Here we were! About to take our first steps into our first national park. Hoping it would be just the first of fifty-nine.
We began in Acadia National Park, the closest park to us in Boston. We made a long “weekend” out of it in July of 2016, going in the middle of the week for a 3-day stay.
We stayed in a wonderful AirBNB in Lamoine, just north of Mt. Desert Island.
Not a bad sight to take in while drinking our morning coffee and fueling up for the day.
We started off the trip by heading into Bar Harbor, an adorable oceanside town at the border of the national park right as you cross onto Mount Desert Island. Our first stay there was brief as we had to cross over onto Bar Island before the tide came in. There’s a land bridge you can cross to the island but it is only accessible at low tide. As one of my best friends once learned the hard way when visiting the area with her family many years ago, you’ll have to wade or even swim across if you linger too long on the other side.
This is the view looking back at Bar Harbor and the beginnings of Acadia National Park.
We decided to begin the trip with a drive around Park Loop Road. I had heard how beautiful it was and we certainly weren’t disappointed. It circles most of the park and offers great views of the park’s mountains, lakes and ocean views. I love a good scenic drive. We even saw a little black bear cub run across the road!
We then headed to Jordan Pond House to drop off our car and head out for some real hiking and exploring.
Jordan Pond is beautiful, despite the sun’s inability to break free from the clouds at first. We originally just planned to do the loop around the pond but we stumbled upon a trailhead for the bubble mountains seen in the background of the above picture and decided to head on up.
And boy was I glad we did! The hike up was abrupt and there were some challenging rock scrambles, but the view from the top was amazing. And the sun finally made an appearance!
We also stumbled across this rock completely on accident. You can try to push it off the edge as much as you want, it’s not going to budge anytime soon.
We hiked back down and enjoyed the rest of the Jordan Pond loop trail.
With the blood flowing, I wanted to tackle another hike I had heard great things about: Beehive Trail. I actually wanted to do Precipice, but it was closed at the time we were there for the peregrine falcon nesting season.
Both Beehive and Precipice are not recommended for the faint of heart. I didn’t think it was as bad as people warned us and maybe Precipice is worse, but there was some fun rock scrambling and portions where you had to use iron rungs to pull yourself up the side of a cliff.
I tried to capture it in this picture looking straight down.
Unfortunately the sun disappeared and we couldn’t see too much from the top, but it was still a very enjoyable hike!
We capped off the night by heading to the western side of the island (outside of the national park) to check out the iconic Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.
And it involved some nice rock climbing so I was happy!
The next day we decided to tackle the tallest point in the park, Cadillac Mountain. It’s said to be the first place in the contiguous US to see the sunrise. Unfortunately, we were not ambitious enough to get up that early to do the hike, especially because the weather was going to be questionable.
We hiked up the North Ridge Trail, the steeper but shorter way up. It was a very enjoyable hike that passed through many different climates. It was hot and wooded at the bottom, then basically a rainforest in the middle, and then we got closer to the top and were exposed on the rocks and it was bright sunshine. It was wild! Toward the top you can hear the cars on the road next to you which is a little frustrating but it was still a nice hike. We barely passed anyone, probably because we went in the middle of the week and it was supposed to rain.
And rain it did.
As soon as we reached the summit it started torrential downpouring. At least my Walmart ponchos that I decided to grab at last second didn’t go to waste. And it allowed us to have the whole summit to ourselves.
But the views left a lot to the imagination. But at least we made it to the top! And more importantly made it back down the slippery, wet rocks in one piece.
[It’s funny looking back on this trip now, one year removed. I had wanted to write this post as soon as we got back but I procrastinated it so long that I thought I just never would. But now that we’ve explored even more parks I knew I wanted to record all my thoughts, adventures and especially pictures all in one place. I remember how challenging Cadillac Mountain seemed at the time. I double-taked when I just looked it up and it was only 2 miles to get to the top! It’s crazy how we just jumped right into it when we did the Rocky Mountain area parks and tackled 15 miles of hiking each day at altitudes above 6,000 feet! The Beehive summit is only 520 feet!! It’s so bizarre the different perspective I have now compared to a year ago, but I did try to write this post as I would have back in 2016. And I will definitely be much better going forward with posting my entries as soon as possible when we get home.]
Anyway, after drying off a little bit at the visitor center we decided that we had earned a good meal and some good beer so we headed back into Bar Harbor to actually walk around.
Of course I had to get a lobster roll!
And we did a nice beer tasting at Atlantic Brewing Company.
Realizing the weather wasn’t going to get any better, although it did stop raining, we went back into the park to try to knock off the rest of the things we wanted to do along Park Loop Road that we saw the first day.
We went to Sand Beach and had the whole place to ourselves because it was freezing. But it didn’t bother me, I’m not really a beach person. We decided to leave the car there and walk along the Ocean Path toward Thunder Hole.
I mostly just really wanted to check out Thunder Hole and was going to walk along the road to get there until I noticed that the path actually went down to the rocks along the ocean and I was in heaven. For those who don’t know me, rocks and climbing on rocks (especially by water) is my favorite thing in the world.
Poor James was running along behind me as I bounded over cliff after cliff. It quickly became my favorite part of the park. Especially since we had it mostly to ourselves.
This is my happy place.
Thunder Hole didn’t end up putting on its show for us. It’s known for trapping in water at the right point in the tide and letting out a thunderous boom as the waves come in and out. But I didn’t care. This was proof that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.
We woke up on our last day there and decided to give Cadillac Mountain another chance and see if we could actually see the views of the entire park we had been promised. We drove up this time though and it was a beautiful drive. However, I felt very self-conscious at the top seeing all the people who had clearly hiked there and I wanted to tell all of them that I had done the hike yesterday and thus deserved to take the easy way out today. I just wanted my pretty views! And boy did we get them.
We would’ve liked to see the sunrise, but the forecast wasn’t looking good the night before and we didn’t want to get up early and go all the way up just to see nothing. Next time!
Overall we really loved Acadia and could have definitely spent more time there. I was surprised then (and now having been to other, more popular, parks) at how uncrowded it was in the middle of July. Going in the middle of the week is definitely the way to go! We will be back soon to see its beauty in the fall, hike Precipice, and wake up to see the sunrise atop Cadillac.
Three Things You Can’t Miss:
- Beehive Trail (or Precipice when the season allows!)
- Park Loop Road
- Ocean Path
- Cadillac Mountain