National Park Week: Acadia National Park

by Allie Wilkinson on April 19, 2011

Maine may as well be my home away from home.  I’ve gone up just about every year since I was a baby, at LEAST once a year (but usually end up going 3 times a year), and I always go to the same spots.  Each year, the big trip in August takes me to Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park.

This summer, a friend from work at USGS was taking a trip to Acadia for the first time, and I couldn’t help but make a mini-travel guide for him.  I figured it would be the perfect thing to share in honor of National Park Week.  Without further ado, here are my notes on Acadia:

Attractions

Park Loop Road

27 miles of scenic roadway, and your path to most destinations.

Cadillac Mountain

Go for sunrise, sunset, and at night….but pack warm clothes!  At certain times of the year, you are the first person to see sunrise on the eastern seaboard of the US from this vantage point.  For sunset, Blue Hill Overlook, just before the summit, is a popular spot.  And if you go at night (opt for as moonless a night as possible),  you will have the most incredible view EVER of the Milky Way, and you are also likely to see several shooting stars.  Any time of day, Cadillac Mountain offers nice views of Bar Harbor (especially at night) and the Porcupine Islands.

Sieur de Monts Spring

Located behind the Nature Center.  It was years before I even discovered it, but the walk through the gardens is beautiful.

Sand Beach

Don’t expect to go swimming here, unless you want to be a member of the Polar Bear Club!  The water rarely gets above 55 degrees in summer….brrrr!  Better for tidepooling than swimming.

Thunder Hole

Thunder Hole is a small inlet, naturally carved out of the rocks, where the waves roll into. At the end of this inlet, down low, is a small cavern where, when the right size wave arrives full force, it collides with the air, forcing it out, resulting in a sound like distant thunder.  Best to go on an incoming tide if you want the full experience.

Otter Cliff/Otter Cove

Otter Cliff is a 110 foot cliff, and apparently is one of the highest Atlantic coastal headlands north of Rio de Janeiro.  Amazing views.  Then again, what doesn’t have amazing views in Acadia?

Bubble Pond

Small pond, a nice little kayak spot.

Eagle Lake

The largest freshwater lake in Acadia.  Nice spot for kayaking.

Hikes (http://www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/upload/Trails2006.pdf)

Jordan Pond Trail

A nice hike around the pond, with views of the Bubbles most of the way.  At the far end there is a beaver lodge.  And the last portion of the trail is mostly planks like in Paul’s Everglades podcast photos.

Gorham Mountain Trail

Rain cancelled this hike last year, so I can’t personally vouch for it, but my friend Cat is a Mainer and it is one of her favorite trails.

Beehive Trail

Always sounded like a cool trail.  Popular, it gets its name because from afar, all the people make it look like bees bustling around a hive.

Precipice Trail

The most famous and most strenuous trail in Acadia.  I’ve only hiked the lower part of the trail because the rest of the trail is out of my abilities and I’m afraid of heights. It is usually closed in August because peregrine falcons nest there.  Of course, then that means you can do a peregrine watch.

The Other Side of the Island Bass Harbor Lighthouse

There is a little trail that goes down past the lighthouse, and it offers a great photo opportunity.

Beech Mountain

A fire tower at the summit allows views of the surrounding towns.  The hike itself also offers amazing views of Echo Lake.

Somes Sound

The only fjord on the east coast of the United States.  Breathtakingly beautiful.

 

Other Things To Do

  • Whale watching
  • Oceanarium and Lobster Hatchery
  • Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory Tour
  • Bar Island Walk: At low tide, you can walk across to Bar Island from town.  Another thing I haven’t done yet, but sounds cool.  Just be mindful of the tides.

Restaurants

A MUST!  After hiking around the Jordan Pond trail, stop for tea and popovers on the lawn at JPH and admire the view of the Bubbles.  The lobster stew is also really good.  And it is a historic location, so you should definitely read the history of it.

A fun, unique experience.  The alternative movie theater is a few blocks away, old, and looks like the sort of place they would sacrifice a lamb on stage.  But also an interesting experience.

Another fun, unique spot.  Full of kitsch and reminiscent of the 50s.

Just go for a beer even.  They have a great South American fish tank inside.   Note:  Cottage Street is dotted with numerous restaurants and cafes.  2 Cats is a good spot for breakfast, and the Cottage Street Bakery opens VERY early, so after watching sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, you can pop on over for a cup of tea.

Other Areas of Maine

If you happen to pass through Wiscasset, or are kayaking in the area, then I suggest you stop at Red’s Eats.  It is a small, unassuming road-side stand, but it has the best lobster rolls in all of Maine.

Photo and video credits: Allie Wilkinson

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