Acadia National Park (in the Spring)

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Length of stay: 3 days
Visited: May 2018

Highlights

  • Penobscot Mountain
  • Acadia Mountain Trail
  • Beehive Trail
  • South Bubble Mountain
  • North Bubble and Conners Nubble

Located along the rugged coast in Maine, Acadia National Park offers of variety of trails that weave their way up, down, and around mountains, through lush forests, and along a granite shoreline, all the while providing panoramic glimpses of the lively Atlantic Ocean. We visited Acadia once before last fall after the Labour Day long weekend and had such a wonderful time (with minimal crowds and pleasant weather) so we planned another visit to coincide with the other shoulder season – the spring.

Day 1: Iron Rung Routes

We left Boston at around 7:30a.m and spent the entire morning driving up to Acadia National Park. We rolled into the “quiet” side of Mount Desert shortly after lunch and got straight down to business. The weather forecast was calling for rain on Sunday so we figured we’d cross off a series of Acadia’s classic iron rung routes. These are not your average trails, but rather they involve a series of iron rungs and sometimes ladders to help scramble up, over, and around large rock faces – sometimes along exposed cliffs. Fun!

The one drawback to hiking in the spring (instead of in the fall) is that a few of these iron rung routes are typically closed between March 15 and August 15 for peregrine falcon nesting. But there are two that are open all year round (weather permitting of course). We first tackled the Beech Cliff Trail (2.9km roundtrip). The hike up the side of Beech Mountain involves climbing a lot of stone steps and scrambling up four strategically placed ladders. The top of the cliff provides sweeping views of Echo Lake, the surrounding forests and the Atlantic Ocean.

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After summiting (although technically this trail doesn’t reach the peak of Beech Mountain) we followed the Canada Cliffs Trail back to the Echo Lake parking lot. This part of the path was relatively gentle and doesn’t involve climbing down any ladders.

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Afterwards we drove to the not-so quiet side of Mount Desert. We checked into our campsite at Blackwoods Campground and set up our tent. We then headed back out for more hiking along the Beehive Trail (3.2km roundtrip). We hiked this iron rung route before back when we visited last fall. Given that the other iron rung routes were closed and we wanted to get that authentic classic Acadia hiking experience, we figured we’d repeat this hike up Beehive. Especially since this was one of our most memorable hikes from our last visit.

The hike starts off at the Bowl Trailhead right across the road from the Sand Beach parking lot. For the first couple metres the trail winds through a path littered with small rocks to manoeuvre around. The path than branches off at a signpost for the Beehive Trail. Then things start to get interesting. Using the iron rungs as a guide and for support, the trail weaves up and up around the mountain.

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It is (strongly) recommended that once reaching the summit, to take the Bowl Trail back to the parking area. After eating a quick snack and enjoying the beautiful views overlooking Sand Beach from above, we continued along the Bowl Trail to view a little pond tucked between the surrounding mountains before descending back down to the roadside parking area.

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Once we finished our hike we walked across the road down to Sand Beach. While ocean temperatures are quite frigid all-year round, this little sandy stretch nestled between the jagged granite mountains is one of the most popular attractions in Acadia. We walked up and down the beach and ventured close by the rocks to see if we could find anything interesting. Just seaweed.

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By the time we finished up we were getting pretty hungry. And cold. Given that the forecast was calling for rain in the early evening, we decided to drive into Bar Harbour and go out for dinner rather than cook something at our campsite. And we’re sure glad that we did as part-way through our meal it started to rain. And it kept raining well into the night. This worked out quite well because the sound of the raindrops splashing on the tent helped mask much of the noise from the neighbouring campsite.

Day 2: Fog, Rain, Midges & Mosquitos

We woke up the morning to overcast skies with the promise of rain on the horizon. Many of the hikes in Acadia involve scrambling over rocks or up iron rungs to reach a submit. So we didn’t have to worry so much about sloshing around in the mud after such a heavy rainfall. We were more concerned that the rocks would be slippery.

