Acadia Hiking Guide: Gorham Mountain

Gotham Mountain

View of Sand Beach, Great Head, Schoodic Peninsula, and Old Soaker from Gorham Mountain.

We went hiking at 5:30pm on a day in early September, and from trail marker to trail marker we had the mountain to ourselves. We saw no one until we got to the parking lot. This is one of the fascinating aspects of Acadia National Park. It’s one of the smallest national parks in the country and at the same time one of the most visited, and yet it’s entirely possible to go to the busiest sections during peak season and get solitude.

Gorham Mountain is a north-south mountain that runs parallel to the Ocean Drive, the latter of which is one of the busiest sections in the entire US national park system. It’s busy for a reason – it’s beautiful and iconic with Sand Beach, Great Head, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliffs. The Beehive nearby is one of the most hiked hikes in the park, too. And Gorham is one of the easiest mountains to hike because it’s not tall and not steep, but there it is, with spectacular views and not nearly as many people on it as you’d expect.

I tell guests that Gorham makes for a wonderful introductory hike into the park. One gets to see three of the main sites in Acadia and get away from people at the same time. There are a few different ways to hike it, and they are spelled out below:

  • Beehive to Gorham to the Ocean Path: Park near Sand Beach, hike up the Beehive (steep ladders makes this thrilling to some, but it’s easier than it looks – still, not recommended for those who fear heights), down the Bowl Trail on the back of the Beehive, head over Gorham Mtn., then walk back to Sand Beach on the Ocean Path. This takes about 2.5 – 3.5 hours, depending on how busy the Beehive is. It’s physically easy to hike down the ladders of the Beehive, but because there can be so many people going up, going down would just get in the way. Don’t go down the ladder trail of the Beehive during the season.
  • Gorham to the Ocean Path: This is the more popular route to take, and it’s a bit easier than the Beehive option because it doesn’t matter which side you park on. If Sand Beach is full, just drive all the way down to Thunder Hole or the Gorham Mtn. parking lot after Thunder Hole. It’s a loop, and an easy one at that, so just park, hike in one direction up, and head back in the other direction on the Ocean Path. Give this about a two-hour hike roundtrip without stopping much. During blueberry season, add another 1-3 hours depending on your appetite.
  • Cadillac Cliffs: This is a WONDERFUL section for the kids. Located at the southern end of Gorham, it splits off the main trail and rejoins later on. One feels like one is walking through the land of giants. Kids with an imagination are going to love this section.

We’re full of these types of tips because we do these hikes on our days off. Click our booking engine to reserve today and get more helpful tips at: www.miramonte.com.

Acadia Hiking Guide: Dorr Mountain

Dorr Mtn.

View of the porcupines from Dorr Mtn.

Named after the Father of Acadia, George B. Dorr, Dorr Mountain is one of the more popular and yet overlooked mountains on Acadia. There are four different ways to head up and around the mountain with a couple of paths that connect with others to get to the top:

  • The Schiff Path has lots of steps, but it probably the easiest of the hikes to do. With stunning views of Frenchman’s Bay, this is our favorite hike for Dorr.
  • The Ladder Trail is a vertical trail that heads straight up the east face of the mountain. It’s less exposed than the Precipice and Beehive, but still fun, and Dorr is a much larger mountain than Champlain (Precipice) and the Beehive are. The Ladder Trail, or the East Face Trail, connect to the Schiff Path for the hike to the summit.
  • The North Ridge Trail starts around the Sieur du Mont Springs area and the Jesup Trail. It can be linked from the Kebo Mountain Trail, and for a long day is walkable from the Mira Monte Inn.
  • The South Ridge Trail is a long hike that connects to the Canon Brook Trail or the Gorge to the east (not to be confused with the Gorge Path – see below). One can head down the South Ridge and take a left on the Canon Path back to the parking lot, or turn right toward Canon Brook and it’s wonderful waterfall. If going to Canon Brook, take the A. Murray Young Path back up the western side of Dorr. This is a long loop that summits Dorr twice, but is well worth it.
  • The Gorge Path, on the western side of the mountain, is usually used to hike Cadillac Mtn., but there’s no reason to avoid it going up Dorr.
  • The A. Murray Young Trail heads down the western and southern ends of the mountain near Canon Brook (see South Ridge Trail above).

