A cyclist descends Around the Mountain Trail on the Carriage Roads. Ron Chase photos

Each fall, my outdoor club, the Penobscot Paddle & Chowder Society, schedules its annual meeting on Mount Desert Island and plans a multitude of outdoor adventures around the island over several days. Again this year, there were war canoe races, mountain hikes, scenic walks, birding, sea kayaking and bike trips. The outstanding Carriage Roads of Acadia National Park are always an integral part of the agenda. And Chowderheads love seafood chowder.

Although I intended to participate in several activities, for various reasons, I biked the Carriage Roads for four consecutive days. This was not a sacrifice, as I thoroughly enjoy riding the extensive 45-mile network with an abundance of glorious vistas. The trails are approximately 16 feet wide and the ride is on a unique broken-stone surface. Adding to the ambience are 17 stone-faced bridges that span streams, roads and cliff sides while blending perfectly with the landscape. There are numerous access points. My book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” features a chapter about riding the Carriage Roads and includes three more exceptional Maine bike trails.

Riders cross a bridge near Jordan Pond.

Most trail riders use hybrid or mountain bikes; I rode a hybrid bike on my rides. In recent years, electrical bikes have become common.

On day one, I arrived at Eagle Lake Trailhead early afternoon. I wasn’t alone. The parking lot was full and cars were parked on the north side of Route 233 for about a quarter of a mile.

From Eagle Lake Trailhead, riders can travel north to Witch Hole Pond Loop or south on Eagle Lake Loop. From Eagle Lake loop, connections are possible with all remaining trails. The trails intersect with one another in numerous locations so numbered signposts are located at junctions to assist users and maps are available at trailhead kiosks.

I rode south on the west side of Eagle Lake. Initially, the surface was fairly level but then climbed steadily to Signpost 8. Turning left, I continued to ascend for a short distance before enjoying an exhilarating descent to Signpost 7. Angling north, I traveled along the west side of Eagle Lake back to the trailhead.

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From there, I proceeded towards Witch Hole Pond Loop. Turning right at Signpost 4, I rode mostly downhill past a bridge on the right that spans Duck Brook. More downward sloping gradient brought me to Witch Hole Pond, where I began to climb Paradise Hill. The top of the hill offered splendid views of Frenchman Bay. After returning to Witch Hole, I traveled south back to Eagle Lake Trailhead. That evening, many club members assembled at the Southwest Harbor American Legion to cook seafood chowder for the Fall Supper scheduled for the following night.

A biker nears the summit of Day Mountain.

I began day two at the Brown Mountain Trailhead near Northeast Harbor for my favorite Carriage Road trail, Around the Mountain. By my count, the 12.5-mile loop actually travels around five mountains with 1,373-foot Sargent Mountain being the highest. Beginning at Signpost 19, I climbed steadily onto the shoulders of Parkman and Sargent Mountains where views of Somes Sound and the mountains beyond were breathtaking. The circuitous descent to Signpost 10 was a delight. The primarily downhill grade along Jordan Pond was exceptionally beautiful. From the south end of Jordan Pond, I rode rolling hills back to Brown Mountain Trailhead. That evening, Chowderheads feasted on delicious seafood chowder at our Fall Supper.

A longer ride was my choice for day three. From Eagle Lake Trailhead, I biked south on the east side of Eagle Lake and west along Bubble Pond to a junction for Day Mountain at Signpost 17. The 4.7-mile Day Mountain Loop with an ascent to the summit is a demanding endeavor, but the views of eastern Penobscot Bay from the top are phenomenal. Concluding the loop, I persisted west past lower Jordan Pond to Upper Hadlock Pond. My ride continued north past Aunt Betty Pond to Eagle Lake Trailhead, about a 23-mile outing in total. The leftover seafood chowder was even better than the previous night.

On day four, my Quebec friend, Richard Bedard, joined me for a final ride. From Eagle Lake Trailhead, we completed Witch Hole Pond Loop and biked south along Eagle Lake to Signpost 10N. Departing north, the twisting decline to Aunt Betty Pond is one of the most entertaining descents in the trail system. Our return to Eagle Lake Trailhead ended an outstanding four days in a biking paradise.

Ron Chase resides in Topsham. His latest book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” is available at northcountrypress.com/maine-al-fresco or in bookstores and through online retailers. His previous books are “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England.” Visit his website at ronchaseoutdoors.com or he can be reached at [email protected]

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