If you truly love the outdoors and embrace all of the sports it offers than Acadia National Park is the place for you. If you are an aspiring outdoor enthusiast and want to sample all of its recreational activities on a relaxed basis than Acadia National Park is the place for you. If you love the outdoors but also love your creature comforts i.e a fine meal, a good bed, and a hot shower than Acadia National Park is the place for you.
Acadia National Park is a park of about 45,000 acres most of which is located on Mount Desert Island and offers wonderful scenic hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, sea kayaking, canoing, and swimming. Mount Desert Island Island was discovered by Samuel De Champlain, the French explorer around the year 1609 who called it “Isle de Mount Desert”(the island of the bare mountains). Champlain called it Isle de Mount Desert because unlike most mountains located on the eastern seaboard of the United States the summits of the mountains are largely devoid of trees or other vegetation and are therefore bare. This along with the formation of the island accounts for its plethora of scenic wealth and the ability to enjoy this scenic splendor easily. Mount Desert Island is surrounded by a pink granite coastline and steep bluffs around Otter Cliffs against which the sea’s waves frequently pound and due to Ice Age Glaciers which smoothed down the mountain summits a wealth of shallow glacial cut lakes which warm up nicely during the months of July and August.
These lakes provide wonderful swimming opportunities and together with Somes Sound are easily viewed from the top of the park’s mountains. Mount Desert Island is about an hour’s drive from Bangor, Maine and is part of the true Downeast portion of Maine. While Mount Desert Island forms the main part of Acadia National Park there are also 2 other parts, namely the Schoodic Peninsula and Isle Au Haut. These other areas of the park should not be missed as they offer some wonderful scenery and outdoor activities. This article will have more to say on the Schoodic Peninsula and IsLe Au Haut later.
This park has over 100 miles of scenic hiking trails from beginner trails to very strenuous, about 52 miles of gravel covered carriage roads that offer a wonderful mountain biking experience, glacial cut lakes that offer refreshing and pleasant swimming during the months of July and August. Mount Desert Island is a small Island about 13 miles long by 11 miles wide. It has a jagged coastline, pounding surf, glacial cut lakes, mountains that are largely bare of vegetation at the top and fog that frequently rolls in from Frenchman’s Bay at night enveloping the mountain summits and giving the island’s beauty an air of mystery.
It was formed largely through the donation of land by wealthy owners such as John D. Rockefeller and George Dorr who had summer cottages on Mount Desert Island and who donated their land to the National Park Service. This allows Mount Desert Island to contain much privately owned land in addition to the park land. Mount Desert Island is therefore home to the towns of Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor and Seal Cove; towns in which there are hotels, fine restaurants, and nightlife for those who like to enjoy some comforts after a day outdoors.
This makes it possible to hike the Jordan Cliffs trail, swim in Sargent Mountain Pond between the summits of Sargent Mountain and Penobscott and be down in time to make a 6:30 dinner reservation at a fine restaurant in Bar Harbor. I have not come across another National Park where this is possible. The restaurants in these towns offer wonderful lobster, blueberry pie (made fresh with wild blueberries), clam chowder, and the best blueberry muffins I have ever tasted at Jordans on Cottage Street in Bar Harbor. If your culinary desires are still not satisfied you can always make reservations at the Jordan Pond House and enjoy homemade popovers and lemonade outside overlooking beautiful Jordan Pond and its surrounding mountains called the North Bubble and the South Bubble. These mountains were named after a well endowed girlfriend of one of the Jordans, the original owners of the pond house.
In addition to the activities in the park there are whale watching cruises, nature cruises, seal watching cruises all of which children will enjoy. There is also Swans Island, Baker Island, and the Cranberry Islands to explore. If you still need more to do you can leave Bar Harbor by boat and be in Nova Scotia in about 4 hours. Bar Harbor is a shopper’s paradise. For those looking for a quieter place to stay I would recommend Southwest Harbor or Northeast Harbor.
The Schoodic Peninsula offers additional hiking trails and a scenic bike ride on paved roads around the peninsula of a little over 13 miles in length. The Frazer point picnic area is a good spot to park your car to begin the loop on bikes around the Schoodic Peninsula. Isle Au Haut is the most rugged and least developed part of Acadia. It does offer some wonderfully scenic hiking trails and and a warm swimmable pond also called Long Pond. Isle Au Haut can be reached by ferry from Stonington. Beautiful scenic biking can also be experienced on Swan’s Island which can also be reached by ferry from Bass Harbor. You can take your car, your bikes or both on the ferry. Whichever way you do it, be sure in summer to bring a swim suit as there is wonderful swimming available in the Quarry Pond on Swans Island. The Quarry Pond was originally a granite quarry until about 1920 when an underground stream was struck while quarrying granite.
During the winter, the carriage roads built by John D. Rockefeller and donated by him to the park along with a lot of land can be used as cross country skiing trails. The winter climate on Mount Desert Island is milder than you would expect due to the moderating influence of Frenchman’s Bay.
With all of the wonderful outdoor activities do not overlook the beautiful scenery here to be found along the Park Loop Road. The view from the top of Cadillac Mountain is not to be missed. Other notable scenic sights are Otter Cliffs, Thunder Hole, and Sand Beach. Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain is a wonderful experience for those hardy enough to rise early. Cadillac Mountain is the most easterly point in the Continental United States so if you see the sunrise here you will see it before anyone else does in the Continental US that day. Take the children after sunrise to Jordans on Cottage Street in Bar Harbor for those fabulous blueberry muffins and the just as fabulous blueberry pancakes. Whatever you do in Acadia National Park , be forewarned. It is an addicting experience. MY wife and I first went to Acadia in 1987 for 5 days. In 1990 we brought our two young sons (age 8 and 5) with us and we have been visiting the park each year since for about 10 days in mid August.