To get more local advice such as this, book now to reserve your seat at the breakfast table at Miramonte.com!

Acadia Hiking Guide: Ship Harbor, Wonderland, Seawall, and Bass Harbor

Ship Harbor

Ship Harbor in Acadia National Park

Ever wanted an easy hiking day when you could knock off two hikes, go ocean gazing, see a lighthouse, and eat at one of the best lobster-eating spots all at the same time? We here at the Mira Monte have been advising this little tour for several years now for those looking to get outside without exerting too much physical effort. It takes about 2-4 hours if done at the right time, and that includes the eating part, too!

Drive through Southwest Harbor and take a left onto Rt 102, also known as Seawall Rd. After driving about 10 min, you’ll come to Seawall, a beautiful, natural sea wall with tide pools to explore and fantastic granite rocks to lie down, read a book, and watch the boats float by the southern shores of Mount Desert Island. If you don’t do the lobster pound noted below, this is a fantastic picnic spot.

From there, head down the road about two minutes until you come to the Wonderland and Ship Harbor parking lots. They are about 100 yards apart from each other, so if you can’t get parking in one, try the other. Each hike is about a 20-40 minute hike out to the sea and back. Wonderland has a bit more spread-out views, similar to Seawall, while Ship Harbor has a deceptively shallow harbor to explore (especially at low tide) where more than a few ships have been wrecked.

From these two hikes, head a bit more down the road and come to Bass Harbor Head Light. Parking here can be difficult, but just because you see cars parked on the side of the road doesn’t mean it’s full in the lot. There are two ways to see the lighthouse, off to the right (a paved path that takes you down by the bell) and off to the left (wooden steps that lead out on to the rocky foundation of the lighthouse itself). The left-hand walk (no more than 5min) is a very popular sunset destination.

Finally, if you’re in the area between about 1:30pm and 5:30pm, head over to the other side of Bass Harbor to the town of Bernard and sit outside on the deck of the working-dock restaurant known as Thurston’s. Not only is this one of the most beautiful, rustic spots to eat, but the value is fantastic, too. They are open more than just during these times, but Thurston’s can get quite busy at lunch and dinner.

To book your stay at Mira Monte and get more hiking tips, check out our availability calendar here. See you soon!

Acadia Hiking Guide: Grindstone Neck

Grindstone Neck

Looking at MDI from Winter Harbor’s Grindstone Neck

 

OK, we admit that Grindstone Neck isn’t really a hiking trail per se, but we at the Mira Monte Inn strive to help our guests see not only the mandatory highlights but also the not-so-well-known areas to hit. Yes, Schoodic Peninsula and Winter Harbor have been frequented much more often the past few years, and this has brought traffic to the area. But this is a good thing because since the Navy left the base out on the tip of  the peninsula, Winter Harbor has had little economic activity apart from the park (in fact, the town no longer has even a school!). But here’s the thing, almost everyone heads straight for Schoodic Peninsula upon arriving in Winter Harbor, and that’s great, but it’s also not all.

Grindstone Neck is on the opposite side of Winter Harbor from Schoodic Peninsula. It’s an area loaded with money and families who preferred a view of Mount Desert Island as opposed to the actually living on the island. It’s a fair point because the views are spectacular, and almost no one goes Grindstone beyond locals. When taking the ferry boat over from Bar Harbor, the boat passes right by the neck before it lands on the town dock. In fact, the piece of land right across the harbor is, in fact, Grindstone itself.

Now, Grindstone Neck isn’t exclusive. Without getting too lost (not a bad thing if you want to do some “house shopping”), there’s a cul-de-sac at the bottom of a hill that has no houses around it. Park here and walk out onto the rocks to get immediate results. Head right and you’ll get dramatic views of MDI and its eastern mountains. Head left and you’ll get the wonderful coziness of the small islands in the harbor of Winter Harbor itself.

