Pemetic Mountain – Acadia National Park (ME)

Special: Acadia Edition

This 2.9 mile segment hike starts from Bubble Pond, crosses Pemetic Mountain and comes out at Jordan Pond. You will either need access to two cars or the free Island Explorer Shuttle Bus.

Adam on the Pemetic Summit
Adam enjoys views from the Pemetic summit. Below: Christine climbs steeply up the trail; Views of Eagle Lake in the morning clouds; Adam walks across Pemetic in the direction of Jordan Pond; Jordan Pond.

Uphill Climb Foggy View of Eagle Lake
Adam Hiking Down Jordan Pond

Adam Says…

We had hiked up Pemetic Mountain as an out-and-back on previous trips up to Acadia National Park, but we decided that we wanted to try a different route this time to incorporate both sides of the mountain.

We started from the Bubble Pond parking lot early in the morning.  This lot has space for about 20 cars.  If you’ve been to Acadia before, you will know that there will be a lot more traffic than what this lot can accommodate.  The proximity to the carriage roads makes this a popular spot for cyclists to park.  By 10 a.m. this lot will likely be full and you will have to park elsewhere.

From the parking lot, we walked, taking a left, over the Bubble Pond bridge and down the carriage road.  Within about 200 feet you will see a sign for the trailhead to Pemetic Mountain.  The trail starts off with a steep grade through the deep woods, climbing up through exposed roots and rocky surfaces.  The rain had come down heavily the night before, so this made for some slippery footing.  After about .8 miles, the trail began to open up to a nice viewpoint where you could see across to Cadillac Mountain and down to the southern edge of Bubble Pond.  The trail begins to open up at this point as you will continue to rise until you climb above the treeline at the one mile marker.  In 1.2 miles, you reach the summit post of Pemetic Mountain, giving you panoramic views of the mountains, lakes, and ponds around you.

Bubble Pond Bridge
The Bubble Pond Bridge. Below: Bubble Creek was flowing heavily due to the previous day’s flooding rains; The first part of the hike is along the carriage trail;  The trailhead marker; Adam climbs over rocky terrain.

Bubble Creek Carriage Road to Trailhead  Trailhead Marker Rocky and Rooty Trail

From the summit, we decided to take a different path down and went down the South Pemetic Mountain Trail (you can also take the Northwest Pemetic Mountain Trail to form around a 4 mile loop with the Carry Loop).  This led across the open granite face of the mountain and we followed cairns along the way to ensure we were going the correct way.  The views on the way down this way were also spectacular.  At the edge of the exposed mountaintop, we reached a junction with other trails around the 2 mile marker.  We headed to the right towards the junction with the pond trail.  This put us back below treeline down a steep decline that was slicker than the way we went up.  We were both glad we brought our trekking poles to balance us on the wet granite trail.  At 2.4 miles, we reached the junction with the Pond Trail.  We took a right on this which descended until leveling out.  We crossed a small rockway bridge which took us right to the Jordan Pond House.

Lush Forest
The woods were beautiful. Below: Steep climbing; Tricky and complicated footing; The higher we climbed, the foggier it became.

Adam Climbing Complicated Footing Into the Fog

We went to the front of the house and caught one of the Island Explorer buses waiting out front which carried us straight back to the Bubble Pond parking lot and our vehicle.

Usually I am a little skeptical about bus systems and how convenient they are to use, but the Island Explorer system in Acadia won us both over for convenience and ease of use.  We used them earlier in the week to rent bikes and ride along the carriage roads.  They had a few bike shuttles running in the morning from the center of Bar Harbor.  We just lined up and we only had to wait about 15 minutes before the bus came to load up our bikes and took us to Eagle Lake.  I brought a bus schedule with me on this hike and there were buses coming by the Jordan Pond House about every 20 minutes that could take you back to Bubble Pond.    And if you start your hike early enough, you can be back at Jordan Pond to enjoy a nice lunch with popovers outside with your view of Jordan Pond and The Bubbles.  There is not much of a better reward for a great hike than that.

While we were relaxing at the top of Pemetic Mountain, Christine and I were ranking our favorite hikes in Acadia.  Over the years, we have done most of the hikes up here and there are so many great trails here.  But after much pondering, here is how I would rank my favorites:

  1. Cadillac Mountain South Ridge
  2. Penobscot Mountain/Sargent Mountain Loop
  3. Gorham Mountain
  4. Cadillac Mountain North Ridge to Dorr Mountain Loop
  5. Pemetic Mountain

Christine Says…

Before I share my thoughts about the Pemetic hike, I wanted to talk a little about the impact of inclement weather when hiking in Acadia.  Some years, we head to Acadia and have a full week of bluebird skies and seventy-degree days.  Those years are always glorious and memorable. Other years, the island seems to stay trapped under a stationary area of low pressure – with ongoing rain, fog and humidity. 2012 happened to be one of those years.  We had a few nice (though still hot and muggy) days, but more days ended up foggy and rainy.

Normally, if it rains on a hiking trip, you throw on your rain gear and press on.  However, with all the slick, exposed granite in Acadia, it can be a dangerous place to hike when it’s been raining. Evidently, the summer of 2012 was quite rainy and a very bad summer for hiker injuries in the park.  In the several weeks before we arrived, a man slipped, fell and broke his leg on Dorr Mountain, another woman slipped and seriously injured her back on Gorham Mountain, and sadly another young woman (an experienced hiker) slipped and fell to her death on the Precipice Trail.  Hiking in wet, rainy conditions is not something to be taken lightly on Acadia’s unforgiving terrain. If it’s raining, and you still want to hike, try the Carriage Roads instead.  They’re lovely and always safely passable.

Pemetic Summit
The Pemetic Summit.  Below: Adam climbs over granite as we approach the summit; A foggy view of Bubble Pond; A view of Jordan Pond from the summit; Adam enjoys the view.

Nearing the Pemetic Summit  Foggy View of Bubble Pond
Jordan Pond from Pemetic  Flat Granite on Pemetic Summit

The day before we hiked Pemetic, Mount Desert Island and Acadia received a lashing of bad weather. Streets flooded, ponds jumped their banks, and waterfalls poured off the mountainsides in places where there normally isn’t any running water. The rain lasted most of the day before finally slowing to a drizzle in the evening hours. In the morning, it was still wet and foggy, but the forecast called for the clouds clear off by mid-morning. It was our last day of vacation, so we wanted to get out there and do one last hike, even if it meant slogging through a bit of mud and taking our time to be careful on slippery terrain.

We decided to climb Pemetic Mountain, which is tucked into the space between Bubble Pond and Jordan Pond. We’ve hiked it before. I remembered it being steep, and covered with a tangle of roots and loose rock. I took a hard fall there a few years ago. I slipped on a layer of wet pine needles on granite and fell about ten feet onto a dead, and very spiky, spruce. One of the broken limbs stabbed through my shirt, into my back and left a puncture wound with a large surrounding bruise. Ouch!

Needless to say, we took great care climbing up this time, choosing our steps wisely and making sure footholds were secure. I remembered the trail being much tougher and steeper than it was, but I’m in better shape now than I was a few years ago. The wooded part of Pemetic is stunningly beautiful – lush and green. There are evergreens all up the mountainside, with their tall straight trunks leading to an umbrella-like canopy of green. The forest floor is colored in a patchy pattern of soft-red of pine needles and vivid green moss.

The Bubbles
A view of the Bubbles across Jordan Pond. Below: The trail downhill went through forest; The Island Explorer Bus.

Adam Hiking Down Island Explorer Bus

As we climbed, the woods became increasingly foggy. It was beautiful in a quiet, mysterious kind of way, but I worried that we would miss out on any views from the top. The first viewpoint we came to was at a small outcropping overlooking Bubble Pond. Banks of fog moved across the opening, sometimes we could see the pond and sometimes we could not. We took a short break for water and continued toward the summit. For a short stretch after the view, the trail dipped back into the forest until finally stepping out onto open granite for the final push to the summit. At the summit, we ended up having a decent view of Jordan Pond and Frenchman Bay beyond. There was still a lot of blowing fog and low clouds, but the openings between them were generous enough to make the view worthwhile.

We chatted with a few other hikers at the summit about different hikes on the island, enjoyed the views, and ate some trail mix. We took photos at the summit marker, looked for hikers across the way on Penobscot and Sargent, and then made our way down the opposite side of Pemetic. The granite dome of the mountain was impressive on the downhill hike – smooth and expansive, offering more views of the offshore islands. Eventually, we ended up back in thick, evergreen forest for the steepest part of our downhill climb.

At the base of the mountain we met the Pond Trail which took us slightly around Jordan Pond and then back to the Jordan Pond House. We contemplated getting popovers a la mode, but Adam really wanted to head back into town for lunch. We ended finishing our hike at just the right time! An Island Explorer Bus headed toward Bubble Pond was waiting for us to hop right on. It was such an easy way to hike Pemetic without doing one trail as an out and back.

By the time we finished hiking, every trace of clouds and fog had cleared off!  After lunch, we actually did a second hike – Gorham Mountain, which is one of our perennial favorites!

Trail Notes

  • Distance 2.9  miles (makes use of the Island Explorer Shuttle)
    (Check out the stats from MapMyHike)*
  • Elevation Change – About 950 feet
  • Difficulty – 2.5 The hike up and down Pemetic Mountain is quite steep, but with the short distance isn’t too grueling.
  • Trail Conditions – 3.  The trail is well-maintained and clear, but the roots and rocks make all of the hiking in Acadia a little difficult.
  • Views– 5.  Panoramic views for miles on a clear day. 
  • Streams/Waterfalls – 3.  The parking area for the trail is alongside Bubble Creek.  The Pond Trail also runs alongside a small stream – and of course, Jordan Pond is lovely.
  • Wildlife –2.   We only saw a few red squirrels on the trail.  You may see some migrating hawks if you are lucky.  An occasional loon may be spotted in one of the ponds, but typically only around dawn.
  • Ease to Navigate – 3.5.  The trail wasn’t that hard to follow as long as you followed the blazes or cairns. 
  • Solitude – 3.  With proximity to Bubble Pond for bike riding and Jordan Pond, this is a fairly popular hike.  Expect to see people lingering at the summit, but the mountaintop is so large that you should be able to stake out your own area for solitude.

Directions to trailhead:  From Bar Harbor, head west on US-233 for about a mile.  Enter Acadia National Park on the left and take a right onto the Park Loop Road.  Travel about 1.9 miles until you see the Bubble Pond parking lot on the left.  Head down towards Bubble Pond on the carriage road.  The trail head starts off on the left about 200 feet along the carriage road.

* MapMyHike is not necessarily accurate, as the GPS signal fades in and out – but it still provides some fun and interesting information.

Cadillac Mountain North Ridge – Dorr Mountain Loop – Acadia National Park (ME)

Special: Acadia Edition

This 5.9 mile loop takes you over Cadillac and Dorr mountains – two of Acadia’s most prominent peaks.  There is some very steep climbing along exposed granite on this hike, but the views are truly spectacular!

Cairns on Dorr Mountain
Cairns mark the trail along the ridgeline leading to the summit of Dorr. Cadillac Mountain is visible across the gorge. Below: Stone stairs on the North Ridge Trail; Adam climbs across bare granite, Trail names are marked at junctions; The trail was more forested after leaving Kebo Mountain.

Stone Stairs on the North Ridge Trail Climbing the North Ridge Trail Junction Piney Trail

Christine Says…

Tuesday morning started clear and sunny, so we decided to get an early start and tackle a loop hike that would take us across the summits of Cadillac, Dorr and Kebo mountains.  After bagels, muffins, fruit and coffee (hooray for free hotel breakfasts!), we made the short drive from downtown Bar Harbor to the Cadillac North Ridge trailhead, which is located shortly after the Park Loop Road becomes one-way.

We’ve climbed the North Ridge Trail three or four times before, but this is the first time we combined it with other trails to create a loop.  The North Ridge Trail is significantly shorter than the South Ridge, but still offers beautiful views of the ocean and offshore islands.  When we arrived, we were able to get a parking spot at an overlook right across from the trailhead.  Unless you get an early start, you’ll definitely want to use the Island Explorer bus to access this hike.  It’s a popular route, and the overlook can only accommodate several cars.

Islands as Seen from the North Ridge Trail
Porcupine Islands are visible along the North Ridge Trail. Below: Adam at the trailhead at the beginning of our hike; Christine hikes across open granite; Cairns and the Porcupine Islands.

Cadillac North Ridge Trailhead Christine Hiking the North Ridge Trail Cairns Along the North Ridge

As we started hiking uphill, we passed a family of four that had hiked up in the dark to arrive at the summit in time for sunrise.  They looked exhausted but told us it was well worth the early start.  After that group, we really didn’t see anyone else until we arrived on the summit.  Even though it was early, the day was already really hot and humid.   Not even a hint of breeze was blowing.  I’m not used to sweltering in Maine (even in the summer), but I was so hot!  My head was pouring sweat which soon washed all the ‘waterproof sport’ sunscreen off my face.  Sometimes sunscreen seems like a losing battle!

Occasionally, the trail would duck into a small copse of pine trees.  Momentarily, the heat would abate and I would feel comfortable for a few minutes.  But the shade never lasted, and I continued to march up the mountain, behind Adam.   Finally, I had to stop and pull my shirt up and across my face to dry off the sweat.  Adam looked back at me and I told him I was hotter than I’d ever been in my entire life.  And honestly, that wasn’t much of an exaggeration!

Nearing the Cadillac Summit
Adam passes a precarious cairn as he nears the Cadillac Summit.  Below: Lots of sweeping views and granite; The trail occasionally went into the shade; Big sky over Cadillac.

Wider View from North Ridge Woods Along the North Ridge Trail Big Sky On Cadillac Mountain

As we approached the summit, the trail followed closer to the auto road.  We could see the roofs of passing cars and hear motorcycles rumbling nearby.  Whenever the trail came close to the road, I noticed more trash littering the trail – bottle caps,  candy wrappers, and so many cigarette butts.  People driving up clearly throw stuff out their windows  – how they can do that in Acadia is beyond me!

Soon, the parking lot at the summit of Cadillac came into view.  It was still fairly early, so the summit wasn’t terribly crowded – one bus and a few dozen cars.  We got cold drinks at the summit shop.  Adam surprised me with a bandanna with a map of Mount Desert Island on it.  He thought I could use it to mop sweat!  I tied it onto the shoulder strap of my pack, and we headed off to explore the network of paved pathways around the summit.

We took a few photos and then worked on finding the Gorge Path.  Basically, we just had to find cairns heading down Cadillac and in the general direction of Dorr Mountain.  There were no signs or markers telling us we were going the right direction (all blazes in Acadia are blue and trail names are only identified at junctions).  Pretty soon, we were all but certain that we were going the right way.  The steep, boulder-strewn face of the mountain matched the description we had read of the Gorge Path.  I put my trekking poles away, so I could have both hands free to climb.  I also stowed my dSLR and got my inexpensive point-and-shoot out to document the climb down.

Christine on the Cadillac Summit
Christine enjoys the view from Cadillac Mountain. Below: Adam at the summit building; Crowds on the summit; Adam begins the climb down the Gorge Path.

Cadillac Summit Building  Crowds on the Cadillac Summit Climbing Down the Gorge Path

The climb down went pretty quickly.  Though, all the while we were looking at the face of Dorr.  I asked Adam if we were going to be climbing up that cliff face.  He said ‘I don’t see how the trail would go… but maybe?’.  Around that time, we spotted two colorful specks making their way down the mountain –  other hikers.  They confirmed the trajectory of our upcoming climb.

At the junction in the saddle between Dorr and Cadillac, we took a break.  I actually changed out of my heavy Oboz hiking boots and back into my Montrail trail runners.  Initially, I thought the Oboz would be better on this ankle-turning terrain, but really they just made me feel clumsy and heavy-footed.  I think I might have taken my final step (pun intended) in my transition to trail runners.

The climb up Dorr ended up being much easier than I expected.  From the shoulder of Cadillac, it looked steep and slick and scary.  But once we were actually there, the climbing was really fun!  I enjoyed looked back at the tiny, ant-like people atop the Cadillac summit.   Once we finished the initial climb up the face of Dorr, the walking was fairly gradual and moderate along a ridgeline.  The summit was marked in traditional Acadia-fashion – with a large pile of stone with an elevation/summit marker in the middle.  There were a few groups of hikers atop the summit of Dorr, but nowhere near the crowds on Cadillac.

Adam Takes in the View from the Gorge Path
Adam takes in the view from the Gorge Path.

There were several routes down Dorr, so Adam consulted out map and hiking guide to make sure we found the right one.   On most Acadia hikes, you get views in nearly every direction, so we stopped frequently to admire the beauty around us.  The climb down Dorr turned out to be tough – steep and knee-grinding. Granite is always jarring and unforgiving on your joints.  I could see Adam starting to grimace in pain along the descent.

Once we were back in the woods and the views were gone, we still had a couple more miles to go, so we focused on covering the terrain as quickly as safety would allow.  Most of the return arm of the loop was downhill, with one short uphill climb over the summit of Kebo mountain.  Kebo is short and tree-covered, and offers no open views.  After the summit of Kebo,  the remainder of the hike passed through forest before eventually coming back out on the Park Loop Road.  From the end of the trail, we still had about a mile of road walking to get back to our car.

The road was really crowded and the shoulder was narrow.  I practically jogged to get the road-walking portion of the hike completed as quickly as possible.  I got back to the car a little before Adam.  I found a ranger writing parking tickets for all the cars that had overflowed the North Ridge parking area.  There were probably about a dozen cars people had just left sitting in the middle of the road.  Someone had parked on either side of our Subaru, allowing just inches in front and behind.  It took me about ten minutes to rock the car out of the spot.  By the time I got the car out, Adam was making the final uphill push along the road.  I picked him up and we headed back into town to get a big lunch with my parents.

The Cadillac-Dorr loop was an ideal way to bag these two Acadia summits in a single hike!  I think I still like the South Ridge Trail up Cadillac a little prettier, but this was a fantastic hike, too.

Adam Says…

When we were deciding which hikes that we would like to have accomplished for the week, we both knew we wanted to hike up Cadillac Mountain.  On our last trip, we hiked up the south ridge of Cadillac Mountain.  But our first time hiking up Cadillac Mountain was taking this route up the north ridge and we were excited to cover it on the blog.  Christine has been mentioning the last few trips to Acadia that she wanted to hike up Dorr Mountain.  My memory of hiking up Dorr Mountain (via the East Face Trail) included visions of hiking up seemingly endless rock stairs and I was not excited to do this again.  So, I consulted my map and came up with a way that we could combine the two and also bag another peak, Kebo Mountain.  The great thing about Acadia National Park is that so many of the trails intersect, so you can be quite creative with how you approach different hikes.

Climb Up the Dorr Face
Adam climbs the steep, rocky face of Dorr Mountain. Below: Adam looks back at Cadillac; People look like tiny ants on Cadillac; Walking the ridge toward the summit of Dorr.

Looking at Cadillac from Dorr Tiny People on the Cadillac Summit Approaching the Dorr Summit

We started our hike from the Park Loop Road at the trail marker for the Cadillac North Ridge Trail.  Climbing up a few quick steps, we started to ascend the granite path that makes up the entire park.  In a short distance, the blue-blazed trail then turns right and you entire a wooded area of evergreens and birches.  As you approach .6 miles, the trail begins to draw close to the Cadillac Summit Road and you may hear cars and motorcycles nearby but the road is not visible for much of the hike. The trail continues through the forested area, but occasionally will open up to some views.  At 1.1 miles, you reach a section of over 100 steps built into the trail.  Once you feel tired of the steps, the trail comes above the treeline and begins to open up to gorgeous views behind you.  The trail becomes a little trickier at this point as you have to focus more on following the blue blazes marked on the rock or cairns that lead you along the trail.  A few times, you will come closer to the road and may even see some cars parked at pullouts enjoying the views.  Keep following the trail and you will reach the top of Cadillac Mountain (at a parking lot) at 2.2 miles.

Many of the summits of the mountains are marked by tall cairns and signs marking the summit.  For Cadillac Mountain, the 1,532 foot summit is marked simply with a USGS summit marker, which is located behind the gift shop at the top.  On a clear day, you will likely see a full parking lot and a ton of people climbing around the rocks of Cadillac Mountain taking photos.  But, instead of driving up to the top, you have earned it by hiking up.

