Bird Knob – Browns Hollow Loop

This 11 mile loop has everything – stunning views, scenic streams, a clear mountain pond, and even a small waterfall.  You could hike it as a long(ish) day hike, but there is so much great camping along the way that it’s ideal for an easy overnight backpacking trip!

View the Full Album of Photos From This Hike

Views Along the Massanutten Trail
Views Along the Massanutten Trail. Below:  The mountain laurel was just starting to bloom in mid-May; Christine and Adam attempt to fix Kris’s broken trekking pole with duct tape; Kris makes her way up the steepest, rockiest part of the hike.

Blooming Mountain Laurel Trekking Pole Repairs Steep Uphill

Day One (4 miles)…

One thing that was true about May in 2016 was we had a TON of rain in Virginia.  It was hard to find a time to actually go for a hike in good weather.  We had been itching to try and do an overnight trip, but the threat of drenching downpours and storms was standing in the way.  We had some very stressful days at work, so getting out and finding some peace away from the hustle of everyday life was just what the doctor ordered.  In looking at the weather closely, we decided we may be able to get a short, overnight trip in if we timed it just right.  We decided to do something very close by to our home to allow us to get on the trail quickly to get in a few miles before it started to get dark.  We had called our friend, Kris, who was going to accompany us, and told her to be ready anytime during the Saturday afternoon.  We felt like Doppler radar experts as we were tracking the storm movement and finally around 2:30PM, we felt the rain was going to stop to allow us to hike.

We got to the Massanutten Visitor Center and saw a lot of cars in the parking lot.  We were thinking there was no way that others were on the trail at this same time due to all the rain we had in the last few days.  A large camper was at the front and I talked to one gentleman out front.  As it turns out, it was the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 race that weekend, a 100-mile race along the Massanutten Mountain range that covers 16,200 feet of ascent.  We were a little worried about the trail conditions and how many runners we may see along the way, but nothing was stopping us now.

Views on the Massanutten Trail
Two nice views come in the first mile and a half of hiking.  Below: The ascent along the orange-blazed Massanutten trail is fairly rocky and steep; Pink lady’s slippers were blooming everywhere; We hear rumbles of thunder!

The Ascent was Rocky Pink Lady's Slippers We Hear Thunder

From the parking lot, we took the white-blazed Wildflower trail (do not take the Nature trail at the end of the parking lot).  This trail leads downhill and passes some comical information plaques along the way.  At .3 miles, when you reach an intersection with the Massanutten South trail, take a right to start on the orange-blazed Massanutten South trail.  The trail goes up a steep ascent and we found with the recent rain the footing was slippery and mucky in a few parts.  On the ascent, we found that Kris’ new trekking poles weren’t locking properly, so we paused to get some duct tape to try and make a repair (not long after we realized that our fix didn’t hold up and she lost part of her pole somewhere along the trail).  The uphill was quite steep and had us breathing heavily with our heavy packs, but this is the toughest part of the entire hike.  We passed a hiker who was doing the reverse route and he told us right near the summit there were about 100 pink lady’s slippers along the trail.  We decided to count what we had saw; while we didn’t see 100 of these rare wildflowers, we did count close to 60 over the weekend which may be the most we’ve ever seen on a trail.  We came to the first overlook around the 1.6 mile mark (the second is just shortly ahead), took our packs off for a few minutes and enjoyed the panoramic views.  The clouds after the recent storm blanketed the sky.  We stopped at the second view also before continuing on.  At 2.5 miles, the trail splits; head to the right to join the Bird Knob trail.

The Bird Knob trail is a ridge walk and is quite flat, which was a nice change from climbing. But, the sky began to get dark and we started hearing thunder in the near distance.  Within five minutes, we started to feel rain.  We decided to put on our pack covers and rain gear and it was just in the nick of time, as the clouds unleashed a downpour mixed with pea-sized hail.  We kept marching through the hailstorm and within about 20 minutes, the storm had passed.

Camp for the Night
We wanted to camp by Emerald Pond, but the sites were taken early in the day. We found an equally nice spot in the meadow. Below: The rumbles of thunder turned into a downpour with hail – we were all prepared; Kris and Adam scout out the open meadow that would soon be our back-up campsite for the night; This grassy path departs the meadow. Shortly after this photo, we turned back and set up our camp at the top of the meadow.

We Got Hailed On Scouting the Campsite We Had to Turn Back

At 3.8 miles, we reached a large open field with a campsite.  We decided to press on to get a spot at Emerald Pond, so we skirted the left side of the field to stay on the trail.  The trail then turns into an old logging road going downhill.  About halfway down the road, we came across a couple of rain-soaked college-aged guys.  They were asking if there were any campsites up ahead and they told us all the spots were taken at Emerald Pond.  We mentioned the big field with lots of room and they left the way they came to go get the rest of their group and their packs.  Since we heard there were no spots, we decided to turn around and get a nice spot in the open field.  Christine scouted around and saw there were also sites in the woods next to a small hidden pond, but the bear scat around the site was a deterrent.  We decided to camp near the fire pit we saw at the top of the field.  One thing that was nice about camping in this grassy field was we knew we would have a comfortable floor bed to pitch our tent.  We set up in a short amount of time and we were soon joined by about eight others in the field that night.

The wind had picked up as the storm front had moved through and I felt unprepared in terms of clothing.  I switched out of my damp clothes, but I didn’t bring enough warmer clothes for that evening.  We made a quick meal and were even able to start a fire at camp despite the wetness of the wood.  After dinner, I was getting a little colder each minute, so I decided to call it an early night and get in my down sleeping bag while Kris and Christine talked until nightfall.  It was a crazy day on the trail, but one thing I like about hiking is it is always an adventure.

Day Two (7 miles)…

The morning dawned sunny but frigid!  Adam had been cold all night, so I let him stay curled up in his sleeping bag while I went to take down the bear hang.  No one else who camped in the meadow was stirring, but the three of us quickly cooked breakfast and packed up camp.  On our way out of the meadow, we all got a good chuckle over one of the tents set up nearby.  It was technically pitched, but in no way like it was supposed to be.  We’re guessing someone borrowed a tent and couldn’t figure out how to set it up.  I love a backpacker’s ability to improvise!

After walking downhill to the bottom of the meadow, we picked up the old logging road for a few tenths of a mile until we reached an unmarked gravel road on the left.  The gravel road led to Emerald Pond – a beautiful, spring-fed mountain pool.  The last time we visited, we had the pond all to ourselves and very much enjoyed the peace and solitude.  This time, the pond was crawling with other campers.  They had big tents, tons of gear, and were dressed in jeans and work boots.  We’re guessing that they parked on the nearby forest service road and walked the tenth of a mile to the prime campsite on the pond.  I guess it’s worth noting that the early bird gets the worm when it comes to staking a claim on an Emerald Pond campsite!  We didn’t want to intrude, so we just took a few photos from the near-side of the pond. The campsite side is prettier, so don’t miss visiting if the spot is open.

Emerald Pond
Emerald Pond is a much sought after campsite. It was full of people by mid-day. Below: Breaking down camp in the morning; Kris leaving camp; Adam passes the locked gate onto the forest service road.

Breaking Down Camp Off to an Early Start Gate to Fire Road

We left the pond and continued a tenth of a mile to the forest service road.  There was a locked gate where the trail met the road.  At that point, we took a right and hiked downhill along the road (orange blazed) for a few tenths of a mile until we reached the junction with the Roaring Run Gap trail.  The trail is on the left side of the forest road and is marked by a wooden post with two sets of blazes – light purple and pink. The climb up Big Mountain via the Roaring Run Gap trail (blazed purple) was our last big climb of the trip.  For a little less than half a mile, the trail climbs steeply uphill over rocky terrain.  At the top, we passed a small/dry campsite. On the descent, which came almost immediately, we glimpsed beautiful views through the trees.  There were switchbacks and quite a few muddy spots along this stretch of trail.  We cheered on the last few runners on the Massanutten 100 Miler race.  Even if you’re finishing at the back of the pack in a race like that, you’re still tougher than we’ll ever be!  We also met the sweeper who was jogging the course behind the last racer to pick up reflective hang-tags that helped keep runners on course during the night.

After about a mile of walking along the purple-blazed Roaring Run trail, we reached an unmarked junction with the pink-blazed Browns Hollow trail.  The trail is a left turn from the Roaring Run Gap trail.  Over four miles of the hike on day two follows this Browns Hollow trail – so look for the pink blazes.

Hiking Roaring Run Gap
We got nice glimpses through the trees on the Roaring Run Gap trail. Below: The route follows the forest service road for a short while.  We shared much of our hike with runners competing in the Massnutten 100-miler; Roaring Run Gap trail is steep and rocky for a short while; Views through the trees.

Massanutten 100 Miler Rocky Grade on Roaring Run Gap Trail Views Through the Trees

The Browns Hollow trail starts off passing through pretty forest.  There are stretches of trail that pass through impressive blueberry bushes.  Eventually, you descend to Browns Run. Along the way, you’ll pass a couple nice campsites suitable for one or two small tents.  Both sites had fire rings and easy access to water.

There are several beautiful rapids and a small, but lovely, waterfall on this section of trail.  We all enjoyed walking through the verdant green forest, while listening to the sounds of bubbling water. It was gorgeous and peaceful.  If you look around you’ll notice the stream runs through a pretty deep and dramatic gorge.  The far side of the stream goes upward quickly and steeply.  There were even a couple places that looked like there had been recent landslides.  All the trees and dirt slid straight down the mountainside and ended in a jumble at the bottom. This part of the hike was gentle and easy, so we made great time and enjoyed chatting along the way.  We counted more pink lady’s slippers and admired other spring blooms along the trail.

Small Waterfall on Browns Run
Small Waterfall on Browns Run. Below: Everything was lush and green from all the spring rain; One of several campsites along Browns Run; Walking the Browns Run Trail

Lush Green Forest Campsite on Browns Run Lush Green Trail

At a little over the five mile mark of day two, you’ll cross Browns Run.  I imagine most of the time this is a shallow, easy stream crossing.  We hiked the trail after weeks of rain, and still found the crossing very doable.  The stream was only 12-18 inches deep and there were enough large rocks to rock hop most of the way.  There were a few places I had to submerge the toe of my boot on an underwater rock, but all three of us crossed without any trouble.  Right after the crossing, there is a fantastic group campsite.  The area is large and clear with space for multiple tents.

We continued to follow the Browns Hollow trail as it became a wide old road.  We passed lots of blooming mountain laurel along this part of the hike.  Eventually we came upon a picnic area with a shelter.  At that point, we took a left onto the marked Wildflower Trail at this point.  It passes a series of interpretive signs before eventually leading back to the Massanutten Visitors Center (closed) where we started out the prior morning.

Crossing Browns Run
Kris crosses Browns Run. Below:  A large campsite right after the stream crossing; The trail turns into an old roadbed; Walking past blooming mountain laurel.

Big Campsite at the Junction Browns Hollow Trail Browns Hollow Trail

It was still before noon when we wrapped up, so we decided to drive back into Harrisonburg for lunch. We enjoyed burgers at Jack Brown’s and then headed over to Brothers Craft Brewing to enjoy their new Verdure series.  They’ve done a tart Berliner-Weisse beer infused with all kinds of seasonal/summer fruits.  They had Blackberry Verdure on tap.  It was the perfect reward for a fun weekend of hiking.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 11 miles
    Check out the stats from Map My Hike [Day 1] [Day 2]*
  • Elevation Change – 2290 ft.
  • Difficulty –  2.5.  The toughest stretch is the initial push up to the viewpoints. 
  • Trail Conditions – 3.  There were a couple of blowdowns, some muddy patches due to the heavy rain, and a stream crossing, but footing was overall very good.
  • Views  4.  The two viewpoints provide some nice panoramic views.
  • Streams/Waterfalls – 3.5.  Browns Run is a nice stream and a good water source.  While not a stream or waterfall, Emerald Pond is extremely picturesque and would make a nice swimming hole. 
  • Wildlife – 3.  The start of the Wildflower Trail had us surrounded by birds.  With bear scat spotted near our campsite, there is some bear activity here. 
  • Ease to Navigate – 2.  There are multiple trails that cross over between Bird Knob and the Massanutten trail.  Take a map to make sure you are going the correct way.
  • Solitude – 2.  While you won’t see many on the trail, we found a lot of locals like to drive in close and visit Emerald Pond.

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

Download a Trail Map (PDF)

Directions to trailhead: GPS coordinates for this hike are 38°38’35.4″N 78°36’43.0″W. From I-81, take exit 264 for US-211 toward New Market/Timberville/Luray.  Head east on US-211/W Old Cross Road and go .3 miles.  Turn left onto N. Congress St. and go .3 miles.  Turn right onto US-211 East and go 4.5 miles.  Park at the old Massanutten Visitor Center parking lot on the right.  The trail starts towards the front of the lot on the Wildflower Trail.

Rocky Falls & Heart Lake (NY)


This practically flat 5-mile hike takes you to a small, but lovely, double waterfall.  The pool beneath the falls is a great place to take a dip on a hot summer day.  After visiting the falls, the hike continues around the perimeter of Heart Lake.

View the Full Album of Photos From This Hike

Rocky Falls Feature
Rocky Falls is a small double waterfall. It may only be about 10 feet tall, but it’t located in a beautiful setting with an inviting plunge pool for swimming. Below: The trail is well marked and starts near the Adirondack Loj at Heart Lake; Entering the High Peaks Wilderness; Segments of logs are pressed into the trail tread to help manage muddiness and erosion.

Rocky Falls Trail Signage Entering High Peaks Wilderness Hiking Along to Rocky Falls

Adam Says…

As we were trying to mix up some easy hikes with some tough hikes in the Adirondacks, we settled on picking this easy hike to a nice waterfall.  This hike starts on the same path that led to Mt. Jo, beginning at the Heart Lake Program Center (the main hub for the Adirondack Mountain Club).  The trailhead parking at Heart Lake was $10.00 a day for non-members (ADK member parking was $5 and all prices went down by half for parking arrivals after noon.)   We recommend arriving early if you want to set out on any trail from this popular spot.

Stream on Rocky Falls Trail
There were several shallow stream crossings on the way to Rocky Falls.  Below: Some stream crossings had plank bridges; Signage along the trail; Gnarled tree roots.

Stream Crossing on Rocky Falls Rocky Falls Trail Signage 2 Neat Old Trees on Rocky Falls Trail

The trailhead starts to the right of the entrance station.  The trail starts off on a flat, easy path through the woods.  You pass the Heart Lake Nature Museum and then pass the junction to the Mt. Jo trail at .25 miles.  The trail stays flat and skirts along the north side of Heart Lake.  There are a couple of paths that lead down to the lakeside for peaceful views.  At .6 miles, you reach the junction that leads around Heart Lake, but stay straight on the trail.  Most of the hike is relatively uneventful, as you walk through some dense forest areas, with just a couple of stream crossings along the way.  We found very few people on the trail and it was an enjoyable walk slightly downhill.   At 2.0 miles, we reached a junction that showed the side trail to Rocky Falls.  It was only .2 miles to reach the falls.

When I had seen pictures of the falls online, the falls reminded me of two eyes with cascading tears.  We hung out a while at the bottom of the falls and were soon joined by a man with his two dogs.  They enjoyed jumping in the swimming hole and fetching a stick.  We could really tell they were having a great time and it was fun to watch their relentless pursuit.  There is a small path that leads to the top of the falls, but the most picturesque view is of the bottom of the falls.

Rocky Falls Wide View
A wide view of Rocky Falls and its plunge pool. Below: A different viewpoint of the falls; The pool under the falls; Looking downstream from Rocky Falls.

Another View of Rocky Falls Rocky Falls Swimming Hole Looking Downstream from Rocky Falls

We made our way back the way we came, now taking a slight uphill route from the falls.  At 4.0 miles, we came back to the junction with the trail that led around Heart Lake.  We decided to take this route in hopes of seeing the lake from a different angle.  This route actually led away from the lake so it didn’t provide any great views along the side as the northside did.  We passed through a short, open field used for skiing, but then came back into the woods.  We passed a few cabins and campsites along the lake.  At 4.5 miles, the trail met the lake again.  I found a nice bench and sat and enjoyed the serenity of the lake.  We then moved further down to the Adirondack Loj, where we saw several families that were out in the lake swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding.  We read books by the lake for a while, enjoying the sunny day and then made our way back to the car.

One thing I feel is really special about this area is the ability for families to enjoy the outdoors in many different ways.  This hike and the surrounding areas is a great destination for people that enjoy the water, the views, and the hiking.  While I have seen more impressive waterfalls, this would be an easy family outing if you are staying nearby.

