Hikers love Acadia National Park, on the coast of Maine, for its lush forest, rocky coastline, and quiet jaunts into pristine wilderness. Hikes here range from easy, family-friendly journeys to steep, high climbs for more experienced hikers. Nearby vacation rentals offer fantastic bases for your hikes, where you can prepare for your journey and then come back to a hearty meal after your explorations. Discover the best day hikes in Acadia National Park and its beautiful outdoor area.
1. Otter Point/Ocean Path
This easy walk is great for kids to explore the coastline, so leave about two to three hours of time for a hike. Follow Otter Cliff Road down to Ocean Drive and turn left. There are two trailheads to find, and you can park at whichever one you want depending on the length you want to walk. If you start at Sand Beach, expect a 3-mile one-way trip. You can hop on the shuttle to get back to your parking lot. The trail follows the loop road for a while before reaching Otter Cliff, one of the most dramatic sights on the island. Pine trees sit upon scraggy brown cliffs, while perfectly rounded stones nestle against the shoreline for a picturesque scene. When the sun hits the cliff just right at sunrise, the lighting makes the cliff sing. On the way to the cliff, you and your kids get to see Thunder Hole and Monument Cove. The trail is mostly straight and hardly has any rise at all.
2. Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail
If walking to Otter Point represents the easiest hike in Acadia National Park, Cadillac Mountain is the opposite in terms of a strenuous walk. However, the views from the highest point on the island are stunning and well worth the trip. Hop on the trail about 100 feet south of Blackwoods Campground. If the parking lot is packed, which happens a lot during the summer, park elsewhere and take a free shuttle to the trailhead. From the trailhead, you walk through a meadow-like area and a forested path before beginning your ascent along an exposed granite ridgeline. You need to traverse one iron rung on your route. At the top, you can see everywhere, including surrounding islands, the Atlantic Ocean and some of the nearby lakes. Return the way you came for a hike of around 7.5 miles. Keep this hike handy for the afternoon, because you may want to rest, relax, and eat dinner at your vacation rental afterward.
3. Giant Slide Loop
This challenging trail covers 5.7 miles and takes you to the second-highest point in Acadia National Park. The trailhead starts on private property north of St. James Church and takes you by lush, moss-covered rocks and through an old carriage road. Get ready to traverse shallow water, granite slabs, and boulders as you make your way to the top. The steepest part is along the northwest face of Sargent Mountain right before you get to the peak. Instead of going back where you came, head to Gilmore Peak after crossing a ravine. From there, pick up the Parkman Mountain trail and head north on the return trip to the Giant Slide Trail. Make sure you’re in top shape for this hike because you ascend to nearly 1,400 feet above your starting point. Spend an entire afternoon on this hike.
4. Bald Peak and Parkman Mountain
The hike for Bald Peak and Parkman Mountain has a sunset option when it’s in season. The hike lasts for 2.7 miles, and it takes you to a couple of summits that top out above 900 feet. Find the trailhead just south of the Parkman Mountain parking area and just north of Upper Hadlock Pond. Cross over several carriage roads along wooded trails before finding a steep grade before summing Bald Peak and Parkman Mountain. The Bald Peak Trail is steeper than the one to Parkman Mountain, but the beautiful views make the hike one of the favorites among visitors to the park. See majestic views of Somes Sound to the south and Northeast Harbor to the north. Leave two to three hours for this hike.
5. Mr. Rockefeller’s Stone Bridges
This fun and easy hike is 1.5 miles, and it begins at the Parkman Mountain parking area and follows the old carriage roads. Take in a bit of history as you see some of the stone bridges in Acadia National Park, all built by John Rockefeller Jr. He felt city folk needed a great vacation spot to get away from the bustle of their lives, so he financed bridges along his favorite carriage routes. Each bridge, built between 1913 and 1940, allowed carriages to easily traverse ravines, gorges, and streams so people could explore the island. Follow this trail along tree-lined carriage routes to see some of the 16 beautiful structures throughout the park. At 1.5 miles, you and your kids could spend an hour or two on this hike. If you want to visit all 16 bridges, you can take a bike tour along the 45 miles of carriage roads in an entire day.
6. Great Meadow Loop
Bring your kids and leashed pooch with you on the Great Meadow Loop that covers 2 miles and easy terrain. Most of the hike happens on dirt roads or older roads, and there are a few gradual hills but nothing major in terms of climbing up or down. Start in Bar Harbor at the end of Ledgelawn Street where it meets Cromwell Harbor Road in the south part of the town. Head south from there along Great Meadow Drive before turning west near Park Loop Road. The scenic overlook gives you a view of the mountains of the park, while to the north sits Kebo Valley Golf Club. Two places along the trail are adjacent to historic cemeteries. At one point, you walk through the golf course towards the end of your hike. The trails are mostly lined with shade trees, so this is a great walk for the summer time with the kids. Two hours covers this hike along the northern edge of Acadia National Park, which is close to several vacation rentals.
7. Flying Mountain Loop
The Flying Mountain Loop trail is another great hike for kids that has some elevation to it. Park at the trailhead just off of Fernald Point Road and north of Southwest Harbor. Head east along a steep path that has views more than 200 feet above Somes Sound. From there, you descend gradually to a quiet, rocky cove where your kids can explore a bit of coastline next to the water. Along the way, you may have to walk over fallen logs, climb some gravel steps and walk over some exposed ledges. The return trip to the parking lot is an easy, grassy hike, but the first part of the trail is an excellent journey for experienced young hikers.
8. Jordan Cliffs Loop
Jordan Cliffs Loop is a 5-mile round trip in the heart of Acadia National Park. You get to see everything that makes the park special, including Jordan Pond, Jordan Ridge, and two summits. Begin at the Jordan Pond trailhead and go west to immediately ascend through the woods to reach the base of the cliffs. Then, grab some iron rungs, climb granite steps, and walk up some steep slopes to reach the ridgeline. Your vistas include views of prominent features in the park, such as Jordan Pond and the Bubbles, and the summits of Penobscot Mountain and Sargent Mountain. The descent follows the shores of Jordan Pond back to your starting point. Prepare to hike for several hours, in the morning or afternoon, for this great hike.
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