After our beautiful Stonington Archipelago trip, we headed straight over to Acadia National Park. In continuation of our research of the best paddle spots of Acadia, we looked to spend three days exploring the waters of the park. We quickly discovered that spring was the perfect time to visit Acadia as there were far fewer visitors compared to our trip to Mount Desert Island the previous fall. It also happened to be National Parks Week and the centennial celebration of ANP, resulting in free admission for all visitors!
We certainly do not claim to be ANP gurus, although during our three day stay in the park we learned a lot by attempting to load every moment with adventure. From sunrise to sunset we moved from lake to mountain to sea, exhausting every lead we had gathered for must-see attractions. If you are lucky enough to visit gorgeous Acadia National Park then check out the following list of some of our favorite attractions. While one could spend a lifetime exploring the ins-and-outs of Mount Desert Island, we highly encourage exploring the following highlights.
01. CADILLAC MOUNTAIN AT SUNRISE
By foot or by car, the Cadillac Mountain summit is one of the most popular attractions in the Northeast. The highest point along the Northern Atlantic coast, it is the first place to witness the sunrise for nearly 5 months out of the year. Live luxuriously by bringing your breakfast and coffee on the scenic drive up the mountain or bundle up and hike one of the many trails to top, rewarding your efforts with a stellar panoramic view of Mount Desert Island and one phenomenal sunrise setting.
02. HIKE THE PRECIPACE TRAIL
This 1.5 mile hike up the eastern face of Champlain Mountain is considered one of the most challenging in all of Acadia National Park. Its nearly vertical ascent is assisted by rungs and ladders, taking you 1,000 feet to the top before turning around to retrace your steps down the steep slope. As we experienced in April, this trail is often closed due to the fact that it is a preferred nesting site for endangered Peregrine Falcons. During the times when the trail is closed to visitors, a friendly naturalist is often on duty with a spotting scope observing the falcon's behaviors in the parking lot below the cliffs. Intelligent on the Falcons behavior and doings, the ranger is a great person to speak with if you are interested in the speedy Peregrine.
03. RELAX ON SAND BEACH
On the eastern side of Mount Desert Island resides a gorgeous beach engulfed by mountains and rocky shores. Bring your picnic lunch here before hiking many of the nearby scenic trails. Often considered one of the most scenic beaches in Maine, this is one you won't want to miss.
04. TACKLE THE BEEHIVE
From the Sand Beach parking lot, you might look up to see people seemingly hanging from the mountain above. This strenuous but ridiculously fun hike is less than a mile to the top, but similarly to the Precipice, requires rather vertical climbing. Iron rungs and ladders are in place for a supported 520 foot climb to the summit where you will get marvelous views of Sand Beach, Great Head, and the surrounding landscape before turning around to carefully navigate back down. Those with vertigo should steer clear!
05. EXPLORE THE GREAT HEAD TRAIL
This loop hike, beginning at the eastern side of Sand Beach, is a short and attainable 1.4 miles round trip. After a short walk in the woods, one emerges from the trees to a beautiful and rocky cliffside walk. Explore around the rocks with caution as you look back at the Beehive and Sand Beach. Listed as a moderate hike in difficulty, it is rewarding for both beginner and experienced hikers.
06. PADDLE JORDAN POND
While the 3.4 mile trail around the famous Jordan Pond is a wonderful and famous attraction, paddling in the water gives visitors a different perspective and allows for spectacular views of The Bubbles, the pond's infamous neighboring peaks.
07. CLIMB SOUTH BUBBLE MOUNTAIN
The Bubbles can be reached via the Bubbles Parking Lot off of the Park Loop Road. The Jordan Pond Trail also runs into a spur to South Bubble which you can take to the top. On our trip, we paddled to the Bubbles spur trail off of Jordan Pond and made the quick but steep hike to the top of South Bubble. On the way up, you will find a precarious looking boulder called Bubble Rock. This historic rock, which looks like it could tumble down the cliff at any moment, is said to have originated 20 miles northeast of where it sits today and was moved 10,000 years ago by a glacier. Once you make it to the top of this short but steep trail, enjoy the impressive views of the pond, ocean, and surrounding mountains.
08. CAMP AT BLACKWOODS CAMPGROUND
1 of the 3 campgrounds in Acadia, Blackwoods is a great location to land after a day of exploring the park. Pitch your tent on one of the many primitive sites or drive your bus into one of the accommodating RV sites. Toilets, a water pump, and dump stations provide ease of living while the less than 10 minute walk to the beautiful ocean view provides a great Acadia "backcountry" experience.
Learn more about Acadia National Park's campgrounds and make reservations HERE
09. PADDLE SOMES SOUND
This unique body of water running through Mount Desert Island is considered the only "fjard" on the East Coast. Formed by large continental glaciers, this inlet is 175 ft at its deepest point and over 100 feet deep at many other points. Explore the waters and scenery before landing back at the launch point to have a snack at the picnic area. Sea life abounds in this natural oceanic cove that is accessible from many different locations.
10. GO BIRD WATCHING AT BASS HARBOR MARSH
Due to its unique coastal salt marsh habitat, Bass Harbor Marsh is the perfect place to spot many different bird species. The wildlife watching, the remote location, and the beautiful views make this low-water swamp a must-see.
11. HIKE DORR MOUNTAIN AT SUNSET
While not the most popular peak in Acadia, Dorr Mountain sits just east of Cadillac and offers spectacular 360 degree views of the park. The Dorr Mountain summit is accessible from 4 different trails, but the Ladder Trail is most certainly recommended! Similarly to many of the other peaks in Acadia, Dorr has a steep cliffside ascent that offers exciting vertical hiking. As we sat alone on Dorr Peak and watched the crowds of people gather over on Cadillac Mountain, we knew we made the right choice for a peaceful sunset on a summit all to ourselves.
12. DISCOVER THE OVENS
The Ovens are sea caves on the northern side of Mount Desert Island in the waters of the Mount Desert Narrows. Only accessible by boat, these caves are a hidden gem on Mount Desert Island. Launch your boat from Lamoine State Beach back on the mainland and head southeast where you will encounter the caves. Depending on the tide level, you may be able to walk or paddle through some of the openings.
13. DRIVE THE SCHOODIC POINT LOOP
The only part of Acadia on the main land, Schoodic Point Peninsula offers rocky shore lines and beautiful woodlands. Hike the trails or bring your bicycle to explore the area. The 6 mile, one way loop around the edge of the peninsula offers views of lighthouses, nearby islands, sea birds, and endless ocean scenery.
Acadia National Park is a true treasure of Maine. The above list is only a snapshot of the parks numerous attractions. Explore beyond the confines of the Park Road and Acadia can be a surprisingly wild location!