We started our morning off at the “quiet side” of Mount Desert and hiked along the St. Sauveur Mountain Trail (6.4km roundtrip). The trail starts off by the Acadia Mountain trailhead across the road from the parking lot and soon splits off into three trails: Acadia Mountain Trail, Man o’ War Truck Road, and St. Sauveur Mountain Trail. These trails all intersect later onwards so you have the option of hiking a longer loop, which is what we planned to do.

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The hike along St. Sauveur Mountain was a little uneventful. The trail is fairly gentle and slowly weaves its way leisurely up to the summit. There wasn’t much of a view on account of all the low hanging clouds and fog. On our way back down we took the Valley Peak Trail which intersects with the Acadia Mountain Trail.

The Acadia Mountain Trail (2.9km roundtrip) was much more lively. We approached the summit from the east. And even though this direction is more strenuous on account of all the upward rock scrambles, it sure was a lot of fun. Apparently the views from the summit marker are breathtaking and offer panoramic views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. All we saw were clouds. Either way, we were pretty satisfied with all the rock scrambles we got to maneuver around and over.

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Within the last couple of metres of our hike it started to lightly sprinkle. We wrapped up just in time. And just in time for lunch. We drove down to the Echo Lake parking lot and decided to make lunch there. When we were in the area yesterday for our hike along the Beech Cliff Trail we noticed a covered picnic area that would be perfect for cooking lunch in the rain. Turns out it was just a covered bench by the bus stop. Turns out we didn’t care and just took that space over. To be fair, the bus service in the park had yet to commence and there were only one or two other cars in the parking lot, so we figured it would be fine. We made grilled cheese sandwiches.

The rain let off momentarily soon after we finished eating. We jumped back in the car for a short ride down to the Wonderland Trail (2.4km roundtrip). This gentle path is relatively flat and leads right up to the ocean shoreline. We hopped along the pink granite stones from one tide pool to the next in search of something interesting. Anything interesting. But no dice.

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On our way back to the car it started to lightly rain again. It takes about 30 minutes or so to return to the main part of Acadia, so the timing of the showers worked out quite well again. By the time we rolled up to the Bubbles Parking Lot it had stopped raining and the sun was just starting to poke out from behind the clouds. And this all sounds lovely – no more rain and a glimpse of sunlight. Plus there were noticeably fewer hikers out on the trails. But something about that rainfall woke up all the gnats and mosquitos. And they were hungry.

We started along the Bubbles Divide Trailhead up to South Bubble Mountain and veered left at the marker for South Bubble Trail (1.6km roundtrip). The hike up South Bubble Mountain is entirely all uphill, but the trail is well-groomed. Located a bit beyond the marker for the summit you’ll find South Bubble Rock, deposited precariously close to the edge of the cliff by glaciers from the last ice age.

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We took a short break up by South Bubble Rock to catch our breath and enjoy the surrounding views. But the gnat-situation was out of control so we couldn’t linger long. We hiked back down the South Bubble Trail and veered right at the marker towards North Bubble and Conners Nubble (5.5km roundtrip).

The hike up North Bubble Mountain was lovely and involved some minor scrambling upwards over rocks. The only downside was that whenever we slowed down, the bugs would narrow in. It was hard to rest and soak in the views overlooking Eagle Lake from the summit. We just had to keep moving.

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The bug situation reached its peak along our hike towards Conners Nubble. The mosquitos were easy to fend off by donning our long-sleeved shirts. It just meant that we were now sweating profusely. But the gnats. They swarm your face. There was no defence. We pretty much motored through this final portion of the hike as fast as we could. No breaks. Once we reached the marker summit for Conners Nubble we started making our slow descent down to the Eagle Lake Trail.

