Another in a series of “Ask Acadia on My Mind!” Q&As
If you have a question about Acadia National Park on your mind, whether you’re a first-time visitor or long-time fan, leave a comment below, or contact us through the About us page. We may not be able to answer every question, or respond right away, but we’ll do our best. See our page linking in one place all the Q&As.
My husband, dog and I are hoping to return to Acadia this spring and walk as many carriage trails as we can. I’ve been studying the carriage trail guides and am overwhelmed trying to decide what to do. We’ve already walked the trails near Northeast Harbor but nothing in other parts because it was too busy last September although it was pre-leaf peepers. Can you recommend specific walks of 2 or 3 hours? We prefer loops, if possible. We also would welcome suggestions for relaxing hikes, as opposed to trail walks. Thank you very much. We can’t wait to get back there! – Caroline of Cape Cod
Dear Caroline, springtime in Acadia, after mud season and before Memorial Day, is a perfect time to visit! The carriage roads just reopened to pedestrians on April 30, but not yet to bicyclists or horses as of this writing, so perfect timing there as well.
The much-loved Acadia carriage road system offers 45 miles of well-graded broken stone surface, taking you by 17 unique carriage road bridges (16 of them financed and given to the US government by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.), picturesque ponds, brooks, mountains and even a waterfall.
People as famous as President Barack Obama and his family have bicycled the Acadia carriage road around Witch Hole Pond, near the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, one of the carriage road loop hikes we feature below. And the carriage roads have been the training ground for many a long-distance runner, and offer a winter wonderland for cross-country skiiers and snowshoers.
The carriage roads are great for walking, especially as some of the historic vistas are being restored by the park. The Acadia carriage road loop hikes we suggest include some of these vistas, as well as carriage road bridges and short sections along hiking trails for a little variety.
Below are some interactive Google My Maps and color-coded elevation profiles we created just for you, Caroline, for Acadia carriage road loop hikes of between 3 to 6 miles, which should just about take 2 to 3 hours.
Google maps by Acadia on My Mind show Acadia carriage road loops
In the upper left hand corner of each interactive map, click on the small arrow pointing to the right, and then the arrow pointing down to see the drop-down with the hike description, the distance and the elevation gain.
And to expand the map to full screen, click on the box in the upper right hand corner. You can zoom in or out using the plus or minus sign at the bottom left of each map. Yellow-starred trail markers indicate special sights to see, while the green one indicates the start of the hike, the red one the end, and the blue ones, major intersections.
The hike description includes the recommended direction to take to minimize the climbing, as well as portions of the hike that might include short sections of rigorous trail walking, although downhill where possible to make it as easy as possible.
To increase the size of the elevation profile, just double click on the images, which were created on a free GPS tool known as GPS Visualizer.
We also share below some photos of things you can see along these Acadia carriage road loop hikes. And if you are looking for other easy hikes, you can search our blog for suggestions, or check out our “Best Easy Day Hikes, Acadia National Park” guide, the latest edition of which just came out this month. It’s available at the Acadia visitor center bookstore, as well as at Sherman’s Book Shop on Main Street, Bar Harbor, and on Amazon.com. (NOTE: Please see sidebar about Amazon.com links)
Thanks for this chance to let us add to our map-making skills, as we took the time to answer your question in detail, Caroline. This may inspire us to develop more interactive Google My Maps about Acadia National Park hiking as a result.
If the carriage roads open up to bicycles and horses during your visit, be sure to watch out for them, and to always keep your dog on no more than a 6-foot leash while in the park.
1) Hulls Cove to Paradise Hill, Witch Hole Pond and Duck Brook Bridge
5.2 mile loop, 443 feet elevation gain, loop described clockwise
President Barack Obama and his family bicycled this stretch of carriage road in July 2010.
Start at the far southwest corner of the Hulls Cove Visitor Center parking lot. At the intersection #1 in 0.5 mile, bear left to go up Paradise Hill and enjoy the restored historic vista overlooking Frenchman Bay.
At intersection #3 at the base of the hill, bear left, passing Witch Hole Pond on the right. Reach Duck Brook Bridge in another mile. There are steps that lead from the bridge down to the brook, which offer fine cascades in the spring or after heavy rains.
Continue on the carriage road, bearing right at intersection #4.
Then bear left at intersection #2 after passing Witch Hole Pond again.
Finally, bear left at intersection #1 to circle back to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center parking lot, heading down Paradise Hill.
2) Jordan Pond to Stanley Brook, Cobblestone, Jordan Pond Bridges
3.11 mile loop, 207 feet elevation gain, loop described clockwise
Start at the carriage road behind the Jordan Pond House. Turn left (south) on the carriage road. At intersection #16, bear right (south), stay straight at intersection #25, and turn left (east) at intersection #26. This now becomes a private carriage road, open to pedestrians but not bicyclists.
At intersection #29, bear right and reach the Stanley Brook Bridge at intersection #30, about one mile from the start. You can walk down to the Seaside Path from the carriage road, and walk through one of the bridge’s arches.
Continue on the carriage road, bearing right at intersection #31, then left at intersection #27, and right at intersection #28.
At intersection #24, reach the Cobblestone Bridge, which you can admire from underneath by walking down to Jordan Stream Path.
Continue north back toward Jordan Pond House, bearing left at intersection #23, and then left at intersection #15, to head to the southern shore of the pond and cross the last of the 3 bridges on this loop, the Jordan Pond Bridge with its view of the Bubbles.
And if the Jordan Pond House is open for the season, be sure to stop in for its famous popovers, and take in the spectacular scenery.
It’s best to park at the Jordan Pond House North Lot or, if you visit while the Island Explorer is running late June through Columbus Day, to take the fare-free shuttle to the Jordan Pond House stop.
