Wednesday, March 12, 2014
The shroud of sequestration hanging over Acadia National Park thankfully will soon be lifted. Yes, those pesky federal budget cuts could only delay the official park opening for just so long. On Saturday, May 17, the Park Loop Road will open and other major facilities will follow in short order.
The park boasts an incredible 120-mile network of well-maintained, marked and signed hiking trails that offer an amazing diversity of pleasant rambling amid some of the most spectacular coastal scenery anywhere.
The eastern section of the park features four of my favorite hikes, classic mountain walks over long, open ridgelines. One is a loop while the other three are point-to-point hikes, where a car spot or bicycle stash is necessary. During the busy summer months I recommend riding the fare-free Island Explorer bus, an easy and efficient way to get around.
Set out from trailhead at The Tarn on Route 3 two miles south of Bar Harbor. Climb the Beachcroft Path and its long staircase of stone steps angling up the west slope of Huguenot Head. A final short steep pitch puts you on top of Champlain. Scamper along the South Ridge Trail to The Bowl, a nice swimming spot tucked into the mountainside. Make a side trip up the backside of The Beehive for dramatic views of Sand Beach and Great Head before continuing on over Gorham Mountain to finish at the Park Loop Road near Monument Cove. About five miles total.
Trek over the low twin peaks of Kebo Mountain, then tackle Dorr Mountain via its north ridge. From the summit, drop down into the deep notch between Dorr and Cadillac mountains. Follow the A. Murray Young Path and a tumbling branch of Otter Creek before swinging east around the base of Dorr Mountain on Canon Brook Trail and Kane Path. From The Tarn, take the Jesup Path into Sieur de Monts Spring. Tarry awhile in the Wild Gardens of Acadia and the Sieur de Monts Nature Center. A short path behind the center leads to the Abbe Museum with its displays of Wabanaki artifacts. Complete the loop via Hemlock Trail and Stratheden Path. Just over six miles.
Many hikers avoid the park's highest peak because of the busy auto road, the sprawling parking lot and gift shop on top, and the throngs of camera-laden tourists. Not me. I'll take the hubbub as fair trade for the longest continuous ridge walk on the island. Combine the Cadillac North Ridge and South Ridge trails for 5 1/2 miles of fabulous hiking with panoramic views most of the way. Add the short loops around the Cadillac summit area and at Eagles Crag and you'll inch over six miles total. Start from the Park Loop Road and finish on Route 3 just west of the entrance to Blackwoods Campground. Chances are you've never stood on the actual summit of Cadillac, 100 yards south of the gift shop on Cadillac South Ridge Trail. Look for the bronze survey marker atop a rock shelf 20 feet to the right.
From the Park Loop Road just north of the Route 3 overpass, stride a soft and winding trail through the dark and aromatic stands of coastal spruce along Hunters Brook Trail before crossing an historic carriage road and ambling up to the top of The Triad. Dip down to the north on Triad Trail, then scramble up Pemetic Mountain by way of the Pemetic East Cliff Trail. The summit rewards with grand views of Jordan Pond, The Bubbles, Sargent and Penobscot mountains, Eagle Lake, and the bulk of Cadillac Mountain. Descend via the equally steep Pemetic North Ridge Trail, emerging from the woods at the north end of Bubble Pond and the Park Loop Road. About 4 1/2 miles.
For more information on Acadia, go to www.nps.gov/acad.
Carey Kish of Bowdoin is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Comments are welcome at: