Acadia National Park protects 47,000 acres of the highest rocky headlands along the Atlantic coastline of the United States. The Natural beauty and rich cultural heritage of this area attracts over 3.5 million visitors a year, earning Acadia National Park a spot in the top 10 most visited National Parks in the United States. It may be smaller in its acreage and lower in its elevation, but it is one beauty you most definitely do not want to miss.
I would suggest this park to families with younger children and families traveling in large groups. There is quite a bit of everything for everyone in this national park and even the ‘backcountry’ isn’t too remote. Many trails boasting beautiful vantage points include family-friendly routes while also offering tough trails; a family could easily split up and tackle the same mountain together, each arriving at the summit on a personalized trail! This is also one of the few National Parks where dogs are allowed on trail; be sure to check in advance if the hike you’re hoping to conquer allows dogs or not. I can tell you, with certainty, that the Precipice Trail, The Beehive, and Canada Cliff’s does NOT allow dogs due to the steep nature of the trail; the good news is, you can reach these gorgeous viewpoints via a few different trail-heads!
There is no lodging with the park boundaries. The park has two campgrounds on Mount Desert Island, one campground on the Schoodic Peninsula, and five lean-to shelters on Isle au Haut; these accommodations fill up very quickly so be sure to reserve your spot in advance! There are also private campgrounds on and surrounding Mt. Desert Island where you can stay in very close proximity to the park.
If you are looking for a hotel/motel style accommodation you will have to leave the park boundaries. Right in the thick of it all is the bustling town of Bar Harbor; Bar Harbor can provide hours of entertainment between its shopfronts, restaurants, bars, entertainment and hotel selection. There are a variety of accommodations available to you only a few miles outside of some of the parks most sought out trails and attractions.
If a little more peace and quiet is more your style, I’d look into Northeast or Southeast Harbor; these towns are also located on Mt. Desert Island, however, they’re miles away from the busiest sections of the park among their own less-sought-out natural gems. Trenton is about 25 minutes from the park’s boundaries on the mainland. There are quite a few inexpensive motel options available; after a few nights of camping, we were ecstatic to check into the humble Acadia Gateway Motel to a clean room, wifi, and hot shower!
So Acadia has a pretty awesome transportation system that I would highly recommend. Island Explorer buses, funded by L.L. Bean, travel from all ends of the park to the village green in Bar Harbor. Shuttles from Trenton onto Mt. Desert Island and to the Village Green and from the Village green all over the park! The Schoodic Penninsula even has its own bus to shuttle you around that section of the park as well. They really do a great job of reducing traffic and making your life, as the adventurer, a heck of a lot less stressful; you don’t need to worry about where to park, sitting in traffic, of missing a turn.
Most days we parked in the Hulls Cover Visitor Center and took the shuttle over to the village green. Once at the green, we could enjoy the bustling town of Bar Harbor without stressing about parking or hop on another shuttle to explore a new section of the park. Pick your route and then check the schedule to plan your effortless adventures around Acadia National Park via the Island Explorer.
There is truly so much you can do at Acadia National Park; if you haven’t caught on by now with all my previous posts, we’re big hikers and that’s really what we travel to do. With that being said, you can bike, climb, kayak, fish, swim, and horseback ride on Mt. Desert Island, so don’t feel limited to hiking trails!
As always, I suggest carrying a Trail Map of the area you are hiking. Not only will this allow you to have a better understanding of what you’re hiking and appropriate directions when trails intersect, but a good map can also help you to choose your hikes and plan your vacation as well.
TRAIL: Thunder Hole
DIFFICULTY: Very Easy
DESCRIPTION: Thunder Hole is a small, naturally carved rock inlet where crashing waves send foam flying and thunderous booms! The power of the sea is easily brought to life by this natural occurrence. The viewpoint for Thunder Hole can be found along the Ocean Path Trail between Sand Beach Overlook and Monument Cove.
TRAIL: Ocean Path Trail
DIFFICULTY: Very Easy
DESCRIPTION: Ocean Path begins at Sand Beach and travels two miles along the rocky coast to Otter Point. Along this path, there are a number of beautiful viewpoints such as Thunder Hole, Monument Cove, and Otter Cliff. There are many places where you can venture off the path and onto the rocky shoreline itself. Carefully explore these jagged pink granite formations as they greet the never-ending assault of the sea. This is a wonderful hike for families; don’t let the proximity to Park Loop Road fool you, these are breathtaking views!
