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6 Must-Do Adventures in Acadia National Park

Explore the beauty of the Northeast Coast, from its rocky ocean shores to its highest granite peaks.

By: Sarah Giek + Save to a List

Acadia National Park, the only national park in the Northeast, may be small in size but it’s big on adventures. From its granite peaks to rocky shores and all of the historic carriages roads in between, there is something for everyone to love. As you plan your trip to the first national park east of the Mississippi, be sure to include these six must-do adventures:

1. Watch the Sunrise

Perhaps the most common adventure in Acadia is to watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic Coast. The paved road to the summit makes for easy access, though there are also trails that lead to the top as well. You, along with dozens of other visitors, will be one of the first people in the U.S. to see the sunrise from this viewpoint. But if you prefer a more secluded experience, the sunrise is equally beautiful from any point along the eastern shore of the park. Please note this now requires vehicle reservations

2. Hike the Beehive Trail

The Beehive is a classic Acadia hike. Its thrilling, near vertical trail leads hikers up to the summit with the help of iron rungs and handrails. The hike is labeled as strenuous, but if you don’t have a fear of heights or mind climbing near steep drop-offs, the climb to the top isn’t overly difficult. To extend the trip, add on the short hike to The Bowl and continue on to Gorham Mountain before returning back to the parking lot.

3. Hike the trails near Jordan Pond

One of the busiest inland spots in the park is the Jordan Pond area. There are several options for hiking nearby, with trails for every skill level. For an easy stroll, walk the 3-mile Jordan Pond Path that circles the pond. While it will be tempting to jump in to the clear water, this is not a swimmable lake (though kayaks and canoes are welcome!). And since Acadia is one of the few national parks that allows dogs, you can bring your pup along on this trail too, just be sure to put him on a leash!

If you’d like a little more elevation gain, you can hike the Bubbles Divide Trail to Bubble Rock. This 1-mile out-and-back hike provides views of the lakes below, as well as a chance to push over the precariously placed Bubble Rock. Though this is another family-friendly hike, keep an eye on children as the drop-offs are steep at the summit.

For more of a challenge, check out the difficult Pemetic Mountain Trail which has many route options. If you plan on doing this hike as a loop with the Jordan Pond Path, I suggest starting on the South Ridge Trail, which has a steadier incline. The rocky and root-covered trail requires sure-footing, which will also be imperative as you make your way down the very steep Northwest Trail on the descent. This trail may not be suitable for children and extra care should be taken after rain.

4. Explore the Shore

If you prefer a walk along the ocean, then the Ocean Path might be the trail for you. This two-mile walk extends from Sand Beach to Otter Point, and includes landmarks such as Thunder Hole, Monument Cove, and Otter Cliff. If you don’t want to make the full trip (keep in mind it is two-miles one way), you can also park in the right-hand lane of Park Loop Road and pick up the trail at any point. If you prefer something a little more secluded, drive about 3 miles past Otter Point and look for the information post on the left-hand side, next to the wooden stairway that leads down to Little Hunters Beach. This cobblestone beach doesn’t get nearly the amount of traffic as Ocean Path and is the perfect spot for relaxing and listening to the ocean waves. Please note that the only beach along the shore that is staffed with lifeguards is Sand Beach. Your other option for swimming in the park is Echo Lake Beach.

5. Get out on the Water

A trip to Acadia isn’t complete without some time on the water. If you have your own kayak, there are several lakes within the park that are suitable for kayaking. If you want to head out in the ocean, make sure you have the proper equipment before doing so. You can also rent a kayak or take a kayak tour from one of the several rental companies in the area. If stand up paddle boarding is more your thing, there are rentals and tours available for you as well. For a list of watercraft restrictions in the park and a nearby public boat ramps, check their website.

6. Watch the Sunset

A popular spot for watching the sunset in Acadia is Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. This iconic symbol sits along the cliffs of the southern shore of Mount Desert Island. For the best views, walk the short trail to the wooden staircase that will lead you down to the rocky shoreline. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes as the rocks are slippery when wet. Of course, if mountains are more your thing, the sunset can also be viewed from the highest point in the park – Cadillac Mountain. Please keep in mind, this spot can get overcrowded during the summer months. Visit the nps.gov site for updates. 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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