Acadia Hiking Guide: Acadia Mountain

Acadia Mountain

Somes Sounds from atop Acadia Mountain

I always say beware the smaller mountains in Acadia because they tend to be the steepest. Acadia Mountain is no different. In fact, where Acadia Mtn. is located there are two of the smaller-yet-steeper mountains on the island, with St. Sauveur being the other. And yet these smaller mountains often offer intimate views that the larger mountains don’t. The four mountains in this area just north of Southwest Harbor are no different.

Acadia Mountain is probably the most popular of the four mountains: Acadia, St. Sauveur, Valley Peak, and Flying Mtn. are all nestled together in the Valley Cove area. Parking is in two places. The spot off Clark Point Rd. doesn’t have much space, but is best if you’re tackling Flying Mountain and Valley Peak. The more popular parking area is the Acadia Mountain lot just off Rt. 102 near Echo Lake.

From the lot, cross the street, and you’ll find your first decision. It doesn’t matter if you go left or straight, as both will take you to the Acadia Mountain trailhead. Going left is a bit faster, but straight is better for St. Sauver Mtn. Now, I normally recommend going up the steeper hike and coming down the less-steep trail, but with Acadia that’s different because the steeper trail on the back side of the mountain has better views that are right in front of you as you hike down.

So having said that, go up the trail that’s closest to the road. At the top, enjoy the magnificent views of Somes Sound and Valley Cove. Head down the other side, keeping those views in front of you, until you get to the Man-O-War Truck Road. Follow that to the right will bring you back to the parking lot.

Acadia Mountain itself, up and down, is about 1.5 – 2 hours long. However, if you’re looking for a good, full day of hiking then tackling more than one peak will definitely get your exercise in. Adding St. Sauveur will add another two hours to Acadia, and then adding Valley Peak and Flying Mtn. will add another 2-3 hours on top of that. In total, doing all four peaks, car-to-car, it’s about 6-8 hours and a lot of hiking up and down. The good thing here is that there are loops and one can keep going or call it quits and head back to the car without too much trouble.

And after a long, hot day of hiking, head back to the car and walk down the Echo Lake Bluffs trail to grab some excellent swimming.

For more info on how to do this, check our availability calendar and we’ll be happy to give your our local advice: www.miramonte.com.

Garden Seekers Come Hither

Asticou Azalea Garden

The sand garden at the Asticou Azalea Garden

Of course Mount Desert Island is famous for Acadia National Park, but would you believe that not everyone comes to the island for the park? Well, it’s true, and while it may seem a bit funny to ignore the park as a destination, there are plenty of other things to do and places to see. There are three gardens in particular that bring many tourists to the island each year. Two of them are in Northeast Harbor and owned by the Land and Garden Preserve while one is near Bar Harbor and is in the park itself. You can do all three in a convenient loop. It doesn’t matter which way go, but stopping for lunch at the Asticou Inn is a wonderful idea, especially if you can get out on the terrace.

  • Asticou Azalea Gardens: Part of the Land and Garden Preserve set up by the Rockefellers, the Azalea Gardens are small but quite tranquil despite being right off Rt. 198. If you’re going to Northeast Harbor, there’s a turnoff to the left before you get into town. This turnoff goes to the Asticou Inn. You can park there if you’re going to the restaurant after the garden (or before), but the parking for the garden itself is right before that intersection on the left-hand side. Many people who can’t get into the small parking lot end up parking on the road. My favorite part is the sand garden, but there are some wonderful ponds, stone bridges, benches, and plenty to admire plant-wise, of course.
  • Thuya Gardens: Also part of the Land and Garden Preserve, the Thuya Gardens are on Rt. 3 between Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor, and they’re right around the corner from the Azalea Garden as well. At the turnoff for the Asticou Inn, before you arrive in downtown Northeast Harbor, turn left and drive past the Asticou Inn for a minute or so. Down the road a bit you’ll see the path that ascends up the left-hand side of the road. There is a small dirt parking lot right across the street from that path on the right. It only holds about 10 cars, so if that’s full, or if you don’t fancy the hike up (not long and worth it), drive a minute down the road and find Thuya Drive on the left. Drive up the hill and find maybe another 10 parking spaces closer to the garden. My favorite thing here is the smells. All those flowers lined up that way really challenges the senses.
  • Wild Gardens of Acadia: These are on Rt. 3 just outside of Bar Harbor (between the Jackson Lab and the parking area for Dorr Mtn.and Champlain Mtn.) at the Sieur du Mont Springs section of the park. You can get here either off Rt. 3 or via the Park Loop Road as well. These gardens are famous for having a sample of all the native species on the island. There are also plenty of hikes in the area, and not all of them go up mountains, such as the Jesup, Stratheden, and Hemlock trails, which all form loops off the Great Meadow Trail. These hikes can be accessed on foot straight from the Mira Monte, too.

