This past November while hiking Vulture Peak we struck up a conversation with another hiker we met on the trail. She and many of her friends are planning a trip to Acadia National Park. She asked us if we would send her an email with our favorite hikes. It took John and I a while to settle on our favorites but we wrote them down and mailed them off to her. I decided I should share this information on my blog in case others are planning a trip to Acadia in the near future.
Just for a little background, John and I both love Acadia National Park. Our home is just 2 hours away and we spend a great deal of time there each year. Hiking and biking are our two favorite things to do in the park. Despite 100’s of days spent here we never get bored with the area. In fact we just booked a 6-weekend stay in the area. We did the same thing last year. The KOA in Bar Harbor offered a special last year and this year that allows you to camp for 6 weekends for $250 and you can leave the camper at the park during the week. We were able to negotiate a similar deal with another campground in the area. Our membership in RPI allows us to camp before June 15th and after September 15th for just $15 per night plus the resort fee. This is for a 50 amp full hook up site and the parks included are on the bus route. It’s hard to pass up this deal. The other thing that makes us love this national park is the fact that it has to be the most dog friendly national park in the country. Dogs are able to hike on almost every trail and are allowed on the national park bus. The town of Bar Harbor is dog friendly too with most shops allowing dogs in and restaurants with patios allowing you to dine with your dog.
In our list of 5 favorite hikes we tried to pick ones that were unique from each other and of different levels of difficulty and length.
- Mount Cadillac– You can’t go to Acadia without hiking Mount Cadillac. We like the South Ridge Trail approach to Cadillac. This trailhead is located off Route 3 near Blackwoods campground. You can do a roundtrip hike (7 miles total) on this trail or if you are visiting while the park buses are running you can do a Cadillac Traverse. You hike up the South Ridge Trail
and down the North Ridge Trail.
There are great views all along the way.
We like to start early to avoid crowds. Make sure you take the Eagle’s Crag Loop on the way up the South Ridge trail. The views are definitely worth it. Once you descend on the North Ridge Trail you simply take the appropriate bus route back to your car. You need to make sure you pack a bus route map with times in your pack. The total distance for this hike is about 7.5 miles.
2. The Bubbles– This is a short but strenuous hike that brings you to the summit of both South and North Bubble.
The trail starts at the Bubble Rock Parking lot. I would definitely take the bus to the start of this hike during the busy season as there is limited parking. The trail brings you to the divide between the two bubbles. We like to hike out and back to both bubbles from the divide. The views across Jordan Pond and out to the ocean are amazing from the summits.
You can’t miss taking the short trail down from the summit of South Bubble to take a picture trying to “push bubble rock” over the edge.
3. Bar Island– We had spent years exploring Acadia National Park before we ever hiked out to Bar Island. One year we got an excellent spring special at the Bar Harbor Inn that included dinner in the restaurant overlooking the harbor. While we were eating dinner we could see people with flashlights heading out across the water to an island. We inquired about this and were told it was Bar Island and that you can reach it during low tide.
We decided to put it on our list for our next visit. This is a short hike, 2 miles round trip,with very little elevation. We like this hike because it provides views of Bar Harbor and the mountains of Acadia National Park that you can’t get from any other vantage point.
You will need to look up the tide chart for Bar Harbor to plan this hike. We like to time our hike with the outgoing tide as soon as the bar is revealed. This gives you the maximum amount of time to complete the hike. Please be aware of when to return unless you want to wait out 12-hours on the island.
4. Gorham Mountain Loop– We do this every time we visit Acadia. We start by parking at the Sand Beach parking lot. This lot fills up early during peak season. In summer utilize the bus system to avoid any parking issues. We start out on the Bowl Trail follow it past the junction with the Beehive Trail
and continue on the trail until you turn left towards Gorham Mountain. The climb up Gorham mountain
is beautiful with amazing views back towards Sand Beach and the Ocean.
Once you reach the summit you continue on the trail until it brings you back to the Gorham Mountain parking lot.
You will then take the Ocean Path all the way back to Sand Beach. I would estimate this hike to be about 3-3.25 miles long. Despite it’s short length you should give yourself a half day so you can stop and take in all the amazing views.
There are lots of small side paths from the Ocean Path that take you to ocean lookouts. You will be walking past Thunderhole on this trip. If you are lucky you might get a chance to see it live up to it’s namesake.
5. Pemetic Mountain Traverse– If you are looking for steep rugged climb
followed by a open ridge line traverse then this is the hike for you. This hike starts across the street from the Bubble Rock Parking lot on the Pemetic Northwest Trail. In 0.6 miles it brings you up a very steep and rocky trail and 800 feet to the ridge line. This is a great trail for those who like rock scrambling. Once on the summit
you take the gentler Pemetic South Ridge Trail down to it’s junction with the Bubbles and Jordan Ponds Path. You follow this trail to The Jordan Pond House. This is a very popular location and a great place to plan lunch after a morning hike. The wait can be long if you do not have reservations. The length of the hike is about 2.7 miles. You will need to catch the Island Explorer back to your car. If steep trails are not for you, you can start the hike at the Bubble Pond Parking lot and take the Pemetic North Ridge Trail up. This adds about .4 miles to your hike. This route up is a bit gentler and just as scenic.
OK, who am I kidding, I cannot limit myself to 5 favorites. There will be sequels to this blog as I think we must have 20 favorite hikes in the park. I would suggest buying the Acadia National Park Waterproof Trail Map before visiting. It is a great way to come up with routes up and over all of these mountains. This map includes the Carriage Trails as well. This map comes with us on every trip to Acadia. You can buy it online or at one of the local stores once you arrive.