Exploring Acadia National Park: Five Must-Do Activities
My family and I decided the 45,000 acre east coast paradise was the perfect destination for a five day vacation. The three of us have different interests, but finding a way to balance them all was easy with the variety of fun to be had in Acadia. The park is one of the most accessible I've been to; hiking trails are easy to get to, and due to the park's topography, getting up on top of hills with panoramic views can take less than 20 minutes. We packed as much as we could into each of the days, but there were five places in particular that were memorable.
|The Duck Harbor Mountain trail climbs all whopping 262' to the summit quickly. But even with long stops at each jaw-dropping vista, Aaron and I made it to the top and back to the Duck Harbor Campground in less than an hour.|
Hiking to the Top of Duck Harbor MountainOf the 500 campsites in Acadia National Park, only five of them are located on remote Isle au Haut. Accessible only via an hour long mail boat ride from Stonington, ME, primitive Duck Harbor Campground is, in my opinion, the ideal place to spend a night in Acadia. The 12.7 square mile island rewards those willing to make the journey with unobstructed views of the Atlantic, beautiful rocky beaches, stunning cliff faces and miles of hiking trails.
After a restful night in our lean-to, my brother and I opted for a morning hike before catching the first of only two mail boat trips back to Stonington that day. We followed Western Head Road east (map here), then south to pick up the trail to Duck Harbor Mountain. It's the tallest point on Isle au Haut, but at only 262 feet, it's a short trip to the summit. The trail didn't seem nearly as well-used as others in the park and the blazes were hard to find, but we didn't have trouble. Time permitting, we could have followed the Duck Harbor Summit trail up and over the top, then down to the east side of the island to visit Deep Cover, Squeaker Cove and Barred Harbor, looping back to the campground via the Western Head Trail.
|Just after sunset, looking east with Bar Harbor far below us on top of Cadillac Mountain. The USGS summit marker is a few hundred feet behind this stunning vista.|
Finding the Summit of Cadillac MountainLike Mount Washington in New Hampshire and Hawk Mountain here in Pennsylvania, there's an easy way and a hard way to get to the top. The hard way - a hike from the bottom to the summit - is usually the most rewarding. But as important as it is to earn our vistas, it's also important to remember that some parts of our national parks should be accessible to all. The hike to Cadillac's 1,528' summit wasn't an option for us while we were there, but we still wanted to squeeze a trip to the top of the mountain into our itinerary. We opted for the easy way up Cadillac to catch the sunset on our first night in Acadia. It's a special summit; Cadillac is the highest point within 25 miles of the coastline on the East Coast, and it's the first spot the sun hits when it rises due east in the fall and winter.
Clinging to Cliffs on The Beehive
|My brother trying to figure out what to hold on to |
while taking in the views on the Beehive.
The beginning of our one hour, 1.5 mile round trip journey looked like any other trail in Acadia - wooded, rocky, and easy to follow due to frequent blue blazes and signage. About halfway up, things started to look a bit different.
At one point, the trees cleared and we looked up, amazed to see tiny figures hundreds of feet above us picking their way along the ledges and up the trail's strategically placed iron rungs. Proceeding on the Beehive trail, the route steepened significantly and eventually required some hand-over-hand climbing, clinging on to slippery iron hand holds, crossing an iron ladder with only air below, and carefully weaving along an incredibly narrow, incredibly exposed trail. The best part? The Hive rewards hikers with beautiful vistas all the way up, and you can take the much tamer Bowl Trail back down.
|The Beehive trail is not for the faint of heart, or the acrophobic, but we made it up just fine! Aaron frequently reminded me not to look down, even though Sand Beach looked spectacular from up there.|
Visiting the Jordan Pond House and Hiking the Jordan Pond Shore Trail
|Popovers at the Jordan Pond House!|
After the loop, there's no better way to refuel than with tea and popovers at The Jordan Pond House. It's the only restaurant in Acadia and its traditions date back to the late 1800s when tea houses were established to cater to Acadia's growing population of summer visitors. The original building burned to the ground in 1979, but the building in its place today is a must-see destination in Acadia. It's still a bustling gathering place and the popovers are well worth the wait. (We made reservations a few days in advance and didn't have to wait! Also, definitely consider taking the Island Explorer shuttle to get there; parking was next to impossible.)
|The Bubbles from the southern end of Jordan Pond. Beautiful, clear water and a spectacular summer day!|
Seeing Jordan Pond from a New Perspective via a Hike up the BubblesAfter stuffing ourselves with popovers and lounging on the lawn at Jordan Pond, we drove a little further along Park Loop Road to the Bubble Rock Parking Area to pay the Bubbles and Bubble Rock, a glacial erratic, a visit. The weather was turning a bit, but my brother and I opted to run up the Bubble Divide trail to the South Bubble (766') anyway thanks to a recommendation from Paul (@peymojo). I was elated and felt like a kid on the playground running up the trail, hopping from rock to rock and racing the oncoming clouds with Aaron.
|The trail around the South Bubble and Jordan Pond.|
If we had more time, I'd have loved to climb Sargent Mountain, visit the Bass Harbor Lighthouse, go rock climbing and climb Acadia Mountain! Even though Acadia National Park is relatively small, there's so much to do! If you've been to Acadia , are there other hikes you'd suggest for folks making a visit? Have you done any of the hikes or visited the spots listed here? Leave a comment!