Acadia National Park: A user's guide
Hike or bike on trails created by the Rockefeller family at this Maine getaway, the first national park donated entirely by private landowners.
Sun, Jul 03, 2011 at 08:13 AM
Woods meet water in dramatic fashion at Acadia National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi. It’s easy to study spruce and starfish during a day of hiking or biking — or both. Views from Cadillac Mountain — at 1,530 feet the highest mountain in the park and Eastern Seaboard — encompass the Porcupine Islands, Frenchman Bay and about 5,000 years of human history.
Summer homes of the rich and famous dotted Mount Desert Island in the late 1800s. Concerned that logging and development might forever alter the area, landowners formed a public land trust in 1901. The acreage assembled by the trust was passed to the federal government in 1919, creating Lafayette National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi River and the first national park donated entirely by private landowners. A stipulation to the donation of the 2,000-acre Schoodic Peninsula is responsible for the name change to Acadia National Park, a move that required an act of Congress. Isle au Haut, an island that is about 15 miles southwest of Mount Desert Island, was added to the park in 1943.
Things to do
While more than 125 miles of hiking trails allow for exploring the forest, marshes and ponds of the interior, the tide pools where shore meets sea provide a peek into a world most haven’t seen. When the sea retreats at low tide twice a day, pools of water, and the creatures that live in them, are left behind. Spend a few still moments beside a tide pool and you’ll spot sea urchins, sea stars, periwinkles, anemones and crabs.
The truly bold can go swimming at Sand Beach, where the water temperature stays below 60 degrees F.
Consider a carriage ride along 45 miles of rustic carriage roads built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and family. The network of carriage roads is also open to hiking and biking.
Escape the crowds by taking a ranger-led cruise to Baker Island followed by a guided hike to explore the natural and cultural history of the island. Be sure to foxtrot on the granite slabs known as Dance Floor.
Why you’ll want to come back
If you’re a morning person — really a morning person — you’ll want to return during the off-season to watch the sunrise from atop Cadillac Mountain (at right), which officially catches North America’s first light from Oct. 7 to March 6.
Flora and fauna
The rocky shoreline is where you’ll spot harbor seals and gray seals basking in the sun.
The nearby waters and rocky sea ledges are refuge for common eiders, herring gulls, black guillemots, double-crested cormorants and other sea birds. The park is also home to nesting peregrine falcons, bald eagles and osprey.
Red foxes, whitetail deer, raccoons and river otters may be spotted in the forests and meadows.
By the numbers:
- Website: Acadia National Park
- Park size: 35,332 acres or 55 square miles
- 2010 visitation: 2,504,208
- Busiest month: August, 627,918visitors
- Slowest month: December, 9,544 visitors
- Funky fact: Use of in-line skates and skateboards is prohibited in the park.
This is part of Explore America's Parks, a series of user's guides to national, state and local park systems across the United States. We'll be adding new parks all summer, so check back for more.
Inset photo of sunrise at Cadillac Mountain: jerm1386/Flickr