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.