Christine Says…

Adam and I planned to hike Mount Marcy as the grand finale of our Adirondack week, so for Wednesday’s hike, we decided to stick with another easy trail so we could save our energy for our big, 15-mile route a couple days later.  Once again, we found ourselves setting off from the Adirondack Loj – it really is the heart of outdoor activity in that area.

Dogs at Rocky Falls
We saw many dogs – especially Labradors – at the falls.  Below: We enjoyed watching them dive, swim, and compete for their stick.

Dogs Swimming at Rocky Falls Dogs Swimming at Rocky Falls 2 Dogs Swimming at Rocky Falls 3

The trail leading to Rocky Falls was surprisingly flat and soft.  I had come to believe that everything in the Adirondacks was either slick granite, boulders, cobbles, or a tangle of gnarled roots; so terrain like this was a welcome surprise. The wide dirt path passed through beautiful shady woods.  Many of the muddy places along the trail had small logs pressed into the tread to make the mucky parts more passable.   It’s a clever, easy way to manage areas prone to wetness.

Another nice thing about the easy terrain was that it gave us a chance to cover ground at greater speed.  I’m not saying I like to rush through hikes, but sometimes complicated terrain slows you to just a mile an hour.  It felt good to stretch our legs and cover ground!  We reached the falls pretty quickly.  When we first arrived, there were a couple people climbing on the rocks above the waterfall, but we had the lower pool all to ourselves.  I was able to take advantage of some passing clouds to get a couple long exposure photos of the waterfall.  It was small, but very pretty.  The pool beneath the falls was very inviting.  I would have loved to go for a swim, but didn’t bring a towel or clothes to change into.

Crossing the Ski Slope
On the return hike, we followed the trail around the other side of Heart Lake. This took us by the Alice Waterhouse Ski Slope. Below: The trail didn’t follow Heart Lake’s shore very closely; One of the lean-to’s available for rent along Heart Lake; Canvas tents are also available.

eturn Hke From Rocky Falls 2 ADK Lean To Canvas Tent

After a few minutes, more people began to arrive.  The two dogs Adam mentioned were fun to watch, but they also meant I had to put my tripod away.  I don’t know what it is, but I am a wet dog magnet as soon as I get my good camera gear out!  Every time I tried to take a shot, they would come bursting out of the water and running in my direction at a full, water-spraying shake!  Oh well… I had already managed to take a few decent photos and really enjoyed watching the dogs dive and swim. When we went into Lake Placid the later, we actually ran into the hiker who had brought the dogs.  It turned out that he worked at Eastern Mountain Sports.  Funny… usually the people you pass on a day hike, you never see again.

After leaving the falls, we took the lake loop trail back to the Loj.  It was mostly walking through the woods.  Eventually we reached a cross country ski hill named in honor of Alice Waterhouse. Alice was an Adirondack legend – she hiked all the high peaks, skied, worked on trail maintenance, and volunteered her time working to preserve the area’s wilderness.  You can read more about her on the ADK Blog.

Heart Lake
After we finished our hike, we sat along the shore of Heart Lake and ate lunch and read books. Below: The Adirondack Loj; Heart Lake is clear and cool – a perfect spot to dunk tired feet.

ADK Loj Wading

After passing the ski hill, we quickly reached the lakeside camping area.  The lean-tos were really cute.  They reminded me of the Appalachian Trail shelters we see through much of Virginia.  It would be nice to camp there someday!  Before we knew it, we were back at the Loj.  We had packed a picnic of peanut butter sandwiches, chips, and cookies.  I bought more cold drinks from the info center and staked out a nice spot with two Adirondack chairs overlooking Heart Lake.  We spent the afternoon relaxing and reading books.  We watched people paddling the lake and even spotted a loon diving.  What a nice place to watch the world pass by.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 5 miles
    (Check out the stats from Map My Hike)*
  • Elevation Change – 377 ft.
  • Difficulty – 1.5.  This trail is a rarity by Adirondack standards – the trail was flat and mostly dirt.  We think most people could easily manage this hike.
  • Trail Conditions – 4. The trail was in great shape with only a few muddy spots.
  • Views  2.  Views of the mountains across Heart Lake are pretty, but there are no lofty vistas on this hike.
  • Streams/Waterfalls – 3.5. The small double waterfall is the main point of this hike.  It’s a pretty spot, but there are more impressive waterfalls in the area.
  • Wildlife – 2. The area is heavily traveled and popular with families and dogs.  I wouldn’t expect to see lots of wildlife. Although, we did see a loon on Heart Lake.
  • Ease to Navigate – 4. Trails are generally easy to follow and well marked.
  • Solitude – 2. This is a popular trail in a busy area.

Download a Trail Map (PDF)

Directions to trailhead: From Lake Placid, go east on Rt. 73 to Adirondac Loj Rd., which is the first right after the ski jumps. The parking lots are 5 miles from Rt. 73. There is a $10/day parking fee. From the parking lot at the High Peaks Information Center at the end of Adirondak Loj Rd. return to the entrance station and find the trail at the far corner of the snowplow turnaround. GPS coordinates for this hike are: 44.1830461,-73.9644678

Giant Mountain (NY)


Giant Mountain is New York’s 12th tallest peak and the hike to the top is no joke!  With about 3,400 feet of elevation gain in just 3.4 miles, lots of slick granite and tangled roots to negotiate, and several short rock scrambles, this is not a beginner’s hike.  The views at the top and along the descent make the effort worthwhile, though.  The hike winds down with a visit to a lovely glacial pond called the Giant Washbowl.

View the Full Album of Photos From This Hike

Giant Mountain Summit
Crowd gathered on the summit of Giant Mountain. Most of the people were part of one very oversized hiking group. Below: Trailhead information; There was fog catching the sunlight early in our hike; The steady climb begins early on the route.

