25 Sep Maine: Adventures in Acadia National Park
There are an abundance of fantastic adventures in Acadia National Park in Maine. The park is located in Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island, and we’ve been to Acadia National Park three times now. So, we feel it’s about time we put together a post about it!
All our visits have coincided with work projects, but we’ve been able to plan a couple of extra days in the park to explore on our own, as well. During our visits to Acadia National Park, we stopped at the Jordan Pond House for popovers, visited Jordan Pond, hiked the Bubble Trails, relaxed at the beach, watched the sunrise and sunset from the top of Cadillac Mountain, drove the Park Loop Road, checked out a lighthouse, and walked along some of the Old Carriage Roads. Read on for more details on our Adventures in Acadia National Park!
Eat Popovers at Jordan Pond House
Our first stop in Acadia National Park was the Jordan Pond House. Since the late 1800’s, Jordan Pond House has had the tradition of serving afternoon tea and popovers on the lawn. What a historic tradition! We arrived at the restaurant around 2:30 p.m. and hoped there wouldn’t be a long wait to get seated. Lucky for us, the wait ended up being only 5 minutes, and we were quickly assigned a table.
The picnic tables outside on the lawn looked adorable, but our table was located inside the restaurant, which was cute, as well. We each ordered a set of two popovers with jam and coffee. The popovers seemed huge when they were placed in front of us, Thankfully, they are hollow in the middle, so they weren’t quite as filling as we thought they’d be. The strawberry jam on the warm popover was delicious and the perfect pick me up before our hike that evening.
In addition to afternoon tea, Jordan Pond House is also open for breakfast and lunch. It is located right next to Jordan Pond and provides great views of the surrounding landscape.
Check Out the Iconic Jordan Pond
Jordan Pond is one of the most popular spots in Acadia National Park. If you’ve ever seen a photo of a lake with two bubble mountains in the background, that’s Jordan Pond! There are several trails to hike around the lake and surrounding mountains, or you can just take a short walk from the parking lot to see the lake’s most recognizable vantage point. The Jordan Pond Path is a trail that runs along the lakeshore, and it’s a little over 3 miles long. We’ve never had enough time to hike this trail, but we have stopped at the lake a few different times during our visits to the park. It’s a sight worth seeing for sure!
Go for a Hike on a Trail Like the Bubbles Trails
There are many hiking trails throughout Acadia National Park, and many that we want to explore someday. One of the hikes we managed to fit into our short visits to the park were the Bubbles Trails. Originally, I had intended for us to hike both the Bubbles and Nubble Trails. But because of timing and an early wakeup call the next morning, we decided to cut the hike short and just hike the North Bubble Trail and the South Bubble Trail. These trails were a great choice though, as they definitely pack a punch!
We started out from the Bubbles Divide parking lot and made our way up the South Bubble Trail first. The views from the top were fantastic—we could see a small corner of Jordan Pond, a different lake in the distance, and mountains and forests all around us. We checked out the bubble rock which looks like it is about to roll off the mountain, as well as the elevation sign before continuing on our way.
After heading back down the same trail, we made our way over to the diversion for the North Bubble Trail. And much to our surprise, the views were even better from this summit. We had clear views of Jordan Pond, the mountains surrounding us, and we even spotted the Jordan Pond Restaurant across the lake.
In total the hike was short and sweet at 1.5 miles roundtrip. Hiking up both of the Bubbles Trails involved some scrambling over rocks, and it was a steady uphill climb to each of the summits. Other than that, we felt the trail was easy, and it was definitely worth the hike. We loved this route and had a blast!
Relax at Sand Beach
Beaches are always hard to resist, and the beach at Acadia was no exception. It was a 90-degree day during our stop at Sand Beach, and it was packed. We were surprised how tropical the scene looked on such a sunny day. It was almost hard to believe we were standing on a beach in Maine!
We didn’t end up swimming in the ocean, but we did dip our feet in the water, walked along the shoreline, crawled up on the boulders, and snapped a few photos. We also enjoyed looking at all the creatures and plants that we spotted in the tidepools near the boulders. It’s always nice to spend a bit of time soaking up the sun, and this stop was no exception.
Watch the Sunrise or Sunset at Cadillac Mountain
One of the most iconic sights in Acadia National Park is Cadillac Mountain, especially at sunrise. This vantage point gives you the first peek of the sunrise in the United States due to its elevation and eastern location.
Wake up calls for the sunrise here are quite early—in June, by 3 a.m., you can already start to see light glowing from the horizon. During our visit, there was a reservation system in place to drive the summit road, and we lucked out when our friend on the shoot snagged the earliest entry time of the day. This meant that we could start the 3-mile scenic drive up the mountain at 3:00 a.m. to catch the sunrise just before 5:00 a.m. When we arrived at the top, the sun was already casting a glow on the horizon. We found a spot to sit and watch the show, and as the skies started to glow with morning light, silhouettes emerged all around us.
