Whenever people think of a National Park, they think of one large park, with clearly marked boundaries. But Acadia National Park is not like any other national park. For starters, it is not one lage park, like the other National parks. It is broken up into many sections and spread all across the island and beyond. Some of the outter islands that can be accessed by boat are part of the park. All of Bar Island, which can be accessed by car or foot, at low tide, is also part of the Park. In fact, over an hours drive away, by Winter Harbor, lies yet another part of the park, the schoodic Point area.
Regardless of your background, Acadia offers plenty of challengers for everyone, regardless of your skill level or your abilities. I will start off listing some of those challengers, and offer a little insight on each.
THE CARRIAGE ROADS
The carriage road system is one of the main attractions of Acadia, and a perfect example of how Acadia offers a challenge for everyone - regardless of what level your at. The carriage roads are 45 miles of crushed stone roads built between 1913 to 1940. The roads are 16 feet wide, smooth and well drained. The 45 miles of roadway is not just one road, it is a network of many roads that interact with one another all across the island.
Cars and motorcycles are forbidden on the carriage roads, they are there to be enjoyed by walkers, joggers, bike riders, and horse back riders. It is not unusual to see horse drawn carriages on sections of the roads as well.
Many of the cariage roads are fairly flat ground that is easy for almost anyone. Some rise up hills and dip back down into valleys. Others challenge the most abled body souls as they slowly wind their way up to the summit of mountain peaks. Don't have a bike, no problem, there are at least three bike rental shops indowntown Bar Harbor alone.
These carriage roads can be accessed at many different locations, but two of the most popular are at Duck Brook Bridge and at the Eagle Lake Parking lot. Parking is very linited at both sites, so you may have to park along the side of the roadway.
Since the roads intersect and criss cross one another at different places, each road has its own sign, stating what road your currently on and where it goes, as well as how many miles long it is. Each sign post is also numbered, and the numbers match up with the numbers on maps that can be bought in many of the shops in town.
The carriage roads themselves wind along side and around Eagle Lake and many of the island ponds, such as Witch Hole pond, Aunt Betty's pond, Hadlock pond, Jordan pond and many others. Another key feature are the 17 spectacular stone bridges which you will cross or pass under as you explore the many roads. So if shady wooded lanes and lush sun-filled valleys appeal to you, or cycling mountain elevations with breathtaking views is for you, the carriage roads offer a little something for everyone.
TO VIEW PHOTOS OF CARRIAGE ROADS, CLINK ON LINK BELOW
THE HIKING TRAILS
I will not go into much detail on how to locate these trails, as most shops in town and on the island have detailed maps showing all of the hiking trails as well as the carriage roads. And by no means will I list all the trails, I will just name off some of the trails I would reccomend along with some info on each.
Many maps refer to this as the Jesup trail. An easy trail that begins in shady woods, then comes out into a large meadow. As you hike it, you will come across several other trail markers. The Meadow Loop trail comes out at Sieur de monts, the wild gardens and nature center. Suitable for strollers, I would not reccomend wheel chairs, as there are a few wooden bridges you have to cross. Just as a side note, the park has two Abbe museums, one is located here. Unless your really into staring at many many pieces of rock under glass, skip this one. Most children find it very boring. Do take your kids to the Abbe museum located in Bar harbor on Mount desert street.
Trail is along the one way section, just keep driving until you see your first paved road on the left hand side, Slow down and park along side of road. The trail will be right there on the right.
OTTER CLIFFS TRAIL
Park at either Sand beach parking lot or Thunder Hole parking lot. The trail is right there running along the side of the park lop road. It winds in and out of the trees, with some stunning views of the ocean and mountains. Not suitable for a stroller or wheel chair, and while much of the trail is safe for young children, it does come close to a few drop offs, so keep that in mind. This is an easy trail.
SHIP HARBOR TRAIL
Located along route 102A, in Seawall, The first half of this trail is easy, suitable for both strollers and wheel chairs. It comes out to a open view of the harbor, great spot for photos. At this point the trail goes into two directions, forming a loop. The loop has many rocks sticking up in the trail and is not suitable for strollers or wheel chairs. I would call this an easy hike.
Along the same stretch as ship harbor trail, Wonderland is actually an old fire road. Not suitable for a wheel chair, but you can get a stroller through here, I use to do it. Yhe road makes its way through woods and open fields, until it comes out at a beach. By the beach the trail continues off to the left before going in two directions to form a small loop. An easy hike that the kids will love as they explore the beach and rocks by the oceans edge.
CADILLAC MOUNTAIN NORTH RIDGE TRAIL
This trail is on the one way section, pull over at the first senic vista pull over on the right. The trail is across the road. This is a moderate trail up to the summit of Cadillac mountain. Most children, unless very young, can handle this trail. Be sure to bring a wind breaker, water, and snacks.
