Resting along the rugged coast of Maine, just outside of the quaint town of Bar Harbor, lies beautiful Acadia National Park (official NPS map here). Home to the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast, visitors come to hike the pink granite peaks, bike the historic carriage roads and simply relax and enjoy the incredible scenery.
With so many options and not enough days to do everything, though we did our best, here is our list of must-do adventures, sure to inspire, invigorate and leave you feeling ever-so-grateful for the time spent amongst such stunning nature.
1. One thing we had been looking forward to doing the most was summiting Acadia’s crowned jewel, Cadillac Mountain, a MUST DO for everyone visiting the park. Naturally, this was the first thing we did!
At 1,528 feet, this mountain is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and is the first place to view sunrise in the United States! You can either drive up the 3.5 mile Summit Road, but we only recommend this if something is physically preventing you from hiking the pine and granite laced trail, otherwise you can start your trek from a number of trailheads, be sure to check for trail closures when planning your trip.
We went for the longest and most scenic option. Starting at Blackwoods Campground, where we would be spending the night, we embarked on the 8.4 mile loop, which took us just under 5 hours.
The sense of accomplishment and awe-inspiring view left us speechless upon our arrival to the summit. As we hiked the return leg back to Blackwoods we had an extra “pep in our step” thinking about the campfire and starry-night sky that awaited us.
2. Blackwoods Campground. If you are looking for the perfect launching pad for your Acadia adventures, Blackwoods is as good as it gets. Be sure to book in advance if you are looking to visit between May and November.
There is one other campground in the park, Seawall, which is supposed to be a bit more peaceful, as it is more remote, but this also makes it farther from most of the parks must-do sites. However, if you don’t mind staying outside of the park, you absolutely must look into Mount Desert Campground, by far one of the most beautiful campsites we have ever been lucky enough to stay in. For the same price as Blackwoods you get hookups, showers and spots right along the lake, making for a stunning sunset-campfire session.
3. If you’ve tackled Cadillac and are looking to leave your hiking boots behind for a day, grab your mountain bike (rentals in Bar Harbor) and head for the 45-miles of rustic Carriage Roads which offer visitors some of the best biking trails in America.
Built by the Rockefeller family, these dirt roads, originally purposed for horse-drawn carriages, weave around the mountains and valleys of Acadia, offering sweeping vistas and close-up views of the coastal landscape.
4. Looking to add more sites to our biking adventure, we decided to pair the famous Carriage Roads up with biking the Park Loop Road (map below).
We started on the Carriage Roads, biking from Blackwoods Campground to Jordan Pond, where we enjoyed a beautiful picnic lunch. From there we rode to the Visitor Center and once we made it to Cadillac North Ridge we then merged onto the Park Loop Road (one-way map for bikers and drivers). We made various stops along the way, hiking The Beehive (written about below) and visiting Thunder Hole before returning to our campsite at the end of our 35-mile day. In our opinion Park Loop Road is the most beautiful bike ride in the entire park, we even went back the next day to walk our favorite part, the portion between Sand Beach and Otter Point.
5. Acadia is also known for it’s collection of intensely vertical, iron rung trails, taking hikers up and over the cliff sides of granite boulders, testing even the most courageous of hikers. The most famous of these trails is The Beehive, rising 520-feet in just .4 miles (less than a mile roundtrip), making for a heart-pumping, mind-blowing treat.
The trailhead starts just off of Park Loop Road near Sand Beach and can be paired up with a number of hikes in the area. A great loop would be to park at the Gorham Mountain trailhead, then hike from that summit to the Beehive, down to Sand Beach, then on to Thunder Hole at high tide, ending with an incredible sunset at Otter Point… Bam! Now that’s one awesome adventure.
6. Needing a bit of relief from all that hiking and biking, the Jordan Pond Shore Trail offers full-nature immersion with minimal exertion, making it fun and enjoyable for everyone. Plus it’s another great excuse to enjoy a picnic by the pond or to indulge in the Jordan Pond House‘s famous baked popovers and afternoon tea, an Acadia tradition since the late 1800’s!
This 3.3-mile loop around the pond is a dirt trail on the right (looking out from the Pond House), while the other half is lined with narrow wooden planks. We loved the wooden plank section, though we noticed people with strollers and canes who were experiencing some difficulties.
6. While walking along the Shore Trail, we came upon the trailhead for The Bubbles, another must-do for those looking to experience the most impressive vistas in the park.
We recommend starting your hike by going along the right side of Jordan Pond and ascending the South Bubble first, after a steep climb you will reach the summit where you will find the famous “Balanced Rock.”
Once you’ve enjoyed the views and taken some iconic photos, continue along the trail and head on over to the North Bubble, from which you will see one of the best views overlooking the glistening Jordan Pond.
If we had more time we would have summited the park’s namesake, Acadia Mountain, and if the trail wasn’t closed for Peregrine Falcon nesting we would have been all over Precipice Trail, the most challenging and well known hiking trail in Acadia National Park with an exposed and almost vertical 1,000 foot climb up the east face of Champlain Mountain!
With so much beauty to behold, you really can’t go wrong with anything you do in Acadia.
You’ll want to spend a minimum of 3 days here. 4-5 is optimal, but if you stay focused you can squeeze in a fine amount of adventure and relaxation in 3 days, if need be.
Bring a wind breaker whenever you hike up mountains, the Maine winds can be brutal and cold.
Bring bug spray! Although we didn’t need it, we were told we got very lucky.
Looking to have a campfire? Pick up some wood locally, it’s readily available throughout town for about $3/ bundle.
Bring quarters (and a towel) if you want to shower, all campgrounds have coin operated showers ONLY. Blackwoods and Seawall showers were $2/4 minutes.
Before you leave town be sure to treat yourself to the finest and freshest Maine Lobster at the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound! More than a meal, it’s a true experience from start to finish. You pick out your lobster, weigh it, steam it and Josette will even help show you how to eat it! This was definitely one of Drew’s favorite highlights of the trip: