Posts tagged ‘Cadillac Mountain’

June 29, 2013

Acadia National Park: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Google “U.S. national parks on islands” and, after five pages on the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Channel Islands in California, you’ll find a listing about Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine.

Shhhhhhh.  You may want to keep this discovery to yourself.  Mount Desert Island gets only one-third the visitors to Cape Cod, for example, and half of this spectacular island, which is almost exactly the size of Martha’s Vineyard, has been preserved as a national park.  Plus MDI (as it’s known) not only has sailboat-studded harbors, dramatic ocean-side cliffs, and lobster pounds, but also 24 mountain peaks.

If you’ve been thinking of visiting Maine, why not consider this island with a national park?  Here are some key facts to help you plan.

What are the most popular activities for visitors to Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park?

Acadia Mountain national parkStart with sightseeing.  Cadillac Mountain, the Park Loop Road, Jordan Pond, and Thunder Hole are among the favorites of national park visitors.  Active travelers love biking the car-free carriage roads, hiking Acadia’s network of 130 miles of trails, and kayaking on both the ocean and lakes.  Swimming in ponds and lakes, such as Echo Lake, is popular, too.  There’s a variety of boat cruises to explore nearby islands, learn what a lobsterman does, and touch creatures brought up from “the deep.” Nearby miniature golfing, water parks, and attractions such as the Great Maine Lumberjack Show are popular with families.

Get reviews for Acadia trips, guides and outfitters here.

When is Acadia National Park open?  What months?  What hours?

Bubbles Acadia National ParkFrom hiking in the summer to cross country skiing in the winter, you can enjoy Acadia National Park all year long.  Ranger-led programs are featured from June through October.  Certain roads within the park are restricted during winter months, as are visitors’ centers.

In addition to the summer months, popular with families, the fall is a great time to visit.  Over a quarter of a million people visit in October to enjoy the foliage.

Get details about Acadia operating times from the National Park Service.

How long does it take to see Acadia National Park?

Maine coastline Acadia National ParkYou can spend three days to three years (and beyond) exploring Acadia National Park.  You can get a sense of the park’s great mountains, spectacular sights, and scenic drives in a jam-packed three-day itinerary.  However, after this introduction, you can invest years exploring the hiking trails, bicycling, and generally enjoying the impact of the seasons on this amazing glacially created landscape.  Around it has grown a vibrant community of restaurants, micro-breweries, and local attractions that draw back vacationers year after year.

Get itineraries for three days, one week, and two weeks in Acadia.

How are the restaurants on Mount Desert Island?

Lobster dinner Bar HarborMaine is a state of fishermen and farmers.  So, in recent years when restaurateurs have become more committed to fresh, local ingredients, Mount Desert Island has emerged as a magnet for foodies.  From traditional lobster pounds to sophisticated restaurants featuring seasonal menus, it’s an active scene that caters to a wide range of tastes and pocketbooks.  Nationally recognized artisanal ice cream producers and chocolatiers have huge followings.  You may also catch a popular chef like James Lindquist, who was featured in the 2010 cookbook Fresh from Maine, popping into the Bar Harbor artisan olive oil purveyor Fiore to replenish Red Sky restaurant’s stock of blueberry olive oil.

Check out reviews of the best restaurants on Mount Desert here.

Where should we stay when we visit Acadia National Park?

Harbour Cottage Inn Southwest Harbor MaineThe interesting thing about Acadia is that Mount Desert Island was an island of prospering villages before it became a national park in 1919.  That adds to your vacation options because these different communities (Bar Harbor, Northwest Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Bass Harbor, Seal Harbor and more) are nestled among the park and offer different activities to complement the experiences of the national park – whether you’re looking for farmers’ markets, shopping, or local art fairs.

Places to stay are just as varied.  Acadia has two popular campgrounds, Blackwoods and Seawall, within the park itself.  In Blackwoods Campground Acadia National Park Maineaddition, the local communities offer a variety of accommodations — cottage rentals, inns, motels, and private campgrounds.

Since the island covers an area of 108 square miles and a fiord-like sound divides it in half, you should plan what you want to do and factor that into the best area to settle into as your home base.  It will cut down on your driving.