At the top of Cadillac Mountain, there is a .5 mile Cadillac Summit Trail which is a loop around the top of the mountain giving you great views along the way.  We took this trail around for .3 miles and on the Northeast side you will begin to see some cairns that marks the Gorge Path.  Follow this trail down the mountain which starts to quickly go steeply down the side of Cadillac Mountain.  I would only recommend this trail if you feel like you have good balance and knees as you are climbing down a steep rocky path, often requiring you to crab crawl down the trail on all fours in some spots.  It is called the Gorge Path for a definite reason and you will soon see that this path cuts sharply between Cadillac and Dorr Mountains.  I kept trying to look ahead to see if the path leveled off to join Dorr Mountain, but you do have to go to the bottom of the gorge before you climb up on the other side.  At 2.9 miles, just .4 miles and 500 feet down from the summit of Cadillac Mountain, you reach the bottom of the gorge and will see a sign marking the intersection of several trails.  We went straight across to begin climbing up to the summit of Dorr Mountain.  This part of the trail was not as bad as it appeared as we were descending Cadillac Mountain, but it does require some rock scrambling to make your way up.  At 3.1 miles, we were finished with the scrambling and reached another intersection sign post.  Heading to the right following the Dorr South Ridge Trail, we hiked another .1 mile, following cairns along the way, until we reached the summit post of Dorr Mountain at 1,270 feet.

Once you are finished enjoying the summit, we retraced our steps back to the intersection sign at the top of Dorr to follow the Dorr North Ridge Trail at 3.3 miles.  This trail is extremely steep downhill, descending 900 feet over the next mile, but we were glad we were hiking down instead of up even though it is hard on the knees.    At 4.2 miles, you come to an intersection with the Hemlock Trail, but stay straight.  The trail then begins to go up and down as you crest some small hills until you make another climb up to Kebo Mountain.  At 4.8 miles, you reach the summit also marked by a summit post, but there are not great views from here.  Once we reached the summit, it was another downhill hike until we reached the Park Loop Road at 5.1 miles.  Take a left here, ascending slightly up the road until you return to your vehicle at 5.9 miles.

Dorr Summit
The summit of Dorr Mountain. Below: Christine on the summit; Island view from the Dorr summit, Trail markers upon departing Dorr.

Christine on the Summit of Dorr Ocean View from Dorr Trail Signs on Dorr Mountain

While I do think you earn some respect by hiking up Cadillac Mountain, I’m always impressed with the people that bike up the Cadillac Summit Road.  While I was drinking a Gatorade while resting outside the gift shop, I struck up a conversation with a man in his upper 50s that had just biked up.  When I asked him how long of a ride it was, he laughed and said that he just knew that it was 1150 feet up.  As I researched later, it looks to be a 3.5 mile ride, but that is some decent elevation to gain in that distance on bike.  I’m sure the ride down is more fun, but this could be tough on your brakes.

I did cover some of the interesting history behind Cadillac Mountain on our South Ridge post, so I thought it would be interesting to talk about the history behind the naming of Dorr Mountain.  George Dorr was the man that is often credited as being the father of Acadia National Park.   Hailing from Boston originally, he first came to visit Mount Desert Island in 1868.  He decided to make his permanent home here on the island.  He worked on convincing others that protecting this area was important and acquired much of the land through the Hancock County Trustees by purchasing it or receiving it in donations.  While the trustees were being threatened with having their ownership revoked, Dorr worked with lobbying the government to help protect the land.  In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson created the 6,600 acre Sieur De Monts National Monument.   In 1919, the area expanded to become Lafayette National Park, later changed to Acadia National Park in 1929.  George Dorr became the first director of the National Monument and the director of Acadia National Park.  He swam daily from his home on the coast, even chipping through the ice in the winters.  He suffered a heart attack after a morning swim in 1934 and was told he had six months to live.  But, he survived for 10 more years before dying on 8/5/44.  Dorr Mountain was once known as Dry Mountain.  George Dorr named the mountain Flying Squadron Mountain to honor French pilots from World War I.

Views on Climb Down Dorr
Adam and views on the climb down Dorr Mountain. Below: The downhill climb was steep and rocky; The tree-covered summit of Kebo; The trail exits the forest on the Park Loop Road for the final mile back to the car.

Trail Between Dorr and Kebo Kebo Summit End of the Hike

As the photos clearly demonstrate, the views from both Cadillac and Dorr Mountains are truly breathtaking.  I’m glad we took the path that we did to combine the summits of these three mountains.  We often felt as people were climbing up Cadillac Mountain from the Gorge Path or climbing up Dorr Mountain from the North Ridge Trail, that we were taking this trail the easiest way possible.  If you were to do this in reverse, you would be up for some brutal climbing.  I do agree with Christine in that I prefer the south ridge overall as a way to just hike up Cadillac Mountain.  Part of the reason for this is that the south ridge doesn’t get close to the park road and the other is that most of the views along the way are behind you.  But this does give you a great opportunity to stop and enjoy the views frequently.  However, I do think this is the best way to enjoy both Cadillac and Dorr Mountains and I will gladly do this again.

Trail Notes

  • Distance 5.9  miles
    (Check out the stats from MapMyHike)*
  • Elevation Change – About 1130 feet
  • Difficulty –  3.5.  The initial climb up Cadillac Mountain is steady, but gradual.  The downhill climbing is actually the tougher part of this hike – it’s steep and across unforgiving granite.
  • Trail Conditions – 3.  The trail is rooty, rocky and crosses a lot of bare granite.  It’s very typical Acadia terrain.
  • Views– 5.  There are spectacular views all along this hike.
  • Streams/Waterfalls –0.  No streams or waterfalls.
  • Wildlife – 2. Other than occasional birds and chattering red squirrels, you won’t see much.
  • Ease to Navigate – 3.  The cairns and blazes are pretty easy to follow.  The only tricky spot is finding the Gorge Path at the summit of Cadillac.
  • Solitude – 1.  The summit of Cadillac is crawling with tourists that have driven up the auto road.  You’ll see fewer people on the trails, but Acadia is too small and popular to offer real solitude.

Directions to trailhead:  From Bar Harbor, head west on US-233 for about a mile.  Enter Acadia National Park on the left and take another left onto the Park Loop Road.  Travel for about .5 mile and park on the left side of the road at a pullout.  The trailhead is on the opposite side of the road from the pullout.

* MapMyHike is not necessarily accurate, as the GPS signal fades in and out – but it still provides some fun and interesting information.

St. Sauveur Trail – Acadia National Park (ME)

Special: Acadia Edition

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.

View from Valley Peak on the St. Sauveur Trail
A beautiful view from Valley Peak on the St. Sauveur Trail.

Adam Says…

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.

The Sauveur Trailhead
The trailhead for this route starts across from Echo Lake at the parking area for Acadia Mountain. There is another parking area further down the road for St. Sauveur, but it follows a different route to the summit. Below: The trail quickly splits in two directions, one takes you to Acadia Mountain, the other goes to Sauveur and Valley Peak; The ridge walk was pleasant; Everything in Acadia seems to be covered with granite and pines.

The Trail Splits Ridge Walk on Sauveur Trail Granite and Pines

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.

Red Squirrel
Red squirrels are much cuter than Virginia’s gray squirrels, and they’re everywhere in Acadia. Whenever you hike, you’ll hear them chattering and even ‘yelling’ at you from the trees. Below: The summit of St. Sauveur is tucked into the trees.  For the view, you must proceed to Valley Peak; Some parts of the trail dip into deeper woods.  One section even crosses a short section of boardwalk.

Sauveur Summit Sauveur Boardwalk Sauveur Trail in the Woods

The St. Sauveur Mountain was named after the St .Sauveur mission that was established in the nearby 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.

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.

Christine Says…

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…

Adam Enjoys the View from Valley Peak
Adam enjoys the view from Valley Peak. Below: Various views from Valley Peak.

Cove View Sailboats Walking on Cliffside

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.

Somes Sound
Looking back into Somes Sound. Below: Christine enjoys the views; Adam is exhausted.

Christine Enjoys the View from Valley Peak Adam is Exhausted

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!

Trail Notes

  • 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.

Penobscot Mountain/Sargent Mountain/Jordan Pond Loop – Acadia National Park (ME)

Special: Acadia Edition

This moderate hike includes two panoramic mountain summits and views along one of the most scenic ponds in Maine.

Sargent Summit and View
The summit of Sargent Mountain has a beautiful view. Below: The trail marker behind the Jordan Pond House; Adam enjoys the view from atop an erratic; Jordan Pond is beautiful!

Trailhead Behind the Jordan Pond House Nice View from the Erratic View Along Jordan Pond

Adam Says…

Hiking up Penobscot Mountain is one of our favorite hikes in Acadia National Park and we decided to save this hike for our last day there.  We had hiked up Penobscot a few times before, but this was the first time that we added on Sargent Mountain.

This loop hike begins at the Jordan Pond House.  Facing the house, if you walk behind the left side of the building, you will see the trailhead marker not far from the bathrooms.  The trail goes into the woods, crossing Jordan Stream with a small footbridge.   At .3 miles you come to an intersection with the Jordan Cliffs trail (another steep option for a loop from Penobscot), but continue on the trail.  At .5 miles, you will cross over one of the gravel carriage roads.  The trail continues up the Spring Trail at this point.  The Spring Trail consists of climbing up some rocks and does require you to pull yourself up through some tight areas.  There is also one area where you will likely need to squeeze your body between a few rocks.  This is the most challenging part of the hike up the trail, but before you know it, you will reach a nice viewpoint (with a stone makeshift bench) to relax from your climb up.  The tricky part from here is that your eyes are drawn to the viewpoint and you could miss the continuation of the trail.   Sitting on the bench and looking out, the trail continues behind your right shoulder.  There is a small path behind your left shoulder, but that leads to a dead-end.

Stone Bench Overlooking Jordan Pond
Adam enjoys the stone bench overlooking Jordan Pond. Below: Christine makes her way up the Spring Trail.

Climbing the Spring Trail Climbing the Spring Trail Climbing the Spring Trail

After you soak in the views, continue on the trail.  After a short climb, the trail begins to open up as you begin your hike above the treeline on the open mountain face.  The hike up from this point consists of following cairns along the way.  At 1.6 miles, you will reach the summit marker of Penobscot Mountain at 1194 feet.    From the summit, you can see Sargent Mountain ahead, which is only a mile away.  We took the path to the west, leading to Sargent Mountain.  The trail descends rather quickly and you come across the scenic Sargent Pond at 1.75 miles.  Take some time to enjoy the views from the pond and then continue on the trail.  At 1.9 miles, you reach the junction with the Sargent Mountain South Ridge Trail.  Take a right to join this trail and make your way to the peak.  You will come out of the woods and hike on the open mountainside (passing by junctions with the Hadlock Brook Trail and Spring Trail) until you reach the summit at 2.6 miles.  The summit of 1,373 foot Sargent Mountain provides panoramic views covering most of the areas to the north, which were not able to be viewed from Penobscot.  We took a while to enjoy the views here and then followed the east trail down the mountain.  This part of the trail reminded me of Scottish highlands as you hike through fields and rock.  After a few tenths of a mile, the trail then begins a steep descent back into the woods.  There were times that we scooted along our butts to make our way down the next section of rocks.  At 3.4 miles, we reached the junction with the Deer Brook Trail.  We took this left, continuing the steep descent down the rocky trail.  At 3.55 miles, you cross over another carriage road, pass by one of the carriage road arches, and at 3.7 miles you will reach the junction with the Jordan Pond trail.  You have a choice of going either way around the pond, but we took the right to view the western side of Jordan Pond.  This trail follows closely around the pond and consists of a lot of wooden boardwalks to keep people from damaging the ground below.  At 5.4 miles, you reach the Jordan Pond House again to complete your hike.

