Over three years ago, my friend, Joel Malm of Summit Leaders pitched the idea of taking a small group of people somewhere in the world to hike.
I considered where in the United States I most wanted to visit. The Grand Canyon. Mount Rushmore. Running through the fields like Anne of Green Gables on Prince Edwards Isle. (Technically, that’s not America, but it’s close.)
Then I remembered one of my life-long dreams of traveling to Maine and eating lobster. Joel agreed to host the grand journey. The retreat sold out almost four months early and we could have filled the trip three times over. It turns out I’m not the only one who dreams about hiking the rugged coast of Maine and Acadia National Park.
1. Prepare for people and traffic.
Acadia National Park is as stunning as portrayed in National Geographic, photos, and popular films such as Shutter Island and The Cider House Rules. This relatively small national park attracts millions of visitors each year. Prepare to drive slow, hunt for a parking place, and negotiate around other hikers and drivers during the popular summer months. In addition, many of the most popular roads in Acadia are one-way so leave plenty of time for navigating around the park. A quick trip into the park from Bar Harbor can take up to 50-minutes round trip.
2. Gas up.
Make sure you have a full tank of gas before entering the park. See Number 1.
3. Take advantage of the free shuttles within the park.
The shuttles run every 30 to 60 minutes and make multiple stops throughout the park. Drivers will even stop along the route if you need a lift.
4. Bring a back-up communication plan.
Cellphone service is hit and miss (and mostly miss) so don’t plan on making a lot of calls. Texting is limited on the roads and trails. Consider bringing handheld radios or walkie-talkies.
5. A week-long pass in Acadia National Park is only $20.
A National Park Pass works here as well. If you have a friend over 65, they can purchase an affordable Lifetime Park Pass. Another option is to bring one of your currently serving military friends (with their Military ID or CAC card) on your trip for free entry to the park.
6. Pack a lunch, snacks, sunscreen, and plenty of water.
When the park is crowded, the lines for the popovers at the Jordan Pond House are mind-boggling. If you’re committed to tasting a popover, arrive at the restaurant early.
7. Don’t miss the sunrise.
Cadillac Mountain is located on Mount Desert Island and offers the highest point in Hancock County with an elevation of 1528. This popular peak is commonly believed to be the first location in the United States to be illuminated by the sun’s rays each morning. But plan to enjoy the sunrise with 1000 other early birds who are hunting for a limited number of parking spots during the summer months. It’s a 20-30 minute drive from Bar Harbor. Bring a blanket and chairs for comfort. And don’t forget your camera.
8. Don’t miss the lobster.
If you want to cook your own lobster, the best prices are often found further outside of Bar Harbor. But don’t overlook the local Hannaford’s grocery store where they charge around $5.99 per pound for soft shell and will cook it for you for free. Hard shell costs a little more. Why? Soft shell lobster have recently shed their shell so the meat doesn’t fill the entire body of the lobster. Hard shell lobster’s meat fills the entire shell. Both are delicious.
9. Plan to be there for at least two days.
There is something for everyone in Acadia National Park—bike trails, dog-friendly trails, hikes for beginners to experts, Sand Beach (with extra cold water), and breathtaking vistas on top of Cadillac Mountain (you can hike or drive to the top). Bring the whole family!
Have you visited Acadia National Park? What tips do you have for travelers? What places are on your must-visit list?