The government closure of national parks, effective October 1, 2013, has affected thousands of visitors looking forward to seeing Acadia National Park this fall. With National Park webpages also shutdown, official information is limited. However, local experts have stepped in to share the latest information on such social media sites as TripAdvisor, where postings under “Contingency Plans” in the Bar Harbor forum are filling the gaps for worried travelers.
The Park Loop Road has been closed, thereby barring roadway access to such popular attractions as Cadillac Mountain and Jordan Pond House. The Hulls Cove Visitors Center is also closed.
That’s the bad news. On the other hand, the Island Explorer bus system is running and ferrying visitors throughout the island. In addition, as Acadia National Park Deputy Superintendent Len Bobinchock told the Portland Press Herald, “You can’t lock up trails, but you can close the roads that lead into the park.” Because skeletal crews are not adequate to handle extensive search and rescue operations in the case of emergencies, the National Park Service is asking people to stay off the park’s trails until the shutdown is over. However, they are not requiring people to leave, it seems. If you do decide to hike, exercise good judgment.
Acadia National Park occupies only about one half of Mount Desert Island. The sublime beauty of this area far surpasses any single mountain or pond, and a government closure of the national park won’t lock you out of enjoying a trip to Downeast Maine.
Here are 7 ways you can enjoy Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island, despite Congress.
- Hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain. And, in fact, with no tourist buses circumnavigating the top, the summit may be just that much more peaceful. There are trails from all four points of the compass, but the easiest to access during the closure is to the Cadillac South Ridge Trail, a long, but gradual climb 3.7 miles each way. The trailhead is on Route 3, just south of the entrance to Blackwoods Campground. It is a lovely hike, with spectacular views, just be prepared for the 7.4 miles of hiking and remember, of course, that you are hiking at your own risk.
- Choose another mountain to climb. If you are not up for such a long hike, there are many other alternatives. Consider Acadia Mountain, with its great views of Somes Sound and the Atlantic beyond. Its trailhead is on Route 102 between Somesville and Southwest Harbor. A moderate loop including both Acadia and neighboring St. Sauveur Mountain is 4.2 miles. Another great choice is Beech Mountain. There are also several different trails to its summit—none of which is affected by park closures. Tom St. Germain’s excellent hiking guide, available in bookstores throughout Bar Harbor, can provide you with all of the details.
- Bike around Eagle Lake. The carriage roads around the lake are just off Eagle Lake Road/Route 233. According to the TripAdvisor posts on October 1st, cars were lined up along the roadway, indicating that the carriage roads were still open. These carriage roads connect to others in the network, including the road that runs closely along Bubble Pond, with Cadillac Pond towering above. The reflections of the colorful foliage of the West Face on Bubble Pond are compelling for any photographer. Walking around Eagle Lake is also a good option.
- Go sea kayaking. “They can’t control the water, so we’ll still be open” was the message of Mark Fletcher at Aquaterra Adventures in Bar Harbor. This operator of group kayaking tours launches from a private dock on West Street, so there’s no need to worry about park closures. Another option is National Park Sea Kayak, also in Bar Harbor, which leads tours on the western side of Mount Desert Island, including popular sunset trips.
- Take a horse-drawn carriage ride. Although the national park concession at Wildwood Stables will be closed, you can enjoy a carriage ride throughout Bar Harbor with Wild Iris Horse Farm. The driver discusses points of interest, as well as the history of the town. Says owner Sandi Read, “It’s a great way to experience Bar Harbor the way it was before the days of automobiles.”
- Visit Bass Harbor. Although the roadway to Bass Harbor Head Light has been barricaded, you can walk a short distance to see this lighthouse listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Then drive the short distance down to the harbor. A stroll around this working lobster harbor in late afternoon is full of charms. Walk along the shoreline and down on the pier. Whether it’s a skiff, a pile of lobster traps, some worn-out buoys, or a Boston whaler, the scene is iconic Maine and stunningly beautiful in late-afternoon golden light. Don’t forget your camera.
- Enjoy Mount Desert Island’s villages. From Bar Harbor to Bass Harbor and Northeast Harbor to Southwest Harbor, each has its own personality. Don’t miss Somesville, in the center of the island, with its charming Japanese-style bridge, one of the most photographed spots in Maine.
You’ll find more tips for fall trips to Acadia here. Have a great vacation!