College president and family climbing 40 peaks in Acadia

College of the Atlantic President Darron Collins

College of the Atlantic President Darron Collins takes a seat midway up Huguenot Head to enjoy the sweeping views of The Tarn and Dorr Mountain. “That’s what I like about this hike,” he says. “You can be here in about five minutes from work.” PHOTO BY AMANAT KHULLAR

What better way to spend a glorious summer morning than hiking in Acadia National Park with Darron Collins leading the way on the Beachcroft Trail up Huguenot Head.

The president of College of the Atlantic, a Bar Harbor college whose curriculum focuses on the relationships between humans and the environment — human ecology — knows the national park well, having hiked its 125-mile network of hiking trails. Maybe even twice.

As if this wasn’t enough, the 45-year-old outdoorsman last year challenged himself to make 250 climbs, covering 1,000 miles, in Acadia. He and his black Labrador retriever Lucy wrapped up the challenge on the Bernard Mountain summit last December.

“This challenge was a way to force myself to get out of the office,” Collins related as he led way to the Beachcroft trailhead from the parking lot at The Tarn, a glacial lake, on the outskirts of Bar Harbor.

Darron Collins and his black Labrador retriever Lucy wrapped up his 250-peak challenge last year with a hike up Bernard Mountain in December. PHOTO COURTESY DARRON COLLINS

Darron Collins and his black Labrador retriever Lucy wrapped up his 250-peak challenge last year with a hike up Bernard Mountain in December.

This year, he aims to climb 40 or so peaks in Acadia “as a family” with his wife, Karen, and 12- and 14-year-old daughters Maggie and Molly.

It’s not just the panoramic views that drew Collins up Huguenot Head 13 times last year. It’s the 1.2-mile trail’s diverse terrain.

Hikers ascend a flight of granite stairs, which switch back and forth, follow stepping stones, scramble up over boulders and cross ledges along the Beachcroft Trail.

Clad in khakis and a loose sweatshirt, Collins swiftly negotiates the trail’s narrow paths and granite rocks patterned with delicate white and green lichen. The Atlantic Ocean and Cranberry Isles swing into view along the way.

The Beachcroft Trail doesn’t actually go to the Huguenot Head summit. But Collins leads the way through across granite ledges studded with jack pine.

At the top, he takes in views of the Tarn and Dorr Mountain to the west and then takes a seat on a flat granite shelf.

“Not a lot of people come up here,” he said while gazing out at Frenchman Bay, Porcupine Islands and the open sea stretching to the horizon. “The trail [detour] isn’t even on the map.”

Originally from New Jersey, Collins credits his mother for instilling in him a love of the outdoors. He hiked with her from a young age.

“She was definitely my inspiration behind walking,” he said smiling.



Mount Desert Island’s wild beauty factored in his decision to attend COA. The college’s location was again an incentive when the president’s job became available over four years ago.

“We have Acadia National Park in the backyard and the ocean in the front,” he said.

As Mount Desert Island prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Acadia’s founding next year, Collins says he often wonders what the next century will bring and how more people can be encouraged to experience to enjoy and treasure the national park as he does.

“Few people find solace in the outdoors,” he noted while retracing his way down Huguenot “There is such a focus on technology, which I think has come at an expense of nature.”

Heading up Huguenot HeadWhere: Acadia National Park, Mount Desert IslandGetting there: From downtown Bar Harbor, take Route 3 south toward Otter Creek. After the Sieur de Monts Spring entrance to Acadia, look for parking lot on right. Follow a roadside path toward the glacial lake called The Tarn. Look across Route 3 for the trailhead besides granite steps.

What to bring: A hiking guide, drinking water, windbreaker, sunscreen and sunglasses.

Amanat Khullar is a sports reporter for the Mount Desert Islander. She comes from New Delhi, the capital city of India and graduated from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.