Granite Guys Guide to his favorites in Acadia....
(Really just got bored last night when the wife and kids went to bed and had an excuse to write about the place and do something with some pictures) So here's more of that reading material you were after!
I'm a dork, I know, but I love that place so figured I'd write about it since I haven't had any other trip reports to share lately. I won't bombard you with pictures, at least not by my standards, and ruin all the surprises for you but if you'd like to know more about any of this I'd be happy to make up a mini trip report for any of the trails. The guide books and websites probably cover it all better than I can though but here's my take on it.
The breweries seem to have been covered. I always get a blueberry beer or two from the different ones just because I can and it's become a ritual. It's not really that good. Geddy's is good for a fun place to eat and a big variety of food on the menu. The Thirsty Whale has the best fried seafood I've found, which is harder to find than you'd think in that place. It's a regular stop for us for the fishermans plater, fried haddock and fried pickles most trips. Bill and Ben's ice cream and homemade fudge is great too.
It would be hard to miss this, it's the way most people see the park (from their cars) but Ocean Drive is kind of like the Franconia Notch of the place. A concentration of stops and highlights, especially of the ocean views, picnic areas and overlooks like Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliffs. There's a 2 mile walking path in between the road and the ocean/cliffs that goes from Sand beach past Otter Cliffs and is also a good way to see it at a more leisurly pace. You don't need to be a hiker to do that one.
The Park Loop Road is an extension of this if you don't exit near Otter Cliffs. More like the Kanc winding through woods, mountains, etc for 15 miles or so and tours a big chunk of the island. Jordan Pond might be the biggest must see spot along the way. There's also a resaurant there and is a big tourist spot but the view of the Bubbles from there are an Acadia classic. It"s one way until it hits Jordan Pond. Horse and carriage road rides also leave from the stables along this road if anyone wants to see the carriage roads the old fashioned way. One of the rides will take you up Day Mountain, the only mountain in the park one goes up. Usually they're along ponds, lakes and through woods.
Ocean Path which runs along Ocean Drive is a great walk on a mostly graded crushed stone path. It's about 2 mles each way but nearly level and anyone who can walk 4 miles should be able to do it just fine.
The Cadillac summit loop is another paved loop that anyone can walk. Some gradual ups and downs but it's a great way to get some views of the park from the tourist summit area. If you're looking for the actual high point it's up a short path near the visitors center and is usually away from the crowds with a decent view blocked some by trees.
If you go to the southern part of the island (45 minute drive or so) and see the Bass Harbor Lighthouse there are a couple great short hikes there. Seawall campground is there too but not much else. It's the quiet side of the island so if we go see the lighthouse we mix in one or both of these to make it worth the drive.
The Ship Harbor trail leaves from near the campground and is a nice mile+ of walking along a very neat cove/harbor through the woods and along the edge of more cliffs for a bit. It is almost level but has a few steps and rocky spots but nothing tough. Another favorite little spot of mine that anyone can handle.
The Wonderland Trail leaves from right near the campground too just up the road from Ship Harbor. Again it is easy going and almost flat. So almost flat I think a lot of people ride bikes on it. It goes out through some neat pines though to some big flat open ledges and tidepool at sea level with views out to some islands and back at the bigger mountains in the main part of the park. Maybe a mile or so total for this lolipop shaped trail.
Jordan Pond has a trail that loops around it, it is a beautiful trail. Views of the Bubbles, Pemetic Mountain and more the whole way from the trail that usually hugs the shoreline. The western side is a mile or so of bog bridges before reaching the short but rougher crossing of an old rock slide near the halfway point. Almost anyone should be fine on it. The Eastern side is another level mostly crushed stone path that anyone can handle. I like it after watching the sunrise from Cadillac because it's in a shaded little notch and by the time you drive the 20 minutes or so to it the sun is just getting in there so it works out perfectly. You go from hundreds of peple watching the sunrise to having the place to yourself. Loons, beavers and views of the Bubbles are highlights of that 3 mile or so loop.
Bar Island is the one the town gets it's name from. It sits a few hundred yards offshore and at low tide there is a sand bar that connects it to the mainland for a few hours. If you catch the tide as it's headed out you can make a leisurly exploration of the sand bar and there's an old jeep road/trail up to a cliff on the summit that looks back over the town. You can even drive across the sand bar if you want, it's solid, but the kids like to park and walk and poke for shells and sea glass along the way. The trail is easy and another of the places many many bang for the buck hikes.
Great Head is the point that extends out on the far side of Sand Beach. There is a nice trail that loops around most of the perimeter with some great viewpoints of the beach, beehive and Ocean Drive. It also goes out to the highest oceanside cliffs in the park (145 feet??) and has some fun but not difficult little scrambles, particularly near the beginning when it comes up from the beach. Good for anyone who doesn't mind a bit of that stuff, wants some great views and requires minimal effort for a mile or so hike. Ive done it a few times quickly while the wife and kids stay at the beach and it's a great spot to catch a sunrise.
Gorham Mountain is a great little peak with awesome views for the 500 feet or so of climbing it requires. Views of Otter Cliiffs and Cove, Great Head, Sand Beach as well as Cadillac, Dorr and Champlain Mountains surround the summit and viewpoints along the way. You can make a loop out of that and the Ocean Path from the beach area or do a great little loop hike from the actual trailhead on Ocean Drive using the easy main trail and the rougher Cadillac Cliffs Trail, which goes under and along some cool ancient sea cave/cliffs that were under water at one time. A couple iron rungs and a short boardwalk along with some rough terrain and scrambling make that one lots of fun.
