Sports and the Outdoors in Acadia National Park

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Sports and the Outdoors

The best way to see Acadia National Park is to get out of your vehicle and explore on foot or by bicycle or boat. There are more than 45 miles of carriage roads that are perfect for walking and biking in the warmer months and for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter. There are 125 miles of trails for hiking, numerous ponds and lakes for canoeing or kayaking, two beaches for swimming, and steep cliffs for rock climbing.

Hiking

Acadia National Park maintains more than 125 miles of hiking trails, from easy strolls around lakes and ponds to rigorous treks with climbs up rock faces and scrambles along cliffs. Although most hiking trails are on the east side of the island, the west side also has some scenic trails. For those wishing for a long climb, try the trails leading up Cadillac Mountain or Dorr Mountain. Another option is to climb Parkman, Sargeant, and Penobscot mountains. Most hiking is done from mid-May to mid-November. Snow falls early in Maine, so from as early as late November to the end of March cross-country skiing and snowshoeing replace hiking. Volunteers groom most of the carriage roads if there’s been 4 inches of snow or more. You can park at one end of any trail and use the free shuttle bus to get back to your starting point.

Distances for trails are given for the round-trip hike.

Acadia Mountain Trail. If you're up for a challenge, this is one of the area's best trails. The 2½-mile round-trip climb up Acadia Mountain is steep and strenuous, but the payoff is grand: views of Somes Sound. If you want a guided trip, look into the ranger-led hikes for this trail. Rte. 102, Acadia National Park, ME, 04609. 207/288–3338. www.nps.gov/acadia.

Ocean Path Trail. This easily accessible 4.4-mile round-trip trail runs parallel to the Ocean Drive section of the Park Loop Road from Sand Beach to Otter Point. It has some of the best scenery in Maine: cliffs and boulders of pink granite at the ocean's edge, twisted branches of dwarf jack pines, and ocean views that stretch to the horizon. Be sure to save time to stop at Thunder Hole, named for the sound the waves make as they thrash through a narrow opening in the granite cliffs, into a sea cave, and whoosh up and out. Steps lead down to the water, where you can watch the wave action close up, but use caution here (access may be limited due to storms), and if venturing onto the outer cliffs along this walk. Ocean Dr. section of Park Loop Rd., Acadia National Park, ME, 04609.

Swimming

The park has two swimming beaches, Sand Beach and Echo Lake Beach. Sand Beach, along Park Loop Road, has changing rooms, restrooms, and a lifeguard on duty from the first full week of June to Labor Day. Echo Lake Beach, on the western side of the island just north of Southwest Harbor, has much warmer water, as well as changing rooms, restrooms, and a lifeguard on duty throughout the summer.

Echo Lake Beach. A quiet lake surrounded by woods in the shadow of Beech Mountain, Echo Lake draws swimmers to its sandy southern shore. The lake bottom is bit muckier than the ocean beaches nearby, but the water is considerably warmer. The surrounding trail network skirts the lake and ascends the mountain. The beach is 2 miles north of Southwest Harbor. Amenities: lifeguards; toilets. Best for: swimming. Echo Lake Beach Rd., off Hwy. 102, Acadia National Park, ME, 04679.

Sand Beach. This pocket beach is hugged by two picturesque rocky outcroppings, and the combination of the crashing waves and the chilly water (peaking at around 55°F) keeps most people on the beach. You'll find some swimmers at the height of summer, but the rest of the year this is a place for strolling and snapping photos. In the shoulder season, you'll have the place to yourself. Amenities: lifeguards; parking; toilets. Best for: sunrise; solitude; walking. Ocean Dr. section of Park Loop Rd., 3 miles south of Hwy. 3, Acadia National Park, ME, 04665.

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