CHAMPLAIN NORTH RIDGE TRAIL
This trail is a moderate trail, not suitable for very young children. It ends at the summit of Champlain Mountain. Its also located along the one way section of the park loop road, about a mile past the sieur de monts turnoff. There is a senic vist on the left where you can park. Be certain to keep a close watch of your children at the summit, as one side of the mountain is a sheer face, and a large sign at the summit warns all that going beyond this point can result in serious injury or loss of life. See next trail on list for explanation.
Located on the eastern fact of champlain mountain, this is one of the most challenging trails in the park. It has an exposed 1000 foot surface that is practically vertical and is very strenuous, and should be attempted by only experienced climbers who have no fear of heights. The parking lot for the trail is just around the corner from the champlain north ridge trail, and a short ways before the entrance fee station. There are warnings at the start of the trail as well as at the summit warning that people have died on this trail. I myself have know a couple of people who have fallen to their death on this trail, so do be careful.
THE BEE HIVE
The Bee Hive is the second most dangerous trail on the island. Again, at the beginning as well as at the top of the climb, there are large signs warning that going beyond this point can lead to serious injury or death. The trail is directly across the road from the Sand beach parking lot. Its shaped like a giant bee hive with a sheer eastern face. You can't miss it. You will see climbers making their way up or down it as you approach. You will be met by very narrow ledges with steep drop offs and iron ladder rungs you will have to climb. The trail/climb keeps going back and forth across the face until it reaches the top. Going up I have been told is the easy part, its trying to come back down that is very hard. Going up its easy to see where all those ladder rungs and narrow ledges are, but coming down, making your way backwards, is a whole other story. Many will only get a third of the way back down and end up phoning or screaming for help, and the rangers have to go up and help lead them back down. This trail is not suitable for children, period.
TAKE A VIRTUAL HIKE UP GREAT HILL
And a virtual hike may be as close to hiking up Great Hill as many will get. A little info on the video, maps of the 1800's right up until the mid 1900's all show at least fivehiking trails on Great Hill. But today, there is no official trail ther. So where d they vanish to? And why? Well, the park service just up and decided to abandon all the trails on Great Hill, period. But the spirit of Great Hill will not and should not die. Locals today, who know the history of Great Hill and where those great trails once ran, still hike those trails, as the trails founders had meant them to be hiked.
The virtual hike follows one of those abandoned trails.
CLICK ON LINK TO TAKE VIRTUAL HIKE UP GREAT HILL
So there you go, a list of some hikes for different skill levels. Even though you are likely to see young teens and children climbing those last two, I myself would never allow my children on either of those. There is no room for error and they are unforgiving. I will have a link soon with photos of these trails.
NATIONAL PARK MUSEUMS
Basiclly there are two, three if you include the Nature Center into the mix. I will list them below, wth some detail on the first lcation.
ABBE MUSEUM AT SIEUR DE MONTS
Okay, unless your really really into rocks and stones, skip tis one. Most kids are bored to death here. That does not mean to avoid going to Sieur de monts, because there is much to see and do there without paying to see a bunch of stones.
There is the Wild Gardens for one. Many native plants on display, some of them rare. I have heard that the park now offers a mini tour of the gardens and spring for a small fee, keep your money, the gardens are free and are self-guiding as well, everything is labeled.
There is als the Nature Center, when I went into it years ago there was not that much to see there, but since then they have totally redone it and now charge an entrance fee.
Up behind the small Abbe Museum thereis a short hiking trail through the woods that coms out by a pond, a great hike for kids and nice place for them to throw rocks in to the water.
There isalso tw trails up Dorr Mountain, made up mostly of stone steps. Bring water and snacks, you will need them by the time you reach the summit, but the surrounding views, including Cadillac mountain directly across from you, are priceless.
Directions to the Sieur de Mont area, look for signs shortly after leaving Bar Harbor, along route 3 heading toward the twn of Otter Creek. Or if your on the Park Loop Road, once on the one way section, look for the signs, they will be on your right.
ABBE MUSEUM ON MOUNT DESERT STREET
Okay - this is the one you want to take the kids to. Many great Native American displays here, along with workshops for adults and kids. There is a sall fee, but its worth it. Located on Mount dsert street, in Bar Harbor, almost across from the Village Green.
GREEN MOUNTAIN RAILROAD
Of the millions of visitors that come to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park each year, very few are aware that in the 1800's there was a cog train that carried passengers up to the summit of Green Mountain (now Cadillac). And if you asked the locals, many know of the train, but very few could pin point the exact location of the route the train took.
In all likelihood, even if you wanted to, you most likely would not be able to retrace the route, it is just too overgrown, to littered with fallen tree,s just too hard to loate period. Knowing this, I have taken a camera and retraced most of the route, for historic purposes. It is also my hope that this video will call attention to the one remaining piece of rail that still exisits, and that an effort will be made to preserve it beofre it too is lost forever.
I hope you enjoy the vide and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.