Acadia National Park is located along the rugged coast of Northern Maine near the seaside town of Bar Harbor. The park is home to a diverse population of plants and animals, including moose, bear, wolves, and an array of water fowl. Cadillac Mountain offers a stunning vantage point of the park, sea, and surrounding mountains. It’s the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast.
Acadia is the perfect place to camp in the lush forests, hike the granite peaks, bike or horseback ride along the historic carriage trails, fish or boat in the sea or its many lakes, or relax and watch the birds. I chose to explore this spectacular park on horseback.
Where to Stay:
If camping within the park isn’t your thing, I recommend either staying in downtown Bar Harbor or renting a house right outside the park.
Balance Rock Inn is located in downtown Bar Harbor right on the coast about a block or two away from the main shopping and dining area. This is a beautiful, romantic inn with luxury accommodations. The Inn offers a full complimentary breakfast, full bar, fireplaces and wood stoves to lounge around, and a swimming pool and fitness center. I’ve stayed here with my family and loved it! The location and accommodations are hard to beat! Especially if you’re planning to spend extensive time in downtown Bar Harbor. Everything is walkable from this location.
For my horseback riding trip, I chose to rent a house a few blocks away from Wildwood Stables. These stables are located on the southern end of Park Loop Road and offer carriage rides to the public as well as boarding for people looking to trailer in horses. I had the benefit of trailing in horses with my riding trainer from MA. Because of this, we sought out a place near the park that could house a fair amount of people. I suggest checking out AirBnB and local Maine rental agencies. There are many options!
Acadia is pretty spectacular. There really are no words to give justice to the stunning landscape and wild rugged mountains. As a rider, the carriage trails are the perfect way to explore the park. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. funded and directed the project of building the carriage roads and bridges between 1913 and 1940. The roads are wide and perfectly groomed and maintained. The network runs for 57 miles of woodland roads (45 miles of which are in Acadia) and include numerous stone bridges. The roads are shared by the commercial carriages, horseback riders, bikers, hikers, and anyone looking to explore the park. If you’re planning to trailer in horses, be sure to bring sound, sane, tried and true horses who are accustomed to sharing the trails with other types of traffic.
The carriage roads are extensive and traverse much of the park including routes to Jordan’s Pond, Eagle Lake, Witch Hole Pond, and Day Mountain. I spent about 4 days at the park riding between 15-20 miles per day. We only got a taste of what Acadia has to offer.
Before hitting the trails, take some time to review the map and coordinate your routes. See PDF of carriage road map here. You’ll want to plan out some larger loops to encompass as much as possible into your time there. Everything is very clearly marked and easy to follow.
Other Park Activities:
Scenic Drive: Take a drive along the length of Park Loop Road. This scenic loop begins at Hulls Cove Visitor Center and offers access to Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain. Definitely take the detour up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain for some spectacular views! On a clear day, you can see for miles!
Guided Tours: I highly recommend taking a guided tour of the park. If you do not have a chance to access the carriage roads by other means, take a carriage ride through Wildwood Stables. There are also bus and boat tours offered. See more information here. All of these tours must be booked in advance. Especially the carriage tours. These fill up fast in the summer months and are very popular.
Jordan Pond House: This is an institution in Acadia. Jordan Pond House is located right on the banks of Jordan Pond and offers outdoor seating with a view of the pond and surrounding mountains. This is the only dining offered in the park and it tends to get very crowded! Come early if possible, but expect a wait regardless. There is a little gift shop on premises and you can explore by the pond while you wait. This is a great stop for tea and popovers. The popovers are heavenly!
For more information on Acadia or planning your trip, check out the National Park Services website for more information.