A Great Way to See the Highlights of the Park

The first national park east of the Mississippi River, Acadia National Park (ANP) in Maine is one of the top 10 most visited national parks. On the east coast, it is second only to Smokey Mountain National Park in attendance. Spread out on Mount Desert Island (MDI), Schoodic Peninsula, and Isle-Au-Haut, the majority of the tourists visit MDI.

These are 6 kid-friendly fun and easy hikes in and around Acadia National Park. Enjoy the hikes, the nearby attractions and you will have hit many of the highlights of the area.

While not handicapped accessible, the hikes are suitable for hikers of almost every ability. Adults requiring assistance with walking may not be able to use every trail, but most of these trails will easily accommodate a stroller.

Around Bar Harbor

Think of Bar Harbor and you think of a great place to shop, eat, or catch a whale watching cruise. Here are 2 great hikes located in town and only about 0.3 miles apart along West Street.

  • Bar Island Trail:

Bar Island is a small island across the harbor. Bar Island Trail may be the only trail that I know of where a tide chart is more important than a map.

The trail to the island is a land bridge that is only accessible 1.5 hours before or after low tide. The rest of the time it is underwater! (You can find a tide chart in the local newspaper or "Acadia Weeky, The Guide to Acadia National Park").

While most walk across the sandbar, you are allowed to drive on it but, you are not allowed to drive on the island.

It is less than a 1/2 mile flat, easy walk across the sand (gravel) bar. Walk slowly as the tide goes out and you can enjoy exploring the tide pools that remain behind. Crabs, tiny lobsters, periwinkles, barnacles, shells, etc. are yours for the finding and looking, but not the taking. (If it is alive, be sure to leave what you find).

Once across, you have two options. You can walk along the rocky shore of the island or take the old road inland. Following the road, you will reach the summit in less than 1/2 mile.

Views from the island include the harbor, the town, and Dorr, Champlain, and Cadillac Mountains in the distance. As you walk back across the bar, to your right, along the shoreline, are a few of the Bar Harbor summer "cottages".

The trailhead is located at the foot of Bridge Street, a side street off of West Street on the north side of town. I know, Bridge Street (there is no bridge but they talked about building one long ago), and West Street on the north side of town, confusing. Just part of the quirkiness of Maine.

  • Shore Path:

Officially, this trail is not part of Acadia National Park. It is maintained by the Town of Bar Harbor. The trail starts near the municipal pier where West Street meets Main Street. It begins at the sign in front of the Bar Harbor Inn.

This flat gravel path is about 1 mile long. After passing along the side of the Bar Harbor Inn, the trail continues past several "summer cottages" that are now private mansions, bed and breakfasts, or upscale inns. On the water side is the harbor with the tall ship, Margaret Todd, at her dock. Across the harbor are the Porcupine Islands. From the far end, a rock breakwall can be viewed. Lobster boats and pleasure boats are docked or move about the harbor and nearby ocean. On a clear day, Egg Rock lighthouse may be seen guarding the entrance to Frenchman's Bay.

When you reach the far end of the trail, you can retrace your route back to the municipal pier or take a small path into town and Hancock Street. Hancock Street will connect with Main Street (U.S. Route 3). Turn right onto Main Street and head back to town and your starting point. Along the way you will pass through the shopping and restaurant areas. Stop and browse the shops and galleries, pick up a snack or enjoy a meal in one of the many restaurants along the way.

Park Loop Road and Jordan Pond House

The Park Loop Road circles the heart of Acadia National Park. On a warm sunny summer day or a cool fall afternoon, the two mile stretch that parallels Ocean Path from Sand Beach to Otter Point is one of the most scenic and beautiful drives in the country.

Many of the popular tourist attractions are located on this loop. In addition to the trailheads for many hikes and several access points to the carriage roads, Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, Jordan Pond House, and the auto road to Cadillac Mountain Summit are scattered along the route. Two of the easiest hikes along the loop road are located near Jordan Pond House.

From the Hulls Cove Visitors Center, the park road will take you to the Park Loop Road. The shortest route to Jordan Pond House is to turn right and follow the two-way section of the road past the turnoff to Cadillac Mountain Summit. In a few miles, Jordan Pond House will be on your right.

But, I encourage you to take the long way. Follow the Park Loop Road to the left (one-way section). It is a much longer route, but it passes many of the highlights of the park. Make it a leisurely drive and enjoy some stops along the way.

In addition to access to the 2 easy trails and the carriage roads, Jordan Pond House has a gift shop and full service restaurant. It is a great place to stop for a snack, lunch, or the time honored tradition of afternoon tea (or lemonade) and popovers on the green.

For the hikes, parking may be easier to find at Jordan Pond Parking Lot rather than at the lot next to Jordan Pond House.

  • Jordan Pond Path (Shore Trail):

Just down the hill from the Jordan Pond House green and to the right of the blueberry field is the start of Jordan Pond Path. The full 3.3 mile trail is actually a moderately difficult trail and the longest of the 6 hikes.

The first 1.1 miles of the gravel shore trail is relatively flat and crosses a few bridges. The far (north) end of pond provides spectacular views of the Bubbles to the east as well as views back across the pond to Jordan Pond House.

At 1.6 miles you reach the intersection with Deer Brook Trail. From this point, in the area of Jordon Cliffs, the trail gets much more strenuous as it winds its way along the western shore of Jordan Pond. In addition to more ups and downs, the rocks and roots make footing more difficult. The final section of trail crosses over wetlands on bridges and a boardwalk.

Two alternatives can make this a relatively easy hike. The most obvious is to turn around after about 1 mile (Junction with Jordan Pond Carry Trail, 2 miles round trip) and retrace your route. The second and longer option involves taking Deer Brook Trail a short distance to the carriage trail, turning left and returning to Jordan Pond House by this route.

Jordan Pond House Sign

Jordan Pond House Sign

Jordan Pond Path (Shore Trail) sign

Jordan Pond Path (Shore Trail) sign

  • Jordan Pond Nature Trail:

A short way down Jordan Pond Path, Jordan Pond Nature Trail takes off to the right into the evergreen forest. This is a much easier trail than Jordan Pond Path.

At the start of this 1 mile loop trail is a box that is supposed to have copies of a trail guide to explain the numbered stops along the way. Use the guide and return it or pay a fee and keep a copy. On the busy summer day I visited, there were no guides in the box.

With lessons in history and nature along the way, the first half of this flat gravel trail winds through the woods and then follows a return along the shore of Jordan Pond.

Jordan Pond is a water supply. Kayaks and canoes are permitted, but swimming and motor boats are not.

After your hike treat yourself with tea and popovers or even a meal at Jordan Pond House. Ice cream from the gift shop is also an option.

Leaving Jordan Pond House, turn left onto the Park Loop Road to return to the Visitor's Center. Be sure to take the side road to the summit of Cadillac Mountain.

At the top of Cadillac Mountain, a short, 0.3 mile, paved Summit Path links informative plaques on how the mountains were formed and continue to be shaped. Enjoy the breathtaking 360 degree panoramic views on the summit before you head back down.

Jordan Pond Nature Trail

Jordan Pond Nature Trail

Wonder Land Trail Sign

Wonder Land Trail Sign

Ship Harbor Nature Trail Sign

Ship Harbor Nature Trail Sign

The Quiet Side, Bass Harbor Area

For the last 2 hikes, head over to the Quiet Side of Mount Desert Island. Follow Maine Route 102 through Somesville and Southwest Harbor. Turn left onto Maine Route 102A through Manset and past Seawall. Seawall Picnic Area, usually uncrowded and on the ocean, is a great place to stop for a lunch. The first trail, Wonder Land, is about a mile past the picnic area.

Both trails are popular for spotting coastal and forest birds as well as exploring tide pools.

