Another in a series of historic hiking trail highlights leading up to the Acadia Centennial
Walk along the intricately laid stepping stones of Beachcroft Path, and you will find yourself walking in the footsteps of George Dorr, the “father of Acadia National Park.”
First built in the late 1800s by Dorr and the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association, Beachcroft Path originally began at the garden-like setting of Sieur de Monts.
Construction of Maine Route 3 severed that connection, with the Beachcroft Path trailhead now across from the Tarn parking area, on the east side of Route 3.
But a garden-like series of stepping stones still brings hikers up gradually around dome-shaped Huguenot Head, as it did in the days of Dorr.
Named after the estate of the Bar Harbor summer resident who funded construction, Beachcroft Path offers views north toward Frenchman Bay, west toward Dorr Mountain, south toward the Cranberry Isles, east toward Champlain Mountain, and down to the Tarn.
Hikers today can envision how the path might have been one of Dorr’s favorites. There is an iconic photo of him in front of a distinctive large granite boulder, one foot on a smaller rock, and the stepping stones stretching behind and in front of him.
That large boulder is so recognizable, it is easy to find along Beachcroft Path, and strike the same pose as Dorr.
Not quite as popular a photo subject for the memory book, perhaps, as trying to “push” Bubble Rock on South Bubble, but distinctively Acadia nonetheless.
There’s something special about Acadia and its rocks. They leave a lasting impression, and will outlast us all.
It’s 0.7 mile to the open ledge on the shoulder of Huguenot Head, a moderate hike that is made easy in spots with level sections and switchbacks, or zigzags up steep sections. Many people take in the views here and turn around, although a more difficult 0.5 mile hike takes you farther to the top of Champlain.
Aside from the grand vistas, you may also see wildlife up close, as we did one day coming down Beachcroft, when we came upon the largest porcupine we’ve ever seen, almost as big as an island.
As part of its long-term trails plan, Acadia National Park has begun using historic names for many of its trails again. Beachcroft Path is the historic name; it had also been known as Beachcroft Trail.
Historically, “path” described highly constructed trails, as represented by the neatly laid stepping stones and gradual switchbacks of Beachcroft.
Dorr specialized in laying out such paths. In addition to Beachcroft, Dorr had a hand in Homans Path and Emery Path, which go up what is now called Dorr Mountain, or Dry Mountain in his day.
As noted in the “Acadia Trails Treatment Plan: Cultural Landscape Report for the Historic Hiking Trail System of Acadia National Park, Maine,” Dorr’s paths “luxuriate in the ascent, take long, flat stretches through rock slides, switch back at stunning viewpoints, and reach for…points such as clefts in the rocks, overhangs, and waterfalls.”
You can certainly luxuriate in the ascent of Huguenot Head on the Beachcroft Path.
“Trail” was reserved for the rougher ways up, like the Precipice Trail built by another early trailblazer, Rudolph E. Brunnow, a Princeton professor.
While still constructed, needing iron rungs and ladders and stone steps in spots, Brunnow’s trails “tended toward small-gesture alignments, take many tight turns rather than sweeping moves through the landscape. None of Brunnow’s alignments could be called switchbacks, though none are exactly direct either,” according to the “Acadia Trails Treatment Plan.”
The next time you hike a path or a trail in Acadia, think of the special character of each route, and the pathmakers and trailblazers of yesterday and today. And think of the work and funding needed to maintain these paths and trails, now and into tomorrow.
In fact, there is an endowment, Acadia Trails Forever, coming from $4 million in park user fees and federal appropriations, and $9 million in private donations from the Friends of Acadia, a private nonprofit organization based in Bar Harbor.
May it be Acadia trails forever, indeed.