6 Fun and Easy Hikes Around Acadia National Park
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.
Bar Island Trail, Bar Harbor MaineClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
Shore Path, Bar Harbor MaineClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
Around Jordan Pond HouseClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
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.
Wonder Land and Ship HarborClick thumbnail to view full-size
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, My Favorite
Acadia National Park Highlights
© 2012 Mark Shulkosky