St. Sauveur Trail – Acadia National Park
Virginia Trail Guide is back in Acadia National Park for three new hikes! It feels like we’ve been hiking everywhere but Virginia lately! :-)
The 3.2 mile out-and-back St. Sauveur Trail gives you a ridge walk to a tree-covered summit. From the summit of Sauveur, a short lollipop loop takes you out to Valley Peak for views of Somes Sound, Northeast Harbor, and the Cranberry Islands.
We made it to Acadia National Park, but we had a rough start of things. Our biggest adversary on vacation always seems to be Mother Nature. Weather in New England tends to change often and weather on Mount Desert Island is even more unpredictable. When we were viewing projected online 10-day forecasts for the area, we would see a week full of rain one day and then see a week of sunshine the next day. As the departure day for us got closer, the weather tended to look more bleak. We even debated canceling the trip, since a week full of rain would definitely make it hard to do the things we enjoy.
The drive up was filled with torrential rain. Then, the first two days after we arrived were also rainy. Finally, on Monday, it looked like we would have almost a full day of sunshine so we prepared to run ourselves ragged with fun. Now, a 3.2 mile hike doesn’t sound like it should be tough, but it was the last thing we were to do that day.
Before we hiked the St. Sauveur trail, we decided to rent bikes and do our favorite loop of a bike ride around Witch Hole, Eagle Lake, Jordan Pond and Bubble Pond. We walked from our hotel about 1.5 miles to the town of Bar Harbor to rent bikes. We took the Island Explorer shuttle to Eagle Lake and started our ride. We ended up biking about 20 miles on the carriage roads and back into Bar Harbor. We arrived back to the bike rental shop and walked back to the hotel. After already covering 23 miles, we decided we needed to make the most of things – and what better way than to head out on another hike. The person that rented our bikes to us recommended the St. Sauveur trail. He said after traveling all over the country he found the views from here to be the best he has ever seen. Convinced, we decided to pursue his recommendation.
We drove towards Southwest Harbor and began our hike at the Acadia Mountain parking lot. There were tons of cars in the parking lot, but most of the people here were swimming in Echo Lake across the road (one of the few lakes that allow for swimming in the area). We climbed up the stairs that mark the beginning of the trail into the woods.
In .1 miles, up the trail, you come across a junction with the St. Sauveur Trail. Take a right at this intersection and continue up the gradual trail. The trail does take some tricky turns up the mountain at some points, so be on the lookout for blue blazes and cairns which will help you to navigate the trail. Since the St. Sauveur Trail is not used as heavily on this stretch, there were a few areas where we were making our way through low bushes to follow the trail.
At .7 miles, you reach another junction with the Ledge Trail, but continue straight. At 1.2 miles, you reach the peak of 679 ft. St. Sauveur Mountain, marked with a summit post. Continuing past the summit marker, you can follow the Valley Peak trail. This is a loop trail, but we took the path to the right first. This leads to the 521 ft. Valley Peak at 1.6 miles, providing great views of Somes Sound, Greening Island, Northeast Harbor, and the distant Cranberry Islands. We went back to the St. Sauveur Trail through the other branch of the loop from Valley Peak. We were immediately given even better views before making our way up a steeper path up to the St. Sauveur Trail and return trip back to the parking lot for our 3.2 mile trip.
The St. Sauveur Mountain was named after the St .Sauveur mission that was established in the nearby area.in 1613. The French established several Jesuit missions in Maine to try to convert and the Wabanaki Native Americans to Catholicism, while providing refuge from the British. The British destroyed the mission within 13 weeks of it being established, starting wars between the British and French with the Wabanaki caught in the middle. There were 150 years of battles over these types of territories as the French wanted this area to be New France while the British wanted this area to be New England. You can read more about the Wabanaki tribe and the St. Sauveur mission here.
There was a definite moment on the trail (probably just a quarter of a mile from the end) where I just felt too exhausted to continue. I laid my trekking poles on the ground and sprawled across the trail. I collapsed there for a few minutes but found it within myself to just finish the last bit of downhill. Needless to say, I slept well that night.
After three straight days of rain, I was really looking forward to our first nice, sunny day in Maine. When I woke up in our hotel room Monday morning, I crept out of bed and peeked through the side of the curtain… hoping to be greeted with brilliant sunshine. What I actually saw was drizzly fog, but I felt pretty confident that it was going to dry up and burn off.
