Go to Jordan Pond House for lemonade on the lawn, and you’ll wonder if you’re in Maine or some scenic setting for the Westminster Dog Show. Breeds abound. Some sport bandannas. All are attached to proud owners. The wait staff even pours water into dog bowls.
Such pet-friendly dynamics at a popular dining spot are just one reason you won’t have to leave your best friend behind if you choose Acadia National Park for your vacation.The National Park Service welcomes pets on 100 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads, as well as in Blackwoods and Seawall Campgrounds. Dogs are also allowed on the L.L. Bean Island Explorer buses.
The National Park Service does require that dogs stay on leashes no longer than six feet long. Even with this constraint, there is so much to explore.If you’re looking for an easy, flat walk, consider Jordan Pond Shore Path (3.3 miles), a trail around an impressive glacial pond, which will conclude at the aforementioned Jordan Pond House, one of Acadia’s most popular spots for picture-taking – and a great place to indulge in popovers, lobster stew, and strawberry ice cream. Dogs can accompany their owners as they dine at tables on the lawn overlooking the pond.
An equally charming and less pup-ulated walk is along Lower Hadlock Pond. At 1.7 miles, it’s shorter than Jordan Pond Shore Path, but similarly features some wonderful bridges crossing brooks. That’s where we met this Australian Shepherd, who posed for us for a few minutes off-leash.
If you have your pet in tow, my recommendation is to opt for Jordan Pond Shore Path or Lower Hadlock Pond over Wonderland and Ship Harbor. The latter are both great trails, but the former offer your dog fresh water to keep comfortable.
For a moderate hike of 2.8 miles, explore The Bowl, an alpine pond 25 feet deep, that you reach via a nice, steady climb through beech, birch, and maple.
A more ambitious hike with great panoramic views is the 3.1 mile trek to the top of Beech Mountain on the western side of Mount Desert Island. You can ascend on the West Ridge Trail and descend on South Ridge. This loop offers nice shade and fresh water for canine comfort — and good exercise for both of you . Just remember that at the Pumping Station at the base of Long Pond, where this hike begins and ends, there is no swimming by man or dog.On these Acadia National Park trails, dogs must be leashed, but here’s a tip. There’s a wonderful off-leash area along Little Long Pond, just off Route 3 in Seal Harbor. Owned by the Rockefeller family and generously shared with the public, it has rolling meadows, shaded trails and a pond in which your dog can swim. Charles Eliot, one of Acadia’s founding fathers, called the views here the most beautiful in all of Mount Desert Island.Wherever you choose to go hiking, be sure to bring enough water for both you and your dog. Consider trails that offer both shade and options for fresh water. Avoid the very steep trails in Acadia National Park that require use of rungs and ladders. In fact, the National Park Service prohibits dogs on the Precipice, Beehive, Ladder Trail to Dorr, Beech Cliffs, Perpendicular, and Jordan Cliffs.
The NPS site for Acadia lists other trails to avoid with dogs. When we were hiking Giant Slide and Grandgent to Sargent recently, we met a woman heading down shortly after she started her hike because she was forced to carry her energetic wire fox terrier across boulders and steep intervals. Take the park rangers’ advice to avoid disappointment.
It is also wise to heed the park rangers’ counsel about leashes. They want to protect your pets from becoming lost and from hazards, such as sick, injured, or rabid animals and porcupines, which this unleashed fellow unfortunately encountered.Acadia Veterinary Hospital, located in downtown Bar Harbor, took care of 20 dogs injured by porcupines in June, July, and August. Dr. Marc Fine’s procedure to remove quills, which can involve both the throat and gums, requires sedating your dog. The office warns: Don’t cut the quills. In the summer, Acadia Veterinary Hospital (207-288-5733) has Saturday morning hours and is available 24 hours for emergencies.
In case this fate befalls your pup, you can always soothe him afterwards at Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium in Bar Harbor. They offer a Yellow Dog Special, a baby scoop of vanilla ice cream with two dog bones.
Better still, keep him on the leash in Acadia, explore, and let him run free in the meadows along Little Long Pond. Then comment and tell us your favorite trails.
Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this article with tips and ideas. No one seemed too busy to pose for a photo. As the writer Milan Kundera said, “To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring — it was peace.”
(By the way, Bar Harbor’s original name was Eden.)