Acadia National Park is spread out over three main regions: Mount Desert Island, Schoodic Peninsula, and Isle au Haut.
A beautiful island, six miles long and two miles wide, with a small year-round community. The national park covers more than half the island, or approximately 2,700 acres, and has 18 miles of trails. There are even more town trails outside the park. Lots to explore here on foot or bike. (Although biking is only allowed on the roads—most of which are unpaved on the island—and not the footpaths.) The ferry from Stonington takes approximately 45 minutes.
The national park on Schoodic Peninsula is a little sibling of sorts to Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island. While Schoodic is popular, it’s far less crowded than Mount Desert. It’s not quite as dramatic as the island, but still jaw droppingly beautiful. It has about 18 miles of walking and biking trails.
Mt. Desert Island
I have two pieces of advice for hiking in Acadia: it always pays to walk toward the sea when you’re hiking along the park’s long north-to-south ridge trails. And two, try to get to any trailhead before 9:30 during the high season (roughly June through October). That seems to be the magic cut-off between being able to find a spot and not!
It’s amazing how many beautiful trails are packed into this famous oceanside park. You can walk for days, and the views of lakes and hills—and of course the many intricate coves and inlet of the ocean—are always breathtaking (that is, except when you can’t see them through fog). The only downside is the popularity of the park and the huge crowds you’ll encounter everywhere if you visit in the summer. If possible, visit the park in the shoulder season—spring or fall. But wintertime is also wonderful, too, with miles of cross-country skill trails (on the carriage roads), and great hiking on quiet trails (as long as you have good micro-spikes to pass over treacherous ice sheets).
The trails in Acadia can also be very steep and dangerous (climbing rungs and ladders up cliff faces, for instance). If this is not your thing at all, pay close attention to the parks’ trail levels—easy, moderate, and advanced. Also, leashed dogs are allowed in the park, but not on the most challenging and dangerous trails. You can see a list of those trails here.
- Western Mountain— Comprising Bernard and Mansell Mountains, this offers a slightly less crowded hiking experience in the summer, and also slightly less spectacular views. That being said, the trails up Mansell Mountain (also also Western Ridge Trail?) still have great views, or “view windows,” in the parlance of hiking guides. Bernard Mountain’s summit is wooded. I also recommend taking the long route along Long Pond, then swinging up and over Mansell Mountain (xx miles).
- Beech Mountain — Beech Mountain rises up between Long Pond and Echo Lake, with fabulous views of both. There’s an old fire tower (you can’t ascend it) on the open summit. The best views, however, are from the Beech Cliff Loop. </li>
- Acadia, St. Sauveur,and Flying Mountain — You can do a number of great, short, impressive loops in this little mountain area. While St. Sauveur has no views from its summit, you’ll probably hike over it on a loop, which absolutely must incorporate Valley Peak Trail, with wonderful views.
- Wonderland Trail— An easy 1.5-mile flat hike along an old gravel road to a beach and quiet spots along Bennett Cove.
- Ship Harbor Trail — Close to Wonderland Trail, Ship Harbor Trail offers slightly more dramatic scenery than Wonderland and so is a bit more popular. It’s a flat and easy 1.5-mile trail.