Jun 192011

The carriage roads of Acadia National Park offer families unsurpassed biking.  They are car-free and well-maintained, with hills only as challenging as a horse drawing a carriage could handle, which is, of course, the purpose for which John D. Rockefeller, Jr. originally designed them.  Best of all is the scenery.

But, with 45 miles of carriage roads open for biking, what is the best route for kids?  And, during the height of the summer season, are some trails better than others?

These are the questions I had when I chatted recently with the park ranger at Hulls Cove Visitors Center.  Located on Route 3 north of Bar Harbor, it’s a great starting point for a visit to Acadia National Park.  The large three-dimensional map of the park is a reason unto itself to go.

The route recommended by the park ranger at Hulls Cove Visitor Center was the circuit around Witch Hole Pond.  That’s also where the Obamas decided to cycle when they visited Acadia National Park!  So, we tried it out for you…

It’s a 3.3 mile circuit that passes by Halfmoon Pond, Witch Hole Pond, and Duck Brook, which you can hear as you cycle above it.  It’s an easy ride that’s pretty flat except for a .2 mile stretch that’s a moderate climb.  The terrain features not only these large beautiful ponds, but also a lot of marshlands.  These offer good opportunities to see beaver lodges, such as the one below, or to spot a snapping turtle crossing the road.

Why it’s called Witch Hole Pond I do not know.  However, throughout the wetlands of this area stand dead trees, known in forest ecology as snags.  They provide critical habitat for many species, including birds that feed on the insects decomposing the wood.  Young minds may find them eerie, so organize a game for your kids to invent origins for the name Witch Hole Pond as they ride…

Another positive feature of cycling Witch Hole Pond is that this route can be easily extended to Eagle Lake, one of the most beautiful rides in the park.  Unfortunately, everyone knows it, so parking may be difficult at times.  If you combine Witch Hole Pond and Eagle Lake, you can avoid that frustration.  Connecting the two is a 1.1 mile stretch past Breakneck Pond.  I like biking south along the eastern shore of Eagle Lake first.  There’s a steady climb up to Conners Nubble, but, regardless of direction, the Eagle Lake circuit is not free of challenges.  That extension will add 6.9 miles to the 3.3 of Witch Hole Pond.

Here’s another tip from the park ranger at Hulls Cove.  Don’t start your bike trip from the Hulls Cove parking lot, unless it is the only place you can find to park.  From the parking area the carriage road has a challenging climb right as you start, which may discourage the kids before they even get going.  Instead enter the carriage road at Signpost 5 at Duck Brook Bridge.  There is parking along the road.  You can get there by taking Duck Brook Road north from Eagle Lake Road (Route 233) north.  Seeing the Duck Brook Bridge and New Mills Meadow Pond are bonuses.

After a great bike ride like this, where do you go to relax?  Are you in the mood for BBQ ribs, lobster rolls, or a full dinner?  For tips on the best places to eat, visit OUR ACADIA.

Related Stories:

4 Hikes in Acadia Your Kids Will Love

Tips for Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Bar Harbor

22 Great Things to Do with Your Kids in Acadia National Park