Read profiles of the towns and villages near Acadia National Park.

Does Acadia National Park allow dogs?

Hiking with dogs in Acadia National Park MaineYes!  Hiking trails, carriage roads, the Island Explore buses, and even some of the most popular restaurants welcome dogs.  There are even some walking trails that allow your dogs to run leash-free.  However, the park has restrictions and it takes some planning to find the trails best suited for a dog.

Learn about the best trails in Acadia for dogs, Bar Harbor veterinarians, and more..

Does Acadia National Park have special facilities and programs?

carriage drives acadia national park maineIf you’re visiting Acadia National Park, one resource you definitely want to know about is Hulls Cove Visitors Center.  On Route 3 outside of Bar Harbor, it’s a great place to stop for questions and materials.  There’s also a terrific 3D map of the park that is a fun way to plan what you want to see.

In addition, Acadia National Park offers a broad array of fascinating and professional ranger-led programs, as well as park-sponsored franchises, that include carriage drives, walks, talks, and boat cruises.  Curious about birds?  Photography? Geology?  Stars?  There’s something for everyone.

Read more about the Hulls Cove Visitors Center.

What are entrance fees for visiting Acadia National Park?

Hulls Cove Visitors Center Acadia National Park MaineFrom May through October, the park entrance fee for a private vehicle is $20; it’s valid for seven days.  But there are also annual passes, discounts for seniors, and free park admission for active military, as well as special free days for all national parks.

Check out these ways to save, as well as the fees for certain ranger-led programs, at the National Park Service Web site.

What are directions for getting to Acadia National Park?

Mount Desert Island is located on the mid-coast section of Maine – roughly 3-1/2 hours north of Portland, 6 hours from Boston, and 10 from New York.

You can fly from Boston’s Logan Airport directly to the Hancock County Airport, just 10 miles from Acadia.  Bangor International Airport, which is about an hour from Mount Desert Island, serves national flights.

If you drive, head north on I-95 to Bangor, then drive east on Route 1A to Ellsworth.  In Ellsworth take Route 3 to Mount Desert Island.

November 13, 2011

Hawk Watch on Cadillac Mountain — A Great Addition to Your Acadia National Park Itinerary

I went on a Hawk Watch during my October hiking trip to Acadia National Park.  Call me a nerd, but I think hawks are interesting.

  • Hawks see much farther than people do – and eight times more clearly.
  • This keen eyesight plus their hooked beaks and taloned feet make them effective predators.  But they also pirate food.
  • Female hawks are larger than males, sometimes twice so, and most pairs mate for life.
  • The most common hawk in North America is the red-tail, but not all of its 14 subspecies have the distinctive coloration.
  • Northern birds migrate south during the winter.

Which brings me back to the Hawk Watch.

Every year, from August to October, park rangers, volunteers, and visitors gather on the northern ridge of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park to count the migrating raptors.  The purpose of this data collection, to which Hawk Watches throughout the U.S. contribute, is to monitor the populations of hawks to ensure their preservation.

According to the National Park Service, there’s been a large increase in the numbers of bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and osprey compared to the 1970s. From the 1940s to 1970s, their populations were severely threatened by the pesticide DDT, which caused eggshells to thin and few young to survive. It was banned in 1972.

What do eagles and falcons have to do with hawks, you’re asking.  That’s another fact you should know:  “Hawk” is the general term for some 270 species of birds which are daytime predators.

Most of the migrating hawks we saw that day from Cadillac Mountain were sharp-shinned hawks.  “Sharpie west of Ironbound,” the Raptor Intern Delora would call out.  All binoculars would then search the sky for the speck.

Hawk Watch Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park

Veteran volunteers were savvy about identifying birds and all of the islands in Frenchman Bay.  They had great equipment.  They were also warmly dressed and had snacks.

For the rest of us Raptor Ranger Lora had plenty of information and a tray of brownies. Visitors came and went; kids participating in the Junior Ranger program interviewed Ranger Lora.