  • Wonder Land Trail:

This relatively flat 1.3 mile round trip trail through an evergreen forest takes you out to a small loop on a peninsula and a scenic rocky shoreline. It is a packed gravel trail with a few scattered rocks and roots along the way. Pleasure boats, lobster boats, and the Duck Islands can be viewed from the shore.

The highlight of the hike is to go out on the rocky shoreline to collect shells and explore the tide pools. A falling tide is the best time to explore tidepools. Remember to return anything you remove from a tidepool.

This is an easy trail and a great hike for small children, but it is popular and it can get crowded. There is limited parking at the trailhead.

  • Ship Harbor Nature Trail:

This 1.2 mile figure "8" loop trail is about 0.5 miles past Wonder Land Trail on Rt. 102A. While listed as an "Easy" trail, it is a more difficult than Wonderland. Most of the hike is through a pine forest. At the far end is a rocky headland with a few steps and rocks that you will have to climb up and down. No significant elevation change, but not a flat walk.

The shoreline is a more rugged than Wonder Land and offers views of the Duck Islands, Great Cranberry Island, and Ship Harbor.

There is parking at the trailhead as well as comfort facilities.

After your hikes, rather than returning back by the same route, continue on Rt. 102A to my favorite lighthouse, Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse (see photo below).

Afterward your visit to the lighthouse, follow Rt. 102A through Bass Harbor, home of the ferry to Swan's Island. Just past Bass Harbor, you can bear right onto Maine Rt. 102 and head back toward Southwest Harbor and further on to the crowds on the other side of the island. Or, you can bear left through Tremont to Bernard and enjoy a lobster dinner on the water at Thurston's Lobster Pound.

On your way back through Southwest Harbor, check out the Oceanarium on Clarke Point Road, just before the Coast Guard Station.

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, My Favorite

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse from the water.

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse from the water.

Acadia National Park Highlights

© 2012 Mark Shulkosky


Albert S Wiley from New York on November 03, 2018:

Seems amazing. Would love to visit.

Michelle Dee from Charlotte, NC on October 27, 2015:

This looks like the perfect vacation to me. I especially love the Jordan Pond House area and Wonder Land and Ship Harbor area. I always wanted to visit Maine because it seems like such a beautiful state, and your photos are beautiful as well. I love the architecture found in the New England states. Thanks for sharing.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on September 08, 2015:

Thanks RTalloni. Glad you enjoyed the Hub.

RTalloni on September 07, 2015:

Thank you for this look at a beautiful place, and congrats on your Hub of the Day award for a neat post.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on September 07, 2015:

Thanks Roz P. Fewer crowds at ANP on the Quietside. Head on over to Southwest Harbor, Bass Harbor, and Bernard. Too bad more people are finding out about it.

Rose Pietras from New York on September 07, 2015:

You did a great job! I love Acadia National Park and the whole state. I like to go to places that are not as crowded.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on September 07, 2015:

Hi Readmikenow. The AT ends on Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park in northern Maine. I think the first 1800 miles of the AT prepare you for the difficulty and remoteness that hikers find in Maine.

Readmikenow on September 07, 2015:

I've backpacked various parts of the Appalachian Trail (AT), but I haven't made it to Maine. Many people tell me its one of the most beautiful sections of the trail. The AT ends or begins at Acadia National Park. This was a lot of very good information.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on September 07, 2015:

VirginiaLynne, Maine is a great place to visit, particularly with kids. Acadia National Park is a can't miss but so are all of the lighthouses, LL Bean, the Desert of Maine (yes, a desert), Fort Knox (no not the one with gold), and Penobscot Bridge Observatory. Your kids will love Maine. Have a great trip.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on September 07, 2015:

Acadia National Park is my favorite place. Thanks for stopping by Kristen and for the kind comments.

Virginia Kearney from United States on September 07, 2015:

I went on some of these trails many years ago on a vacation with my parents. The beauty of the area and the difference from my native California has stayed with me all my life. I'm now planning to take my kids to see Maine. Thanks for the detailed and interesting facts!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on September 07, 2015:

What a beautiful hub! It sounds like a beautiful and remarkable place to me in Maine. Happy 4 year anniversary at HP with a HOTD! Congrats!