Giant Mountain Trailhead Giant Mountain Fog in the Woods Giant Mountain Climbing

Adam Says…

Giant Mountain is one of the Adirondack High Peaks, a collective name given to the 46 mountains that rise above 4000 feet.  A survey later showed that four of these peaks are actually slightly below 4000 feet (and one other should have been included), however the ADK is keeping all of the original 46 peaks in this club.   Giant Mountain stands as the 12th highest mountain in New York at 4,627 feet.  One thing we quickly discovered on our trip to this area is that there are lots of people trying to peakbag all 46 peaks – kind of a rite of passage for serious NY hikers.  So, you will likely find fellow hikers on the trail.  Giant also has several different ways to approach the summit, but this path would be the most popular, mostly because of the length and the access to see the Giant Washbowl and Nubble.  Some peakbaggers will approach this hike from another trail to the east to bag Rocky Peak Ridge, #20 on the Adirondack High Peak list.

We found the parking lot without much trouble and began our hike on the Roaring Brook Trail.  Within the first couple of tenths of a mile, the trail branches off to the left (the trail to the right leads to the base of Roaring Brook Falls) up a steady incline.  The trail starts off with a lot of roots, but these are soon replaced with lots of large rocks to navigate.  At about .5 miles, you reach a side trail while leads to a nice large campsite and the top of Roaring Brook Falls.  Be very careful if you check out the stream at the top, since people have fallen over the falls and died.  Backtrack your steps and rejoin the trail to continue the uphill climb.  At 1.2 miles, you reach a junction that leads to the Giant Washbowl and Nubble (your return trip on this loop).

Steep Rocks to Scale
The terrain ascending Giant Mountain is varied with rock scrambles, smooth granite, cobbles, roots, stream crossings and more! Below: The top of Roaring Brook Falls; A stream crossing;  Trail Junctions were well marked.

Top of the Falls Stream Crossing  Trail Junction

Continue uphill on the Roaring Brook Trail.  Keep an eye on where you place your feet as you have to navigate along rocky steps through most of the rest of the hike.  At 2.9 miles, you reach another junction.  Turn left to head to the summit of Giant.  This part of the trail had some extremely slick granite slabs to walk up.  We had just had rain a couple of days ago, so some of these giant slabs were very tricky to climb.   Eventually, you will reach the summit at 3.6 miles. Views at the top are truly breathtaking.

On our descent, we returned back the way we hiked up.  Christine was worried about the descent over the slick granite, but we took our time and even scooted down some surfaces on our butts to be extra safe.  At 4.4 miles, we reached the junction of the Ridge Trail (also known as the Zander Scott trail) and Roaring Brook Trail.  Instead of taking the Roaring Brook Trail back the way we came, we decided we wanted to see the Giant Washbowl.   The descent was steep this way down, but there weren’t as many slick granite rocks – the area is more exposed and the sun dries the rock off more quickly.  The way back on this trail gave us more incredible panoramic views, so we instantly knew we made the right choice.  I would recommend to descend on this trail rather than trying to ascend, because by descending you get the views in front of you instead of having to turn around constantly to enjoy the views.  We went at a slow pace through this section since it kept opening up to views.  At 5.5 miles, we reached another trail junction.  The trail that branches off to the right leads to the Giant Nubble.  We opted not to take this route, but from what I have read there are some great views that overlook the Washbowl and surrounding mountains.

There was even a ladder to climb on the hike up. Below: Some of the climb involved clambering over big rounded rocks; Other parts were across smooth (often slippery) granite, Sometimes you had to drag yourself along the brush at the bottom of a granite slide.

Climbing the Cobbles Climbing the Granite Granite Slide

Continuing down the Ridge Trail, we came to the Giant Washbowl.  The Washbowl is a large pond, serving as a picturesque spot begging you to reflect along the calm waterside.  We crossed over a long, but low to the ground, log bridge that stretched over part of the creek.  On the other side of the log bridge was another junction and trail sign.  We took a right and followed this Giants Washbowl Trail that skirted the edge of the Washbowl.  On the other side of the Washbowl, we saw a huge beaver dam and tree stumps marked with gnawing beaver teeth.  The trail was mostly level, but did go slightly up and down at minimal climbs and descents.  I found this part of the trail to be more wet and slick with some rocks and almost had a bad fall, but was saved by my trekking poles.

At 6.3 miles, this section of the trail rejoined the opposite side of the Nubble Trail.  We kept straight on the trail and at 6.7 miles, we reached the junction with the Roaring Brook Trail.  We took a left here at this junction and followed the trail back to our car, which should bring you back around the 8 mile mark.

This hike was intimidating and a bit of a challenge.  I remember we had read this was a great family hike.  We were thinking they would never describe this as a family hike in Virginia, but I guess New York Adirondack hikers are a stronger breed than we are used to in Virginia.  We found that to be the case for most of the people we met up here.  People in the Adirondacks look healthier, seem to be in better shape, and have a close connection to the outdoors.  If you enjoy a bit of a challenge, the views are definitely worth it on this hike.  Pictures can’t do the views justice.  Be sure to add this one to your agenda if you are looking for a great hike in the High Peaks area.

Christine Says…

Adam did a great job doing all our pre-trip hike research  for our Adirondacks vacation! Over the course of the week, we hiked a mix of big mountains and small mountains. We saw quiet ponds and cascading waterfalls. Some days were easy strolls and other days were grueling climbs.  The hike of Giant Mountain was not our longest hike of the week, but I think it was definitely our toughest.  It had a monster elevation gain and I found the terrain physically challenging and a bit frightening in spots.

