A new path is emerging for Acadia National Park hiking

One in a series about Acadia National Park hiking trails

The trails crew has launched an overhaul of an historic path that connects the Jordan Pond area with the village of Seal Harbor, providing a new way to experience Acadia National Park hiking.

Harold Read of Orono

Harold Read, trail worker at Acadia National Park, points to improvements on the Seaside Path intended to remove water from the path.

The work is being financed with donations to the nonprofit Friends of Acadia during an annual fundraising benefit last year. In a traditional “paddle raise,” sixty donors contributed a total of $318,000 to restore Seaside Path, according to Friends of Acadia.

There are no sweeping views from the path, but it is a “beautiful example” of a late 1800s to early 1900s gravel path for Acadia National Park hiking, said Gary Stellpflug, trails foreman at Acadia National Park. “It’s all woodland,” he said. “It’s nice mature forest.”

seaside path

A hand-crafted sign marks the way through the primeval woods of Seaside Path.

Stellpflug said Seaside Path is a village connector trail and will be the first newly-improved such trail for Acadia National Park hiking since Quarry and Otter Cove Trails were inaugurated on National Trails Day in 2014. The Quarry and Otter Cove Trails link the park’s Blackwoods Campground with the village of Otter Creek, Otter Cove and Gorham Mountain Trail.

A lot of Seaside Path is on private property and it is currently unclear exactly where it will terminate when the park is finished with the upgrade, he said. “We’re not sure where the south end will go,” he said.

Unlike the cliff and mountain climbs of Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor, Seaside Path and other Seal Harbor trails go over “a gentler terrain,” according to the National Park Service’s “Pathmakers: Cultural Landscape Report for the Historic Hiking Trail System of Mount Desert Island.” As a result, “many woodland paths were  surfaced with gravel or simply unconstructed, marked paths through the woods,” in contrast to those in the other villages, according to the report.

Seaside Path to be a gem in Acadia National Park hiking system

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One of the special features of the Seaside Path: Walking under the triple-arch Stanley Brook Bridge.

The little-known path links the Jordan Pond House with the beach at Seal Harbor. The path, about two miles long, starts near the employee dormitory for the Jordan Pond House and ends at paved Seaside Lane.

In a rare treat, the mostly-flat path takes hikers under one of the end arches of the triple-arch Stanley Brook Bridge.  Completed in 1933, the bridge is part of the carriage road network and takes the Barr Hill-Day Mountain carriage road over Stanley Brook Road.

A side trail from the path leads to Barr Hill, but there was no view from ledges on the hill during a recent visit.

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Found on a large boulder along the Seaside Path, a memorial to Edward Lothrop Rand, a member of the Champlain Society, a group of Harvard men who spent summers studying the environment of Mount Desert Island in the late 1800s. Their research helped lay the groundwork for preserving what would become Acadia.

Stellpflug said the upgrade will follow the current route for about the northern two-thirds of the path, or until around the spot where it reaches a memorial to Edward Lothrop Rand, a Boston lawyer who was noted for co-authoring with botanist John Howard Redfield a late 19th century book on the botany of Mount Desert Island. Rand also served as the first chairman of the Path Committee for the Seal Harbor Village Improvement Society, from 1900 to 1907.

During a visit to Seaside Path, Harold Read, a trail worker at Acadia National Park, said work began on May 1.

“This trail was almost non-existent,” Read said. “It was an old trail that fell into disuse.”

Three things – “water, water, water” – have damaged Seaside Path, as well as other trails for Acadia National Park hiking, over the years, he said. To repair a trail, “you get the water out of the trail or the trail out of the water,” he said.

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An old culvert is being replaced, and the new one will be hidden by the new trailbed and artfully placed granite rocks on either end.

To do that, the crew is adding new plastic culverts to channel water underneath Seaside Path. To make it look historic, natural and pleasing, each end of the culvert is capped with granite rocks and the plastic is concealed.

Using a Canycom track carrier, trail workers are dumping crushed stone as a base for the trail and then will later top it with a layer of dirt mixed with broken pieces of pink granite.

The goal is to have the path look the same as it did when it opened about a century ago, and was used by the Rusticators, he said. “The day we’re done, people will look at this and think it’s a 100-year-old trail,” Read said.

Roger Currier, trail worker at Acadia National Park, operates Canycom carrier.

Roger Currier of Lamoine, trail worker at Acadia National Park, operates a Canycom track carrier to dump crushed stone during the upgrade of the Seaside Path.

Taking a break from grubbing the trail with a hoe, Larissa Fullmer, a veteran NPS trail maintenance worker from San Diego who is working for the first time in New England,  said the work can be labor intensive, but is good exercise.

“You don’t need a gym pass,” she said.

The path is closed during the hours the trails crew is working on it.

