Acadia National Park is located approximately six hours north of Boston. From Boston take I-95 north to Augusta, Maine; from Augusta take Route 3 east to Ellsworth and on to Mount Desert Island or take I-95 north to Bangor, Maine; from Bangor take Route 1A east to Ellsworth; from Ellsworth take Route 3 to Mount Desert Island.
Acadia National Park, where the mountains meet the sea, is the second-most visited National Park in the United States. It encompasses over 47,000 acres of granite-domed mountains, woodlands, lakes, ponds and miles of ocean shoreline. Steep slopes rise above the rocky shore and dramatic tides crash against rugged, towering cliffs, sending ocean-spray geysers high into the air. Most of the Park lies on Mount Desert Island and the remainder on the Schoodic Peninsula and Isle au Haut. The sea encircles Mount Desert Island, thrusts inland, and often generates sea smoke and fog. It's bright blue surface is studded with lobster buoys.
Acadia National Park is the ideal bicycling destination. In addition to 120 miles of hiking trails and a scenic 27-mile Park Loop Road shared by automobiles and cyclists, bicyclists of all ages and abilities will enjoy exploring Acadia via the forty-five mile network of well-maintained, multi-use Carriage Roads. Free of motor vehicles, the trails weave around the mountains and through the valleys and woods of the National Park. You can create any number of loop rides of varying lengths and difficulty according to your abilities. The Carriage Roads are well-marked. Cedar sign posts at trail intersections clearly point out the route. Numbers, attached to the sign posts, match the Park Map to help Carriage Road Trail users easily find their way.
The park also offers scientific, educational, and recreational activities unparalleled along the east coast. At Acadia, the Northern and Temperate Zones meet and overlap, resulting in an abundance of wildlife. Why not complement your bike trip with whale watching, hiking, kayaking or lobster boat excursions. A variety of ranger-led programs, including bird walks, boat cruises, evening slide programs and guided hikes are available from late May to mid-October. On a boat trip to Baker Island, you might see seals basking on the rocky islands. A guided nature walk reveals tidepools awash with crabs, green sea urchins, northern star fish, shells, pebbles and sea plants. Birdwatchers can enjoy spotting some of the 273 plus species of birds that have been identified on Mount Desert Island and in the adjacent waters.
Acadia's Carriage Roads were conceived by John D Rockefeller, Jr. They are in our opinion, the eighth wonder of the world. The crushed stone surfaces, of a type commonly used at the turn of the century, were constructed with methods requiring hand labor. Approximately sixteen feet wide, they are great for bicycling (mountain bikes are recommended), horseback riding and hiking. Cross-country skiing and limited snowmobile use are permitted in winter, providing conditions are right.
The Carriage Trails were designed to follow the contours of the land and to take advantage of scenic views. They wind around the interior of Acadia National Park, encircle Jordan Pond and Eagle Lake and loop around the flanks of Sargent and Penobscot Mountains. They offer stunning views of Somes Sound and Frenchman Bay, and lead you along beaver-dammed brooks. They were graded so they were not too steep or too sharply curved for horse drawn carriages, a popular mode of recreational travel in the early twentieth century.
Among the most interesting features of the carriage roads are the 16 elegant and graceful stone bridges. Each unique in design, span streams, waterfalls, roads, and cliffsides. Two gate lodges, one at Jordan Pond and the other near Northeast Harbor, serve as whimsical welcomes to the trail system.
There are no services, other than the Jordan Pond House, on the Carriage Road Trails, so bring plenty of water and snacks. Pack along a lunch. The flat rock ledges around the edges of the lakes and ponds make exceptionally scenic lunch spots.
The Acadia National Park Carriage Roads can be accessed at the following entrances:
Eagle Lake: This is one of the most popular starting points. The parking area, located east of Bar Harbor on the north side of Rt. 233 often overflows during peak season in July and August. Start your ride early, if possible. Eagle Lake, at 425 acres, is the largest fresh water lake in Acadia National Park. From the lot, there is easy access to the carriage roads that lead toward half Moon Pond, the Breakneck Ponds and Witch Hole Pond. You can also ride the carriage roads around Eagle Lake for a challenging 6.1 mile loop ride that includes a few steep ascents and descents. Expect some rough patches. There are incredible views overlooking the lake.
Paradise Hill: Enter at the northwest end of the Hills Cove Visitor Center parking lot. The 0.5 mile trail that connects to the Paradise Hill carriage road is narrow, step and surfaced with loose gravel. Slippery. Consider walking your bike up and down.
Upper Haddock Pond: The parking area is located just north of the Brown Mountain Gatehouse on the eastern side of Rt. 198.
Lower Haddock Pond: The parking area is located on the eastern side of Rt. 198 south of Upper Haddock. We like to park here as we usually find it quiet and uncrowded. It provides access to most of the major carriage trails, however the access requires some long climbs.
Parkman Mountain: Parking is 2.3 miles south from the intersection of Rt. 198 and Rt. 233 on the eastern side of 198.
Jordan Pond: Jordan Pond parking area (not the restaurant parking lot). The carriage road crosses the Park Loop Road south of the Jordan Pond Gatehouse. Do not park in front of the gates on the carriage road. Jordan Pond is a hub for several major carriage roads and hiking trails as well as the Jordan Pond House Restaurant. The carriage road follows along Jordan Pond's western edge. There are several rocky sections.
Make reservations at the restaurant in advance (at least the day before your ride), and plan your bike tour of the carriage trails so you end up there just in time for a traditional cup of tea and crumpets on the lawn.
