Open Road Press

Cycling Acadia

A few weeks ago, I posted some of my favorite locations along Adventure Cycling Association’s Atlantic Coast route. One area that I omitted from that list–because we didn’t go there–was Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. Having lived one hour from Acadia, in Bangor, Maine, for nearly thirty years, I know the park like the back of my hand. It is a wonderful ocean-side playground for active adults. And I’m certain that it will contend for a spot on the “best of” list of anyone who takes on Adventure Cycling Association’s Atlantic Coast tour in its entirety. With fantastic scenery from lofty perches, the visuals combine with a low-stress cycling experience in this unforgettable region, a “pot of gold” at the end of a long tour. Last summer, Debbie and I diverted north and bypassed Acadia because we were traveling “from mom to mom” with a constrained time schedule.

Thunder Hole, Acadia National Park

Thunder Hole, Acadia National Park

Acadia is also the eastern terminus of the Northern Tier cross-country route. It rates high on lists of must-see places, evident from the multi-colored license plates and foreign tongues that flock there in summer. The sixteen-mile Park Loop Road is designed with tourists in mind. Automobiles are limited to 35 mph despite two lanes and one-way traffic for much of the loop. There’s good reason for this, with plenty of rubber-necking motorists staring at beautiful glacier-formed mountains, forests, bogs, lakes, rocky coastline, and ocean vistas. Places such as Sand Beach, the Precipice, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliffs line the Atlantic Ocean portion of the Loop Road. A predominantly rocky coastline enhances the visuals of the multi-directional spray of the crashing surf, while Thunder Hole amplifies the audio. Once you turn inland, you will encounter Jordan Pond, with its fine dining at the Jordan Pond House, the Bubbles, Eagle Lake, and the Cadillac Mountain turnoff. Acadia has it all within a relatively small footprint. Yet, despite its compressed size, many secluded areas give one the feel of relative privacy even while being surrounded by thousands of tourists in the summer months.

Porcupine Islands, Bar Harbor, Maine

Porcupine Islands, Bar Harbor, Maine

In the early 1900s, the Rockefellers–yes, the wealthy ones from New York–built horse and buggy “carriage paths,” which are still maintained for horses, bicycles, and hikers to this day. Miles of wide, loose-gravel paths cut through forests, wind around mountains, and encircle ponds and lakes, making for delightfully diverse travel and leaving no room for boredom. These trails offer gorgeous overlooks of inland lakes, neighboring hills, and the ocean.

The Bar Harbor region also features whale watching tours, deep sea fishing, boating and canoeing on lakes and ponds, hiking, boutique shops, art and theater, and nighttime entertainment. Dining to fit whatever budget is close at hand, as are motel and camping accommodations. Be sure to top off your day by cycling to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the United States’ highest peak on the entire Atlantic coast.

Sunset from Cadillac Mountain

Sunset from Cadillac Mountain

While the paved road that ascends Cadillac winds your bicycle around the mountain, you will enjoy fabulous views of Eagle Lake, the Atlantic Ocean, Frenchman Bay, the Porcupine Islands, and the small resort town of Bar Harbor. If you make it to the top before sundown, the sunset across Penobscot Bay and Eagle Lake will sear into your mind’s eye an indelible ending to your Atlantic Coast tour.

One thought on “Cycling Acadia

  1. Chuck Shults

    Hey Tim – I enjoyed your article – I had a wonderful summer job in the Fish Net restaurant in Bar Harbor! Cadillac Mountain gets the first rays of sun of anywhere in the USA! Chuck

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