Christine Rolling the Erratic
Christine tries to roll the erratic uphill. Below: Beautiful Maine terrain; Adam at the summit of Penobscot; Blueberries were abundant.

Beautiful Trail Penobscot Summit Blueberries

This is a perfect hike to include on your trip to Acadia.  It has a combination of everything that I think this area of Maine has to offer – gorgeous panoramic views from the pink granite summits of the islands and ocean around; chances to take in some of the smaller ponds that are tucked between mountains; and challenging, rocky ascents that give you a grand sense of accomplishment.  On our descent down Sargent Mountain, we came across a few different groups of hikers that were hiking up the east face of Sargent Mountain.  We saw one family that was huffing and puffing their way in complete silence.  I had a feeling they were regretting their decision to hike up this way.  We saw another couple that were just beginning their hike up Sargent.  They said they like doing the loop hike up Sargent and Penobscot in reverse of the way we went because they can enjoy views the entire way down.   I think hiking up Sargent from the east face trail would be extremely steep and slow going, so I’m glad we hiked it this way.

One of the great things about doing this hike early in the day, is you can claim a prime parking spot for the Jordan Pond House.  This place is packed in the summers around lunchtime and you will likely need to wait for a seat.  But it was great to finish off the hike with a nice restaurant and enjoy a popover a la mode with peach ice cream and blueberry sauce.

We had a great week in Acadia and it always sad to leave.  This has always been our favorite vacation spot and I think the hiking and biking we have done in this area show everyone why we love it so much.

Christine Says…

Remember how I was talking about perfect Maine days in our write-up of Gorham Mountain?  Well, our last day of vacation this year was just one of those days.  The weather was so perfect; I was practically swooning over it.  At first, we were just going to do the 3.2-mile out-and-back to the summit of Penobscot Mountain.  I told Adam that I didn’t want the day to end, that I wanted to use every single bit of it, enjoying the views and making the most of my time in Acadia.  We decided to tack the summit of Sargent Mountain onto our hike (this included a climb down the East Cliff Trail, a short stretch of the Deer Brook Trail and a return walk to our starting point along the Jordan Pond Trail.

Sargent Pond
Sargent Pond is tucked between Penobscot and Sargent mountains. Below: Adam makes his way toward the Sargent summit; the Sargent summit marker; The view from Sargent

Adam Headed Toward the Sargent Summit  Sargent Summit View from Sargent

After an amazing pancake breakfast at Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast, we headed over to the Jordan Pond House.  The trailhead lies in the woods behind the restaurant. The trail crosses Jordan Stream and immediately climbs steeply uphill to where it crosses the Carriage Road.  You see a trail marker, but you really don’t see trail.  That’s mostly because there isn’t trail, rather there is a steep scramble between boulders.  This steep pass is known as the Spring Trail.  It involves a few iron rungs and rails built into the cliff’s side.  Parts of the climb are extremely narrow and require four-point contact with the rocks.

After clearing the cliff, you step out onto a beautiful opening overlooking Jordan Pond from above.  The rock shelf even has a natural stone bench from which you can enjoy your view.  After leaving the opening, the trail goes back into the woods for a short stretch.  From there on out, it’s open walking along the granite to the summit of Penobscot.  This is a mountain that has a couple false summits.  You see a spot that looks like it’s the highest,  but it never is (until you actually reach the rock pile an summit marker.) 🙂

At the summit of Penobscot, we stopped to take in the panoramic view of Mt. Desert Island.  The view couldn’t have been more breathtaking and was made even more special by the ideal Maine summer weather.  It was 70 degrees and breezy with deep blue skies.  A solo hiker arrived at the summit a few minutes after we did and asked if we had any sunscreen for him to use.  I loaned him my pink tube of SPF50 for sensitive skin.  It was probably fortuitous that he came by when he did, because it reminded me to reapply sunscreen. It’s so easy to get sunburned when hiking in Maine because of all the open exposures along the mountaintops.  Also, the cool, breezy weather keeps your skin from ever really feeling hot.

After the Penobscot summit, the trail climbs downward into a small wooded area between the two mountains.  This is where you’ll find beautiful Sargent Pond.  We stopped there for a short while and watched dragonflies whizzing about.  We noticed a ‘No Camping’ sign posted right next to the pond.  Not surprising – I bet many people have tried to stealth camp at spots like this in Acadia.  Just for the record, Acadia has no real backcountry.  You can’t camp freely in the park, but there are two organized campgrounds – Seawall and Blackwoods.  Probably the closest you get to backcountry hiking and camping in Acadia is if you take a boat out to Isle au Haute where there are several oceanside primitive sites.

The trail climbs steeply uphill from Sargent Pond.  Eventually you clear the trees once again and begin the climb up Sargent.  Sargent’s granite surface is not quite as bare as other mountains in Acadia.  There seems to be more evergreens and low shrubbery along the way, although I’m not sure why.

Hiking down Sargent
Hiking down Sargent. Below: This carriage road bridge passes over Deer Brook.

Carriage Road Bridge

The summit of Sargent is marked the same way as Acadia’s other summits – a rock pile with a wooden sign in the middle.  We really liked the view from Sargent.  It was a little different from the other hikes we had done during this week.  It’s the only place that offered views looking out toward Trenton and Ellsworth.  The day was really clear, so we could see the airport and beyond.

At the summit, we looked at a trail map so we could decide how to make our return back to Jordan Pond House.  One option would have been to retrace our steps and go back the same way we came.  This would have been a perfectly nice option because we could have enjoyed the ocean views the entire walk down.  Instead, we decided to try out some new trails and make a big loop.

The first trail on our return loop was the East Cliff Trail. It was one of the rougher, steeper trails I’ve been on in Acadia.  Although there were occasional views of Jordan Pond, most of the way was scrambling down steeply across rocks and roots.  The trail was pretty overgrown and I gather it’s not one of Acadia’s more heavily used trails.  It was fine, though.

Eventually it met up with the Deer Brook Trail which was more gentle and followed a small stream downhill.  After crossing the carriage road, we climbed downhill past one of Acadia’s famous stone bridges to the junction with the Jordan Pond Trail.  We came out on that trail at the far end of the pond, almost directly across from the Jordan Pond House.

Shore of Jordan Pond -  Looking at the Bubbles
The shore of Jordan Pond looking toward the Bubbles. Below: Boardwalks along Jordan Pond; Lovely Jordan Pond.

Boardwalks along Jordan Pond Lovely Jordan Pond

For a mile and a half,  the trail clings closely to the edge of the lake.  There are a few places where you have to climb from rock to rock.  There are also many boardwalks over swampy ground that only allow for single-hiker passage.   But, the trail is completely flat so it’s fast hiking.  We were speeding along this easy part of the hike with popovers on our minds.

When we finally got to the Pond House, we had to wait about 45 minutes for a table, but that was OK.  I got some cold water, found a bench and listened to a book on my iPod until our buzzer went off.  I was actually kind of cold at lunch – sweat and a brisk breeze can make even a nice summer day feel chilly.  I warmed up with a big bowl of chicken-orzo soup and two huge, steaming popovers.  For dessert, Adam and I shared a popover a la mode.  It was heaven in a bowl and a fitting end to our wonderful week in Acadia.

Popover a la Mode
Popover a la Mode! Peach ice cream and Maine blueberry sauce. Below: Another look at Jordan Pond; Lunch on the lawn; Popover and strawberry lemonade.

Another Look at the Pond Lunch on the Lawn Popover and Strawberry Lemonade

Trail Notes

  • Distance 5.4 miles
  • Elevation Change – about 1200 feet total.
  • Difficulty – 4.  The ascent up the Spring Trail and the descent down Sargent Mountain can be steep and requires careful navigation.
  • Trail Conditions – 3.5.  The trail is well-maintained, but there are plenty of places to turn your ankle on the descents.
  • Views – 5.  There are amazing views throughout this hike as you make your way up to the summits of Penobscot and Sargent Mountains.
  • Wildlife – 1.  There isn’t a lot of wildlife in Acadia, but we did see a red squirrel and smaller birds (juncos and other finches) along the hike.  When birds of prey migrate through in the summer, you may see some different hawk varieties.
  • Ease to Navigate – 3.  There are some tricky parts along this trail on the ascent up Penobscot and Sargent Mountains, but the trails are fairly-well marked. 
  • Solitude – 3.  You will likely see people at the summits lingering, but you should be able to stake out your own spots for solitude.  The Jordan Pond trail will likely have lots of people on it, so you won’t have much solitude on that section.

Directions to trailhead:  Park at the Jordan Pond House, accessed from the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park.   While looking at the house, head around the left side and you will see the signs for the bathrooms.  Across from the bathrooms, you will see the trail marker for the Penobscot Mountain trail.

Gorham Mountain to The Bowl – Acadia National Park (ME)

Special: Acadia Edition

This route combines one of our favorite short Acadia hikes to the summit of Gorham Mountain followed by a visit to a beautiful glacial pond called The Bowl, and a return walk along the Ocean Path, passing famous landmarks – Sand Beach and Thunder Hole.

Overlooking Sand Beach
Overlooking Sand Beach from Gorham Mountain. Below: Christine’s parents climb the Gorham Mountain Trail; Adam enjoys clearing skies and a view of the Bowl; Ocean scenery is spectacular along the Ocean Path.

Christine's Parents Hiking Adam Checks out the Bowl Walking the Ocean Path

Christine Says…

Even before I was an avid hiker, Gorham Mountain was always a hike I enjoyed.  By itself, the hike to the summit and back is less than two miles, requires very little climbing and offers magnificent views of the ocean, the rocky Maine coast and Sand Beach below.  If you walk the trail in late July or August, wild blueberries are abundant!

We decided to hike Gorham Mountain with my parents one morning during vacation.  We ate breakfast early and got to the trailhead before the crowds.  I really can’t stress enough how crowded Acadia trails get during the peak hours of 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.  I always suggest that people hike early or late, or rely on the Island Explorer bus (it’s FREE!) for transportation around the island.

On this particular trip, we actually drove separately from my parents because we wanted to extend our hike beyond the Gorham summit, and they did not.  The day before this hike had been overcast and a little drizzly and unfortunately, some of the gloomy weather was still lingering for our hike.  I was a little disappointed, because the lack of sunshine and blue skies always makes the ocean vista a little less colorful and sparkly.  I always prefer to hike Gorham on a ‘perfect Maine day’.   I would define ‘perfect’ as a sunny, 75 degree day with wispy or puffy clouds sitting in a deep blue sky.  There would be a light breeze and I would hear gulls crying and the sound of lobster boat motors in the distance.  There is nothing I love more than hiking Gorham on a day like this.

Even with the heavy clouds, the hike was still lovely and I enjoyed the company.  We hiked alongside my parents until we came to the junction of the Cadillac Cliffs trail.  At this point, hikers can choose to stay on the easier Gorham trail, or take a little extra challenge and scramble along the boulder-strewn cliff trail.  There aren’t any views from the Cadillac Cliffs trail, but climbing through caves and over enormous boulders is pretty fun.

Cadillac Cliffs
Cadillac Cliffs.  Below: Scenes along the Cadillac Cliffs Trail.

Cadillac Cliffs Boulders Cadillac Cliffs Cave Cadillac Cliffs Trail Christine Climbing Back up to Re-Meet Gorham

We met back up with my parents a few tenths of a mile later and made our final climb to the summit.  The views are spectacular all along this section of trail.  In fact, the views right before the summit are probably nicer than the actual summit.

We enjoyed the summit as a group for a while before Adam and I continued on our own.  The Gorham Mountain trail climbs downward, passing some interesting cliffs, before eventually joining The Bowl trail.   The Bowl trail climbs rather steeply uphill to a beautiful mountain lake.    The lake is surrounded by boardwalks and benches, and is one of the few bodies of water in Acadia where you can swim.  Many of the larger bodies of water are used for drinking water and swimming is prohibited.

There were a fair number of people sitting alongside the lake when we arrived.  We sat on a bench and almost immediately heard a child cry “Ohhh… that’s an eagle!”  Sure enough, we arrived just in time to see a bald eagle go gliding across the lake’s surface.  Talk about great timing!

The Bowl
The Bowl is a beautiful glacial pond you’ll pass along this hike. Below: Christine checks out the interesting cliff face on the hike down from the Gorham Mountain summit; Trail marker at the junction for the Bowl trail; Thick crowds at Thunder Hole.

Cliff on hike down Bowl Junction Crowds at Thunder Hole

While we sat at the lake, the clouds really cleared off quickly and the day turned into that perfect Maine day I described a few paragraphs ago.  So beautiful!

We hiked back down the Bowl Trail, past the junction to the Beehive trail and down to the Park Loop Road.  The trail comes out right above Sand Beach, which is a great place to pick up the Ocean Path.  The Ocean Path is a flat walking trail that runs between the ocean and the road.  It’s very crowded almost all the time, and if you’re a faster hiker, you’ll have to dodge slowpokes.

From the Ocean Path, there are a ton of small side trails that lead down to the rocky coastline.  There are so many places to sit and enjoy the view!  The walk along the path goes on for about 1.3 miles and eventually passes by Thunder Hole.

When we passed Thunder Hole, it was so crowded we couldn’t even get down to the viewing platform without waiting in line.  We’ve seen Thunder Hole so many times so we didn’t stay long.  Besides, it wasn’t thundering at all.  The tide was so high that the sea cave stayed full of water regardless of the wave action.  There just wasn’t any force to create the sound the spot is named for.

The Gorham Mountain parking lot is just a tenth of a mile or so past Thunder Hole, so we were back at the car after a few more minutes of walking.  We headed straight to lunch in town – lobster rolls at the Portside Grill!

Adam Says…

Whenever we talk about going to Maine, one of the things we plan on every trip is a hike up Gorham Mountain.  In fact, a few years ago when we came up to the park and knew we had a whole week of rain ahead, we quickly got in a hike up Gorham.  As Christine mentioned, just going up Gorham Mountain is a short hike, so it is easy to fit in when you have a break in the weather.

View from the Gorham Summit
The View from the Gorham Summit looking toward Otter Point. Below: Christine’s parents enjoy the view; The rock pile marks the summit of Gorham Mountain.

Christine's parents enjoy the view Rock Pile at the Gorham Summit

You can find the parking lot to the trailhead on the right shortly after the Thunder Hole parking lot.  The trail starts off with lots of roots and granite to navigate and can be a little slippery if a storm has recently come through.  The trail consists of a gradual uphill climb and is a popular trail for people of all hiking levels.  At .2 miles, you reach the junction with the southern part of the Cadillac Cliffs trail.  This is definitely a more challenging side trail, that includes some rock scrambling.   If you want to try the Cadillac Cliffs trail, do it on the way up since it could be more treacherous going down.  The Cadillac Cliffs trail doesn’t really provide any great views, but it does have a small cave to go through and some interesting rocks to scramble.  By the time you reach the northern junction at .5 miles, you will likely need to catch your breath.  Rejoin the Gorham Mountain trail by taking a right at this junction.  You will continue to climb upward and will see lots of places to take in the views along the way.  At .9 miles, you will reach the 525 foot Gorham Mountain summit.  On the way up the mountain, you typically get views of Sand Beach and Great Head, but from the summit, you can also see Otter Cove, Day Mountain, Pemetic Mountain, and Cadillac Mountain.  We continued on the trail from the summit.  At 1.5 miles, you reach a junction with The Bowl Trail.  Take a left and climb up the steep terrain through the woods until you reach The Bowl at 2.0 miles.  From The Bowl, you can also see close glimpses of the summit of The Beehive and there is a trail that connects with it.  We took in the views around the lake and then went back down The Bowl Trail, towards the Park Loop Road.  At 3.2 miles you will reach the Park Loop Road.  Cross the road and proceed on the Ocean Path, heading past Sand Beach.  You will likely see tons of cars and people along the road between this point and Thunder Hole.  You should reach the Gorham Mountain parking lot around 4.4 miles.

Sand Beach from the Ocean Path
Sand Beach from the Ocean Path. Below: If you look at the larger version of the Beehive photo below, you will see the long queue of people climbing the mountain; Adam enjoys the bench at the Bowl.

The Beehive Adam Sitting at the Bowl

We had a funny moment when we first started the hike.  A family was coming back from the summit and spotted us with their trekking poles.  One little girl was asking why we were all using two ‘canes’ to walk.  The parents had responded that we were “professional hikers”.  We got a few laughs out of that.  If only we could get paid to go hiking (or at least pay for some of our hiking gear).

There are many things about this hike that make it one of our favorites.  The blueberries are ripe during July and August and are plentiful on this trail.  I think I picked the largest, juiciest blueberry ever during this hike.  We always enjoy looking over Sand Beach.  You can see the dots of people on the beach, but not many in the water due to the temperature.  Walking back on the Ocean Path, you could hear the screams of children as they were being hit by the freezing waves.  You can also count on being able to see a lobster boats in the area, bringing up traps, or a large sailboat rounding the harbor.  You may also be able to catch a little rumbling from Thunder Hole, but the largest rumblings typically occur in the fall after a storm.

This area has also been where two recent movies have been filmed.  You can see Sand Beach in The Cider House Rules and nearby Otter Cliffs was used in Shutter Island.

Trail Notes

  • Distance4.4 miles
  • Elevation Change – 500 feet to the summit of Gorham and another shorter climb to the Bowl
  • Difficulty – 2. This is an easy family hike, suitable for most fitness levels.
  • Trail Conditions – 3. Trails in Acadia are always rocky and rooty and can be slick when wet.
  • Views – 5.  Breathtaking!
  • Waterfalls/Streams/Lakes – 4. The Bowl is a beautiful glacial pond.
  • Wildlife – 3.  We saw an eagle – that counts for something!  We’ve heard that people occasionally see whales off in the distance, but we never have.
  • Ease to Navigate – 4. Pay attention to the cairns and markers at trail junctions, and it’s hard to get lost.
  • Solitude – 0.  This is an extremely popular area.  No matter when you hike it, you will see people.

Directions to trailhead: The trailhead is located in the Gorham Mountain parking lot on the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park.   The parking lot is about .5 mile south of Thunder Hole.

Cadillac Mountain South Ridge – Acadia National Park (ME)

Special: Acadia Edition

The seven-mile South Ridge trail takes you to the highest mountain on the east coast – Cadillac Mountain.  At over 1500 feet, it is also one of the first places sunlight hits the U.S. each morning,  The views from this hike are panoramic and breathtaking!

A View of the Porcupines from the Cadillac Summit
A View of the Porcupine Islands from the Cadillac Summit. Below:  The marker at the trailhead; A view of Cadillac Mountain from along the lower part of the trail; Geodetic Marker at the summit.

Trailhead Marker Cadillac Mountain Along the Route Geodetic Marker

Christine Says…

We’ve driven to the top of Cadillac Mountain.  We’ve also walked up the 4.4 mile North Ridge trail a few times.  But this is the first time we’ve ever hiked to the summit via the South Ridge route.  At seven miles (plus some additional length for the side trip to Eagles Crag and walking the summit path) this route probably qualifies as one of Acadia’s longest hikes.  It’s also become one of our favorite Maine hikes.  It was fantastic!

The trail starts off in the deep coolness of the evergreen forest.  Everything is green – covered with moss and ferns.  The thin island soil leaves gnarled roots and rocks exposed along the trail.  You have to constantly watch where you’re stepping so you don’t catch a boot toe and trip.  Planked boardwalks traverse the boggy, marshy places along the trail.   This part of the trail is one face of Acadia, with the other being expansive, open domes of granite.

Root-Covered Trail
The lower trail is covered with roots and rocks. Below: The view from Eagles Crag; Abundant blueberries along the trail; The first open views on the climb up.

View from Eagles Crag Abundant Blueberries First Open Views

The first trail junction you come to marks a short side-loop across the Eagles Crag.  The trail is quite a bit steeper here and leads out to an open rock ledge overlooking the ocean.  We hiked early in the morning, so the view looked directly into the sun, rendering the ocean silver and shiny.