Super Steep
Near the summit, the climbing was tough and traversed large boulders. Below: First glimpses of the view; Before reaching the top, the trail offered a brief reprieve from relentless climbing as we walked across a saddle between peaks; Giant Mountain Summit

First Vies Saddle Giant Summit

The climb started off through lovely, shady forest.  The trail was cris-crossed with roots, but the footing was generally soft dirt.  The climb was steady and relatively steep.  As we climbed higher, the dirt trail gave way to increasing rocks.  At first, it was jumbles of boulders and cobbles.  We made our way, stepping carefully from stone to stone – making sure each was level and anchored before committing our full weight to the step.

Eventually, we started seeing fewer round boulders, and started seeing mostly smooth, slanted granite faces.  The granite was wet from storms the night before.  It was also covered with a coating of incredibly slick granite sand.  The climbing was very mentally challenging for me.  I get really nervous when I have to cover slippery terrain that lacks anything to grab onto in case of a slip or slide.  My vertigo makes me more prone to the sensation of losing my footing.

There were several spots on the climb of Giant that paralyzed me with panic and fear.  On one especially smooth, steep pass; I actually burst into tears because I was so certain I was going to fall off the mountain and die.  I gripped the tiny hand and foot holds, took deep breath, focused on the rock face in front of me, and climbed.  It sounds silly, but confronting and prevailing over fear like that makes me feel proud.  Of course, just when I’m feeling my proudest – some wiry, lean 22-year old guy trots up the same rock face with the agility of a mountain goat.  🙂  I just remind myself that my vertigo is an extra challenge and I still did it!!!

Giant Mountain Summit
Super views from the summit of Giant Mountain. Below: We had fantastic views on the hike down the Ridge Trail; Sometimes the trail disappeared; Our first view of the Giants Washbowl.

Great Views on Descent Direction First View of Giants Washbowl

Before reaching the summit, we crossed a nice saddle between knobs.  The trail was fairly level and soft and it was a great reprieve before one final scary rock scale to the summit.  It took me a few minutes of deep breathing and positive thinking to climb the one last steep spot to the summit.  And the summit was MAGNIFICENT!  Of course, some of the beauty was stolen from me because I was already thinking ‘How the heck am I going to get down from here?’  I need to remember to stay in the moment and wish I had taken more time just to enjoy being at the top of Giant.

We chatted with other hikers at the top.  We took photos.  And then it was time to climb down!  As luck would have it, the descent turned out to be no big deal for me.  I took my time, scooted on my rear end, and used my trekking poles and tree branches to brace myself.  One of the hikers we chatted with at the summit took a hard fall on slick rocks climbing down.  It looked like he hit his head, so I shouted to him to stay put and not try to get back up.  I started climbing back up toward him to make sure he was OK.  Fortunately, he was fine – just bruised and stunned.  It’s so easy for one misstep to become a serious injury on terrain like this.  In fact, there is a website that lists search and rescue missions for the Adirondacks.  Typically, crews go on anywhere from 5-15 missions a week to help injured, sick, and lost hikers.

Great Views on Descent
The descent on the ridge trail offered great views. It was like a theater with the mountains up on stage. Below: Some steep descents along the granite; So much granite; Really… there was a lot of granite.

Steep Slick Granite More Rock Faces Lots of Rocks

At the junction of the Roaring Brook and Ridge Trail, we stopped to review our map.  We started chatting with another couple we had met on the summit.  They didn’t have a map or a plan, so we shared information with them.  They decided to hike with us down the Ridge Trail to see the Giant Washbowl.  They had an adorable Jack Russell mix dog named Judy!  She was an agile and energetic hiker.

The views coming down the Ridge Trail were as nice as the summit.  It was like walking into a theater of mountains.  There were lots of granite faces and cobbles to negotiate on the way down.  Sometimes the trail was so rugged you were left wondering if it really was the trail!

We started seeing glimpses of the Washbowl from above.  It was even more beautiful up close.  I loved seeing the reflections of clouds and mountains in the water.  From there, the rest of the hike was pretty easy and the terrain was much more moderate.  We passed (and greatly angered) a couple red squirrels.  They’re pretty cute when they’re mad – chattering at you from tree branches.

Giants Washbowl
The Giants Washbowl is a beautiful mountain pond. Below: Seriously, these rocks are the trail; A bridge over the end of the pond; A dam at the top of the pond.

Seriously Rocks Bridge Over Pond Dam

When we were almost back to the car, we passed a large family group.  There were two women and about ten kids under the age of ten – all dressed in swimsuits and sandals.  They were considering walking to the top of the waterfall and asked what the terrain was like.  Fortunately, we were able to dissuade them from hiking the steeper rockier terrain by telling them that there was nothing really to see – which was true.  The top of the falls was really low and unimpressive.

We reached our car and decided ice cream was in order!  We definitely earned a treat after a hike like that!

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 8.1 miles
  • Elevation Change – 3408 ft.
  • Difficulty – 5.  The hiking up here is tough.  
  • Trail Conditions – 2.  While the trail is well-maintained, there are  a lot of rocks that make for very tricky footing.  There is also a few sections that require you to go up slick granite rocks that can be especially dangerous after recent rainstorms.  
  • Views  5.  Outstanding panoramic views.  Great views of many other high peaks in the area.  
  • Streams/Waterfalls – 2.5  The first mile of the trail gives you some occasional views of Roaring Brook.  A small side trail leads to the top of the Roaring Brook Falls.  The Giant Washbowl is also impressive to see.  
  • Wildlife – 2.  This is a popular trail so I wouldn’t expect to see much more than birds.
  • Ease to Navigate – 4.  Signs gave good information at the junctions.  There are different options to include trips to Giant Nubble and also to connect to Hopkins Moutain and Owl Head Lookout from the summit.
  • Solitude – 2.  Expect to see plenty of people on a nice day at the summit.  The summit has a lot of space to spread out and enjoy your own view.  

