Last month we posted about planning the perfect Maine road trip vacation, one where you could visit all the National Park Service units in one week. Then we went ahead and did it! Each year more than 3 million people visit Acadia National Park, Maine’s most famous park. Along the way they visit some of the same park service units we did: including Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument and St. Croix Island International Historic Site. Today we’re sharing our 8 day trip recap in hopes that you’ll consider planning your next #parkchasing trip to Down East Maine!
Acadia National Park – Day One
Arrive in Portland, ME. Pick up rental car and drive to Acadia National Park headquarters in Bar Harbor, ME. Check in with the rangers and set up camp at Blackwoods Campground near the southern end of the park.
Acadia National Park – Day Two
Wake up early for the hike up Cadillac Mountain. Some of the trails and markers you’ll be using in Acadia National Park are more than 115 years old. Some of the cairns along the way have been in place just as long. From Blackwoods Campground, check out the good options for an out and back or a loop hike that includes neighboring Dorr Mountain.
After your hike, drive into Bar Harbor for one of the freshest lobster dinners you’ll find anywhere in the world.
Acadia National Park – Day Three
On Day 3 rest your feet and drive up Cadillac Mountain instead. Cadillac Mountain is famous as one of the first places that the sun rises on the continental United States. Wake up and head to the parking area 45 minutes to an hour before dawn and watch the sunrise with a warm cup of coffee. Expect crowds during the busy travel season.
After sunrise, head down to the Sieur de Monts Visitor’s Center. Walk around the gardens and Abbe Museum. The Abbe Museum’s exhibits focus on the unique Native American cultures of Maine.
Continue driving the Park Loop Road for the rest of the day. These are the best stops: Sand Beach, one of the few sand beaches in Maine, Thunder Hole, a unique geological feature that creates a thundering roar during specific tidal times and Little Hunter’s Beach. Lesser known, Little Hunter’s Beach is filled with small pebble stones. At low tide the waves roll the rocks around creating a tinkling music like wind chimes.
End the day with the ranger-led program back at Blackwoods Campground.
Acadia National Park & Down East Maine – Day Four
On our last day in Acadia we drove north up the Maine coast to two other sites:
Saint Croix Island International Historic Site in Calias, Maine was established in 1949. It commemorates one of the earliest attempts at French colonization of North America in 1604. Visitors can see artifacts and exhibits as well as look out across the mouth of the St. Croix River into Canada. The site is jointly operated but the United States, Canadian and French governments.
After that we drove to the Easternmost Point in the Continental United States, the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Lubec, Maine followed by crossing into New Brunswick, Canada to Roosevelt Campobello International Park. While operated by the Canadian Park Service, the park is historically significant as the summer home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his family. It is also the place where Roosevelt is thought to have contracted polio. The summer home’s 34 rooms contain original furniture and artifacts and interpretive guides to explain why Roosevelt chose this site for respite.
Acadia National Park – Day Five
It’s best to spend the last day in Acadia National Park on the trail or on the water. If you’re lucky, try both. Start the morning with a leisurely hike around Jordan Pond, including some miles on one of Acadia’s famous carriage roads. Developed and financed by John D. Rockefeller, the 57 miles of carriage roads that wind through the park and Mount Desert Island showcase the best of Acadia.
Then if you have the stomach for it, try out the Beehive or Precipice Trails. Much of the trail includes vertical “laddering” up the granite mountainsides. Hikers are rewarded with spectacular views of Bar Harbor and the Atlantic coast. Check out this video of a hike on one of Acadia’s most difficult slopes:
End your last day in Acadia National Park with a sunset kayak trip in Bar Harbor Bay with a chance to see bald eagles and stunning views of Cadillac Mountain from the water.
Baxter State Park – Days Six, Seven & Eight
In addition to our four days in Acadia National Park, we also visited Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument about 3 hours north of Bar Harbor. One of the newest national park units in the service, there are no developed roads, trails or visitor services in the park yet. But it does offer access to some of the most remote areas of Maine wilderness.
During our visit we stayed at Baxter State Park near Millinocket, Maine. Baxter State Park is remote backpacking wilderness with no water or trash provided in the park. Permits to enter the park and camp are limited and available online. During our stay we climbed Mount Katahdin, the highest point in Maine and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. While not in the National Park Service, anyone looking for a physical challenge and the rewards of a gorgeous hike should consider adding Katahdin to their itinerary!
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