On the return arm of the side-loop, we reentered the woods for a short while.  Near the trail junction where we met back up with the South Ridge trail, we found one of the densest patches of wild blueberries we’d ever seen!  I stopped to pick and eat some berries before we pushed on.  Yum!  Blueberries are at their peak in late July and early August, so our trip was timed perfectly for enjoying the fruit.

Near this point of the trail, the forest started thinning out and becoming patchier.  There were still trees, but they were broken up by open rocky sections.  Eventually we left the shade of the trees completely and stepped out onto the pink granite that Acadia is so famous for.  The trail was blazed blue, but we also had cairns guide our way.  The granite was punctuated by abundant patches of blueberry bushes and water filled glacial potholes.  The view behind and to the side of us was SPECTACULAR!  We found ourselves stopping time and time again to take in the majestic views.  I’ve been to a good number of national parks.  They’re all beautiful in their own way, but there is something really special about Acadia.

There were some sections of rock that required climbing and scrambling, but the way was never really steep or difficult.  We climbed one especially large rocky pass and found ourselves looking down into a small forested ravine tucked between two mountains.  The trail climbed downward into the trees and past a lovely glacial pond called ‘The Featherbed’.

The Ocean and the Featherbed
The Ocean and the Featherbed. Below: Another look at the Featherbed; Trails in Acadia are marked by cairns and blazes; Christine hikes up toward the summit.

The Featherbed Cairns and Clouds Christine Climbing

After the pond, we began the climb up Cadillac in earnest.  The first little bit after leaving the pond was quite steep with some mild rock scrambling.  Once we regained the ridge, the trail became moderate again.  The sun was bright.  The sky was deep blue and painted with wispy clouds.  The ocean below was sparkling and so beautiful.  I must have said to Adam a couple dozen times “It’s so gorgeous! This is a perfect Maine day!  We are so lucky!”

Along the ridge, we began to see distant glimpses of cars making their way up the auto road to the Cadillac summit.  But we didn’t come close to the road at all until we were almost to the top of the mountain.  Once drawback of the shorter 4.4 mile North Ridge is its proximity to the road for much of the hike.  We really enjoyed staying away from the road this time.

Near the summit, we passed through one more section of forest and came out on a gravel road behind the gift shop located at the summit.  It’s always kind of bizarre to hike several miles along pristine, quiet trail only to summit a mountain with auto access.  More than a few people looked at us strangely with our Camelbaks and trekking poles.

Even though it was still pretty early, the summit was packed with people!  Adam got cold drinks from the gift shop and I walked around the summit path to take a few photos.  The view from Cadillac offers a great look at the town of Bar Harbor and the outlying Porcupine Islands in Frenchman Bay.

With the thick crowds and the notion of a big lunch, we didn’t linger too long at the summit.  On the way down, we passed quite a few people heading up the trail.  I was really glad we had started around 7:30 and had been able to enjoy a bit of solitude.

The hike down was bright and hot under the mid-morning sun!  I had slathered myself with SPF 50, but I missed one spot between my ponytail and my backpack.  I ended up with a strange sunburned triangle on my back. 😦

We really enjoyed the views the whole hike down!  I was kind of bummed when the trail eventually descended back into the woods.  The shade was nice, but losing the view was not!

When we got back to the car we debated whether we should go back to our room and shower, or head straight to lunch in town.  In the end, hunger won out and we ate lunch covered with sweat and grime.  We went to one of our favorite lunch spots in town – Rupununi.  They have the best Buffalo Chicken sandwiches and clam chowder.  We got a great seat out on the patio, the food was delicious and I didn’t even care that I was filthy!

Adam Says…

A trip to Acadia National Park almost requires you to visit Cadillac Mountain.  However, most people drive to the top of it rather than try hiking up.  Their are also some insane bikers that bike up the mountain, but we’re not in that kind of shape.  Since Cadillac Mountain is the highest summit in the park, we used to feel intimidated about trying to hike up.  Several years ago, we hiked up the north ridge since that seemed to be the easiest route.  We remembered the north ridge hike being a great hike, so this time we decided to try a different route.

View of Eagle Lake
A view of Eagle Lake.

To start the hike, we parked on Route 3, almost directly across from the entrance to Blackwoods Campground.  You take a few steps up and then the trail begins.  This first section is just about the only part that is completely in the woods.  At .8 miles, you reach a junction with the Eagles Crag trail.  We took a right and went on the Eagles Crag trail, which joins back on to the South Ridge Trail at 1.2 miles.  The Eagles Crag trail was probably the toughest climbing on the trail, but it does take you out of the woods to some nice views to the east of Otter Cove and Gorham Mountain.  In retrospect, we feel that it really isn’t necessary to do Eagles Crag, since you will quickly see tons of views right after you rejoin the trail.  But, if you want more views and/or some more challenge, go for it.  When you rejoin the South Ridge Trail at 1.2 miles, the trail begins to open up to more views in a short distance.  You will need to pay attention to the cairns on the trail since there are no tall trees to mark trail paths.  The views on this trail are completely amazing!  You have to turn around to see the great views on the way up.  We found ourselves taking pictures from a gorgeous spot and then going another .1 mile and finding even better views behind us.  At 2.4 miles, you reach a summit of a small hill where you can see the small pond, The Featherbed, below.  You climb down this small hill and then reach The Featherbed and a junction with the Canon Brook Trail at 2.7 miles.  Stay straight on the South Ridge trail as you begin your next ascent to reach the summit.  At 3.2 miles, you reach a junction with the West Face Trail to the left, but stay straight.  The trail is steeper up this last section of the trail.  There are a few areas where you will climb up some rocks (even using one iron rung handrail), but we didn’t find it to be overly difficult.  Through this section, you are likely to hear or see people along the Auto Road heading up Cadillac Mountain.  At 3.7 miles, you will reach the summit of Cadillac Mountain.  Go back the way you came.

Hiking in the Open
Adam hiking along in the open.  Below: Trail junctions are well-marked in Acadia; The building at the summit; Another view of the Porcupine Islands from the summit;  Views on the hike down.

Trail Markers Summit Building
Cadillac Summit and Porcupines View Hiking Down

You feel like you are making an accomplishment when you hike up Cadillac Mountain.  While many of these people are driving to the top, you feel like you really earned the views.  The actual summit marker for Cadillac Mountain is not as easy to find.  As you’re coming up the South Ridge trail, you may walk right past it.  I like to get a picture of each summit we make.  Unlike most of Acadia that marks the summit with a large wooden summit marker, Cadillac Mountain only has a USGS marker in the rock.  To find it, walk behind the gift shop by about 100 steps where the gravel ends.  To the right, you will see a greenish-looking marker on a rock.  This marker has an arrow, that points about 20 feet to another marker on another rock.  This is the true summit marker.

We took a little time to hit the bathrooms, buy some cold drinks (that is always welcome when you are finishing a hike), and take in the views.  From Cadillac Mountain, you can see just about all of Mount Desert Island and on a clear day, the views are spectacular.  Many people drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain to see the sunrise.  This is the second earliest place where you can see the sunrise on the east coast (only to be beaten slightly by Maine’s own Mount Katahdin).  While Christine was off taking some photos, I relaxed and talked to a family that just arrived from New York.  They were impressed that we hiked up it and I told them about some other things they should do during their week of vacation.  I could tell the father of the family was ready to tackle it all, but I could see some of his family wasn’t as enthusiastic.  After talking with me, they were going to try and hike up Cadillac Mountain that afternoon.

Cadillac Mountain does have some interesting history.   The area was named after Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, a french explorer and trader.  This area was well-explored and controlled by the French and Antoine was given this area (now known as Bar Harbor) with this mountain (then known as Mount Desert).  When I was attending a ranger program while I was trying to achieve my rank as a “Acadia Senior Ranger”, I learned about how this man was much-hated and was basically run out of this area for misappropriation of money.  He then left this area and founded what became Detroit.  The Cadillac car is named after this man and the seal is his family crest.  It is funny that this country holds the car in such high esteem, when the man was a criminal (once called “one of the worst scoundrels to set foot in New France”).

If you are interested in geocaching, you can find a geocache near the top of Cadillac Mountain that is located near the beginning of the north ridge trail: Cadillac Mountain Cache.

As Christine and I were reflecting on all of the hiking we have done in Acadia, I will say this is my favorite hike to do in the park.  You truly don’t get any better views than on this hike up the south ridge of Cadillac.  There were times that I even felt tears welling up due to the awe-inspiring, panoramic landscape.  The north ridge trail also has great views along, but several times you are walking very close to the Auto Road and you are limited to views on one side of the trail.  With the vast expanses on the south ridge trail, it can’t be beat.  If you are up for doing a longer hike in Acadia, make this the one to do!

Trail Notes

  • Distance7.4 miles
  • Elevation Change – approximately 1300 feet
  • Difficulty – 3.  The hike is steadily uphill but is quite moderate.
  • Trail Conditions – 3. The trail is occasionally root-covered and has a lot of open granite.
  • Views 5.  It doesn’t get any better than this!
  • Waterfalls/Lakes/Streams – 4.  The Featherbed is beautiful and you get lots of distant views of the bay and ocean.
  • Wildlife – 1.  Maybe some red squirrels and (if you’re lucky) hawks on Eagles Crag.
  • Ease to Navigate – 4.  Just follow the markers, blazes and cairns, and you can’t go wrong.
  • Solitude – 1.  We started early and didn’t see many people on the trail, but the summit is always very crowded.

Directions to trailhead:  Located on Route 3, about 5 miles south of the Jackson Lab.  Look for the signs for Blackwoods Campground and park directly across the road from the entrance to the campground.  You will see a break in the woods with a few steps that starts your trail.

Carriage Road Bike Ride – Witch Hole/Eagle Lake/Jordan Pond – Acadia National Park (ME)

Special: Acadia Edition

The bike ride along this loop gives you beautiful lakeside views in the interior of Acadia National Park.

Eagle Lake from the Carriage Roads
A view of Eagle Lake from the Carriage Roads.  Below:  The Duck Brook Bridge entrance to the Carriage Roads; There are lots of water lilies in Acadia’s ponds;  Adam bikes along the shore of Jordan Pond.  The rocks lining the trail are affectionately known as ‘Rockefeller’s Teeth’.

Duck Brook entrance  Water Lilies Rockefeller's teeth

Adam Says…

This is truly one of our favorite places to bike!  If you are ever near Acadia, I would recommend taking a bike ride around Eagle Lake.  While there are 45 miles of carriage roads in Acadia National Park, the loop around Eagle Lake is by far the most popular.

