It’s hard to sit and put into words what we experienced at Acadia National Park last weekend. It was cold. Very cold. Like 45-and-windy-when-you’re-trying-to-hike-cold. But even so, the beauty at this Maine gem stares you in the face, through the cold and through the wind.
So far on our year-long trip, we have been careful not to get into the habit of saying “we’ll be back” about the parks. Our goal is to experience them in a comprehensive way that leaves us fully satisfied, and not itching to come back right away. There are so many places we have yet to explore, after all! But even so, we know we will fall in love with parks so deeply that a return visit will be inevitable. And Acadia has made us feel that way, one-hundred percent.
Maybe it’s the fact that there are mountains and an ocean and giant rocks and lakes and woods. Maybe we visited during the exact right week, when the trees are glowing yellow and orange and red. Maybe it’s something we have quite put our finger on yet.
Whatever it is, we heart Acadia National Park.
Instead of rambling on and on about this fact, we thought we’d share a few interesting facts about Acadia: both the park in general and our specific experience there. Our hope is that after reading this, none of you will want to visit and we can have it all to ourselves forever.
The Superlatives of Acadia National Park
- Going all the way back through its history, you quickly learn that Acadia is the oldest National Park east of the Mississippi River. It was established as a National Monument in August 1916, and later designated as a National Park in 1919. To earn federal protection and save it from inevitable commercialism, eastern elites, including JD Rockefeller, began purchasing sections of the land. They then handed over to the government their prized possession, the only National Park comprised of donated land.
- The protected land in question comes with its own set of superlatives. Acadia houses the only fjord in existence along the Atlantic coast of the United States. Probably unofficially credited for collecting the most “oohs and aahs,” Cadillac Mountain, rising to 1,530 feet, is the Atlantic Coast’s highest point. Atop this mountain, the first glimpses of sunlight in the whole United States can be seen (from about October through March).
- Finally, in the middle of the park, there is Jordan Pond. On a clear day, the water is bright blue and a beautiful sight. Signs claim the pond is the clearest lake in Maine, but some sources said it has lost some clarity lately. Regardless, the 3-mile loop trail that borders the lake was a perfect way to spend a couple hours.
Shortly after we arrived at Acadia, we began to form our own subjective superlatives. After spending four days hiking and touring the island, here are our personal Acadia superlatives:
- Best vista: Precipice Trail. This ___-mile loop trail was challenging physically and mentally. The trail climbs quickly and suddenly you are scrambling up the side of a rocky mountain via an iron-rung ladder system. The terrain is tough, but the views–fall foliage-dotted mountains bleeding into blue ocean waters–will invite plenty of photo breaks on the way up. At the summit, break for some quiet reflection, then continue down the gentler trail to the road.
- Most serene moment: Wonderland Point. If you have time, venture over to the “quiet side” of Acadia. Here there are less-frequented hikes and more moments of serenity. Particularly, the 2-mile Wonderland Trail offered many spots to sit among the tide pools, watching the waves, and peeking at the sealife at low tide. We took some extra time to sit and relax (relax? What is that?) here.
- Coolest-sounding activity: Bar Island. If you want some low-effort bragging rights, walk over to Bar Island, located off the city of Bar Harbor. Rarely can someone brag about walking to an island, but here, during about 4 hours around low tide, it is more than possible. Although it wasn’t quite as cool as it sounded, we can still say we walked to an island. Once at the island, a one-mile trail leads to a view of Bar Harbor.
- Best rainy-day value: Reel Pizza. Although not technically in the National Park, you gotta eat, right? And it gets dark. We love when parks have night activities so we don’t have to go to bed at like 7. This small two-show movie theater in Bar Harbor was the perfect activity for one chilly, rainy night. At $6 a pop, the tickets were cheap, and the food was also dirt cheap compared to most movie theaters. The seats had counters, so you can eat (pizza, drinks, popcorn, fruit cups, other snacks) while you watch. It seemed like they showed one mainstream movie and one indie movie. We opted for The Martian, which we loved. Perfect way to spend the evening.
- Best stroll: Jordan Pond. As mentioned above, Jordan Pond is beautiful! We added the spur trek to The Bubbles onto the 3.1-mile lake loop trail and it was the perfect way to earn our popovers at Jordan Pond House (most overrated treat, btw.) Part of the trail is a constructed boardwalk that protects the wildlife a bit, and overall the loop trail was easy-peasy.
- Most surprising moment: full campground. By the time we hit this park, it was in an off-peak season. Several campgrounds were closed, but Blackwoods was still open. We were shocked when we arrived and asked for four nights that they were almost at capacity. Turns out, they close most of this campground in the fall as well. Thankfully, the spots are reservable online, so well-prepared visitors will be okay.
- Biggest whomp-whomp: Thunder Hole. We tried visiting Thunder Hole, a site where the incoming tide flows into a cave and creates a huge thundering splash, twice with no luck. Maybe we just got unlucky, or the water was too calm, or the photographer just got really lucky? Regardless, it was a bit of a letdown.
Good and not-as-good, these were our “-est” moments at Acadia National Park. It is a park we will be absolutely be visiting again (and again and again). We’d love to see the park in the summer or early fall, when many programs are available and more facilities are still open.
See you soon, Acadia!