This was probably the hardest stretch – mentally. There were lots of smaller rocks and boulders to strategically manoeuvre around. Progress was slow, which meant the bugs had time to catch up. The path hugs the shoreline and eventually intersects with Jordan Pond Carry. This area is quite marshy, but a series of wooden planks were positioned overtop so we were able to breeze through this section. The trail meets back up with the Bubbles Divide Trailhead. We took this back to the parking lot and made a mad dash for the car. We were finally safe from the bugs.

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We drove back into Bar Harbour for dinner rather than cook something at our campsite since we didn’t so much feel like eating a side of gnats with our food.

Day 3: Nothing But Blue Skies

We woke up to blue skies and sun. There was a lovely ocean breeze rolling through, which meant there were no signs of the bugs from yesterday. After cooking up some eggs for breakfast, we packed up our tent and checked out of the campground.

We started off strong by hiking up the fifth highest peak in Acadia, Penobscot Mountain (6.0km roundtrip). We parked at the Jordan Pond North parking lot and followed the short trail down to the water. We veered left and walked a couple hundred metres along the Jordans Pond Loop up until the turnoff for the carriage road. There isn’t much signage for guidance. We followed along the carriage road until we found the marker for the Spring Trail. The Spring Trail gently winds through a forest of cedars and pine and meets back up with another carriage road at the end. Once crossing the road, the trail up Penobscot Mountain begins.

Up is the key word. With an elevation gain of 940ft, this hike is no joke. The trail follows a series of stone steps and large boulders up the edge of the cliff face. There are a few iron rungs and wooden handrails for extra guidance. Once you scramble up the cliffs, the trail levels off and gradually ascends up and over granite stones towards the summit marker.

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Just beyond the summit marker the trail splits off into two paths. There’s an option to extend your hike (and your legs some more) and summit up Sargent Mountain, the second highest peak in Acadia. Or you can start the descent back down along Deer Brook Trail. We opted for the latter The path itself wasn’t too bad, in large part because it runs parallel to a small creek. And as an added bonus, we could still feel the breeze through the trees, so it helped keep all them bugs at bay.

The trail intersects with the carriage road, which you can continue onwards to get back to the parking lot. Or you can cut across it and continue following along Deer Brook Trail to Jordans Pond for a more scenic hike. We opted for the scenic route. Shortly after crossing the carriage road, we were rewarded with great views of the Deer Brook Bridge.

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The Deer Brook Trail ends near the mid-way point around the Jordans Pond Path. We followed the trail south along the western part of the shoreline. The path is relatively flat, which we appreciated after just scaling Penobscot Mountain. The trail features a mix between hiking on a gravel-y type path, a series of wooden planks, and around rocks.

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After finishing our hike we hopped in the car and drove back to the “quiet side” of Mount Desert. We stopped at the Echo Lake parking lot and used that covered bench area at the bus stop (the bus service had yet to commence for the season) again to make grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. We then drove up the road to the parking lot for Acadia Mountain.

We hiked up Acadia Mountain Trail (2.9km roundtrip) yesterday, but our views overlooking the Atlantic were obscured behind a thick layer of fog. So we decided to try again today. Plus, let’s be real, the rock scrambles on this trail are pretty legit. We crossed the road to the start of the trailhead. Most hikers approach this trail clock-wise as it’s less strenuous to descend along the granite rocks rather than have to scramble up them. But scrambling up and over the rocks is part of the fun. Challenge accepted.

We started our hike along the Man o’ War Truck Road. It’s a deceptively gentle path along an old road and provided a nice opportunity for us to walk side-by-side. We veered left at the trail junction towards Acadia Mountain. This is when the trail becomes interesting. Soon after a series of super fun rock scrambles begins.

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The only downside to hiking in this weather was there were little opportunities to hide in the shade. Especially once you reach the summit marker.

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It’s a short walk back down to the parking lot from the summit of Acadia Mountain. We hopped in the car and started the long drive back to Boston. Hopefully one day we’ll be back.

L & K

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