We went for an early breakfast at Café This Way, which is another one of our favorite breakfast spots on the island. It has a cozy, eclectic décor and really delicious coffee and food. After breakfast, we went back to the hotel to plan the day.
We decided to rent bikes and ride around the carriage trails. Parking in Bar Harbor and throughout Acadia is very limited – there are few spaces and most of them (especially those in town) are limited to 2-3 hours. So, we decided to leave the car at the hotel and walk into town. From the Village Green, we were able to catch a bike shuttle into the park – for FREE! The Island Explorer makes it so easy to get around the island.
Our bike ride was so fun! I always enjoy this loop so much that we ride it almost every year we visit the area. We enjoyed lunch and popovers at Jordan Pond House. We saw Martha Stewart riding a stunning Fresian horse. We saw four deer – including three fawns. And we thoroughly enjoyed all the pond views and the smell of pine on the breeze.
We rode our bikes all the way back into town instead of taking the shuttle, returned our rentals and walked back to the hotel. We refilled our water bottles and headed right back out – to hike St. Sauveur and Valley Peak. We found a parking spot right along Rt. 102, next to trailhead. As soon as I got out of the car, I saw a man hiking down the trail – with a ferret! Weird…
When I first stepped onto the blocky granite steps at the trailhead, I questioned the wisdom of our decision to continue the active portion of our day. After 23 miles of biking and walking, my quadriceps were pretty tired! But when you have nice weather in Acadia, you are obligated to GO until you can go no more.
The early part of the St. Sauveur trail climbed steadily and gradually upward. We scrambled over and between granite boulders, stepping carefully across the root and pine needle covered trail. The low blueberry and huckleberry bushes scraped our legs along the narrow trail. I could hear red squirrel chattering angrily at us from the trees overhead. One hid under a boulder and then went scampering underfoot when we passed. Red squirrels are infinitely cuter than the gray squirrels we typically see in the mid-Atlantic.
After climbing uphill for a while, the grade of the trail became gentler. We walked along the ridgeline, occasionally dipping into thicker forest, until we eventually reached the tree-covered summit of St. Sauveur. I snapped a quick photo of the summit marker before we continued on to take in view from Valley Peak.
The summit of Valley Peak is mostly downhill from the St. Sauveur. You’ll know you’ve reached it when you see views opening to the sea. From rocky outcroppings and cliffsides, you’ll take in stunning views of Somes Sound and the bay. I always enjoy naming the islands, watching the sailboats and looking at the impressive homes (they call them cottages) along the coastline.
We stayed on Valley Peak for a while, enjoying the views and the cool breezes. On the return trip, we took the other side of the lollipop loop. It was more open and offered more views than the way we had come. I was glad for more chances to take in views of the sound.
The return arm contained one steep climb back up to the summit of Sauveur. From there, the remainder of the hike was either flat or downhill. Close to the end, we even had one more nice view across the island, overlooking Echo Lake.
Somewhere on the downhill climb, I noticed that I didn’t hear footsteps behind me anymore. I turned to check on Adam, and found him lying across the trail, arms and legs splayed. I asked if he was OK. He responded ‘I’m just so exhausted. I can’t go anymore’. But, somehow he managed to prevail and eventually made it back to the car. It felt so good to get back to the hotel and shower! We finished the day with a big dinner at a new restaurant called Cherrystones and an early night to bed. With sunshine in the forecast for the next two days, we definitely needed to rest up for more adventures!
- Distance – 3.2 miles out-and-back with a lollipop trail out to Valley Peak.
- Elevation Change – about 650 feet
- Difficulty – 2.
- Trail Conditions – 3. The trail goes over a lot of pink granite native to the area. The first .7 miles were a little overgrown, but once you reach the ridge top, the conditions are great.
- Views– 4. The best views are from Valley Peak, which on a clear day will provide gorgeous, panoramic views for miles.
- Streams/Waterfalls – 0. Non-existent.
- Wildlife – 2. We saw a cute red squirrel and some juncos along the trail, but not much else. You may be able to see some gulls and vultures from the viewpoint or other birds of prey if you are lucky.
- Ease to Navigate – 3. There were some tricky spots along the first .7 miles and there could be a few more blue blazes and cairns to help navigate the way. Signs are only at the junctions.
- Solitude – 3. We did find a few people at the Valley Peak overlook. Most people seem to choose Acadia Mountain over this trail, but the views are better here.
Directions to trailhead: From Somesville, ME head south towards Southwest Harbor on Route 102 for 3 miles. The parking lot for the Acadia Mountain trail is on the left, across from Echo Lake.