Junior Ranger Program Acadia National Park

You can learn more about what goes on at a Hawk Watch in Acadia National Park by reading the “Riding the Winds” journals, created each year by Acadia’s raptor interns.  This year Delora Hilleary, shown below with a raptor specimen, added stunning illustrations to her observations about the migrating raptors.

Raptor Intern Hawk Watch Acadia National Park

For more ideas on what to do when you visit Acadia National Park — including tips for the best lobster pounds and breakfast restaurants — visit OUR ACADIA.

October 31, 2011

Thinking of Hiking Cadillac or Champlain Mountains in Acadia? Go in the Fall.

Compare these two pictures of me on Cadillac Mountain’s South Ridge Trail this October and last.

Gauging the weather and what to pack is a key challenge for hiking in Acadia National Park in the fall, but the rest is bliss.

One reason is that during autumn the mountains on Mount Desert Island’s eastern side – in the areas of Bar Harbor, Ocean Drive, and Jordan Pond – are much less crowded.  We chose two of the most popular, Cadillac and Champlain, to hike this fall.

The West Face of Cadillac, according to Tom St. Germain, is the shortest, but most difficult, of the eight ways to hike to the top of Acadia’s tallest mountain.  During a mile of hiking, the elevation changes 1100 feet.  The granite face often seems to be at 45-degrees – not an angle of repose for a hiker.  We used crevices in the rock to be able to move across it. 

After rigorous stretches, we’d stop and look back over Bubble Pond. 

West Face Cadillac overlooking Bubble Pond

West Face Trail then intersects with South Ridge Trail to reach the top of Cadillac Mountain at 1532 feet.

For the descent we hiked down the South Ridge of Cadillac all the way to The Featherbed, a small glacial pond filled with rushes, the inspiration for its name. 

View of Featherbed from Cadillac Mountain

This 5.2-mile hike compensates you for all of its challenges by ending with a long stroll on a carriage road beside Bubble Pond.

Carriage road along Bubble Pond

For our hike to the top of Champlain Mountain, another popular peak, this year we chose an old trail that was new to us.  Beachcroft Path was built in 1915 as part of the Memorial Paths program created by George Dorr and was reinforced twenty years later by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression.  This history gave us a lot to think about as we climbed the stone stairs in switchbacks up the western face of Huguenot Head.

Beachcroft Path to Huguenot Head

 Beachcroft Trail has great views of the Tarn, as well as Otter Creek and the Atlantic beyond. 

The Tarn from Beachcroft Path

Huguenot Head then connects to Champlain Mountain, where you ascend first on more stairs, then across a sheer, steep west face marked by cairns.

West face of Champlain

The spectacular top of Champlain, overlooking Frenchman Bay at an elevation of 1058 feet, is the same reward hikers get when they climb the Precipice

Top of Champlain Mountain Acadia

With late afternoon sun spotlighting the Porcupines, we descended along the north ridge of Champlain on Bear Brook Trail. 

Porcupine Islands

The walk back along the road past Beaver Dam Pond was a bonus.

Beaver Dam Pond

To help you plan your itinerary for Acadia National Park, including the best restaurants in Bar Harbor and other nearby villages, visit OUR ACADIA.

July 3, 2011

5 Tips If You Want to Enjoy A Glorious Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Maine

Parking spaces are filling up.  People are walking purposefully, all in the same direction.  Some are carrying blankets and thermos bottles.  Is it a concert?  Theatre in the park?

No, it is sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, the first place to see sunrise in the United States.

At 1,532 feet, Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Maine is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard.  Many hiking trails converge on this mountaintop, as do bus tours.  But before dawn is a spectacular time to visit to witness the first sunrise.

Actually, Cadillac is struck by the sun’s rays before any place else only in the fall and winter.  During most of the spring and summer, that special recognition goes to Mars Hill to the northeast.  That, however, in no way diminishes the excitement of the populace who rise early on Mount Desert Island during summertime to see this spectacle of nature.

We had checked the time for sunrise on weather.com.  Fred was shocked that I actually got up at 4:30am, but I did and we jumped into the car.  The road seemed to circle endlessly as we ascended Cadillac, worried that we would miss “it.”  We moved with the crowds to the eastern side of the parking area and waited. 

