Acadia National Park boasts more than 120 miles of hiking trails on its 46,000 acres of parklands, most of which are located on Mount Desert Island. This incredible network of well-maintained, marked, and signed trails offers a range of pleasant hiking experiences to suit the many and varied interests and abilities of park visitors.
The diverse and unique landscape of Acadia features a chain of pink granite mountains that rise from near sea level to more than 1,500 feet atop Cadillac Mountain, stretching across the park from just outside Bar Harbor in the northeast nearly to Bass Harbor to the southwest. In between lay a wealth of beautiful lakes and ponds, streams and wetlands, forest and meadows, bold ocean cliffs and sand and cobble beaches, all teeming with bird and animal life.
Many of the trails in Acadia have been used for centuries, first by Native Americans for hunting and later by European settlers for transportation between villages. With the arrival of the first wealthy summer visitors in the mid-1800’s, the “Rusticators,” the trails on the island became less utilitarian and more oriented to recreation and enjoying the natural surroundings, and an intensive effort to develop new trails began. With the advent of the automobile, however, and the subsequent lifting of the ban on autos on Mount Desert Island around 1930, Acadia’s trails began to fall into disrepair. But with the Great Depression came crews from the Civilian Conservation Corps, and during the relatively short tenure of the CCC, miles of new trails were constructed, and many more trails were rehabilitated.
Today, thanks to hard work and dedication of many people over time, hikers can enjoy an amazing system of historic hiking trails of all levels that provide for many hours and days of exploration. Take your pick!
A variety of short and scenic, very easy walks are possible on smooth paths over mostly level terrain, like the Wonderland Trail near Seawall that leads to the cobble beach on the ocean, or the Shore Path in Bar Harbor that wends along Frenchman Bay with grand island views. Drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain and wander around the bare summit on the Cadillac Summit Path. Enjoy picturesque views of The Bubbles on the Jordan Pond Nature Trail. See Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliffs as you saunter along the Ocean Path.
There are plenty of easy walks, too. From Bar Harbor to Bar Island by way of the sand bar at low tide is a popular jaunt. More than 50 miles of historic carriage roads wend through the park. Or meander down to Ship Harbor on the Ship Harbor Nature Trail.
Hike up to the pink granite mountaintops for panoramic island vistas on one of the moderate hikes, like the Cadillac North Ridge Trail, Champlain North Ridge Trail, Gorham Mountain Trail, or Beech Mountain Trail. Meander over Sand Beach to the impressive sea cliffs along Great Head Trail. Enjoy a swim in a mountain pond on the Bowl Trail. Scramble up to view the precipitous perch of Bubble Rock overlooking Jordan Pond. Or circumnavigate the amazing beauty of Jordan Pond in the center of the park on the Jordan Pond Path.
The more physically strenuous hikes will often lead you away from the roads and crowds for several hours to a half day or more, so be prepared for adventure! The Acadia Mountain Trail and Mansell Mountain Trail ascend peaks on the western side of Acadia National Park, near Somes Sound and Echo Lake. The exciting Beehive Trail and Precipice Trail require the use of ladders, handrails, and iron rungs for the ascent of steep cliff faces. The bare summits and open ridges of the highest peaks on Mount Desert Island can be reached via Cadillac South Ridge Trail and the Beachcroft Trail on Champlain Mountain. The Canon Brook Trail and Murray A. Young Path wind up Dorr Mountain. The Pemetic Mountain Trail and the Goat Trail on Norumbega Mountain also offer challenging hikes.
The trails of Acadia National Park are not only very special; they are fragile in many respects, too. Park officials ask that hikers follow the principles of Leave No Trace when out on the trails. Stay on the trail, and try to walk single file in the center of the trail so as not to damage trailside plants and cause more erosion. Also, tread carefully on the mountain summits – on rock surfaces wherever possible – to avoid stepping on the tiny alpine plants. Be mindful with human waste. And please don’t litter, rather, carry out all your trash.
Park rules and regulations require that dogs be held on a leash six feet in length or less, and of course, dogs are not allowed on the difficult ladder trails. Don’t feed any wildlife, and give them plenty of space so they don’t get scared. No bicycles or horses, and no fires, are allowed on the hiking trails, but are allowed on the carriage roads. There is no swimming allowed in many of the park’s lakes and ponds, as they are public water supplies. This includes Eagle Lake, Jordan Pond, and Long Pond. Always respect private property.
Be safe on the trail, whether you are just stepping a short distance away from your car or taking a longer journey to tackle a mountain peak. For short and easy walks, comfortable shoes and a light jacket may be all you need. For longer hikes away from the road, be sure to carry a light day pack with sufficient food, water, and clothing to meet the weather and times demands of your intended hike. Always carry and use a trail map – they are available at many locations in Acadia National Park, and keep an eye on the blue paint blazes that marks Acadia’s trails. Finally, whenever possible, let someone know where you are going for your hike, and when you expect to return.
The trails in Acadia National Park have something for visitors of every interest and ability, so lace up your walking shoes and toss your day pack over your shoulder and go have fun!