Length of stay: 3 days
Visited: May 2019
Located along the east coast in Maine, Acadia National Park offers a variety of hikes that weave their way up and around mountains, through wooded areas and along a rocky coastline, all the while providing sweeping views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Acadia is one of our favourite parks in North America. This trip marked our third visit in the past three years. We visited last year during the same time and the year before in the fall. The hiking (and views) never get old.
- Beehive Trail
- Pemetic Mountain
- Acadia Mountain Trail
- South Bubble Mountain
- North Bubble and Conners Nubble
Day 1: Hiking the classics
We arrived at Acadia National Park very late last night. I flew down from Toronto after work (barely making my flight) and K picked me up from the Boston airport. We then drove the four and a half hours to get to the park. We arrived at the Blackwoods Campground just before 2a.m and quickly set up our tent, blew up our air pads and snuggled deep within our sleeping bags. The timing, even though it was late, worked out quite well as shortly after we crawled into our tent, it started to rain. Little did we know this would only be a preview for what was in store for us this weekend.
We had a slow start to our morning as we slept in later than usual and took our time making and eating breakfast. We initially planned to start our day off at the Beehive Trail, but we missed the parking lot entirely. Since the road along this section of the park is all one-way, we couldn’t exactly turn around. Instead we decided to just hike up Gorham Mountain (3.2km roundtrip).
It’s been a wet spring this year. And this weekend was no exception. The first part of the trail involved hopping around puddles to avoid getting our feet wet (we wore the wrong kind of shoes given the weather). But luckily we were summiting a mountain, which meant that as soon as we started our ascent, puddles would no longer be an issue.
Similar to when we hiked this trail in the fall a couple of years ago, we veered left to take the Cadillac Cliff Trail when we came to a fork in the path. The other option is to continue along the Gorham Mountain trail, but it isn’t nearly as scenic. Either way, these two trails meet up again and lead up to the summit.
The Cadillac Cliff Trail is slightly more challenging and involves scrambling up some large boulders. It provides lovely views of the exposed cliff composed of large granite slabs. There are even a few iron rungs along this section to help scramble up some of the particularly larger rocks.
Once the two paths reconnect, it’s a relatively short push to reach the summit marker. At an elevation of 163m (or 526 feet), Gorham Mountain certainly isn’t one of the tallest peaks in Acadia, but it does provide fantastic views overlooking the ocean without having to commit to a strenuous or lengthy hike.
On the way back to the parking lot, we kept along the Gorham Mountain trail this time, which provides a more direct and easier path down the mountain. We saved this for the return journey since downhills are easily the worst part of any hike.
We stopped at our campground to make an early lunch since we had to loop all the way around to return to the trailhead for Beehive Trail. Once we were back on the road, we made a short detour to Sand Beach and watched the waves lap onto the sandy shore.
By the time we were ready to hike up Beehive Trail (3.2km roundtrip) the clouds were starting to break and the sun popped out. We’ve hiked this iron rung trail twice before during our prior visits to Acadia. It just never gets old.
The trail starts off at the Bowl Trail across the road from the parking lot for Sand Beach. The first little stretch involves hopping around smaller stones (a warm-up for what was to come) until you reach a signpost at the fork in the trail. We veered left and followed the trail up into the rocks. At this point there are iron rungs and iron handrails to help you scramble up and around large boulders, all the while hiking close to the edge of the cliff. The ascent provides great views overlooking Sand Beach.
Once we reached the summit marker, we followed the Bowl Trail back to the parking lot. You can hike back down the iron rungs, but this can be quite tedious as the flow of hikers is in the opposite direction. Besides, continuing along Bowl Trail allowed us to see more of Acadia.
Once we reached our car, we took an extended snack break before heading over to the Bubbles. We hiked up South and North Bubble last year after it had rained and were nearly eaten alive by mosquitoes and those pesky gnats. This year it was still quite chilly outside, so we didn’t have to worry so much about the mosquitoes. The gnats on the other hand were a different story. Luckily it was windy, which helped keep them off our faces (for the most part).
We followed the Bubbles Divide Trailhead up to South Bubble Mountain and turned left at the marker for South Bubble Trail (1.6km roundtrip). The hike up South Bubble Mountain is predominantly uphill, but the trail is well maintained. Once you reach the summit marker, you’ll need to continue following the blue blazes for another hundred metres or so to find South Bubble Rock. This rock was deposited precariously close to the edge of the mountain when the glaciers retreated during the last ice age.
We hiked back down the way we came up, except this time once we reached the fork in the path, we turned right towards North Bubble and Conners Nubble (5.5km roundtrip). The summit of North Bubble is around the same elevation of South Bubble, so it wasn’t particularly strenuous. It did involve some minor scrambling to get up and around large granite slabs. The summit provided excellent views above and around Eagle Lake.
