Last weekend, Matt and I took a little “mini moon” to Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island near Bar Harbor, Maine. We originally planned this trip for July 4th weekend in 2016, but Matt ended up needing emergency kidney stone surgery that very weekend. (Don’t worry; he is fine!)
We rebooked the trip and scheduled it about a month after our wedding. With over a year of anticipation, Acadia did not disappoint. We did a ton of outdoor activities including three awesome hikes (of different difficulties). Before each hike I googled the crap out of the internet trying to get a sense of each trail, how crowded it would be and how my ankle might fare on the terrain. There are so many great options in Acadia and I wanted to find the best ones for us. A great problem to have, no doubt. Here’s a recap of my experience on the three hikes we went on at Acadia National Park.
Worth noting: All of the trails in Acadia that we hiked were well marked, well maintained and pretty gorgeous. It’s my understanding the park gets a lot of love from Friends of Acadia, an organization that raises funds to maintain the park.
The Great Head Trail
We got to Bar Harbor Friday afternoon and asked the innkeepers at The Coach Stop Inn (our home for three nights) for a short, easy hike. They recommended The Great Head Trail. Matt and I had done our long marathon training runs earlier that morning in Portland, so we didn’t want anything too crazy, plus it was already 5pm.
The Great Head Trail is listed as “moderate” in most guide books. That’s because there is a bit of scrambling in this hike (when you need to crawl up rocks). But no part of the hike feels scary. You’re never hanging off a cliff or forced to move up anything too steep.
One of the coolest parts of the hike is where it’s located. To get to the trailhead, you park at the Sand Beach lot. Then you walk straight across the beach to get to the start of the trail. The hike took us about an hour round trip, and there are many opportunities to stop and take in the gorgeous views of the beach and the sea. You could also connect to other trails from this one to extend your hike.
The Beehive Loop Trail is one of the most talked about hikes in Acadia National Park. The hype is centered around the hike’s strategically placed iron rungs that work as ladders to help hikers scramble up some pretty steep rock faces. Using the rungs was great, and I didn’t find that part frightening. The rungs make climbing easier by removing the need to place your foot or hand on slippery rock faces. But the hike itself is totally open and above the tree line, so there are moments where you feel like you might slip off the side of the mountain. I was definitely shaken and relieved when we got to the top.
I recommend wearing full-length pants so you don’t bang up your knees when climbing during this hike.
I turned my ankle on the way down on a totally flat stretch that had rocks and roots on the trail floor. Luckily, it ended up being no big deal.
This was the most crowded hike we went on. At one point, when I was nervous about sliding off the mountain, there was a large family waiting behind me which added to the pressure. This is considered a strenuous/moderate hike, mostly because of the scrambling/rung area. You can go down a different trail on the descent if one trip on the rungs is enough for you.
The Gorge Path Trail (to Cadillac Mountain)
There are a few ways to get up Cadillac Mountain (the tallest mountain in Acadia National Park). We were planning on taking the Cadillac North Ridge Trail but there was no parking near that trail head, so we ended up heading up the Gorge Path.
My ankle was feeling sore so I wore compression socks. I look realllll cool. I know.
The Gorge Path Trail is aptly named since it takes you up the gorge between Dorr Mountain and Cadillac Mountain. In the spring, there are streams to cross and slippery rocks to mind, but in the summer when we visited the trail was dry. The Gorge Path has a deceptive start. It’s flat for maybe the first .25 mile or so. Then the hike takes you directly up the mountain. For a large part of this 2-mile (each way) hike you’re climbing steep, well-placed rocks that form a hodge-podge stair case. It’s a largely shaded and you’re aware the whole time how much work it probably took to arrange the rocks in this way.
At the top of the trail, toward the summit, you climb well above the tree line and must scramble across the bare face of the mountain side. My ankle was starting to feel really weak as we progressed toward the top and I was getting nervous I would fall if my ankle couldn’t support me. I powered through and when we got to the summit, I hitched a ride with some strangers back to the base. (You can drive to the top of this mountain.) Matt hike down alone. Sucker. (But which one of us?)
There are so many more trails to explore. The park is pretty easy to navigate and you could easily spend longer hiking and enjoying gorgeous Mt. Desert Island, Maine.
Have you been to Acadia National Park? What’s your favorite national park?