3) Jordan Pond to Deer Brook Bridge via trail, carriage road
3.22 mile loop, 287 feet elevation gain, loop described counterclockwise
Start at the Jordan Pond North Lot, and take the Jordan Pond Path to the right along the easier east shore.
Bear left at every junction to continue paralleling the pond, until you reach the Deer Brook Trail at the northwestern corner of the pond, at about 1.75 miles from the start.
Turn right (northwest) onto a short stretch (0.2 mile) of the Deer Brook Trail to hike up to Deer Brook Bridge and the carriage road. While steep and rocky, this section of trail is made easier by huge stones laid flat for stepping, and not so steep that dogs on leash are prohibited, as they are on the Precipice Trail. (If the climb up to the carriage road seems too difficult, you can continue circling around the western shore of Jordan Pond on the footpath. Although the path is rougher than that along the eastern shore, it is more level than climbing up to the carriage road. But you would miss seeing the Deer Brook Bridge this way.)
Turn left (southeast) on the carriage road and take it past Jordan Cliffs and the bulk of Sargent and Penobscot Mountains on your right. If you are hiking during peregrine falcon nesting season, you may be fortunate enough to see or hear the birds high above Jordan Cliffs.
You near the Jordan Pond House after 3 miles. Turn left (northeast) across the Jordan Pond Bridge. Stop in for popovers if the Jordan Pond House is open. Continue along the shore of the pond back to the Jordan Pond North Lot.
4) Day Mountain via carriage road and trail
3.45 mile loop, 437 feet elevation gain, loop described counterclockwise
Hike starts at parking lot on south side of ME 3, west of Cooksey Drive. Head northwest for a short distance on the Day Mountain hiking trail (don’t miss Champlain Monument near the start, to the right of the trail).
Reach the carriage road at a 3-way intersection, and follow the carriage road sign to Day Mountain, reaching the summit in about 1.5 miles.
If you have the proper gear and are in shape for hiking a somewhat rough trail about 0.5 mile down the mountain to loop back on the carriage road, follow the hiking trail north down the summit, until you reach the carriage road. (If not, you can retrace your steps south back down the carriage road.)
Turn left (southwest) on the carriage road before the Triad-Day Bridge (the only carriage road bridge not financed by Rockefeller) and follow the road for another mile until you are back at the 3-way intersection near the start.
Turn right (southeast) onto the hiking trail to return to the parking lot. Be careful crossing ME 3 as there is a blind curve and cars may be speeding.
5) Amphitheater via carriage road and Asticou & Jordan Pond Path
4.58 miles, 497 elevation gain, loop described counterclockwise
This loop takes you over 5 Acadia carriage road bridges, including the longest one, the Amphitheater, at 235 feet, and takes you back via the historic Asticou & Jordan Pond Path.
Start at the Jordan Pond North Lot, and follow the Jordan Pond Path to the left (west) around the south shore, toward the outlet of the pond and over the Jordan Pond Bridge.
Turn right (north) onto the carriage road, and then left (west) at intersection #14 to follow the carriage road along the base of Jordan Cliffs and Penobscot Mountain, first crossing over West Branch Bridge, then Cliffside Bridge.
At intersection #21, just beyond 1 mile from the start, bear right (north) on the carriage road as it heads up the Amphitheater Valley.
In the 1920s, summer residents unsuccessfully fought construction of the carriage road through “the wild interior” here, saying footpaths were “the only intrusion necessary to give access,” according to “Creating Acadia National Park,” the biography of park founder George B. Dorr, by Ronald H. Epp.
Pause to reflect at the Amphitheater Bridge, with the Penobscot Mountain ridge towering over you to the east, and the Sargent Mountain ridge, to the west, in what is still a relatively wild interior.
Look down below at the less-traveled Amphitheater Trail coming up to the carriage road from the south, before it heads north up toward Birch Spring and Cedar Swamp Mountain. As with so many of the carriage road bridges, you can step down to the footpath below and look up at the unique structure.
Continue on the carriage road as it now loops south below the ridge of Sargent and Cedar Swamp mountains. At intersection #20, bear left to follow the carriage road as it wends its way over toward the fifth and final carriage road bridge of the loop, the Little Harbor Brook Bridge, just beyond 3 miles from the start of the hike.
At the junction with the Asticou & Jordan Pond Path (the second footpath, after the Penobscot Mountain Trail), turn left, and take the well-graded path back to the Jordan Pond House, and return to the Jordan Pond North Lot.
6) Upper Hadlock Pond loop to Waterfall and 2 other bridges
4 mile loop, 419 feet elevation gain, loop described clockwise
Start at the Brown Mountain Gatehouse parking lot south of Upper Hadlock Pond on ME 198.
Take the connecting trail to the carriage road, and bear left (north) at intersection #18 to take the easier clockwise direction around the loop.
Pass Upper Hadlock Pond, where loons may be nesting in springtime, on your left, and reach the Hadlock Brook Bridge at about 1 mile from the start.
At intersection #13, bear right, and then at intersection #12, bear right again. The steepest section of the loop is right between these two junctions.
Reach Hemlock Bridge where the Maple Spring Trail heads up toward Sargent
Shortly thereafter on the carriage road, come to Waterfall Bridge, where you may see Hadlock Falls in all its glory during springtime or after heavy rains.
It’s a long downhill heading south back toward the start. At intersection #19, bear right.
Back at intersection #18, bear left to return to the Brown Mountain Gatehouse parking lot.
And Caroline, if you happen to still be visiting Acadia on Friday, May 31st, the high season’s weekly ranger-led tour of some of “Mr. Rockefeller’s Bridges” in this area starts from the Parkman Mountain parking area at 9 a.m.
Hope you enjoy your visit, and thanks for being a reader of Acadia on My Mind!