By the time the sun fully peeked over the horizon, we were surprised how many others were on the mountain with us. I can definitely see why this is a must do experience in the park—it was quite a show of beauty. We were on the mountain from 3:15 a.m. to roughly 5:00 a.m. and then we went for breakfast at the only place we could find open in Bar Harbor. Thankfully, it happened to be delicious—more on that below!
Currently, in 2022, between the dates of May 25 and October 22, a reservation is required if you plan to drive the 3-mile scenic road up to Cadillac Mountain. A batch of tickets (30% of the total) are released 90 days in advance of the reservation date, and the remaining 70% of tickets are released two days prior to the reservation date. Tickets go very fast and cost $6.00 per car. You can also keep checking the reservation site to see if you can catch any cancellations leading up to your arrival date. Be sure to check the national park website for current permit updates and rules.
You can also hike all the way up Cadillac Mountain and/or visit at a time other than sunrise! We have yet to do the hike, but we did drive up for sunset during our first visit to the park. While sunrise was an absolutely gorgeous experience, sunset was pretty beautiful, too! It really is worth the trek to the top no matter how you get there or what time of day it is.
Drive the Park Loop Road
The Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park is a great way to see a variety of sights throughout the park. The loop is 27-miles and circles the east side of Mount Desert Island. During the drive, you will find access to trailheads, beaches, beautiful scenery and so much more. Some of the notable pull offs are Cadillac Mountain, Sand Beach, and Jordan Pond.
When we were driving the loop during our last morning at the park, we stopped several times to check out the scenery and stretch our legs. We pulled over at the beach and Jordan Pond, as well as multiple scenic stops along the way. It was the perfect end to our time at Acadia National Park!
One day on a future visit, we want to hike the Jordan Cliffs Loop, Beehive Loop Trail, Precipice Trail, and the entire Bubbles Nubble Loop. There are so many fantastic spots to explore in Acadia and we can’t wait until the next time we can visit.
Acadia National Park has very dark skies that are perfect for stargazing. Mount Desert Island has low levels of light pollution, especially if you venture into the park and away from Bar Harbor. During our first visit, we made our way to Jordan Pond to get a glimpse of the night sky. We lucked out with clear skies and the stars were shining so bright! The view of Jordan Pond at night was spectacular, and there are plenty of other areas where you can get a great view of the stars. And if you are especially lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the northern lights!
Hiking Along the Old Carriage Roads
We also walked along some of the Old Carriage Roads during our first time at Acadia. This trail system used to be, you guessed it…Carriage Roads! The carriage roads were built between 1913 and 1940 and gave visitors the ability to see Mount Desert Island via horse drawn carriages on auto free roads. Now there are 45 miles of trails that are accessible for hiking, biking, and horse drawn carriage rides in the summer, as well as snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in the winter. We enjoyed walking along the roads and seeing the stone bridges, dense trees, and rivers along the way.
See a Lighthouse
It isn’t a visit to Maine without a glimpse of a lighthouse! There are a few lighthouses within the borders of Acadia National Park, as well as others nearby. A couple of the lighthouses are located on islands, and they can mainly be seen by boat. The third lighthouse, Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, is located on Mount Desert Island and it can be reached by foot, so this is the one we visited. There are two trails that will give you a view of the lighthouse. One of the trails (the trail to the right) leads down a short staircase that goes directly to the base of the lighthouse, where you will find a plaque with information and history. Even though you can’t go inside, it’s still fun to see and to learn more about.
The other trail to the left runs through the trees before reaching a larger staircase down to the rocky coastline. From here you can see the nearby islands, the lighthouse, and maybe even wildlife playing in the water.
Watch the Spray at Thunder Hole
Another fun spot in Acadia to stop is Thunder Hole. The rocky coastline here is an iconic Maine sight, and if you time it right, you might even spot a natural phenomenon. There is a small inlet in the rocks near the shoreline, and when the waves come rolling in, water can spray up to 40 feet high!
We haven’t been able to visit Thunder Hole at the right time to see a big spray, but we did catch a small spray during our first visit to the park. We heard the best time to get to the site is 1-2 hours before high tide, and if you are lucky, you can catch the show! But regardless of if you time your visit right or not, it is still a beautiful spot for views of the coastline.
Other Things to Do
There are plenty of other adventures in Acadia National Park that are still on our to-do list. We’d love to hike a variety of different trails, such as the Hike Beehive Loop, Jordan Cliffs Loop, Gorge Path, Precipice Trail, and Beehive Loop Trail, to name a few. In addition to hiking, visitors to the park can go swimming, rock climbing, camping, biking, tide pooling, and more. You can even take a boat tour out to an island within the park. Acadia National Park is a beautiful place with such a wide range of adventures, and it’s a must stop park when traveling around the east coast!