To get there, take one of the boats from Bar Harbor and, upon getting off, walk up the street and head left once in the gallery area of downtown. There are several different roads leading to Grindstone, but the road called “Grindstone” is probably the easiest. If you’re driving, when you come into town and hit the T intersection, Schoodic Peninsula is to your left and “downtown”, where the galleries and eventually Grindstone Neck are, is to your right.

There’s even a nice little church on Grindstone, and because this is Maine and this is Winter Harbor, the doors are always unlocked!

To book your stay at the Mira Monte to get more info like this, check our availability calendar here.

St. Christopher's By the Sea

St. Christopher’s By the Sea

Acadia Hiking Guide: Jesup Trail

Acadia National Park Jesup Trail

The boardwalk on the Jesup Trail.

Sometimes the park is furiously busy. I’ve been in a car on the Park Loop Road, just past the Precipice parking lot before the toll booths, that has taken over 1.5 hours to get to Sand Beach. That’s less than a mile in that time. Yes, Acadia is magical, and it is one of the most beautiful parks in the United States, but at times the hot spots can get crowded and parking can be next to impossible. That’s why we at the Mira Monte Inn have a few trails that we can recommend where one can leave the car at the Mira Monte and hike straight from the front porch. The Jesup Trail is one of those hikes.

As you can see from the photo, I walk my dog out here quite a bit. From the Mira Monte, out to Sieur de Mont Springs and back, the hike is about 1.5 hours and is mostly flat. One also gets to walk on the Great Meadow Loop enroute. And if you want to make things a bit longer, you can add other loops such as the Hemlock Trail, the Strathden Path, and even Kebo Brook and Kebo Mountain. For more serious hikers, the Gorge Trail and therefore Cadillac Mountain and Door Mountain are also accessible off the same system of trails. The Great Meadow Loop alone is about an hour, so there’s a shorter option if that fits your itinerary better.

To get to the Jesup Trail from the Inn, walk across the street to Spring Street and follow that straight, keeping the kiddie pool at Glen Mary to your left, out to Ledgelawn Cemetery. From there, look diagonally right across the street and you’ll see the start of the Great Meadow Loop. Most of the Great Meadow Loop is on private land, but that’s OK as it is designated as a hike in the area. Follow that around eventually to the left where you’ll walk along the road a little bit near Kebo Valley Golf Course. The path picks up a bit down the road near the Holy Redeemer Cemetery. Actually, at the Holy Redeemer Cemetery you’ll see access to the Strathden, Kebo Brook and Mountain, and Gorge Trails, so you can do that if that’s your wish.

To head to the Jesup Trail, keep going up the path that follows the road. At the Park Loop Road, stay left on the Great Meadow Loop until you come to the Jesup Trail sign post. Cross the Park Loop Road and you’re there. To come back, either re-trace your steps, or follow the Great Meadow Loop around, eventually ending up on the other side of Ledgelawn Cemetery. There’s even a nice rocky brook to soak your feet in near the end of the hike. Pandora, the pup in the picture, uses that as a must-stop drinking spot.

Do this hike at dusk and there’s a high likelihood you’ll spot some deer.

To get us to repeat these directions in person, check our availability calendar here.

Acadia Hiking Guide: Eagle Lake Carriage Trails

 

Eagle Lake, Acadia National Park, Hiking Guide

      Serenity on the Eagle Lake Carriage Trails

 

Looking for some thing easy but has length? I walk my dog around the Eagle Lake carriage trails every now and again, and she’s often quite ready to eat dinner and go to sleep afterward. A solid two-hour hike, this is one of those “walks” that will give you exercise without hurting the ankles or knees. Parking can be found at either the boat launch area or across the street at the bottom of the McFarland’s Hill (the top of which houses the park’s headquarters).

 

A couple of tips are needed here. The first is that the Eagle Lake parking lots are notoriously difficult to navigate during the busy season. It’s not uncommon to find cars parked along the side of the road all the way up Route 133 (the Eagle Lake Rd, as locals call it). Most of those parked there during the day are bikers out enjoying the 50+ miles of carriage trails that are available to them without having the worry of passing cars. If you get there at a busy time, don’t be bothered by the quantity of cars. The carriage trails are both wide enough and spaced out enough across the park to allow the area to not feel crowded. However, if you want to beat the crowds then the best times to hike are 8am or after 5pm. If you’re hiking later in the season then a headlamp might be helpful, even if the road is pretty easy to follow in the dark.

