Bridge Over Kebo Brook

Is Acadia National Park Your Next Outdoor Adventure?

Anyone who has undertaken the goal of visiting all our U.S. national parks is well familiar with the refrain that accompanies the quest: Which park is your favorite? Having been around these park junkies for a decade now, and being one myself, I’m happy to report that we all generally have the same answer: The parks are all too different to decide.

Parks in Alaska are different from parks in the Midwest are different from parks in the South are different from parks in New England. Not only that, but the cultures, people groups, histories, and seasons that inhabit these lands also make for unique experiences wherever and whenever you go.

Acadia National Park of Maine is a great example. It has a rich indigenous legacy, a history of French discovery and English settlement, and then the nineteenth-century dominance by affluent families (such as the Rockefellers, Fords, Vanderbilts, and Carnegies) who constructed elegant estates that they referred to as “cottages.” And it’s precisely because the East Coast was privatized before the West that places like New England were slower to have public lands (that is, the U.S. government, through the help of private funders and foundations, often had to purchase land back from private owners in order to designate it public land).

All of this gives Acadia a unique atmosphere, from the cobblestone carriage paths, stone-faced bridges, famous lighthouses, and quaint gatehouses. This type of development is something often lost to the western parks, but, in itself, tells a compelling history of our country. Beyond this human-generated infrastructure, however, you also have the quintessence of a national park: meandering streams, an abundant diversity of plant life, sweeping views of the Atlantic, and the crashing waves and polished granite that accompanies the cold ocean.

View from the Schoodic Peninsula

Acadia And Bar Harbor

Acadia was my fifty-second national park and, even so, was still astonishing—there’s no other park quite like it. I started the solo trip wandering the streets of Acadia’s gateway town, Bar Harbor. It’s here that you can enjoy all the charm of stereotypical Maine, from whale watching tours to lobster rolls. I opted for a slice of pizza from Rosalie’s before walking the town’s amiable Shore Path. Another Bar Harbor food favorite turned out to be Café This Way, a little spot buried in a back alley (with an apropos guiding street sign that says “Café this way”).

Aside from these municipal meanderings, most time was spent in the park on trails, my first being the Gorge Path up to Cadillac Mountain—the highest point on the North Atlantic seaboard (1,528 ft) and the first place to view the sunrise in the United States. Next, I did the Beehive Trail, an exposed route that requires one to navigate a ladder system at the steepest sections. What’s nice about this park, however, is that it’s suitable for all abilities and cardio levels—one can challenge themselves on the Beehive Trail or stroll many of the flat trails around Acadia’s ponds.

Acadia National Park
Ladder System on the Beehive Trail

Acadia And GuideGap

There is so much to do in this park—at 47,000 acres and spanning Mount Desert Island, the Schoodic Peninsula, and myriad smaller islands—that I have already returned once since my original visit (quite the investment considering I live in Montana). And I imagine there will be more visits to come. Because of this abundance of splendor, and because it’s one of the most popular national parks in the system, I’d recommend utilizing GuideGap’s services to optimize your visit. With help from local, professional guides, you can learn the trails best suited for you and your family, how to avoid crowds, how to book one of the famous carriage rides, and how to navigate the region’s seasons of operation.

The West might have the grandeur of Yosemite, the astonishment of Yellowstone, and the wilds of Denali, but remember that the national parks are not in competition with each other, only collectively enhancing a communal story of culture, ecology, and all the ways in which we can do better as stewards of this land. To that end, I invite you to the reaches of the Northeast. I invite you to Acadia National Park.

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

Additional Reading On Acadia National Park

For a more personal story of my first trip to Acadia, listen to The Dirtbag Diary’s podcast episode “The Amazement Meter.”

Further reading: Terry Tempest Williams gives one of my favorite accounts of Acadia in her essay, “—The Stones, The Steel, The Galaxies—” included in her book The Hour of Land.

Tyler Dunning

About The Author:  Tyler

Tyler Dunning grew up in southwestern Montana, having developed a feral curiosity and reflective personality at a young age. This mindset has led him around the world, to nearly all of the U.S. national parks, and to the darker recesses of his own creativity. He’s dabbled in such occupations as professional wrestling, archaeology, social justice advocacy, and academia. At his core he is a writer. Check out Tyler’s website at: Tyler Dunning

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