Hiking in the Acadias – Day Hiker’s Paradise


“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Acadia National Park is filled with loads of snackable trails. It’s a day hiker’s paradise. No matter what you like, this park’s got it: mountain peaks, the ocean, woodland, freshwater springs, beaches, the list goes on forever. Maine was also the last “corner” state I needed to knock out on my quest to visit all 50 states, and it did not disappoint.

I got to Acadia too late to snag any of the coveted campground spots at Blackwoods or Seawall, so it shaped up to be a cheap motel kind of night for me. After I’d squared away a place to sleep, I made the most of my remaining hours of daylight.

Ocean Path
Starting with a quick stop at Sand Beach and Great Head, I made my way along the Ocean Path – a dazzling walkway along the Atlantic Ocean. The salty waves crash against rugged cliffs as you pass Old Soaker, Thunder Hole, and reach the Gorham Mountain Trailhead.

Ocean Path - Acadia National Park

Thunder Hole is a must-stop, especially if you have kids. This rock formation causes a natural chamber that, when the tides are right, creates a loud whump you can feel in your chest from the parking lot. There’s debate about the best time to go, but try for an hour or two before high tide.

Bee Hive, Gorham Mountain, and the Bowl
The trail to Gorham Mountain climbs up Cadillac Cliffs at a reasonable rate – you’re only ascending 500 or so feet. I took the lower path, and had some fun scrambling over boulders, rocks, and passing underneath mossy overhangs.

Past Gorham Mountain lies the Bowl, a quiet mountain lake. There were quite a few fish swimming in the shallows, but I was too eager to see them – when I leaned out to get a better look my sunglasses fell in! Luckily I was able to snag them and head for the Bee Hive.

Acadia National Park is known for its iron rung trails, some much more precarious than others. Where the trail gets too steep, or even vertical, you need to use iron bars drilled into the rock. The Bee Hive is a good intro. After the summit, the descent on the other side hangs you out over drops of a hundred or so feet. In reality, if you actually fell, you wouldn’t go that far, but when you’re hanging off a rock it sure doesn’t feel like it. I passed a couple with a dog, so it’s obviously doable.

The Beehive - Acadia National Park

I wrapped up my night on Cadillac Mountain, watching the sunset over Somes Sound and the Maine wilderness. If you plan on going, plan to deal with crowds, there were hundreds of people up there all with the same idea as I did.

On the plus side, you might overhear a dad joke. I heard one man tell his son, “Look! You can see the Maine-land from here.” He got a high five.

Sunset on Seargent Mountain

I hopped in my car, found my motel past Bar Harbor, and planned out my next day, where I intended to knock out some serious mileage.

Jordan Pond and South Bubble
I started the morning at Jordan Pond, a large lake nestled between Cadillac and Seargent Mountain. I parked at Jordan Pond House and trekked along the east edge of the lake. This portion of the hike would have been much more enjoyable, but it’s flat, easy nature meant tons of kids. Their wails and parents’ yells carried across the water easily, making it anything but tranquil.

At the north end, the trail heads up to South Bubble, a massive boulder sitting on a cliff’s edge. It looks like a small shove might send it into the abyss.

South Bubble - Acadia National Park

Seargent Mountain
Descending South Bubble back to Jordan Pond, I skipped over to the west side and grabbed the trail heading to the summit of Seargent Mountain. Along the way, fairly early, you come to an imposing arched bridge with a waterfall running underneath. It’s a great juxtaposition of historical architecture and nature. Past that, the trail steepens, with a couple challenging sections and slippery rock slopes.

Then the trail opens onto summit’s approach, with hardy plants growing among the hiker’s cairns mark the path. Four trails converge on the summit of Seargent Mountain, where you can see Somes Sound, Frenchman Bay, Cadillac Mountain, and the rest of the Acadias spread out around you.

Seargent Mountain - Acadia National Park

From here, many people probably head back via the trail to Penobscot, but I had more summits to hit!

Gilmore Peak, Bald Mountain, Parkman Mountain
I descended the south path and turned west toward Maple Spring and was on my way to Gilmore Mountain. Most of these trails are under the cover of the forest, and there’s lots of steep up and down as you get to the top of each of these three peaks. The view of Somes Sound was fantastic from all of them. If you’re looking for something shorter, all are probably better suited to day hikes from Highway 198.

Parkman Mountain - Acadia National Park

But coming from the Seargent side as I did, I got to do them all twice! There’s no real loop back, so I hiked to Bald Peak, turned around, and retraced my steps.

Seargent Pond and Penobscot Mountain
Once I returned to Seargent, I turned down the southern path towards Penobscot. Along the way I passed Seargent Pond, another tranquil mountain lake. (You see one, you see them all, right?) I love coming across these lakes in the wilderness – they’re mostly untouched by man, never by motorized boats, and are their own little self contained ecosystems.

Seargent Pond - Acadia National Park

The summit of Penobscot offers a lot of the same views that Seargent does, but has a much better look at Jordan Pond as it stretches out below you.

Jordan Pond House
I finished my hike at Jordan Pond House, where there’s a restaurant, gift shop, horseback riding, and tons of crowds. I wanted to grab a cup of tea, sit on the lawn and take in the surroundings. Unfortunately, it felt more like an overcrowded restaurant on Saturday night, and the host told me that if I wasn’t ordering food, I couldn’t get a table.

So instead, I made my way back to Bar Harbor, relaxed after a grueling, but satisfying day of hiking with a great meal and said goodbye to the Acadias.