Sep 132015
 

I’m in advertising, and we talk all a lot about the price/value equation for consumers:  Will the value of the product or service offset—or surpass—the cost?

Let me help you be just as analytical about how to pick a hiking trail from among Acadia National Park’s unsurpassed network of 125 miles of trails and 45 miles of carriage roads.  For example, will the value of the scenery be greater than the investment of energy on a trail? 

I think the Gorham Mountain Trail gives you a great pay-off for minimal effort to get to its 525-foot peak.  As you ascend, breathtaking views of Otter Cliffs are behind you.

Otter Cliffs

Better and better views of Sand Beach and Great Head lie ahead.  These are some of the most iconic vistas of the Maine coastline that have entranced hikers since the early 1900s, when fashionable hiking groups were drawn to these very same sights.

Sand Beach and Great Head

Park at the Gorham Mountain Trail parking lot, 0.3 miles past Thunder Hole on the Park Loop Road.  As you head north on the trail, you’ll see hikers from parents with their three-year-olds in tow…

hikers acadia national park

…to white-haired “wrinklies” taking a rest along the way.

hikers acadia national park

It’s just a little over a mile to the top.  After reaching the summit, which is clearly marked with both a sign and groups of picnicking hikers, you can back-track on the same path or make this a 4-mile loop by descending on the Bowl Trail to the Park Loop Road.  Here you can join the many visitors enjoying the scenery along the easy Ocean Path, which will take you back south to your car.

Veteran Acadia hiker Tom St. Germain classifies this loop as a “moderate” hike.  If you choose to go up and back Gorham Mountain Trail, I’d rank it as “moderately easy.”

What if the “price” factor in your value equation involves both physical effort and safety?  For example, you might feel more comfortable sticking with walks on the carriage roads.  Let’s face it.  If you’re nervous about getting lost or having trouble with your footing, it could ruin the thrill of the grand panoramas and the intimate pleasures of a wooded trail.

So, let’s get comfortable about Gorham Mountain Trail.  First of all, you won’t be alone.  Lots of friendly hikers will be there to tell you what’s ahead.  Still, I always bring a map when I’m hiking anywhere in Acadia.  On Gorham Mountain Trail, there are a couple of options for side trails, so a map is particularly nice on this trail to increase your confidence as you navigate.

Secondly, the trail is very well marked.  Blue blazes painted on the granite rock indicate where to go.

blue blazes mark trails in acadia national park

Lines of rock also prevent you from going in the wrong direction.

hiking trail acadia national parkAcadia also has a unique stone trail marker that has helped hikers navigate trails since the early 1900s.

cairns mark the way in acadia

It’s called a Bates cairn, named after Waldron Bates, a leader in creating Mount Desert Island’s hiking trail system at the beginning of the century, for whom there is an honorary plaque on this trail.  The pointer rock on the top of a Bates cairn indicates the direction of the trail, as does the space between the two base rocks.Bates cairnSo, enjoy your hike!  The views on Gorham Mountain Trail are stunning, the fellow walkers friendly, and the path itself historic.  For me, it’s always been another big “plus” of this hike knowing that others, who share my deep respect for the beauty of nature, have shared the same trail for over 100 years.

 

Related Stories: 

Best Easy Hikes in Acadia National Park

Five Favorite Hikes in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park in Maine – A Dog-Friendly Destination for Your Vacation

A Surprising Visitor on the Sandbar between Bar Harbor and Bar Island in Acadia National Park

Is Late-October Too Late for a Fall Foliage Trip to Acadia National Park in Maine?

 travel, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Is Late-October Too Late for a Fall Foliage Trip to Acadia National Park in Maine?
Nov 212010
 

Suddenly a business trip came up for the week after Columbus Day when I was planning to go to Maine.  Should I go later or forego the fall foliage in New England this year?  I couldn’t bear the latter.  But would there be huge trade-offs with the former?

They say Mount Desert Island rolls up the sidewalks after Columbus Day.  The lobster pounds are closed.  Stores have concluded their end-of-the-season sales and hunkered down.  Locals begin planning their winter trips to Florida.  And it’s highly likely that the scarlets have turned to russet.

But we went anyway. 

Yes, the weather was chilly.  Although I’ve enjoyed temperatures in the 70s in October in past years, this was not the case now.  We were happy we had our Under Armour and fleeces, and I wish I had had a knit cap for the top of Cadillac.

That was our best hike – in fact, Canon Brook Trail to Cadillac may be my favorite hike in all of Acadia.  It’s a 6.5-mile route that starts just a bit south of the Tarn on Route 3.   The initial stretch took us across a boarded footpath alongside a pool created by antiquated beaver dams. 

Even though the terrain was flat along Kane Path, the going was slow because of the monumental beauty of each leaf along the path. 

The birches, beeches and maples provided glowing bowers of gold and orange for us. 

The initial waterfall we encountered, first by sound, then by sight was a big deal.  Little did we know what was ahead.