Download a Trail Map (PDF)

Directions to trailhead: From Keene, NY head southeast on NY-73E/NY-9 S.  Continue on NY-73E for about 6.1 miles.  There is a small parking lot on the left, which is shortly after you pass through St. Huberts.  The trailhead is at the end of the lot. Coordinates for trailhead parking are 44.1502704,-73.7676257.

Bird Knob – Emerald Pond

This 8.3 mile hike takes you past two nice overlooks and gorgeous Emerald Pond. After some significant climbing early in the hike, most of the terrain is pleasant and easy ridge walking.

The View from Bird Knob
Christine enjoys the view along the Bird Knob hike. Below: The trail started out from the defunct Massanutten Visitors Center; Some damage from the derecho wind storm was still evident along the trail; After an early climb, this hike had lots of easy ridge walking.

Massanutten Visitors Center Derecho Damage Grassy Path on the Massanutten Rideg

Christine Says…

I don’t think anyone will argue – this has been a tough summer weather-wise.  It’s been hotter, stormier, muggier and buggier than usual.  There really haven’t been many weekend days that I would label ‘nice hiking weather.’  So when we finally had a day that was a little less hot and humid, we took full advantage of the opportunity and headed out to hike Bird Knob.

Bird Knob, like our last hike – Little Devils Stairs – had been on our list for quite a while.  The trailhead is relatively close to our home.  The distance and terrain – slightly over 8 miles and around 1600 feet of climbing – fall right in the ‘perfect hike’ range by our standards.  Still, it wasn’t a hike I was looking forward to with a lot of excitement and anticipation.  This was mostly due to middling/negative reviews I saw on another hiking site we read.  People complained that the views weren’t that great, that part of the hike looked like a construction site, that it was too easy and that it was nothing but circling under the trees.  None of the descriptions made the hike sound particularly appealing.  Even the photos posted from the hike led me to believe that it would be rather mundane and lacking in scenery.

But – wow… when we got out there, we were pleasantly surprised by how nice the hike turned out to be. The trail started off from the defunct Massanutten Visitors Center on Route 211.  We descended from the parking lot along the Wildflower Trail until its junction with the Massanutten Ridge Trail.  The first mile and a half had some steep climbing.  We hiked past and over lots of large and interesting rock formations.  Once we gained the ridge, we were treated to two magnificent views overlooking the valley to the west.  We had both of the rocky outcroppings all to ourselves, so we spent some time goofing off and taking silly photos.  I’m definitely  a more graceful leaper.  🙂  Also, after several years of struggling with chronic vertigo,  my balance seems to finally be returning to normal.

Goofing Off on the Viewpoint
Adam and Christine enjoyed goofing off and taking silly photos on the rocky outcropping. Below: Upon leaving the parking area, the hike begins on the Wildflower Trail; The first junction with the Massanutten Ridge Trail is nondescript; Adam checks out a large boulder along the trail; Christine climbed the boulder; More steep uphill hiking;  Then the steep uphill also became rocky.

Start of the Bird Knob Hike Massanutten Ridge Trail Giant Boulder Along the Trail
Giant Boulders Along the Trail Christine Climbs a Steep Section of the Massanutten Ridge Trail Adam Climbs a Rocky Uphill Section of the Massanutten Ridge Trail

After leaving the second overlook, the trail followed the ridge for a while.  Eventually we came to a large clearing in the woods.  The trail wasn’t clearly marked, so we explored the open meadow and eventually found that the trail continued on the near-side, downhill corner.  Shortly after passing the clearing, the trail branched in a couple directions.   Right at one of the junctions, we saw an odd animal that looked like a goat leap across the trail and dive into the woods.  I’m 100% certain it wasn’t a deer, raccoon, possum or bobcat – so we’re sticking with goat.  We never saw it again.

We followed the first spur trail off to the left so we could explore the swimming hold that we had read about.  It was a very pretty spot – much more inviting than we had been led to believe.  Mountain ponds are a rarity in Virginia, so visiting this one was a nice treat.  There was a heavily used campsite next to the water, and despite a sign imploring people to ‘Enjoy the Place, Leave No Trace’, we found the area was thoroughly trashed.  We had brought an empty garbage bag in one of our packs, so we spent some time picking up cans, bottles, food packaging and cigarette boxes.  People can be so gross!

After leaving the pond, we had a short climb to where the trail met up with a forest service road.  We turned left and hiked uphill along the road for about half a mile.  At a hairpin turn near the top of the mountain, a locked gate marked the spot where we got off the road, and hopped back onto the Massanutten Ridge Trail.   This was the only spot along the hike that we saw other people – one truck passed us on the road and we caught a glimpse of two trail runners headed downhill.  Honestly, this trail offered more solitude than I’ve seen anywhere lately.  It was really nice.

Pond Along the Bird Knob Hike
Christine enjoys the pond view. Below:  Adam consults the map at the junction of the Bird Knob and Massanutten Ridge Trails; Adam descends through the clearing; Picking up garbage at the campsite near the pond.

Start of the Bird Knob Loop Clearing in the Woods Picking Up Trash in the Woods

Once we were back on the ridge trail, the hiking was flat again. The trail made a nice, wide corridor through the woods.  We passed some HUGE anthills.  When I stopped to take a closer look, I found myself bitten by ants almost immediately.  We also saw lots of ripening blueberries.  I enjoyed popping handfuls into my mouth as we walked along.  I love wild blueberries!

Eventually, we came back to the junction of the Bird Knob and the Massanutten Ridge trails.  At this point, we retraced our steps past the overlooks.  We stopped to take in the view once again.  A lot of the haze had cleared off and the view was much better.