 

To get directions to any of these, check out our availability calendar and we’ll set you up right: www.miramonte.com.

Acadia Hiking Guide: Connor’s Nubble

Connor's Nubble

Two waters as seen from Connor’s Nubble

Connor’s Nubble is one of the easiest peaks you’ll bag in Acadia, except that it takes a long time to get to the trailhead. Even so, it’s not difficult hiking at all, as it’s the distance that will give you your exercise. And it has a surprisingly awesome view from the top, so this is one of those I definitely recommend.

There are a couple of different ways to get there, but both are about the same. If you go from Bubble Pond, it’s shorter but a bit more complicated. Still, going from Bubble Pond also gives you a chance to do North and South Bubble at the same time, giving you three peaks in one shot. I almost always go via Eagle Lake, and that’s because I walk my dog out there a couple of times per month.

Park at the Eagle Lake parking lot, either the one at the bridge or at the boat launch. From there, you’ll want to head on the right-hand side of the lake. It really doesn’t matter to be honest, but Connor’s Nubble is on the right side of the lake if heading south from the parking lots.

Now, before you get to Connor’s Nubble you’ll come across the southern trail that goes along Eagle Lake’s southern edge. This hike is actually a very difficult hike despite having no elevation gain. It is difficult because of the large number of good-sized unbalanced boulders that are hard to scramble around without losing balance. Hiking Poles is recommended for this hike, which crosses right below Connor’s Nubble for a good portion of the hike. If you want to do Connor’s Nubble, we recommend skipping the Eagle Lake South Shore Trail (however, see below…).

At some point you’ll arrive at the sign post that takes you either around Eagle Lake or to Jordan Pond. Stay on the Eagle Lake carriage trail to the left. After a few minutes of hiking from there, you’ll see the Connor’s Nubble trailhead on the left. Head up no more than 5-10 minutes to the summit. The summit itself doesn’t actually offer great views, but if you hike just a few seconds beyond the summit a very surprising view appears almost out of nowhere. One of the great things about this view is seeing the color difference between Eagle Lake and Frenchman’s Bay just beyond. It’s also a trick of the eye played by Mother Nature herself. That strip of land separating the two looks very thin, and almost hike-able. In fact it is hike-able (walking toward Paradise Hill and the Visitor’s Center), but it’s much wider than it appears, with a down-hill section that is out of view farther to the east.

To head back, go down the same way you came up. Once on the carriage trail continue downhill to the left. At some point you’ll come to another trail head that goes toward the South Shore Trail on Eagle Lake, which I advised you to avoid farther up. However, at this point the difficult boulder-jumping is finished and this makes for a very nice walk along the southern shore. Either way, just finish by staying to the left until you’re back at the car.

In total, this is a 2-3 hour hike that’s perfect for getting exercise without the elevation.

To learn more, come stay with us. Check out our availability calendar at: www.miramonte.com.

 

Acadia Hiking Guide: Parkman Mtn to Bald Peak Loop

Bald Peak

Looking south from Bald Peak

My favorite hike on the island is the Parkman Mountain to Bald Peak loop. I don’t know why it’s my favorite. I guess it has the moderate level of difficulty that I enjoy, and I definitely prefer natural loops, which bring you back to where you started without going over the same terrain. This loop is like that, and even better, one can decide to add on or take off loops, thus making it either shorter or longer depending on one’s needs.

I always park at the Parkman Mountain lot (or across the street), which is on the road into Northeast Harbor (Rt. 198). The lot is at the crest of a hill if going toward Northeast Harbor, but if that’s full then there are lots farther down the road on the other side of the hill. These other lots are just a bit farther away from the trailheads, so just be aware of your whereabouts.

Now, it is much easier to do this loop with a good trail map. This is because the Around Mountain carriage trail winds across the trails of both peaks, and it’s easy to get a bit disoriented. One common theme I hear from guests who didn’t have a trail map is that they ended up at a different parking lot from whence they came. This really isn’t a problem except that walking back up to your car on Rt. 198 is not as nice as walking the same direction on the carriage trails.

This is how I do it:

  • From the Parkman Mtn. parking lot, take a right at the first sign post on the carriage trail. This will bring you to sign post #13. Take a left here and walk up the carriage trail a few minutes until you come to the Parkman Mtn. Trailhead.
  • Head up Parkman Mtn, taking a left near the top to the summit at the trail marker that splits Parkman from Bald Peak. Remember this trail marker for the way down. Enjoy the views of Somes Sound from the summit.
  • Head back down to the trail marker where you turned left and go left again toward Bald Peak. Follow that path no more than 10-20 minutes to the top of Bald Peak. Now enjoy views of the Hadlock Ponds and the bay beyond Northeast Harbor.
  • Head down the other side of Bald Peak until you get to the carriage trail.
  • At the carriage trail, you have two options:
    • Continue across the carriage trail on the hiking trail. If you do this, you’ll hit another carriage trail down further. This is where folks most often end up at the wrong parking lot. At this carriage trail, head right back up to sign post #13, and then turn left to get back to the parking lot.
    • Instead of going straight across, turn right on the carriage trail and walk until you get to sign post #12. At that intersection, go left and – surprise! – in a minute or so you’ll walk right past the Parkman Mtn. trailhead that you went up to start your hike. Follow the carriage trail down to sign post #13 and take a right to get back to the lot.

All told, this is a 2-4 hour hike round trip. Don’t be afraid if there are a lot of cars parked at Parkman Mtn. Not everyone is doing this loop or even these mountains. It’s a great place for cyclists to get on the carriage trails and do some more difficult riding.

And as always, if you’d like to hear this person, check out our availability calendar and book today at: www.miramonte.com.

Bar Harbor Winter Wonderland

Bar Harbor Winter

A snowy Bar Harbor winter street

I know, no one wants to talk about winter when the summer hasn’t even finished yet. These trees in the photo above are full of wonderful colors right now, too. But let’s face it, Bar Harbor is wonderful in winter, especially when it snows. Did you know the Park grooms the carriage trails for cross-country skiing? How about the miles of snow-shoeing that can be had? And even though the Park is required to plow the Ocean Drive (meaning Sand Beach and Thunder Hole are still accessible), the Park Loop Road is open to snowmobiles?

Every year we get guests who come just for the peace and quiet, but we get a lot more guests when there’s a lot of snow on the ground. Acadia is magical in winter, even if the shops are all closed up (there’s a fair number of restaurants still open, though). Yes, it’s cold, but it’s warm inside after a fun day of winter hiking and exploring.

Now, the Main Inn is not open in the winter and we don’t serve breakfast, but our two suites buildings are open. Three of the units open this winter will be kitchenettes or have a full kitchen, depending on the room. Three others don’t have these amenities but there are places to eat, and the grocery store is a 30-second drive away (many people in these rooms take advantage of our coffee and tea in the rooms and buy bagels if they don’t rent a kitchenette). And our prices are A LOT lower than during the summer.

To book your room, check our availability calendar to see what’s available, and yes, we do fill up quite often: https://secure.thinkreservations.com/miramonte/reservations

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: 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 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.