The carriage roads were donated and built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., emulating the carriage roads his father created in Ohio and New York.  While the Park Loop Road provides access to much of the circumference of Acadia National Park and ocean views, the carriage roads provide great access to the interior, providing glimpses from the top of mountains and around the lakes and ponds.

I recently had a co-worker, Kristen, that was going to Maine to visit some family property.  Having been to Acadia many times, I planned out an ambitious day for her and her sister to capture the things I enjoy up here.  She wasn’t able to do everything I suggested, but she did the Eagle Lake/Jordan Pond section of the trail.  They rented bikes in Bar Harbor and decided to bike from town to reach the carriage roads.  There is a large hill from Bar Harbor to reach the entrance to the Eagle Lake parking lot.  Her sister was yelling up ahead to her, “KRISTEN!  I DON’T THINK I CAN MAKE IT!”  I should have been explicit in telling her to rent a bike rack and park near the carriage road entrance. Some people bike to the carriage roads from town, but I think it is best to park closer or you’ll burn up all your energy before you get to enjoy the actual ride.

Biking toward eagle lake
Adam on his rented comfort bike, passing under the Eagle Lake bridge. It was quite different from the mountain bike he normally rides.  Below: Christine’s parents take a break after a long uphill stretch along Eagle Lake.  This is the spot we took a wrong turn!

Parents at junction

We started our ride, by parking on Duck Brook Road.  Right before the roadside parking, you pass a beaver dam on New Mill Meadow.  Park your vehicle near the bridge that begins your journey.  The carriage road intersections are all numbered on wooden posts (that also serve as posts to provide you some overall direction) and have this trail started at Post #5.  We took a right after crossing the bridge to make our way around Witch Hole Pond.  The trail does tend to go uphill during this part of the section about 100 feet.  In 1.1 miles you will take a left at Post #3.  You will begin to see some up close views of Witch Hole Pond.  At 1.3 miles, you take a left at Post #2.  The trail continues to loop around Witch Hole Pond.  At mile 2.3, you will reach Post #4, bearing right and seeing views of the small Halfmoon Pond.  At mile 3.4, you will reach Post #6, going under a bridge and close access to the Eagle Lake parking lot.  Most people start their bike ride here, so expect lots of people around this bridge.  After going through the bridge, you will arrive at Post #9 at mile 3.5.   The trail goes along the western side of Eagle Lake, but goes up during one of the tougher sections of this loop ascending over 200 feet.  At mile 5.5, you will come to Post #8.  Take a break if you would like here, for the toughest part of the first section is over.  At Post #8, take a right (this is where I failed to follow the map closely which caused us to retrace our steps and made us go uphill).  At mile 5.7, you will reach Post #10.  Take a left at this junction to make your way.  The trail does ascend slightly.  At mile 7.0, the trail begins to open up to views of Jordan Pond and the Bubbles to your left.  At mile 7.9, you reach the Jordan Pond House and Post #14.  Bear left at this intersection for about .3 mile passing by Post #15 and Post #16.  Cross the Park Loop Road carefully and then you will see the large Jordan Pond Gatehouse.  Bike carefully through the gate.  At mile 9.8, you reach Post #17, near Wildwood Stables.  Take a left here and your climb begins again.  Once the trail levels out, you will pass by Bubble Pond on your right.  At mile 12.9, you reach Post #7.  Take a right at this junction and you will begin to enjoy the best views of Eagle Lake.  The trail continues along the eastern side of Eagle Lake.  At mile 15.1, you will reach Post #6 again.  Take a right and go under the bridge.  At mile 16.2, you will reach Post #4.  Take a right here and at mile 17.3, you will reach Post #5 to complete your loop.

As there are a lot of intersections, I would recommend picking up a map of the trails.  While you can purchase them from many places in Bar Harbor or Acadia National Park, they do have some decent carriage road maps that are free.  These are typically in some of the boxes attached to the post intersections near some of the entrances to the carriage roads.  I did spot these boxes at Post #5 and Post #8.

Lunch on the Lawn
Lunch on the lawn at Jordan Pond is not to be missed.  Below: Views of Jordan Pond and the Bubbles.

Jordan Pond and Bubbles The Bubbles

If you do your planning well, you can include a stop near the halfway point at the Jordan Pond House Restaurant.  This is a must-visit restaurant while in Acadia. Get a seat outside and enjoy popovers as you take in the scenes of Jordan Pond and the Bubbles.  The menu has been expanded since the last time we had been here, so we were thrilled to try some new things.  Christine really enjoys their lobster quiche and I like their cranberry walnut chicken salad sandwich.  While the prices are a little high, you do have one of the best views for a restaurant.  There are plenty of places nearby to lock your bike and there is a gift shop that sells everything from hiking gear to pottery to Gatorade.  They even sell Jordan Pond coffee and popover mix.

I have two favorite sections of scenery along this trail – the view near the rock slide approaching Jordan Pond and the eastern side of Eagle Lake.  This is a bike ride that almost invites you to take your time by soaking in the great views of the lake, taking your time to pick wild blueberries near Witch Hole Pond, or listening for the cry of loons on Eagle Lake or Jordan Pond.

Christine Says…

Biking Acadia’s Carriage Roads is always one of the Maine activities I look forward to most on our trips!  It’s funny, when I visited Acadia as a child and teen, I never tried the carriage roads by bike.  Instead I preferred to run.  Looking back, I don’t know what I was thinking!  Sure… the carriage roads are great for walking and running, but I can’t imagine a better way to see them than by bicycle (Unless I was given the option to go on horseback; but unless you arrive at Acadia with your own horse, the closest you can get is taking a chauffeured horse carriage ride.)  The car-free carriage roads in Acadia meander through the woods, passing ponds and lakes.  If you’re lucky, you’ll spot beavers or loons swimming.  You get occasional glimpses of the ocean.  You breathe in the clean, evergreen-scented air.  And best of all… you can bike right up to the Jordan Pond House and indulge in popovers with butter, popovers with strawberry jam, popovers with soup, popovers with salad and even popovers a la mode!  Don’t even get me started on how much I love popovers a la mode.  They’re one of my raison d’êtres.  I’m not even kidding – ask Adam!

Sometimes we bring our bikes on the long drive up to Maine, but this time we drove our small car to save gas money, and ended up renting bikes at the Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop.  The folks there are really friendly and knowledgeable and their bikes are all expertly maintained.  We tried renting a carrier for our car, but none of them worked with our particular hatchback.  Thankfully, my parents were vacationing with us and were able to haul our bikes to the start point of our ride.  Technically, you can ride your bike from the shop to the carriage road entrance, but it’s an arduous uphill ride along a very busy road.  Biking the few extra miles from the shop to the trails takes a lot of the enjoyment out of the ride, so we avoid it any way we can.

On this particular day, we decided to follow one of our absolute favorite routes.  Starting at Duck Brook Bridge, we biked around Witch Hole, then around Eagle Lake, past the north shore of Jordan Pond to the Jordan Pond House.  After lunch, we continued the route past Wildwood Stables, along Bubble Pond and the opposite shore of Eagle Lake.  A few final miles along the other side of Witch Hole returned us to our car.

Jordan Pond Gatehouse
Even though the Gatehouse sits in the park, it’s still privately owned. Below: A horse carriage on its way from Wildwood Stables to Jordan Pond.

Horse team

It’s a fabulous route that shows off a little bit of all of Acadia’s best scenery.  There are some substantial hills along the route, and it’s not uncommon to see people walking their bikes uphill instead of riding them.  I remember the first time I biked the carriage roads many years ago, the first steep hill along the first side of Eagle Lake about killed me!  Despite the fact I was beet red and out of breath, I was determined NOT to walk my bike.  I did have to take a water break or two, but I never had to get off and push my bike uphill.  Nowadays, I’m in much better shape (even though I’m almost 20 years older) and biking the hills is no sweat at all!  In fact, I must brag that I biked easily past dozens of people headed uphill.  🙂

The trail marker at the far end of Eagle Lake is one of the only places that directions get confusing along the ride.  The trail branches off in several different directions at this point.  As (bad) luck would have it, we biked following our instinctive directions instead of looking at our detailed map.  We ended up going the wrong way for almost two miles – mostly along a steep, beautiful downhill coaster of a descent.  This meant we had a tough uphill slog once we finally realized we were going the wrong way.

I suppose we could have kept on going in the wrong direction – most of the trails eventually cross one another and we would have ultimately arrived at the Jordan Pond House.  However, I really enjoy the ride along the north shore of the pond, so we decided to retrace our ride.  My parents decided to stay the course (my mom didn’t want to bike back uphill) and meet us at the Pond House.

The uphill turned out to be less painful than I imagined and after about 15 minutes, we were coasting downhill along the edge of Jordan Pond.  I enjoyed the sparkling water, the first glimpse of the Bubbles, passing the big rock slide and knowing I’d soon be eating popovers.

The ride along Jordan Pond goes really quickly.  At Jordan Pond, the first thing we always do is get our name on the waiting list for a table on the lawn.  If you visit the Pond House, you can almost always get an indoor table immediately, but you DO NOT want to do that.  The best place to sit is outside on the lawn at one of the picnic tables overlooking the water and the Bubbles.  I always start my meal off with lemonade.  It’s fresh-squeezed and comes unsweetened with a tiny pitcher of simple syrup, so you can sweeten the drink to your personal taste.  The regular lemonade is good, but the strawberry lemonade, loaded with fresh strawberry puree, is even better.  As soon as you finish placing your order, a waiter will come around with a basket of piping hot popovers.  They’re served with butter and homemade strawberry preserves.  On this particular day, I ordered the lobster quiche, which has always been a favorite of mine.  I also couldn’t refuse a second popover, even though it cost a little extra.  Because we were biking and I didn’t want to feel over-full, I had to pass on the a la mode (for now).

After lunch, we refilled water bottles and took a few minutes to digest lunch while browsing the Acadia gift shop.  We also stopped to chat with the Friends of Acadia who were working on fundraising and recruiting new members.  We joined a few years ago and are happy to support our favorite National Park.

After leaving the Jordan Pond House, we crossed the Park Loop Road and passed by the privately owned gate house.  We happened to time our departure perfectly to pass a team of draft horses pulling a buckboard up the hill.  They’re such huge and beautiful creatures!

The ride along this section is wooded and doesn’t pass anything remarkable.  You can take a side road to get down to Wildwood Stables and Day Mountain, but we continued on toward Bubble Pond.