As the firey orange mass rose, it brightened the purple clouds above and the dark masses of the Porcupine Islands in Frenchman Bay below.  In seconds it was morning.

If you decide to put sunrise at Cadillac on your vacation agenda, here are some tips:

  1. Check the time for sunrise and give yourself plenty of time to get up the mountain.  It takes about twenty minutes from the village of Bar Harbor.
  2. Dress warmly.  Even in August, pre-dawn is chilly and it can be windy on top of Cadillac.
  3. Bring a blanket or even chairs so that you can wait comfortably.
  4. Consider a thermos of coffee to ward off the chill.
  5. Check photography sites for tips on taking sunrise pictures.  An important tip: the color of a sunrise is far more short-lived than a sunset; the sky washes out in 30 to 45 seconds after the sun is up.

For more ideas on things to do when you visit Acadia National Park or Bar Harbor, Maine, visit OUR ACADIA.

November 22, 2010

Is Late-October Too Late for a Fall Foliage Trip to Acadia National Park in Maine?

Suddenly a business trip came up for the week after Columbus Day when I was planning to go to Maine.  Should I go later or forego the fall foliage in New England this year?  I couldn’t bear the latter.  But would there be huge trade-offs with the former?

They say Mount Desert Island rolls up the sidewalks after Columbus Day.  The lobster pounds are closed.  Stores have concluded their end-of-the-season sales and hunkered down.  Locals begin planning their winter trips to Florida.  And it’s highly likely that the scarlets have turned to russet.

But we went anyway. 

Yes, the weather was chilly.  Although I’ve enjoyed temperatures in the 70s in October in past years, this was not the case now.  We were happy we had our Under Armour and fleeces, and I wish I had had a knit cap for the top of Cadillac.

That was our best hike – in fact, Canon Brook Trail to Cadillac may be my favorite hike in all of Acadia.  It’s a 6.5-mile route that starts just a bit south of the Tarn on Route 3.   The initial stretch took us across a boarded footpath alongside a pool created by antiquated beaver dams.  Even though the terrain was flat along Kane Path, the going was slow because of the monumental beauty of each leaf along the path. 

The birches, beeches and maples provided glowing bowers of gold and orange for us. 

The initial waterfall we encountered, first by sound, then by sight was a big deal.  Little did we know what was ahead.

It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced.  After ascending a rough, steep staircase that criss-crossed over a brook, we entered an area of smooth rock over which the brook flowed.  No contemporary sculptor has created anything quite so breathtaking and we were in the center of it.  Because of the rains the prior week, the brook burst over the granite.  I kept thinking that’s why it’s called Canon Brook! 

 (However, later I read Acadia hiking guru Tom St. Germain’s note that the trail’s proper name is Canyon Brook in recognition of the resemblance of  the split upper south ridge of Cadillac to a canyon.  Over time, though, mapmakers lost the tilde in the word “cañón” and the brook acquired the new descriptor of Canon, which certainly fit my experience after October rains.)

We ascended to a glacial pond called the Featherbed, and then fought the stiff autumn breezes to the top of Cadillac.

We also did a cycling circuit that started and ended at Jordan Pond and the Bubbles. 

We biked to Conner’s Nubble, which is only 525-feet high, but has a stunning 360-view that is amazing considering it is one-third the height of Cadillac. 

I explored the mountaintop, as a photographer carefully positioning his tripod to capture the late-autumn beauty of Frenchman Bay, Eagle Lake, and key mountains east, south, and west. 

Strenuous hiking and biking should always have its rewards, and this year we took comfort in the cuisine of Mache Bistro in Bar Harbor.  Despite the fact that it was late in the season, almost every table and bar seat was full.  We celebrated the season with an autumn salad of greens, goat cheese, pecans, cranberries, and sweet potatoes.  Hanger steak with garlic mashed potatoes and a duck cassoulet were warming choices after our chilly outdoors activities.

In the end we were happy because we were able to focus not on what we had missed at autumn’s peak, but instead on the special qualities Acadia offered as it approached its quietest time of year.  I’m so glad I didn’t miss out.  Just looking up at the sky was glorious.

