Guide to Acadia National Park

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After several years of wanting to see the Maine Coast, I was finally able to cross Acadia National Park off my list.  My fall leaf-peeping trip put me in the right place at the perfect time.  On Day 5, I finished my drive east from Vermont and New Hampshire, and arrived on Mount Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park, and I stayed there until the last possible minute on Day 8.

Because I spent so much time here, and hit so many different attractions in such a random pattern, I’ve re-organized the next three days of my trip to make more sense.  If you’re interested in my exact itinerary, scroll down the page.  Otherwise, click on the map, or use the green navigation box below to explore Acadia!

acadia

Bar Harbor
Acadia National Park Loop Road
Acadia’s Carriage Roads
Cadillac Mountain
Wild Gardens of Acadia
Halfway Up Dorr Mountain: Homans Path, Kurt Diederichs Climb
Dorr Mountain Hike: Emery Path, Schiff Path, Dorr North Ridge Trail
Precipice Trail to Chaplain Mountain
Sand Beach
Thunder Hole
Otter Point
Otter Cove
Little Hunters Beach
Jordan Pond
The Bubbles
Bubble Pond
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

Okay, that’s the well-organized way to arrange a visit to Acadia.  Now, here’s how I did it.

When I arrived on Mount Desert Island at the end of Day 5, I had driven for hours through a steady downpour of rain.  I hoped to get to Acadia National Park in time to see a sunset (but there was no sun), or at least scout out the island in preparation for the following three days.  Instead, it was still pouring rain, and completely dark when I arrived, so I settled into my motel.

I stayed at Robbins Motel, most likely the cheapest place to stay on Mount Desert Island.  The rooms are small and have way too much wood paneling, but for $42 a night, they’re still a tremendous bargain.  The crank-out windows never close completely, so I was able to listen to the rain dripping and trickling all night long.

I had hoped to begin Day 6 with a sunrise, possibly atop Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on Mount Desert Island.  It was still raining when I peeked outside around 5 a.m., so I gave up on that idea and caught a little more sleep.  The rain stopped by the time daylight arrived, and I was able to make my first drive around Acadia National Park’s Loop Road.

My biggest effort on Day 6 went into biking Acadia’s Carriage Roads.  I spent about four hours, and rode about 14 miles (not counting the extra miles to get on and off the Carriage Roads).

Near the end of Day 6, enough sun had appeared that I hoped to catch a good sunset.  I drove out to Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, the southernmost point on Mount Desert Island.

On Day 7, I got up early and drove up Cadillac Mountain, arriving in time to watch a dramatic sunrise, while bracing against a bitter-cold wind.  I made another drive around the loop road, checking out places like Thunder Hole and Otter Cove.  I tried to hike up Dorr Mountain, but made a wrong turn about halfway up.

I had hoped to go on a kayaking tour with a business based in Bar Harbor, but the first trip I had reserved was canceled because they didn’t meet their minimum.  I killed a couple of hours by driving the loop again, and hanging out at Sand Beach, before returning to town again, only to discover once more that my trip had been canceled — this time by choppy waves and high wind.

Frustrated by the waste of time, I was determined to tackle a great trail before the end of the day.  I rushed to The Precipice, a thrilling climb up the side of a cliff, with the help of rungs and railings, permanently attached to the rock.

At the end of Day 7, I caught my first glimpse of Acadia’s night sky.  The clouds had finally cleared, and the stars were so bright they actually caused me to do a double take.

I was up early again on Day 8.  This time I saw the sunrise on the rocky coastline near Thunder Hole, then drove around the loop once again before heading to town.  My final attempt at kayaking was once again canceled by the blustery weather.  I had to leave Mount Desert Island by 2 p.m., in order to make it down the coast to my motel, so I quickly picked two hikes.  First, I ascended the South Bubble, one of two oddly round and almost erotic hills on the north end of Jordan Pond.  Then, I returned to Dorr Mountain, to get it right this time, and successfully summit the 1,270 foot peak.

After all that, I drove away, promising myself that I would come back.  Maybe next fall.

If you’d like to jump ahead to my departure from Acadia National Park, click here to see the drive down US 1.  Otherwise, hop into my tour of Acadia, with a stop in Bar Harbor, Mount Desert Island’s largest town.

I’ll try not to use “Acadia National Park” and “Mount Desert Island” interchangeably.  The park does not cover the entire island — much of the southern end of MDI’s eastern lobe is private land, and the towns (such as Bar Harbor) are not part of the park.  The park also spills over onto Isle au Haut (southeast of MDI) and the Schoodic Peninsula (east of the island). I didn’t get the chance to explore either of these places, nor did I spend much time on MDI’s western lobe (other than my trip to Bass Harbor Head).   So, there’s plenty more for me to see, next time.

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