The work on Seaside Path is part of an effort to rehabilitate village connectors for Acadia National Park hiking and bring back the custom of walking, and in some cases, biking, into Acadia National Park, into town, and in neighborhoods, according to the Friends of Acadia web site.

Village connector trails such as the Schooner Head Path, located off the Compass Harbor Trail in Bar Harbor, and the Great Meadow Loop, reached from Cromwell Harbor Road in Bar Harbor, can reduce the use of cars and provide other ways to access the park.

Larissa Fullmer, trail worker at Acadia National Park

Larissa Fullmer, a trail worker at Acadia National Park, says she doesn’t need a gym pass to keep in shape while working on projects like the Seaside Path.

Seaside Path is still used by local residents, but was removed from the park’s formal trail system in the 1950s, according to Friends of Acadia. The path has been designed and maintained by the Seal Harbor Village Improvement Society and management plans call for the path to be relocated in some places, according to the Friends of Acadia.

A lot of people are pleased by the effort.

“We’re very happy about it and glad they are doing it and allowing them access to do it,” said Chris Stevenson, director of finance and land conservation for the Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve, which includes a very small section of the path within its boundaries.

“We are all for it,” he said.

Photos of Seaside Path in current condition, under construction

Tyler Fogg, trail worker at Acadia National Park

Tyler Fogg of Southwest Harbor, trail worker at Acadia National Park, demonstrates some of the work he’s doing to beautify Seaside Path.

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Getting down to the base layer of Seaside Path before the rehabilitation begins.

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The string marks the level that the trail will be built up to, with a combination of blown ledge and gravel.

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Tramping through in mud time along the Seaside Path.

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Remnants of the original pink gravel can still be seen along the otherwise eroded Seaside Path.

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Hiking Seaside Path in mud season.

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Woods and water along the Seaside Path.

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Moss grows on the Seaside Path.

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At trail’s end, a hiker spots two deer running across the road, with Seal Harbor in the background.

A walk through time along Seal Harbor’s Seaside Path

acadia national park hiking

These 2 photos of Seaside Path from the early 1900s show erosion (top) as result of poor drainage, and improved trail construction method to better maintain the gravel surface (bottom). (NPS’s “Pathmakers” and Maine Historic Preservation Commission photo)

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What Seaside Path looked like around 1920. (NPS’s “Pathmakers” and Maine Historic Preservation Commission photo)


13 thoughts on “A new path is emerging for Acadia National Park hiking

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  7. cindy bailey

    we are planning on visiting bar harbor in august to see the milky way. i think aug 21st is a new moon. is that best time to view the milky way. i do not want to miss it.

  8. cindy bailey

    i am planning on visiting bar harbor in august. We are trying to plan our trip to star gaze. Is the new moon on aug 21st and the best time to see the milky way? I am new at star gazing but seeing milky way is on my bucket list.

    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Hi Cindy, thanks for the comment! I think it came through twice inadvertently.

      Acadia is known for its dark night sky, and there are ranger-led activities focusing on the stars. So there’s a good chance you can see the Milky Way when you’re visiting Bar Harbor in August. Here’s the moon (and tide) chart for August in Bar Harbor, showing the 4 days when skies would be darkest, Aug. 20-23 (in case there’s bad weather): http://me.usharbors.com/monthly-tides/Maine-Downeast/Bar%20Harbor/2017-08

      You may find this blog post we did on night-sky photography to be helpfully, especially the comments by photographer Vincent Lawrence about the best times of year to see the Milky Way: https://acadiaonmymind.com/2015/09/acadia-night-sky-makes-news-draws-festival-photographers/

      You may have to be out pretty late to catch the Milky Way. A couple of good places to watch for it: Atop Cadillac Mountain, on Sand Beach, on Jordan Pond or at Seawall picnic area.

      Here are some other blog posts we’ve done on Acadia’s night skies that you may find helpful:


      Enjoy your trip!

  9. Judy Gucker

    We’ve visited Acadia more than a dozen and half times in the last 29 years and this a trail we never miss. We will be there again next week for two weeks and hope the trail will be open some of the days. I love the walk through the woods then resting on the green in Seal Harbor to look out over the water. If I could I would make Seal Harbor my home.

    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Hi Judy, thanks for the comment. The trail crew is only working on Seaside Path from Monday through Thursday, so you should be able to access it on other days. We felt the same way about Seal Harbor as you, after we came off Seaside Path and got that tremendous view of Seal Harbor, and the deer crossing the road. Enjoy!

  10. Tara Haney

    We found this path last summer and it was a pleasant surprise. A great walk for both us and the dogs.

    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Hi Tara, glad to know you’ve already discovered the path. It will be even more pleasant once the trails crew completes its work. And it will be exciting to be able to walk from Seal Harbor to Jordan Pond. About to add a few more historic tidbits, so be sure to check back on this blog post.

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