Taking Park Loop Road, you’ll slowly weave your way up Cadillac Mountain through some absolutely gorgeous coastal scenery. There are numerous scenic view areas to stop along the way and take it in. If you visit in the summer months, you’ll likely see a surprising number of cyclists making the difficult climb.
Acadia National Park is located on beautiful Mount Desert Island off the northern coast of Maine near the quaint village of Bar Harbor. To get there, you’ll take scenic Maine Route-3 across the Mt. Desert Narrows and along the shores of Frenchman Bay.
As always, for those who like doing things the easy way, here are the GPS coordinates for accessing my 3 favorite attractions at the park:
Cadillac Mountain Trail Access: 44.352418, -68.224644 (Cadillac North Ridge Trail and Gorge Trail.
Gorham Mountain Trailhead: 44.316648, -68.191613
Bass Harbor Headlight: 44.222537, -68.337411
Both trails I’ve listed are very moderate and suitable for all hikers, including children. Bass harbor headlight can also be accessed rather easily, either by the walkway directly off of the parking area or the short, but beautifully scenic Bass Harbor Lighthouse Trail which takes you through a patch of forest and down onto the granite cliffs and crashing waves. The image above was captured from the trail vantage point using my Nikon D810 and 24-120mm Nikkor VR ED lens.
Note: The park itself encompasses an area of over 47,000 square-acres – so don’t expect to see it all in one day. Consider planning a few days to a week in the area so you can really experience it fully.
Park Website: www.nps.gov/acad
Park hours of operation: www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/hours
I grew up in this region, so I may be somewhat biased in my opinion of it, but coming back to it after many years, it truly struck me as even more fantastic than I had remembered.
At Bass harbor headlight, if you take the trail, you’ll find yourself standing on the seaweed and barnacle strewn shoreline of the Northeast Enclosure. You’ll hear the crash of the ocean waves, and see Bass Harbor Headlight standing proudly in the distance atop the rugged granite cliffs (see headline image).If you take Cadillac North Ridge Trail, you’ll quickly find yourself walking among the clouds at the highest point of Cadillac Mountain. The dwarf pines, vibrant granite, and gentle mossy hues make for a fantastic surrounding landscape.The salt air and and ocean breeze at Gorge Trail make an incredible backdrop to the view of the granite tipped mountain tops and emerald forests that dip into the deep blue of the island dotted ocean and fade into the distant sky. Standing here I felt such connection, and such inspiration. The experience is moving to say the least, and utterly impossible to explain or capture – you really have to be there.
Local Accommodation & Amenities
For an authentic experience that’s close to the park, I’d recommend staying in Elsworth or Bar Harbor. Convenient lodging for air travelers can also be found near the international airport in Bangor Maine, which is about an hour-and-a-half from the park entrance. If you don’t mind a two-hour commute, you might consider staying in Belfast, a truly stunning and authentic fishing village off the coast of Penobscot bay. There are a number of hotels there with balconies overlooking the Penobscot, and some of the best seafood you’ll find in the State.
Speaking of seafood, you’ll find some of the most delicious seafood available anywhere in this region. Many local fisherman also run family operated sea shanties which offer fresh-caught delicacies like lobster and shellfish that come right out of the pristine waters of the North Atlantic. You’ll also find locally run and operated bakeries and fresh churned ice cream venues that showcase a huge variety of locally produced cakes and pastries, and ice-cream flavors ranging from wild Maine blueberry to Butter-Lobster.
The History Behind the Park
Originally inhabited by Wabanaki natives, Acadia National Park, was first established as ‘Sieur de Monts National Monument‘ under president Woodrow Wilson on July 8th 1916. Over the years, the park has had many advocates and patrons ranging from Harvard Presidents like Charles W. Eliot to wealthy elite like John D. Rockefeller. The park officially received it’s current title, Acadia National Park on January 19th 1929, in honor of the former French colony of Acadia.
Is It Worth It?
Do bears do it in the woods!? Acadia is one of my absolute favorite places on earth. There are few places where you’ll find quaint coastal villages, freshwater lakes, oceans, and mountains, all coming together and all visible within a 360° panorama. From the natives who chose to make this place their home to presidents, Harvard intellectuals, and some of the most powerful individuals in US history, Acadia National Park has always drawn the attention and admiration of people from all walks of life…oh, and yes, bears do it in the woods.