Government Shutdown of Acadia National Park: It Won’t Spoil Your Trip to Maine

 travel  Comments Off on Government Shutdown of Acadia National Park: It Won’t Spoil Your Trip to Maine
Oct 012013
 
Acadia Mountain

The view from Acadia Mountain, access to which is not affected by the national park closure.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.”
  6. 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.
  7. 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!

Related Stories:

A Profile of Mount Desert Island’s Villages

Lighthouses and Lobster Boats on a Sunset Sail from Southwest Harbor

Best Bar Harbor Breakfasts: Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast

Jun 052010
 

Imagine: 24 mountains on an island the size of Martha’s Vineyard.  That’s Mount Desert Island in Maine, and it should be your destination if you want to hike where the mountains meet the sea.

I’m now on my seventh summer of hiking Acadia National Park’s trails, marveling at each experience and recording it in my copy of A Walk in the Park by Tom St. Germain.  This small volume has been my indispensable guide and should be yours.

When I started hiking in Acadia, I’d always ask locals and people I’d meet on the trails, “What’s your favorite hike?”  Now that I’ve covered 32 of the 59 Tom St. Germain lists, I’ll share my favorites.

Jordan Cliffs & Bluffs to Penobscot Mountain

This 4.3 mile loop, sections of which were constructed before 1900, makes me feel like a kid.  Stone steps, iron rungs and railings, ladders, and bridges over ravines combine with great views of Jordan Pond on the ascent.  That alone would make this a spectacular hike, but the 360-degree views atop Penobscot deliver sheer bliss.

Giant Slide Trail & Grandgent to Sargent Mountain

Also in the Jordan Pond area, I like the Giant Slide Trail along Sargent Brook and the steep Grandgent climb.  You get two peaks for the price of one: first, spectacular views from Gilmore Peak and then from Sargent Mountain.  I make the 5.4 mile loop by descending on the North Ridge Trail, which Tom St. Germain recommends for its excellent views of Somes Sound.

The Precipice to Champlain Mountain

This short, but exhilarating hike deserves its notoriety.  It’s a 1,160 vertical gain or loss, depending on how you look at it, but I don’t recommend you look down.  After all, this trail takes you up the sheer east face of Champlain Mountain.  Rungs and ladders help, but some ledges have no protection.  At the top the views of the Atlantic and Frenchman Bay are equally breaktaking.

Acadia Mountain

I’ve done this hike again and again, not only because it is my favorite way to introduce new people to Acadia hiking, but I just love it.  Both on the trail and at the peaks (two of them), there are superior vistas.  In fact, the steep descent down the eastern side of Acadia Mountain offers some of our most-photographed views of Somes Sound.

Beech Mountain

Atop this 849’ mountain is a fire tower that boosts your viewing pleasure.  And at its base is wonderful Long Pond that affords the opportunity to combine this hike with a little kayaking.  My preferred route for this hike is to go up the West Ridge and descend on Valley Trail, which is thickly wooded and covered in moss and lichen.  Another option is to descend to Echo Lake Beach, where you can leave your bikes for the trip back to Long Pond, making this a hiking/biking/kayaking triathalon.

Next to water and great hiking boots, the necessity I also recommend for hiking in Acadia is the trail map of Mount Desert Island published by Map Adventures.  It clearly shows the 110 miles of hiking trails, as well as 57 miles of carriage roads, signpost numbers included.  Believe me, though Acadia’s trails are well marked, you can take wrong routes and end up well out of your way, exhausted.  Last weekend I was stopped twice by people with less detailed maps who were quite confused.

The five hikes I’ve recommended here are all moderate to challenging.  You’ll definitely get some exercise as well as spectaculars views of Acadia National Park’s mountains, lakes, islands, bays, and, of course, the Atlantic Ocean.  The good news is that you’ll be guilt-free when you indulge later in lobster and blueberry pie!  So, after you’ve planned your hike, take a look at the exciting array of restaurant possibilities on Mount Desert Island.