Whether you are a novice hiker or just sort of lazy, there are several easy hikes within Acadia National Park to fit your agenda. (Whatever you do, just don’t find yourself on the Precipice Trail.)
Cadillac Mountain Summit
No, this is not a hike. Your car will be the only thing getting a workout on this excursion. However, you cannot come to Acadia National Park and not see the top of Cadillac Mountain, so it has to go on this list. If it makes you feel better, you can strap on your hiking boots and a CamelBak.
For this “hike,” follow the signs for Cadillac Mountain Summit and park once you get to the top, then simply exit the vehicle and “oohh” and “aaah” at the view. The hardest part of this trek is getting stuck behind a tourist bus on the way up.
If you are a real overachiever, you can hike the mountain via the North or South Ridge trails. Or you can wake up at 4 a.m. and drive to the summit to be one of the first people in the United States to see the sunrise.
Pro tip: Unless you’re a natural morning person, consider skipping sunrise at the summit. The fog is often too thick to see much of anything, and even if you do manage to see the sunrise, you’ll probably be waiting a while for a breakfast joint to open.
Save for the somewhat steep granite stairs that lead from Peabody Drive to the Thuya Garden, this isn’t so much a hike as it is a saunter. And if you want to get technical, it isn’t part of Acadia National Park, but the Land & Garden Preserve of Mount Desert, although parkland begins just steps behind the garden.
As you approach Northeast Harbor from Route 3, just shy of the turnoff for the Asticou Inn, there is a sign on the right-hand side for Asticou Terraces. (For those who are unable or unwilling to climb the stairs, you can access the garden by car via Thuya Drive off of Route 3/Peabody Drive.) Stop here, park along the road and walk up the granite steps to a lookout over Northeast Harbor. Keep going up until you get to Thuya Garden, originally planted by Charles K. Savage and John D. Rockefeller.
The garden is a gorgeous mix of native Maine species and “semi-formal English border beds” — whatever those are. Bring your camera or your watercolors should you want to unleash your inner Monet.
Pro tip: Plan a scavenger hunt for the kids so they don’t get bored.
Jordan Pond Nature Trail
Not only is this an easy hike for the whole family, it is a hike that ends with popovers and blueberry lemonade at Jordan Pond House. Yes, this is an extremely popular tourist destination for good reason.
The 1-mile hike takes you from the Jordan Pond House parking lot through a flat trail in the woods and along the pond’s rocky shore.
Once you can see the big house at the top of the hill, run — don’t walk — to put your name on the restaurant’s waiting list. Wait times can exceed one hour in the height of the season, especially for large groups.
Pro tip: Each person in the group gets one free popover, but trust us, you’ll want to pay the $2.50 for an extra one. Or two.
Starting at the Sand Beach parking lot, this flat, 4-mile path gets you close enough to nature without walking through the woods or rocky trails. You get a panoramic view of Mount Desert Island and the beach below, and it is especially stunning at sunset.
Pro tip: This parking lot gets very full, especially on a cloudless day, so come early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Also, the railing at the bottom of the steps to Thunder Hole exists for a reason. Do not fall in. You will not get out.
Think Mount Desert Island is all about Mount Desert and Bar Harbor? Think again. The lesser-known”Quiet Side” is worth a visit.
Once you get to Southwest Harbor, drive through town until you see signs for 102A. Take a left, and there will be a Wonderland parking lot. The 1.4-mile trail was once a road, so it is pretty much flat the whole way. It leads you straight to the ocean, and a beautiful tidal pool. Plus, you take back all those calories you just burned with a trip to Thurston’s Lobster Pound.
Pro tip: Order the lobster dip.
Bar Island Trail
This is the only trail in the park that disappears and reappears like magic. Bar Island Trail is a 1-mile round hike that is accessible either an hour and a half before or after low tide.
Take Bridge Street, just past the West Street Pier in Bar Harbor, to get down to the Bar Island Trail land bridge. You will not need a map, as there is only one direction you can go, but you should have a tide chart handy. Once you get there, Bar Island offers a great view of Cadillac Mountain, and a unique view of Bar Harbor that you would only get to see if you were on a boat.
Pro tip: Bring a watch. You don’t want to be the tourist who loses track of time, gets stuck on Bar Island and has to call a water taxi.
This trail is listed in the guidebooks as “moderate,” but take it from a lazy person, this 1.4-mile hike is easy, not to mention gorgeous.
Park in the lower Sand Beach parking lot and the trail head is at the far end of the beach. There is an incline as you ascend, but it’s worth it. Great Head provides some of the best views of the island, Beehive and Sand Beach. On a quiet day, it can feel like you are the only person in the park.
Pro tip: Watch your step because there can be slick rocks and tree roots.