July 17, 2010

Why the Obamas Will Love Acadia National Park

The Obamas went to the top of Cadillac, but they didn't get up for sunrise

The Obamas are in Maine today enjoying a family vacation to Acadia National Park.  Here are four reasons why I think it’ll make them forget all about Martha’s Vineyard. 

Let’s give a hand to our national parks 

Craggy Maine coastline

Acadia has spectacular scenery.  The national park occupies about two-thirds of Mount Desert Island, the third largest island on the East Coast, about the same size as Martha’s Vineyard.  But with 24 mountain peaks, it’s where the sea and mountains meet – a key reason why travelers consistently name it one of the most beautiful islands in the world. 

Let’s move and get outdoors 

Atop Acadia Mountain

The First Lady’s campaign against childhood obesity is called LET’S MOVE.  To do just that, the park offers 120 miles of hiking trails and 57 miles of car-free carriage roads that wind among glacial lakes and around spruce-covered mountains.  The Obamas have  already biked to Witch Hole Pond, a secluded spot even on holiday weekends.  One of my favorite hikes is to the top of Acadia Mountain which can conclude with a dive from a granite promontory into Echo Lake.  Since the Obamas are accustomed to beaches in Hawaii, they may want to opt to swim there in Echo Lake instead of the chillier ocean waters of Sand Beach! 

Let’s see the science behind things

Park Ranger at Jordan Pond

The National Park Service rangers host daily walks, talks, amphitheatre programs, and cruises – most of which are free.  The President and First Lady would become as engaged as Malia and Sasha to learn about birds of prey, insects in a stream, and the stars over Sand Beach.   In addition to the National Park Service, educational programs are also sponsored by independent nature cruises, a natural history museum, whale museum, and oceanarium.

 Let’s see where food comes from 

Lobster and blueberries -- classic Maine fare

There are 60,000 acres of wild blueberries that grow naturally in Maine, so it’s no surprise that you can pick and eat them throughout Acadia National Park.  That, after all, was what happened in Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal.  Restaurants throughout the island also provide ample opportunity to sample not only what comes from the farm to the table, but also from the dock– including lobster, of course.  A harborside restaurant was on the Obama’s agenda yesterday after a boat tour of Frenchman Bay.

 Planning Your Own Trip

 OUR ACADIA is a great way to plan a trip, starting with the best time to visit.  You’ll find restaurant tips, recommendations for kayaking trips and family rock climbing guides, and even ideas for what to do if it rains. 

 If the First Lady reads the list of 22 great things to do with your kids in Acadia National Park, she’ll probably decide they need more than three days there.

March 15, 2010

Gearing up for Summer Hiking in Maine’s Acadia National Park

Nice weather on February 28th gave me the opportunity to hike a great 7.2-mile loops in Mount Tamalpais State Park in the San Francisco Bay Area and to hug a redwood on my birthday.

Of course, it also served to make waiting for this season’s summer hiking in Acadia even harder.  If you are as eager as I am, maybe shopping around for some new gear will serve as a pleasant and productive distraction.  Here are two recent acquisitions of mine that I really like.

Hiking Poles – only for Europeans and French Canadians, I thought, and a little nerdy, too.  However, when my daughter Luisa and I were planning our 4-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu last summer, the guide company highly recommended trekking poles. 

Leki Carbonlite AERGON

I got the Leki Carbonlite AERGON Antishock poles, great for through-hikers because of their shock-absorption, natural positioning for the wrists, and extreme light weight (only 14 ounces). 

Maybe the best feature is the secure telescoping system. You can make the poles longer going downhill (to take strain off your knees) and shorten them uphill …and not worry about them giving way!  That’s one reason they are worth the hefty price of $199.95 a pair.

Although I didn’t use my new hiking poles all the time last summer in Acadia, they were handy on Kurt Diederich’s Climb up Dorr’s east face which features hundreds of granite stairs.  I’ll most certainly use them next summer if I hike slippery stone terrain like that on Gorge Path Trail coming down from Cadillac or Dorr Mountains.

Lumbar Pack – For Christmas ’08 Luisa gave me Tour’s smaller lumbar pack for my day hiking.  (I had given her a big hint when I saw it at Cadillac Mountain Sports in Bar Harbor.) 