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on July 06, 2015:

Dianemae, that sounds like a great trip. Hope you get to do it again soon. If you go to Southwest Harbor again, check out Thurston's Lobster Pound in Bernard. It is across from the Bass Harbor Ferry Terminal.

Dianemae on July 05, 2015:

We sailed up to Maine a few years back and stayed in Southwest Harbor for several days while we toured the Park. You took some great picture. You brought back some wonderful memories for me. Hope to sail up there again and see how things have changed.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on April 02, 2013:

Great to hear from you Dan. Glad the Hub brought back some good memories. I think all of the trails should lead to Jordan Pond House for afternoon popovers and tea (or lemonade) after a hike.

Dan Human from Niagara Falls, NY on April 02, 2013:

Great pictures and descriptions that bring back memories of my honeymoon in Acadia. Though we spent some time shuffling around Bar Harbor (the Shore Path is cool because few people use it in the late Spring), we really enjoyed the Jordan Pond area.

The multiple trails in the area allowed for a number of zig zag and loop hikes. Plus, lunch at Jordan Pond was always a delight.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on December 12, 2012:

Kitkat1141, glad you enjoyed the Hub and the memories it brought back. Acadia is my favorite place in the world. Try to time the hike to Bar Island so that you can watch the ocean melt away and the bar be exposed. It'll make the hike about an hour long, but interesting. You'll also know you have plenty of time to get back. I love the quiet side and Bass Harbor Head. I'll have to do a hub of the quiet side highlights.

kitkat1141 from Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2012:

Can't wait to get back next year. The pictures have me dreaming of the popovers at Jordan Pond! We never seem to time our visit to Bar Harbor with the tide to try going to Bar Island. I would be afraid to get stranded on the island. Love the views from Cadillac Mountain too!

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on October 11, 2012:

I have the same success in trying to hike Precipice Trail. I have done Beehive near Sand Beach and that has some ladders on it. I also used a climbing outfitter to climb Otter Cliffs. That was interesting.

1,000 to 1,600 feet of elevation per mile is brutal! Particularly for an old guy like me. Some of the hikes in the White Mountains begin to approach that. We have some roots, but the rocks can be the killer. I'll have to talk my adult kids into going to Washington, but I'm going have to get in a little better shape and bring good hiking shoes for the 'bannisters'.

Next time you are in Maine, try to get to Baxter and Mount Katahdin or Gulf Hagas.

cascoly from seattle on October 11, 2012:

One that's been on my list for awhile is the Precipice trail, but it's usually been closed to protect the peregbrine falcons that breed nearby.

Beech mountain reminds me of our local trails here in Washington -- they can be steep, but well maintained. Our 'normal' hike looks for about 1500-200' gain over 2-4 miles on the way in. The classic though is the Lake Constance trail which rises over 3300' in just over 2 miles and the exposed roots are often polished like bannisters from generations of hikers. Usually we were carrying full packs to climb Mt Constance on the following day.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on October 11, 2012:

I agree with enjoying the quiet side. Seawall is interesting in that it was naturally formed. The picnic area nearby is rarely crowded. We hiked Beech Mountain when we we rented a house for family near Long Pond. It is more strenuous than the ones in this Hub, but is it is a great one. Someday, I'll do a 'difficult but breath-taking hikes' Hub.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

cascoly from seattle on October 11, 2012:

Another great Maine hub -- I agree about Ship Harbor & Wonderland and we stay with family near Seawall on our visits, so we do these often. Another hike in that category is the Beech Mountain hike near Echo Lake, with great views.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on October 01, 2012:

Kimberly, I think it is one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful place in the world. Hope you get there soon. Thanks for commenting.

Kimberly Vaughn from Midwest on October 01, 2012:

What a beautiful area! I'm hoping to visit sometime.

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