Another healthy tip is knowing what you’re getting into if you decide to take the hiking trail at the southern end of the carriage trail. It might look as if it’ll save you time, but in fact, despite it being a shorter distance across the edge of the lake than the rounding carriage trail, it is actually quite a bit more difficult to walk. There are many good trails around the southern end of Eagle Lake (Connor’s Nubble, North and South Bubble, etc.), but the Eagle Lake Trail is very rocky with lots of unbalanced and precarious steps. I made the mistake of doing it once with my dog, and I’ll never do that again. It’s way too easy to lose one’s balance. If you’re looking for a surprisingly challenging hike, then this is a wonderful trail. But if you’re just looking for some exercise, stay on the carriage trails and get your heart rate up by setting a good pace. There’s still some good views and lovely hiking to be had.

If you’d like some more tips, we’d love to have you stay with us. Click this link to check availability: Mira Monte Booking Calendar.

Maine Lighthouses near Bar Harbor

Bass Harbor Head Light is the only lighthouse located on Mount Desert Island, but there’s several others nearby and within and easy drive from the Inn. All these great old lighthouses can be viewed and photographed on boat tours that tell of their incredible histories.

Bass Harbor Head Light, located within Acadia National Park in the southwest portion of Mount Desert Island, Maine, marking the entrance to Bass Harbor and Blue Hill Bay. Today, the house is a private residence for a local Coast Guard member and his family. Tourists can get close to the bell and light via a concrete path, but most of the grounds are private. There’s a short walk which takes you to wooden steps that lead down granite boulders that allow views of the harbor side.

Mount Desert Rock Light is owned by the College of the Atlantic, whose students study whales and nesting seabirds. Mount Desert Rock is a small island about 18 nautical miles south of Mount Desert Island. The light station was established in 1830; the current lighthouse was built in 1847 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Great Duck Island Light is also owned by the College of the Atlantic and is located on Great Duck Island, a small 237 acres island in the Gulf of Maine about 9 miles south of Mount Desert Island. The light station is on 11-acres at the southern tip of the island.

Bear Island Light is a lighthouse on Bear Island near Mt. Desert Island at the entrance to Northeast Harbor. It was first established in 1839 with the present structure built in 1889. It was deactivated in 1981 and lit as a private aid to navigation by the Friends of Acadia National Park in 1989. Bear Island Light is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Egg Rock light was constructed in 1876 and was automated by the United States Coast Guard in 1976, at which time its ancillary structures except the fog station were torn down. The lantern house was removed and the light was replaced by the present aerobeacon. After public protest, a lantern house was installed in 1986. The light continues to be managed by the Coast Guard, and is not open to the public; the island and buildings are owned by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Baker Island Light (1828), is the oldest light in the area and has been replaced with lighted offshore buoys. Established in 1828, it was the first along Maine’s coast located near Mount Desert Island. The light is an aid to navigation for reaching that island’s major ports, including Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor. The buildings of the station are now owned and administered by Acadia National Park with the light itself being maintained by the United States Coast Guard.

Winter Harbor Light is a lighthouse in Winter Harbor, Maine on Mark Island, a small island between the Schoodic Peninsula and Turtle Island. The light was built in 1856 and was deactivated in 1933; it is no longer an aid to navigation, and is privately owned.

Acadia National Park Fee Free Days

The National Park Service is offering 4 fee free days to National Parks, including Acadia National Park Fee Free Days in 2018.

Acadia National Park Fee Free Days are:

  • Jan. 15: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • April 21: first day of National Park Week
  • Sept. 22: National Public Lands Day
  • Nov. 11: Veterans Day

“This is your chance to experience your national park and services in the neighboring communities and decide when you will come back in the future. Every season in Acadia has its own unique beauty and adventure” said Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider.

The park normally has an entrance fee of $25 per vehicle and $20 per motorcycle which is good return visits for seven days. Walkers and bicyclists can get a weekly pass for $12. An annual pass to Acadia costs $50.

For more information, visit www.nps.gov/acad or call 207-288-3338.