Outdoor Fun for Families in Acadia National Park

by Barbara Rogers

May 18, 2019

Stillman Rogers

Destinations / North America

Acadia National Park in Maine was the first national park in the East, and includes the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast, along with several other mountains, lakes, ponds and forests. Its jagged and irregular shore is lined by a succession of high cliffs, headlands, coves and beaches. Trails and cycling routes are accessible from the road that circles the park, and handy Island Explorer buses stop at all the attractions and at trail crossings, so walkers and cyclists can explore the park without backtracking. You can rent kayaks, canoes, sailboats and bicycles, and find fishing and whale-watching cruises outside the park in Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor or Southwest Harbor.

Bike the Carriage Roads

Vehicle-free carriage roads form a 57-mile network through the park, made even safer by the bridge crossings wherever they intersect with roads. Used by walkers, cyclists and horseback riders, they are a peaceful, motor-free way to explore the park. They are arranged in loops, so you can take rides of various distances and return to the same starting point. There are many access points, including Eagle Lake, Jordan Pond and Bubble Pond.

Climb Cadillac Mountain

The park’s tallest mountain, at 1,530 feet, Cadillac Mountain is also the highest altitude along the East Coast. From the rounded and bald summit of the 1,530-foot Cadillac Mountain, the park’s tallest, you can see a full panorama that encompasses Bar Harbor, Frenchman Bay and its tree-covered islands. A road leads to the top, but it’s an easy climb. North Ridge trail is the shortest, but the 3.5-mile South Ridge Trail, which leaves from the entrance of Blackwoods Campground, offers a series of good views.

Kayaking Frenchman's Bay, Acadia National Park, Maine.

Kayaking Frenchman’s Bay, Acadia National Park, Maine.Photo: Stillman Rogers

Walk around Jordan Pond

Jordan Pond, Acadia’s second-largest and deepest lake, was formed by glaciers, and its clear waters support a habitat for loons, beaver, frogs and other wildlife. Behind it rise the rounded mountains known as The Bubbles. Overlook the lake and mountains, Jordan Pond House is a park favorite for the steaming hot popovers they serve on the lawn for afternoon tea — a tradition almost as old as the park itself. The easy Jordan Pond Nature Trail follows the pond’s rocky shore and returns through the woods in a one-mile loop. The Jordan Pond Path skirts the shore in a 3.2-mile loop.

Hike Great Head Trail

For a moderate loop hike, begin at the eastern edge of Sand Beach to follow the 1.5-mile Great Head Trail. You’ll feel miles from the busy park roads and attractions as you follow the coast along the sea cliffs and through an evergreen forest.

Camp at Seawall

Seawall, on the Loop Road in the southern part of the park, is ideal for families who enjoy tent camping, although a few of its sites can accommodate RVs. All of its campsites are in the woods, and well separated, and all are within a 10-minute walk of the low, rocky shore. Ranger programs are held regularly in the campground’s amphitheater, and there are a number of hiking trails on this part of the island. The campground is a stop on the Island Explorer bus route, so you can leave your car here and visit other park attractions. Some of the campsites can be reserved ahead.


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