Bubble Pond from the Carriage Roads
A look at Bubble Pond from the Carriage Roads

Bubble Pond is a gorgeous spot.  We’ve seen loons there and I’ve even taken a photo of the pond that was featured on the cover of Boston Magazine’s 2011 Summer Travel issue.  This year, the view was as lovely as ever, but the experience was marred by a couple changing the diaper of their caterwauling toddler.  They had the child laid out on a rock on the pond’s edge… the edge of the pond that is a source of public drinking water.  Ewww!  I know babies need changing, but for God’s sake… take the diaper-changing activities off the trail and away from the water source.

After passing the end of Bubble Pond, you go over a neat arched bridge, cross the Park Loop Road again and make the final push back toward the opposite shore of Eagle Lake.  As the trail gets closer to the lake side, you get some really lovely lake and mountain views.  You also pass one of the most popular kayak launch spots in the park.

Shortly after passing the launch, you arrive at the Eagle Lake parking area.  This area is another parking option for accessing the Carriage Roads, but it’s usually horrible congested.  We continued past this spot to bike the remainder of the trail along Witch Hole and back to our car.

Witch Hole
Witch Hole is very pretty – full of lily pads and beaver dams.

It was a fantastic ride – one that I know I’ll want to do again and again!  After we wrapped up the ride, we headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up before dinner.  Sometime between the end of the ride and leaving for dinner a heavy fog rolled over the island.  It’s really amazing how quickly clear blue skies can turn to thick, cottony fog in Maine!  It’s part of the island’s charm, I suppose!  We enjoyed the foggy evening at one of our favorite lobster pounds, Thurston’s (in Bernard).  If you’re on MDI and want a classic Maine lobster experience, don’t miss Thurston’s!

Trail Notes

  • Distance17.3 miles.  We added about another 4.4 miles due to our misdirection.
  • Elevation Change – Approximately 500 feet.
  • Difficulty – 2.  There are some uphill sections which will have you switching to lower gears, but it is doable for most people.  Take breaks whenever you need one or walk your bike up the steeper sections.
  • Trail Conditions – 4.5.  The only thing better is pavement.  The carriage roads have small crushed gravel, which is good for just about any type of bike.  I would recommend a hybrid or mountain bike though due to the gravel.
  • Views – 3.5.  Most of the views are of the lakes, so you can’t see for miles and miles in most parts, but the lakes and ponds are gorgeous.
  • Waterfalls/Streams – 4.  You get great views of Witch Hole Pond, Eagle Lake, Jordan Pond, and Bubble Pond.
  • Wildlife – 1.  You may see an occasional loon or gull in the lakes, but not much else other than a red squirrel.
  • Ease to Navigate – 3.  There are lots of turns on this trail, but bring a map and follow the signposts and you should do well.
  • Solitude – 0This is an extremely popular spot for bikers, walkers, runners, and even horses.  

Directions to trailhead: Head west on 233 out of Bar Harbor.  After about a mile outside of town, take a right on Duck Brook Road.  Travel for about two miles until you reach the roadside parking near the park service building.

The Bubbles – Acadia National Park (ME)

Special: Acadia Edition

We’ve taken a detour from our normal coverage of Virginia hiking and biking!  For the next five posts, we’ll be doing a special edition covering the trails of Acadia National Park in Maine.

The Bubbles hike consists of two small mountains that overlook Jordan Pond.  One of the key features on this hike is a large glacial erratic hanging on the edge of the south Bubble.

Adam and Bubble Rock
Adam pretends to support the giant glacial erratic known as Bubble Rock.  Below: The first viewpoint along the trail up the South Bubble;  A view of Jordan Pond from the South Bubble; You can see how precariously the erratic hangs on the side of the mountain; When you visit the Jordan Pond House you get a great look at the Bubbles from a distance.  The two small mountains have such a distinct shape (photo from another trip).

The First View Jordan Pond from the South Bubble
The Bubbles from Jordan Pond

Adam Says…

We had an extraordinarily tough drive up to Maine this year.  We left on a Friday with plans to stay in Sturbridge, MA for one night and then finish the trip to Maine the following day.  We were counting on a lot of weekend and rush hour traffic around Boston, so we thought breaking this into a two-day drive was a good idea.   Well, the drive on the first day should have taken us around 8 hours and ended up taking us over 12 hours.  We ran into an over two-hour delay near Allentown, PA and Connecticut traffic is always ridiculous.  On Saturday, we had a better day of driving to get to Mount Desert Island  We were very eager to stretch our legs when we got there.  When we vacation, we are not ones to idly relax; we like to pack in as much as possible.

We have hiked up the Bubbles a couple of times in the past, and have always enjoyed it.  Since this is a short hike, you should be able to fit it in a narrow time period.  From the Bubble Rock parking lot, start off on the Bubble Rock trail.  At .1 miles, you will reach a junction with the Jordan Pond Carry Trail.  We went past this and just continued straight on the trail.  In about .3 miles, you reach a junction where the North and South Bubble trail split.  Take a left at this junction and continue the path up to reach the top of the South Bubble.  Take in the views and then go back the way you came.  At the previous junction, then follow the path to the North Bubble summit.  You can this take this path back to the junction and then just take a left to head back to your vehicle.

South Bubble View
Another view from the South Bubble. Below: Trails are very well-marked throughout Acadia; Adam scrambles to the top of the boulder pile to reach the summit marker on the South Bubble; The sun came out a bit more by the time we climbed the North Bubble.

Trail Sign  Adam scampers up to the top of the summit marker A View from the North Bubble

When you reach the summit of the South Bubble, take in the views of Jordan Pond and also take some time to find Bubble Rock (not to be confused with Balance Rock, which is located along the Shore Path in downtown Bar Harbor).  It was amazing to see all the people that try to push on the rock in hopes that they can personally move a multi-ton granite boulder.  There was one family that we enjoyed watching that had a couple of younger boys with them.  One of them held a stick like a spear and seemed to have a little violent streak running through him.  He kept wanting to throw his stick at things.  We overheard him telling his family, “When I see things, I want to chuck my spear at it SOOOOO BAAAAAD!”  I’m curious to see how his deviant behavior develops over the years.  From the Bubble Rock, you can also get some views of the Park Loop Road below.  This hike pays off with stunning views despite little effort.

We also enjoyed talking with a couple at the North Bubble.  They were taking part of a quest to visit all of the U.S. National Parks.  They had been to lots of places over the last few weeks and had come from Canada a few days before Acadia.  They took some pictures of the two of us and we returned the favor.  They said they were sending their pictures to their friends that were cursing them at all of the things they have been able to do.  I guess once you make your friends envious, you have to keep it up.  I will say that the North Bubble is a little steeper to climb up, but the views from both of the Bubbles are great.

We hope that you enjoy our reviews of Acadia National Park hikes.  We have been going there for years and I think you will see that over the next few blog entries that this is a place that you should put on your “must visit” list!  There is a reason that nearby Bar Harbor, ME was once called “Eden”.  This area really feels like a paradise to both of us.

Christine Says…

We rolled onto Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park, in the early afternoon after an easy six hour drive from Massachusetts.  It was a beautiful afternoon with a cold front pushing out the last of the dark, gray storm clouds and humidity from the day before.  We were really eager to start enjoying the park, so instead of going to our hotel, we immediately headed to the Acadia Visitor Center.  We changed into hiking clothes, bought our park pass and set out to do the short hike across the north and south Bubbles, overlooking Jordan Pond.

The hike is short and easy/moderate, so it’s very popular with families and novice hikers.  Even so, most of the traffic had cleared out earlier in the day, so we were able to find a parking spot right at the trailhead.  Anyone who visits Acadia knows how rare that is!  Acadia is one of the smallest and most congested national parks, so we always try to plan our activities at non-peak times to avoid crowds.

The trail climbs from the parking lot.  It starts off smoothly, but soon you’re scrambling over roots and up granite ‘stairs’.  It was a little wet from storms the night before, so we had to be careful of our footing.  There aren’t many footing surfaces more slippery than wet granite!

The first viewpoint we came too came atop a rocky shelf, mostly overlooking the mountains, but with a little snip of water visible.  After snapping a few quick photos, we made our way to the summit of the South Bubble.

The View from the North Bubble
The View from the North Bubble. Below: Christine and Adam enjoy views along the hike.

Christine Enjoys the View Adam enjoys the view

Of the two Bubbles, the south peak is quite a bit more popular due to the presence of ‘Bubble Rock’ – a glacial erratic that sits precariously on the side of the mountain.  It looks like it could go rolling down the mountainside at any moment.  It’s always fun to sit and listen to people plotting to push the boulder off its perch.  Some people think it would take a group pushing effort; others contemplate the lift power of a lever.  Personally, I think when the boulder falls; it will be solely Mother Nature who moves it.  I hope it doesn’t happen in my lifetime, because I like the boulder right where it is!  Another fun tradition is to take photos of your hiking buddies pretending to hold the boulder up.

If you hike past Bubble Rock, the trail leads over to an open view of Jordan Pond below.  It’s a lovely spot!

To get to the North Bubble, you simply retrace your steps back to a trail junction marking the path north.  The trail up the North Bubble might be slightly steeper, but it’s still a short and easy hike.  We spent a bit of time atop the peak, enjoying the view and luxuriating in the cool, breezy Maine air.  Being in Maine always makes me feel so happy.

We hiked back down the way we came and were back at our car quickly.  Even though the hike was nothing long or challenging, it was still a perfect way to kick off our week in Acadia!

Trail Notes

  • Distance1.7 miles
  • Elevation Change – approximately 1050 feet.  You first go up about 500 feet up to the South Bubble, go back down 200 feet and then up another 550 feet to the North Bubble
  • Difficulty – 2.5.  These trails are very short, so most people should be able to do them.  The South Bubble is fairly easy with the short distance and I would give about a 2 in difficulty.  The North Bubble is definitely more of a steep trail and is closer to a 3-3.5 in difficulty.
  • Trail Conditions – 3.  The trail is very well-maintained and traveled.  However, some of the footing can be slick in the rain on the granite.  The North Bubble does have some steeper sections which make the footing a little more treacherous.
  • Views – 4.  Great views from both Bubbles.
  • Wildlife – 0.  We didn’t really see anything, but you may be able to see birds soaring above or relaxing on the lakes below.
  • Ease to Navigate – 3.5.  This path we took was more like a T, since you split off in different directions.  Almost all of the trails in Acadia lead to other options to combine into loops with other trails.   
  • Solitude – 1Due to the distance, this is an incredibly popular hike.  You will very likely have several hikers to share in the views if you go over the summer.

Directions to trailhead: On the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park, keep following the road until you reach the Bubble Rock parking lot.  This is just south of the Bubble Pond parking lot, so don’t be confused by the name.  The trailhead starts from about the middle of the parking lot.