After the overlooks, we climbed steeply downhill back to the junction with the Wildflower Trail and then back to our car.  It was a fantastic hike, and definitely worth doing!

Adam Says…

About a year ago, I had someone that I was talking to during a workday that recommended that we needed to hike up Bird Knob.  They said the views were absolutely gorgeous and it wasn’t too long of a hike.  Since that point, I’ve been wanting to try this hike out.

We made this hike into a longer stretch to include the swimming hole, but you can make this about a 3 mile out-and-back if you just wanted to get to the views.  The hike starts off from the Massanutten Visitor Center parking lot.  The Visitor Center has been closed for a while, but access to the hiking trails is still open.  There is also plenty of parking.  Towards the entrance of the parking lot, you will take the white-blazed Wildflower Trail that leads downhill.  You will come across several interpretive signs along the way that describe some of the flora around you.   Continue down .3 miles until you reach a bench.

Uphill to the right, the orange-blazed Massanutten Ridge Trail climbs steeply.  Take the Massanutten Ridge Trail and begin your climb.  This is the steepest part of the entire hike and you will be climbing without many switchbacks and gaining about 800 feet through a large field of boulders until you reach the top of the ridge at 1.0 miles.  Continue along the ridge climbing slightly.  At 1.5 miles, you reach the first viewpoint and the second viewpoint is only about 200 feet away from the first one.  On a clear day, you should be able to see magnificent views of the valley for miles to the west from both points.  Take some time to enjoy the views and then continue your hike along the ridge.

The trail continues to be relatively flat as you are continuing along the ridgeline, but then begins to descend slightly.  At 2.3 miles, you will reach an intersection with a sign for the Bird Knob Trail.   Take the white-blazed Bird Knob Trail to the right.  You will pass a few unmarked trails along the way, but continue on the main trail as it slowly descends.  At mile 4.2, the trail reaches an open field.  Take a left, heading downhill, when you come to the field. You will join an old fire road that will continue to descend.  When the road begins to ascend, you will see a branch of the fire road head off to the left.  Take this fire road just .1 mile which dead-ends as you reach the large swimming hole.  After hanging out at the swimming hole or taking a dip if you dare, rejoin the fire road and continue up.

In about 350 feet you reach a gate, leading you to a gravel forest service road at 4.7 miles.  This is also marked as orange-blazed as it is part of the Massanutten Ridge Trail.  Take a left here and head up the steep road.   At 5.1 miles, you will see another gate, but the road continues to the right sharply.  Go through this gate to stay on the orange-blazed Massanutten Ridge Trail.  At 5.5 miles you reach another intersection, taking a right to stay on the orange-blazed trail and continue to ascend.  At 6 miles, you reach the junction again with the Bird Knob Trail.  This time, take a right to retrace your steps  and you should reach your car at 8.3 miles.

Road Walking
The hike involved about a half mile of walking along a forest service road. Below: After you pass the locked gate, you’re back on the Massanutten Ridge Trail through the woods; Giant ant hills.

Back Onto the Ridge Trail Giant Ant Hills

For most people, they will do this as a 3.2 mile out-and-back to the nice views.  On a beautiful, clear day you may spot some people enjoying the views at the top.   The rest of the hike, we saw very few people.  The Massanutten Ridge Trail is very popular with long-distance trail runners and we did see a pair of guys running by when we were near the swimming hole.  I have a co-worker that does some of those insane 100 mile trail runs with some friends and I know this is a popular spot for them.  I’m sure this ridge trail is great for covering long distances and there are plenty of views along the entire ridge trail.   There are a few of these ultra-marathons that are held here each year, most famously the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 run.

View Along the Bird Knob Hike
The view was clearer on the return leg of the hike. Below: The other viewpoint; It was a great hike!

The Other Viewpoint It was a Good Hike

Christine and I enjoyed jumping around for the cameras at the vistas.  We did some jumping mid-air photos, yoga poses, and I even tried my hand at the old Karate Kid crane technique.  After making one of the pictures my facebook profile picture, one of my friends said it reminded them of the old Toyota commercials (Oh, what a feeling!).   While the photos do look a little scary, we were about 8 feet from the edge.  Please watch over any younger children as there is a sharp drop.

This hike was a pleasant surprise.  I didn’t know the views would be so remarkable after reading reviews, but I know we will plan to make a return trip here sometime in the future.

Trail Notes

  • Distance 8.3  miles
    (Check out the stats from MapMyHike)*
  • Elevation Change – About 1650 feet
  • Difficulty –  3.  The initial climb is steep and challenging, but most of the hike is easy ridge walking.
  • Trail Conditions – 3.5.  The trail is in good condition.  There were some overgrown parts, but it was obvious people had been out working recently to clear blowdowns and trim back brush.
  • Views– 4.5.  The two views early in the hike are beautiful!
  • Streams/Waterfalls –2.5.  No streams or waterfalls, but we’ll give this a better score because of the pretty pond.
  • Wildlife – 3. We saw plenty of deer, a goat (?) and bear scat.
  • Ease to Navigate – 2.  Trails are not consistently blazed and marked.  Some areas have lots of blazes and are easy to follow.  Other spots you may have to guess, or better yet… consult a map!
  • Solitude – 5.  We only saw a couple people on the forest service road.  We didn’t see another soul on the trail.  Our car was alone in the parking lot both before and after the hike.

Directions to trailhead:  The trailhead starts at the Massanutten Visitor Center.  This is located on US-211, 5 miles east of New Market and west of the town of Luray and the intersection with 340-S.  Park in the gravel lot.  The Wildflower Trail is marked by a sign near the entrance to the parking lot.

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

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.