TRAIL: Beech Mountain
DESCRIPTION: An easy hike away from the hustle and bustle of Bar Harbor and the Loop Road. You can find access to the Beech Mountain hiking trails is from the Echo Lake parking area or from Beech Hill Road located on the western side of the mountain. From the Beech Hill Road parking lot, you may choose one of two routes. If you’re looking for a shorter, steeper challenge veer left at the junction; if you prefer a steady climb to the 839-foot summit, stay to the right. An old observation tower can be found at the summit. Although you cannot climb ALL the way up and into the lookout, you can climb to a landing that provides beautiful views of Somes Sound.
TRAIL: Beech Mountain Cliffs
DESCRIPTION: This trail provides epic views of Echo Lake and can be accessed a few different ways. From the Echo Lake parking lot, enjoy a steep ascent requiring the use of ladders until you top out. From here, take the fairly level loop trail before taking the more gradual Canada Cliffs trail back to the Echo Lake Parking Lot; you may also continue on from the loop towards the Beech Hill Road Parking lot and Beech Mountain.
If you’re looking for a kid/family-friendly route to the Beech Cliffs loop, take the short, gradual hike up from the Beech Hill Road Parking lot and avoid all ladders and strenuous hiking!
TRAIL: Gorham Mountain
DESCRIPTION: A phenomenal mountain with absolutely stunning views of Sand Beach. We looped Gorham Mountain into our hike of the Beehive by hiking past The Bowl and continuing, a very short way, up to the summit of Gorham Mountain. Just south of the summit, Cadillac Cliffs provide the most picturesque views of Otter Point, Baker Island, and Sand beach. This part of the trail will be exceptionally busy, but there is enough space for each hiker to enjoy what this spot has to offer. We continued on, down to the Gorham Parking lot and hiked along the flat Ocean Path Trail back to our vehicle.
TRAIL: The Beehive
DIFFICULTY: Moderate – Strenuous
DESCRIPTION: Parking for the Beehive Trail can be found on Park Loop Road near Sand Beach. Arrive for Sunrise, or at minimum, before 8:00 AM in the busy summer months to ensure
1. A parking spot and 2. A climb that doesn’t require you to wait in a legit line of hikers.
I wouldn’t consider this hike overly difficult in that it is strenuous on your body, however, it is steep and I wouldn’t suggest it for those afraid of heights. If you are a family with young children, there are other trails available to experience the Beehive view; I wouldn’t suggest this trail for small children. A very busy hike, but for great reason! It’s beautiful and quite fun to climb. If you enjoy the Bee Hive and are looking for a similar, but more strenuous hike, check out the Precipice Trail!
TRAIL: Precipice Trail
DESCRIPTION: WHAT A HIKE. We loved this one…even though we were in a misty fog the entire climb. The impressive cliffs of Champlain Mountain are home to an ingenious route including iron rungs, ladders, handrails, rock scrambles, and wooden bridges. The parking lot is small and fills quickly, however, parking is allowed in the right lane of Park Loop Road at this point. This is a tough hike and definitely NOT recommended for families with children, or anyone who is afraid of heights/not steady on their feet.
The good news is that within 5 minutes of the hike you will reach an obstacle that acts as a test of sorts. A boulder outcropping with two awkwardly-placed iron rungs will help you determine if you’re ready for the rest of the challenge! The climb, although not technical, is a mile straight up from the lot to the summit. Gaining 850 feet of elevation in a mile is no joke. Make sure you are prepared and have taken all things into consideration.
Although I wish we had a view on our climb, it was pretty cool to climb in a fog as well! It is suggested you take a different trail to descend from Champlain Mountain; we took the Black and Orange path and walked for many 5 minutes on Park Loop Road after we left the trail to get back to the parking lot. PRO TIP: Don’t hold trekking poles in your hands for this one – if you’ll need them for the descent, pack em.
We didn’t have overly spectacular weather while we were in Acadia. This led us to accomplish a bit less hiking than we had hoped for! Other trails we had hoped to check out but will have to wait for another day include The Bubbles, Cadillac Mountain, and the Penobscot and Sargent Mountain Loop. Unfortunately, you can never do everything you’d like when you visit a place! It does, however, give you a really good excuse to return – and return we will! Acadia National Park was an absolute beauty.