The Road Less Traveled: Acadia’s Hidden Wonders

Acadia and Mount Rainier are among the most visited National Parks in the United States. Both are close to major metropolitan areas, but also provide 2 very different ecological settings: volcanic mountain versus seacoast fjords, both with temperate forests. Most tourists, however, spend too little time touching only the highlights. Here I’ll emphasize some of less frequented, but rewarding walks and drives on Mount Desert Island.

For a look back at the original residents of Maine, visit the Abbe Museum which highlights the people known collectively as the Wabanaki. 2 museums have extensive displays, and the Sieur du Mont Spring Museum has an adjacent nature trail.

Besides the obvious Ocean Drive loop, there are many short hikes worth investigating. Sports stores in Bar Harbor have hiking guides or check with the National Park’s Visitor centers. Even on heavily used areas like Cadillac Mountain there are overlooked gems — for example, there’s the Gorge Path on the back side of Cadillac that’s a moderate hike [about 500′ in a mile or so] snaking down a narrow path that’s great for macro photography – lichens, mosses, etc. and in season, mushrooms.

When you do hike or drive to the viewpoint on top of Cadillac, you’ll join the hordes admiring distant views. But spend a little more time on the short nature trail to find the most amazing patterns on the exposed pink granite and its many-colored lichens.

Shift happens & conditions and rules continue to change. Historic Carriage Roads can be open to pedestrians only at times to protect them during spring thaw. Go later for pleasant traffic free biking trails.

Some other of our favorite hikes (some content from the National Park website)

Pemetic Mountain,

Dorr Mountain

Beech Mountain Trail provides hikers with views of Long Pond and Mansell Mountain on the way up and access to one of the few remaining fire towers in the area. This hike is also a good sunset option, but carry appropriate gear and headlamps when hiking at dusk and dark.

  • Distance: 1.2 miles round trip
    Terrain: Forested path, rocky trails, granite stairs and slopes, wooden steps

Even in busy Bar Harbor, leave the t-shirt shops behind and you can escape by going to the waterline near the end of Cottage Road of the town and walk south along the pebbled shoreline paralleling Schooner Head Road.

Before attempting any hikes, check for possible closures. In particular several park trails may be closed for peregrine falcon nesting season including Jordan Cliffs Trail, Precipice Trail, and Valley Cove Trail (usually from March to August). The National Park service has important tips for all hikes in the area:

Trail Safety Tips

  • Check trail elevation profile or topographic map before hiking.
  • Bring a map, water, snacks, compass, and extra layers for unpredictable changes in weather.
  • Reduce the chance of picking up ticks by staying in the center of the trail, and not stepping on soils and away from brush.
  • Always do a tick check after visiting the park.
  • Closed-toe, good traction shoes recommended because most trail surfaces are very unlevel.
  • Cell service is unreliable or unavailable in many areas of the park. Do not rely on your phone for directions.

    (We’ve been lucky in never picking up ticks)

    Beyond Seawall
    Seawall is a popular stop for tide pooling; but slightly farther out are 2 short hikes to Ship Harbor and Wonderland that are a bit less congested. We’ve seen crafty seagulls here who grab mussels or clams then hover at about 100′ and drop them on the granite ledges, saving themselves the work of cracking them open.
    Later when you visit Northeast Harbor take time to visit the Thuya Gardens, either by drive or a short hike.

    Fishing Villages
    Acadia is unique among our National Parks in that it was plunked down amid a network of small villages, some of which were settled in the 18th century. Towns like (over-touristy) Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor and Northeast Harbor thus offer convenient lodging that’s basically within the park. However, most PFA [people from away] never get over to the back side of the Island — McKinley & Bernard are still picturesque yet actual working fishing villages, with a large lobster fleet, and you can visit the Bass Harbor lighthouse nearby.
    If you have more time, Schoodic Point is a beautiful drive and walk – wide granite ledges, looking across to Acadia. It’s a couple of miles down east [Maine-speak for north] along the coast, a separate part of Acadia ____

    More <a href=>Maine Images</a>

    <p> <a href=>Lobsters</a>


    Some favorite books about Maine:

    ROBERTS, Kenneth

    • Arundel: A Chronicle of the Province of Maine and of the Secret Expedition Against Quebec – Recreates the epic march northward through the Maine wilderness toward the walls of Quebec.
    • Lively Lady – chronicle of certain men of Arundel in Maine, of privateering during the War of Impressments (also know as the War of 1812), and of the Circular Prison on Dartmoor.
    • Boon Island –  A novel based on the facts of an actual shipwreck (of the Nottingham Galley) on this Maine island in 1710 and the fight for survival by the ship’s crew.

    RUSSO, Richard

    • Empire Falls (2001): Miles Roby, a gentle, funny loser, runs the Empire Grill and hopes one day to own it. Meantime, though, his wife has run off with his worst customer, he’s anxious about his adored teenage daughter and his one-handed brother, and his incorrigible father sponges off everyone. Empire Falls is a tarnished Maine town whose glory has faded with the loss of its textile and logging industries.

    Bernard Cornwell’s The Fort: Revolutionary War Expedition (

    Beans of Egypt Maine


  • By Cascoly

    I've been exploring and leading trips for over 40 years. climbing & trekkng in the Alps, Andes, North American mountain ranges and the Himalaya. I'm retired from mountaineering now but world travels in Europe, Africa & Asia continue to expand my portfolio. Besides private travel, I now focus on escorting trips to India & Turkey. Other interests include wide reading in history and vegetable gardening / cooking. You can download digital images here, or find images at We have many thousands of images we haven't displayed yet; so, if you have a special need or request please contact us