We continued on our journey to get to Conners Nubble. From here it was a slow descent down the mountain to Eagle Lake Trail. This was probably the most challenging stretch of the hike since it was downhill and involved careful consideration stepping over rocks. We followed the path to Jordan Pond Carry and looped back to the Bubble Divide Trailhead. We followed this to get back to the car park.
After our hike we drove into Bar Harbour for dinner.
Day 2: Pemetic Mountain
The forecast was calling for rain in the afternoon, so we decided to start our day off by summiting Pemetic Mountain (9.7km roundtrip). There are four trails that weave their way up to the summit. We opted for the Pemetic South Ridge Trail as it was rated the family-friendly route to reach the summit. If it was later in the year, we would have attempted the Pemetic Northwest Trail as it is easily the most adventurous of the four routes. It involves scrambling around boulders and using wooden ladders. However, during the spring, especially during a wet spring which we certainly had, there may be flooding in the ravine. In the interest of keeping our feet dry, we instead opted for the easiest route up the Pemetic South Ridge Trail.
The trail starts at the Jordan Pond North parking lot. The first little stretch involves hiking east along the Jordan Pond Path until reaching the junction with the Bubble & Jordan Ponds Path.
We followed the path until we reached the signpost for the Pemetic South Ridge Trail.
From here the trail becomes noticeably more strenuous and involves maneuvering around roots and rocks until you get above the tree line. Then it’s a matter of ascending up large granite slabs until you reach the summit marker.
From the summit, there are a few options to descend. We opted for a longer loop that descends down the Pemetic North Ridge and follows the carriage roads back to Jordan Pond. Once we made it down to the carriage road, it started to rain. Not exactly ideal, but at least at this point we had finished our descent and the rest of the hike was on relatively flat terrain.
After we wrapped up our hike, we drove down to the “quiet side” of Mount Desert. We pulled over at Echo Lake to heat up some lunch and wait out the rain. Once the rain subsided (for the time being), we hiked along the Ship Harbour Trail (1.9km loop). The path forms a figure eight loop and weaves through a forest to the ocean shoreline. This area is reputed to be great for tide pooling as many shallow pools of water are formed during low tide around the rocks. We didn’t stay for long as the clouds were getting darker. Sure enough, within a few minutes of returning back to the car, it started to rain. Again.
We waited for the rain to let up before making another quick dash to check out the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. The main part of the trail that leads down to the rocky shore was closed, so instead we took the paved path to the front of the lighthouse. We didn’t linger long as it started to sprinkle.
The rain let up soon enough so we took the opportunity to hike along another relatively short and flat coastal trail that leads to the ocean – the Wonderland Trail (2.4km roundtrip). This time we lingered a little bit longer to check out the tide pools among the pink granite rocks.
We tested our luck again by hiking along the Lower Hadlock Pond Loop Trail (3.7km roundtrip). The path is relatively flat and hugs the shoreline of this reservoir. We were pleasantly surprised that it didn’t rain throughout our entire hike.
Since it was cold and wet, we decided to go back into Bar Harbour for some dinner. It was well deserved after a full day of hiking.
Day 3: Rain (rain go away)
It rained during the night and the forecast was calling for more rain throughout the day. We took down our tent and headed to our favourite picnic spot at Echo Lake on the quiet side of Mount Desert. There is a bus stop here with a sheltered bench area that is perfect for making food. And since we were visiting during the shoulder season, the bus service was not yet in operation, so we had the covered bench all to ourselves. I should also mention that there is also a really nice beach area here just steps from the parking lot.
Midway through making breakfast, it started to downpour. Torrential downpour more like it. We were hesitant about hiking today and even contemplated just driving back to Boston. But, it seemed like a waste of a day. We made it all the way down here, we should at least make the most of it. Since we were in the area, we decided to hike another one of our favourite trails in Acadia: Acadia Mountain (2.9km roundtrip). Besides, we’ve hiked this mountain before in the rain, so we knew what to expect.
We prefer to hike this trail counter clockwise as it’s more fun to attempt the rock scramble going up versus coming down (but let’s be real, it’s fun both ways). We started along the Man o’War Truck Road, which follows along an old road. We then turned left once we reached the trail junction towards Acadia Mountain. This is where the trail becomes more interesting and the real fun begins: scrambling up and around large boulders to reach the summit.
The one advantage to the rain, besides keeping the bugs at bay, was that it blanketed the mountain in this misty fog. Sure, no views were to be had at the summit, but the fog sure looked pretty cool.
Once we returned back to the car we, along with our shoes, were sufficiently damp. The rain also started to pick up in intensity. We called it a day and drove back to Boston. The weather is always a gamble. But either way, we managed to get in some good hiking, including some new hikes in addition to repeating some of our favourites. We’ll be back.
L & K