It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced.  After ascending a rough, steep staircase that criss-crossed over a brook, we entered an area of smooth rock over which the brook flowed.  No contemporary sculptor has created anything quite so breathtaking and we were in the center of it.  Because of the rains the prior week, the brook burst over the granite.  I kept thinking that’s why it’s called Canon Brook! 

 

(However, later I read Acadia hiking guru Tom St. Germain’s note that the trail’s proper name is Canyon Brook in recognition of the resemblance of  the split upper south ridge of Cadillac to a canyon.  Over time, though, mapmakers lost the tilde in the word “cañón” and the brook acquired the new descriptor of Canon, which certainly fit my experience after October rains.)

We ascended to a glacial pond called the Featherbed, and then fought the stiff autumn breezes to the top of Cadillac.

We also did a cycling circuit that started and ended at Jordan Pond and the Bubbles. 

We biked to Conner’s Nubble, which is only 525-feet high, but has a stunning 360-view that is amazing considering it is one-third the height of Cadillac. 

I explored the mountaintop, as a photographer carefully positioning his tripod to capture the late-autumn beauty of Frenchman Bay, Eagle Lake, and key mountains east, south, and west. 

Strenuous hiking and biking should always have its rewards, and Mount Desert Island offers plenty of options for hungry foodies who’ve just burned off a lot of calories.  This year we took comfort in the cuisine of Mache Bistro in Bar Harbor.  Despite the fact that it was late in the season, almost every table and bar seat was full.  We celebrated the season with an autumn salad of greens, goat cheese, pecans, cranberries, and sweet potatoes.  Hanger steak with garlic mashed potatoes and a duck cassoulet were warming choices after our chilly outdoors activities.

In the end we were happy because we were able to focus not on what we had missed at autumn’s peak, but instead on the special qualities Acadia offered as it approached its quietest time of year.  I’m so glad I didn’t miss out.  Just looking up at the sky was glorious.

Aug 222010
 

Do you love the great views only hikers get, but you’re worried about tackling something too ambitious?  Whether kids or bad knees are slowing you down, you don’t have to sacrifice scenery and fun when you hike in Acadia National Park.  Here are five easy hikes I’ve done that delight in different ways. 

Ship Harbor Trail: 1.3 mile figure-eight

This rocky coastline is your destination for the Ship Harbor Nature Trail.

You can alternate loops on this “figure 8” trail through an evergreen forest to the postcard-perfect shoreline.  David Patterson’s photos give you a sense of the well-groomed path.  Collecting sun-bleached shells along the way can easily turn this hike into an amble, with a picnic at the outermost point where a schooner ran aground in the 1600s.  Nearby is Bass Harbor Lighthouse, a sight not to be missed. This trail and lighthouse are where the Obamas spent time during their vacation to Bar Harbor.

Bubble Rock Trail: 1 mile roundtrip

This trail, which passes through a mixed forest, is popular with families because of the photo opp at giant Bubble Rock.  What’s also great is that you get a big pay-off for a relatively easy hike.  The summit of South Bubble, at 768 feet, provides dramatic views of Jordan Pond — yet the trail’s series of crib box surfaces make it much easier than hiking over rocks or roots. 

Jordan Pond Shore Trail: 3.2 mile loop

This walk around Jordan Pond starts with a great view of The Bubbles.

Just about all of the circuit is close to the water, which can be 100 feet deep near the shoreline.  Although the terrain is flat, this hike engages my imagination because of its many charming features: a bridge of flat stones, rock-to-rock scrambling, a birch suspension foot-bridge, a section where you tiptoe over elaborate tree roots, and bogwalks.  “Chronicles of A Country Girl” offers many wonderful photos of this circuit.  Reward yourself with lemonade and popovers at Jordan Pond House when you finish.

Flying Mountain:  1.5 mile loop

Of all the trails listed here, this one probably feels the most like a “real hike.”  It’s relatively short, but there is a bit of climbing and elevation at the beginning.  The views of Somes Sound, Sargent Drive, and Norumbega and Sargent Mountains are stunning, as are  the spacious homes and lawns across the sound in Northeast Harbor. The return to the car is easy along a fire road.

Ocean Path: 4 miles round trip

Ocean Path lies in the most popular area of Acadia.

From Sand Beach to Otter Point, this flat trail takes you alongside the ocean with breathtaking views of Maine’s rocky cliffs and pink granite shoreline.  At the halfway point is Thunder Hole, a National Park attraction where the surf crashes through rock chasms.  At Otter Cliffs rock climbers rappel down the 60-foot wall with pounding waves below.  No wonder this hike is so popular! 

Want other ideas?  Kayaking trips also provide wonderful sights in close proximity to the environment.  Acadia National Park is home to several excellent kayaking touring companies that focus on different part of the islands.  Include both hiking and kayaking on your itinerary to Acadia National Park, and you’ll never be satisfied seeing a national park from inside a car again!  Read reviews of Mount Desert Island’s best kayaking tours here.

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.