Bubble Pond: Parking is on the Park Loop Road. The carriage trail that travels along the west side of Bubble Pond is easily accessed from the parking area. Nestled between North and South Bubble mountains, just northeast of Jordan Pond is an easy ride with lots of places to stop and admire the views of the "bubble like" mountains.
Bicycling is not permitted on hiking trails. Private carriage roads are posted and closed to bicycles.
During the Spring thaw, the carriage roads become soft. Walking or bicycling on them under these conditions can cause significant damage that is costly to repair. If you find a road or trail posted, please respect the request to wait for drier conditions. If you come upon a road that is not posted but you are sinking in and leaving tracks, turn back and don’t go on it.
The weather can change on a dime here along the Maine Coast. Summer temperatures vary from 45 F to 85 F, spring and fall temperatures from 30 F to 70 F. You may encounter rain and fog at any time. Blackflies are most common during late May and early June. Be prepared and bring water, snacks for energy and appropriate clothing that you can throw on if it rains or gets chilly.
For biking on quieter, less travelled roads, take the ferry to Isle au Haut. The small, 10 square mile island of Isle au Haut lies about seven miles off the Maine coast in Penobscot Bay. About one-half of the island (southern part) is part of Acadia National Park, the other half is privately owned.
This 27 mile paved, auto touring route traverses Acadia National Park along the rugged, rocky Maine Coast offering dramatic ocean views. A sixteen mile section of the Park Loop Road is a two-lane one-way road. The route winds past the most popular Park attractions including Thunder Hole, Sand Beach and Otter Cliffs. Bicyclists should exercise caution, especially during peak season when the park roads and auto-touring route are busy with vehicles stopping frequently at scenic overlooks and attractions. It's a challenging climb up the 3.2 mile steep (8% grade) narrow, winding spur road up Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain along the eastern coast of the United States. During certain times of the year, it is the first place in the U.S. to see sunrise. It would be irresponsible of us not to urge caution on the swift descent down. There are several hairpin curves with edge drop-offs. Cars coming around the turns may not see you, or you them. For a quieter road bicycling experience, come during the off-season.
There are two campgrounds in the park. Camping is available year round at the Blackwoods Campground and reservations are required from May 1 through October 31. The rest of the year is first-come, first-served. Make reservations for Blackwoods way in advance if you plan to come during the height of the summer season. The Seawall Campground operates on a first come first serve basis only. It fills up early.
While in Acadia, tour the 27 mile Park Loop Road to visit many of the fascinating sites located within the park, including Sand Beach and Thunder Hole, a tidal cavern that allows trapped water to create booming "thunder" water spouts that shoot up to 40 feet in the air. The "secret" is to visit Thunder Hole at half high tide and watch as the water rushes in. (Stop at the Visitors Center for tide timetables).
Acadia National Park has two beaches staffed with lifeguards from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day. Sand Beach is not accessible from the carriage road system, but is located off the paved Park Loop Road and offers ocean swimming. A swim here will really cool you off after a long hot bike ride. The water temperature rarely exceeds 55 degrees! Echo Lake Beach, on the west side of the island, offers a somewhat warmer swimming experience. It is the most popular freshwater swimming spot at Acadia. The beach is located on the southern shore of this beautiful 66 ft. deep lake. The carriage road system does not exist on the west side of the island , however there are several dirt roads to explore by mountain bike.
Try taking a horse-and carriage ride through Acadia to the Jordan Pond House for tea and popovers, an afternoon tradition dating back to the late 1800's when teahouses were established to cater to the growing number of sophisticated summer visitors. It is located in a spectacular park setting overlooking Jordan Pond with North and South Bubble Mountains as a backdrop in the distance. Make reservations in advance. There are long waits during the busy summer season.
Visit the summit of Cadillac Mountain (accessible by car) and be the first in the United States to see the sunrise. At 1,532 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard. At certian times of the year, the sun touches the slopes of Cadillac Mountain before any other place in the United States.
The Island Explorer Shuttle Bus features eight bus routes linking hotels, inns, and campgrounds with destinations in Acadia National Park and neighboring village centers. Clean propane-powered vehicles offer Mount Desert Island visitors and residents free transportation to hiking trails, carriage roads, island beaches, and in-town shops.
To get a taste of the different flavors of life in Downeast/Acadia, visit the nearby villages. Northeast Harbor shelters large and small sailboats and an upscale "summer colony". Well known Bar Harbor caters to tourists. You will find bustling main streets teeming with shops, restaurants, clam chowder houses, inns and attractions. Bass Harbor and Southwest Harbor and Winter Harbor at Schoodic, retain the traditional flavor of Maine coastal villages. Those who earn livings from the sea - whether lobstering, fishing, building boats or guarding the coast - tie up here. And lobster pounds and boatyards have not yet been replaced by summer homes and hotels.
The U.S. Coastguard maintains 4 lighthouses in this area: Egg Rock, Bass Harbor, Baker Island and Great Duck Island. The Bass Harbor Lighthouse is exceptionally scenic and the most photographed. It was built in 1858, stands 56 feet above mean high water and is accessible by car on Acadia National Park land.
Acadia's Carriage Roads
Rockefeller, a skilled horseman, desired to travel on motor free byways via horse and carriage into the heart of Mount Desert Island. His vison and construction efforts, from 1913 - 1940, resulted in roads with sweeping vistas and close up views of the natural landscape. His love of road building ensured the state of the art recreational carriage road system we all enjoy today.
For more information:
Acadia National Park
Phone: (207) 288-333 (Visitor information)