Mountainsmith Tour38XL Lumbar Pack

Well, I love it.  It’s big enough for lunch and two water bottles, plus has a convenient zippered front panel pouch and open pocket in the back for my map.  I particularly like the bright yellow interior lining since everything fades from sight against black, right?  Because it also has a removable strap, I sometimes use it as a shoulder bag, as was the case last week in San Francisco.

After you get some new gear, it’s time for some more serious planning for your trip to Acadia National Park.  You can start thinking about the best times to go, how many lobster pounds you can cover in one week, and which sea kayaking company to use for your next trip.  Let the fantasizing begin!

December 5, 2009

Photo Memories: Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, Sunset on Menemsha Beach

Winter in the city makes one long for summer skies.

At this point, you’re probably saying, “These pictures are nice, but doesn’t this woman know that Menemsha Beach isn’t in Maine?”  I’m not confused, just conflicted.  If you’d like to read more about what draws me to both Mount Desert Island (home to Cadillac Mountain) and Martha’s Vineyard (where you can visit Menemsha Beach), please click here.

September 21, 2009

Top Ten Things to Do When You Visit Acadia National Park in Maine

Cadillac SunriseKen Burns’ series “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” may have piqued your interest about Acadia, the easternmost park in the system.  It’s where the mountains meet the sea, and a desire to “do everything” co-exists happily with a sense of calm contemplation.  

Acadia National Park is about three hours north of Portland, in relatively easy proximity to the metropolitan areas along the eastern seaboard.  It occupies about two-thirds of Mount Desert Island, the most well-known town of which is Bar Harbor.  The village where I live was founded in 1761.  Acadia’s boundaries are intermingled with the communities of this New England island. This adds considerably to the charm that captivates park visitors. 

Here are some favorite things to do both in and around the park. 

  1. Watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain.   At some 1500 feet, it is the first place from which to witness dawn in the United States, and it is breathtaking.  Make sure you wear a warm fleece even if it’s August.
  2. Drive the Park Loop Road.  You can get your best overview of Acadia by driving these 27 miles of unsurpassed beauty, created in part through the masterful collaboration of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.  There are many lookouts so have your camera ready for this drive.
  3. Eat lobster.  Whether you want a lobster roll, lobster stew, or a two-pounder steamed, you can find a wide range of topnotch restaurants, harbor-side lobster pounds, and quaint cafes to serve you.  Our favorite is Thurston’s in Bass Harbor.
  4. Go biking.  Thanks to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Acadia offers 57 miles of car-free carriage roads for cycling.  There is plenty of parking at Hull’s Cove Visitor Center.  Or, if you prefer, you can take a horse-drawn carriage drive from Wildwood Stables and see the park the way Mr. Rockefeller intended.
  5. Stroll, hike, or climb.  The park boasts 130 miles of well-maintained hiking trails that appeal to all levels of fitness.  The most exciting trails, such as the Precipice and Jordan Cliffs, feature rungs and ladders.  A beautiful moderately challenging hike is Acadia Mountain, overlooking Somes Sound, the only fiord in North America.  If you’re looking for easier strolls, consider Asticou Trail and Wonderland – they’re lovely.
  6. Have lemonade at Jordan Pond House.  Select a biking or hiking route that stems from behind Jordan Pond House so that you can conclude your afternoon with lemonade and popovers on the lawn looking towards the Bubbles, a sight that has mesmerized visitors at teatime since 1896.  It’s a favorite destination for everyone, but worth the wait.
  7. Visit Sand BeachThis sandy crescent has cliffs at each side and the Beehive Trail behind it.  The views won’t disappoint, even if the chilly water does.  Another option for a swim is the beach at Echo Lake on the island’s “Quietside.”
  8. Touch nature – literally.  There are several enterprises, including Mount Desert Biological Laboratories, The Dive-In Theatre, and the Mount Desert Oceanarium, that feature touch tanks full of lobsters, crabs, and sea cucumbers. I always end up liking this stuff just as much as the kids do.
  9. Learn from a park ranger.  The National Park Service offers very entertaining talks and walks on subjects ranging tidal pools to birds of prey to the stars over Sand Beach.  Scan The Beaver Log to figure out how you can fit in more than one.
  10. Get out on the water.  This great national park is on an island so you must see it from the vantage point of the sea.  Whether you’re powering yourself in a sea kayak or the wind is propelling you forward on a Downeast Friendship Sloop or the Margaret Todd, being on the water is a special part of a trip to Acadia National Park. 

