Backtrack: Recapping the August trip to Mount Desert Island, Maine.
During the many late-August adventures in the Land of Lobstah, we prioritized exploring the trails of Acadia National Park. Mount Desert Island easily topped the list of reasons I wanted to visit the state of Maine (though I now feel inclined to say the “lobstah” is a close second!), so, checks it:
Since the first night’s stay was in Southwest Harbor, the first hiking adventure began at Long Pond. You can park right the middle of two peaks, and choose which direction to go. Or, you can follow us and do both!
First up: South Ridge Trail –> Beech Mountain.
These climbs are pretty short (mileage), but save you the agony of switchbacks in favor of a more straightforward climb. There are plenty of overlooks for a quick, breathtaking-view, break. We didn’t skip those:
Truth: the “pond” is LONG. I get it.
Stops n’ all, it took about an hour to summit Beech and enjoy the view from the top. Then it was time to turn around, head down the other side & hop over to Bernard.
Trail #2: Long Pond Trail –> Bernard Summit.
Seen above: Long Pond Trail.
We took the long way around, enjoying a flat trail edging the water. The Long Pond trail is about 2.7 miles, two of which spoil you with this mostly-flat terrain and waterside view. Then, you climb!
This side included a lot more rock-scrambling and quad-testing. Once again, you’re spared the switchbacks but you have to gain that elevation somehow! Too close to the summit you will see a “Nubble” (fool me once…). Don’t stop just yet – you’re almost there, but not quite!
False hopes, little Nubble. Rude.
Just keep climbing another 100 ft – it’s worth it!
Mission double-summit: accomplished! With a little help from our Larabar friend.
These two summits are definitely doable in a one-day shot for hikers of all levels (just bring extra water and give your quads/hamstrings a little warning). Once you near the top of Bernard the rock-scrambling/climbing is steep and a little bit tricky, but no gear required. Extra bonus: the views of Long Pond and the Southwest Harbor provide a gorgeous green and blue backdrop to every corner.
Total hiking mileage for day 1: ~8.
NEXT UP: Penobscot Mountain!
We tackled this climb after running a local 5-miler in the morning (more on that later). I knew the goal was to see Jordan Pond; I did not know I was in for a 2.5+ hour adventure to include cairn-scouting, iron hand rungs and wooden stairs…
The Penobscot Mountain trail is the easier way up, and mixing some rock-stairs with more manageable elevation gains along the bare mountainside. It’s less paved-trail and more cairn-spotting (piles of rocks arranged conveniently to show you the way). Also, of course, keep your eyes peeled for the blue paint strips that indicate you’re still going in the right direction (affectionately referred to as ol’ Blue):
Do you spot piles of rocks? Follow the “trail”! Or, in this case, the JMT veterans.
We made it! We opted for some variety on the way down, not really knowing what the Jordan Cliffs trail would consist of. Let’s just say it’s a fun challenge, but not for the scared-of-heights faint of heart. In quite a few spots you are literally scaling the cliff, and more than once you know they put those iron rungs into the side of a mountain for a reason (i.e. use them wisely!).
This trail is listed as one of the seven “difficult” trails in Acadia:
The moment when you’re supposedly going “down”, but actually UP, and question why you opted to race first.
We made it up, around, and down Penobscot in about 2.5 hours (including picture-taking + snacking time at the top). The two route options offer great variety and unique challenges, with the added bonus of a restaurant (and public restrooms) waiting for you near the parking lot! Hungry hikers will be in luck.
Last, but not least: The BEEHIVE HIKE
Per Tanya’s recommendation, I knew this would be worth squeezing in on the last Acadia morning. We had about a 90 minutes to explore, so this short-but-tricky trail satisfied the order! You may not need a harness, rope or climbing shoes, but this is as close as it gets for the “beginners” (rock climbing). This is another trail classified as “difficult”.
It only takes ~30-45 minutes to summit, depending on your comfort/skill level, so you could easily tack this on to another adventure (Cadillac Mountain is nearby).
Taking the alternate way down lands you in the Bowl – easier and much more relaxing:
Along the Park Loop Road on the way out, you see plenty of places to stop (i.e. pull over and/or park the bike) and enjoy this view:
Added to the next MDI trip’s list: “real” rock climbing on the Otter Cliffs!
If you’re looking to hike in Acadia, all of these adventures come highly recommended by yours truly! My wanderlust was satisfied by an active vacation spot, new state, new national park and new-to-me hiking style.
(The top of Cadillac mountain also made it into the mix, but we didn’t actually “climb”. Instead we joined the masses in driving up nice n’ early to enjoy a sunrise from one of the first places in the USA to see the sun rise. Well worth the trip!)