South Bubble Mountain and Bubble Rock is a pretty short and sweet trip. Maybe a mile round trip up to the summit of the south peak and then if you go slightly past it as Grindboy mentioned the views out over Jordan Pond and to the Cranberry islands and ocean are great. Pemetic and Penobscot mountains frame the valley in a Crwford Notch like way. Then there's a spur path a few hundred yards long to Bubble Rock, which is a good sized erratic perced right on the edge of a hundreds of foot high cliff you can look at or move in and pose for the touristy shot of you holding it up like most people do. Eagle Lake alos looks nice from there.
Acadia Mountain is on the far side of Sommes Sound, a little ways away from most of the big mountains. The trail has a few little scrambles but climbs up quickly through some nice pines to an open viewpoint/ledge that I think was the actual summit, the trail continues on through a shallow saddle to the ledgy/cliffy open shoulder of the mountain with some awesome views of the sound itself (the only true fjiord on the east coast of the US) and across to the bigger mountains. It was only a couple miles and I did that one as an out and back but I guess most people loop down a fire road that I wasn't sure of because I had forgotten a map. We were really just headed to swim at Echo Lake, the freshwater sandy beach on the island which is across the street and decided to hike it quickly since we were there.
*there's actually no single peak that is very strenuous, although some are relentlessly sttep for a mile or so. Some are however quite adventurous like the Precipice and Beehive you mentioned. The easy and moderate hikes can probably be done by just about any active person. Some of these might be better suited for hikers or at least very active people.
Pemetic Mountain has some of my favorite views in the park. You can see Cadillac and Bubble Pond to one side, the Bubbles, Jordan Pond, Penobscot and Sargent to the other and out to the islands and ocean down the south ridge. I did a loop up from Bubble Pond down the south ridge for a ways and then down and back along the shore of Bubble Pond on one of the carriage roads. Very nice 3 or 4 mile hike and fairly rugged with a few scrambles.
Champlain is a great mountain, the closest one to the ocean I believe with a huge cliff face that drops almost straight down where the Precipice trail climbs up. The damn perigrines usually close that from May through August however with their nesting which is annoying to say the least, but there are three other great trails on the mountain, my favorite of which is probably the one that climbs up the north facing ridge. It opens up to some great views quickly and is only about a mile to the top from the trailhead. Views of Frenchman Bay, the Porcupine Islands and the town of Bar Harbor make it a great trail for views and the summit gives you a 360 degree panorama around the park with that very quick drop to the ocean.The trail up the south ridge is nice too, also very open, and is great to combine with the Beehive for a longer hike.
Cadillac via the South Ridge trail is also a views overload. It's the longest trail in the park and is open ledge for probably half of it. There is a neat little feature called the Featherbed for some reason, which is really just a little pond with a ledgy summit near it. Very scenic spot and one of the best views from all around there, I think, in the park. Most of the larger mountains are visible as is much of the coast and islands right out to the Schoodic Peninsula part of the park. Looks a little bit like this. Then continue on up to the summit on all that ledgy pink granite goodness.
For even bigger hikes it's easy to combine many peaks at once in large loops or to do a traverse and catch the free shuttle busses back on the other end. Those things are great for that. I've done a loop starting at Blackwoods over Gorham, The Beehive, Champlain, Hugenot Head, Dorr, and Cadillac which was an all day affair like a big White Mountan hike but absolutely mindblowing for the scenery terrain. 13.1 miles with 4 or 5000 feet of elevation ups and downs but so amazing I can't wait to get back to it.
Another great larger loop I've done a couple times was the Penobscot, Sargent, Gorham, Gilmore, Bald and Cedar Swamp mountains loop. 8 miles/3000 feet of elevation and again miles of open ledge and cool features. I won't get into that one much here but I did post a trip report on it if you want to see it here...
Spots to cool off
There are not a lot of sandy beaches in the park, although there are a few outside it's boundaries. Sand Beach as the name implies is one that sits in a cove along Ocean Drive, Great Head is on the far side of it but it is a great beach for laying in the sun or cooling off in the waves. My kids love to jump in the water there until they turn blue, which means I have to also. I don't know how they can stand it as long as they do. It's crowded in mid day but a great spot to hang out if you're a beach person.
There's a small beach near the town docks and village green that is good for cooling off in or looking for sea glass. The cruise ships park offshore there when in town and the Margaret Todd is a big sailing ship that leaves from there also and gives tours of the bay and islands. It's a great way to see the place from a different perspective and get a leisurly tour not in a car or bus. Very popular and advance reservations are a good idea if that sounds good to you.
Echo Lake is about 25 minutes from Bar Harbor on the east side of the island but is a sandy beach with warmer lake water, very similar to Echo Lake in Franconia Notch. It's also busy in the daytime but is surrounded by steep mountain sides and is very scenic. If salt water doesn't interest you and you want a fresh water swim this is surprisingly one of the few places it's allowed in the park. Many of the ponds/lakes are public water supplies so they won't let you swim, although fishing, kayaking and canoeing are fine.
And I'm sure you know already but a sunrise from Cadillac is something that I try and do at least once a trip. Beautiful spot to watch it come up over the bay and islands. Hundreds of people are usually there in the summer for it, so if you want solitude you'll want to hike to a different peak for it or actually the pullouts along the road that face that way have just as good a view and nobody is usually there, but the show is awesome and 5 minutes after it's up 90% of the people leave anyhow.
So obviously it was hard to whittle it down but those are my favorite spots and trails I've found so far, and while they're my favorites there's really not a bad spot in the park. I'm sure wherever you go and whatever you see will be awesome and leave you wanting more and looking forward to a return trip. It's just that kind of place. And like I said, if thats not enough I'll be happy to post more info. Hope some of that is a help or at least interesting.