Evenings will keep you on the run as well as you explore Mount Desert Island’s restaurant scene.  Many specialize in seafood and locally grown produce, but you’ll also find French bistro, authentic Mexican, tapas, and Cuban cuisine.  And what if it rains?  There are local breweries, bookstores, antique shops, movies, repertory companies, museums, and fashion purveyors that are sure to keep you entertained.  In fact, after a few days of hiking, biking, and kayaking, you might hope for a slight drizzle and an afternoon in the rocking chair of a local Maine library. 

For specific recommendations and contact information for guides, tours, restaurants, and inns, visit OUR ACADIA.  You can find special tips for when to visit, what to do on a rainy day, and how to pack.  It also features tips for fall trips and sample itineraries.

June 3, 2008

When’s a good time to visit Acadia National Park?

 

Springtime Rhodora on Bernard MountainAs many people visit Acadia National Park in September and October as in May and June, according to National Park data.  I’ve biked and kayaked in the park in the fall.  I hosted a memorable Thanksgiving in Mount Desert in 2006.  I’ve even dipped into Somes Sound for seawater for boiling lobsters during a visit in January. 

 

Want the pro’s and con’s month by month?  Click here.

 

But now let me tell you the wondrous reason to visit Acadia National Park in May: it lets you turn back the clock.

 

Being here in Maine always lets you turn back the clock.  The pace is more “normal.”  People seem less willing to sell their souls for the almighty buck, as my dad would say.  They even close the stores at 5pm on Sundays during a holiday weekend.

 

But the real reason for anyone from New York or Boston or Philadelphia to visit Acadia National Park in May is that you get to experience the early spring we luxuriated in four or five weeks ago…again.  The lilac.  The apple blossoms.  Maybe even a glimpse of forsythia.  Leaves are still in that about-to-spring moment.  The mountains are deep spruce mixed with that giddy lime-yellow green that only means spring.  And there are flowers, like the rhodora, we never saw during New York City’s spring.  Come to Acadia National Park in May and enjoy spring twice in the same year.

 

You’ll find many areas of the park blissfully quiet if you stay the week after Memorial Day.  Organize your hikes to avoid the crowds.  We made the mistake of doing Gorham Mountain on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and were punished with having to listen to the conversations of other hikers.  So, on Monday we took off to the “quiet side” of the island and hiked the Western Ledge Trail up Bernard Mountain and found a heavenly waterfall and pool when we came down Sluiceway. (We heard something louder and steadier than the wind in the trees off to the east.  We went off trail and made this delightful discovery.)  When visitors returned to work on Tuesday, we hiked the Gorge Trail up to Dorr, crossed east to Cadillac, and came down the Cadillac North Ridge Trail to where we had left our bikes, which we then rode back to the car parked at the Gorge trailhead.  We saw a porcupine at the top of Cadillac, which never would have been “out” in July or August.  We’d never climb Cadillac then either.

 

I remember businesses in the Hamptons being pretty ramped up for Memorial Day.  Not so in Acadia National Park.  “Pre-season” here means that most of the antique shops in Bernard were closed the short week after Labor Day.  Only two restaurants in Southwest Harbor were open on Monday night. Twice during the week restaurants we were eager to go to were closed for private parties.  So, if you want to come in May or June to take advantage of Acadia’s quiet time, I recommend renting a house so that you can cook at home a couple of nights and then plan your nights-out closer to the weekend, when they are more likely to be open.  And the best news is:  Thurston’s Lobster Pound is open!

 

Want to avoid the crowds on a big holiday weekend in Acadia National Park?  Here are 7 tips to help ensure your serenity.

 

Thinking about a particular month for a visit to Acadia?  Click here for an assessment, including temperature ranges and tips from locals.

 

 

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