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2 days in the winter exploring the rugged and beautiful Arcadia National Park

It is fair to say two short days in Acadia National Park is no where enough and we long for the day we can return. All we were able to do was briefly touch some of the highlights of this absolutely beautiful national park!

Most people head to Arcadia during the summer months, when the narrow roads can get very crowded. We decided to head there for Thanksgiving, so it was definitely chilly but we were lucky with the weather as the sun did poke out its head and several occasions. Additionally, there were not the crowds you will see in the summer months.

Day 1:

  • Drive around the Park Loop Road
  • Stop at Sand Beach and paddle in the sea if you dare
  • Wander the coastal path and stop off at Thunder Hole and Otter Point
  • Climb up Bubble Mountain and enjoy the views across Jordan Pond
  • Drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain for the best view in Arcadia National Park

Day 2:

  • Rise early to see the sun rise on Cadillac Mountain
  • Visit the Abbe Museum to understand more about the history of the area
  • Explore the small and picturesque town of Bar Harbor
  • Drive out to
  • Climb up Bubble Mountain and enjoy the views across Jordan Pond
  • Drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain for the best view in Arcadia National Park

Day 1:  Acadia National Park Loop Road

Driving or biking around the Acadia National Park Loop Road is a must. With only two days to spend at the park, we got an early start. We started at Sieur de Monts Springs, home to the Wild Gardens of Acadia, the Nature Center, and the original Abbe Museum and headed out towards Sand Beach.

Ocean Path to Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff

There is a 3 mile or 3.8 km (round-trip) long ocean side walking trail called Ocean Path that begins at the Sand Beach upper parking lot and follows the eastern coastline of Mount Desert Island in a southerly direction past Thunder Hole and then continues until it reaches Otter Cliff to the south. You should consider doing this walk as it is highly recommended for its unrivaled coastal beauty on the eastern seaboard of the continental United States.

Sand Beach is nestled in a small inlet between the granite mountains and rocky shores of Mount Desert Island. This gorgeous 290-yard-long beach is one of the most popular points of interest on the island. The thousands of years of pounding surf created a beach that is largely comprised of unique sand of shell fragments. Although the water looks inviting, you may want to reconsider wading in since the ocean temperature rarely exceeds 55 degrees in the summer.

Looking for pebbles on Sand Beach

The Ocean Path is beautiful and has plenty of spots for admiring the spectacular coastline and ravaging effects of the Atlantic Ocean. Also, a good opportunity for snapping a few photos.

On the ocean path

Thunder Hole is the place to experience the thunder of the sea against the rocky shores of Maine! On calm days you may wonder what the fuss is all about. But wait until the waves kick up a few notches. Thunder Hole is a small inlet, naturally carved out of the rocks, where the waves roll into. At the end of this inlet, down low, is a small cavern where, when the rush of the wave arrives, air and water is forced out like a clap of distant thunder. Water may spout as high as 40 feet with a thunderous roar! Hence the name: Thunder Hole.

Otter Cliff is one of the most spectacular sights along the North Atlantic Seaboard. On the east side of the Park Loop Road, about .7 miles past Thunder Hole, is the famous 110-foot-high Otter Cliff. Just before Otter Cliff is a beautiful spot called Monument Cove. Right after this, the road begins to curve to the left. To the right is a small parking area with portable rest facilities. On the other side of the street is a path that leads to the cliff.

On Otter Point Rocks

South Bubble Mountain (and Bubble Rock)

Bubble Rock

We continued our journey around the Park Loop and pulled off at Jordan Pond to take one of the better known trails in Arcadia NP, up on to Bubble Mountain.

One of the most famous views in Acadia is from the south side of Jordan Pond looking north at the Bubbles across the lake. Both of these beautiful little peaks (South Bubble and North Bubble) have trails that go to the summits that make for great day hikes. In addition to being a wonderful viewpoint, South Bubble also has a famous tourist attraction: Bubble Rock (aka. Balanced Rock), a large boulder that was carried by glaciers and deposited at the seemingly precarious edge of a cliff. The hike from the Bubbles parking lot to Bubble Rock is a short family-friendly adventure, but keep an eye on children near exposed sections of the mountain.


South Bubble
View from South Bubble towards Jordan’s Pond

Summit Road to Cadillac Mountain

We finished our first day in the park with a trip up the scenic Summit Road officially opened in 1931. It meanders along the North and eastern side of the mountain for approximately 3.5 miles (5.6 km) until reaching the top. There are several small observation points along the roadway that offer prime viewing opportunities, and we took advantage of most of them.

Cadillac Mountain, at 1,530 feet (466 meters), is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place to view sunrise in the United States from October 7 through March 6. It is one of over 20 mountains on Mount Desert Island (MDI), Maine that were pushed up by earth’s tectonic and volcanic forces millions of years ago. Cadillac Mountain was named after the Frenchman, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac.

It is cold on the top of the mountain

Sunset on Cadillac Mountain

Day 2: Bar Harbor and more exploring

Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain

Each day before dawn, hundreds of people make their way to Cadillac Mountain eager to claim being the first to watch the sunrise on. We wanted to be there to join the throngs of visitors to experience this early morning ritual.

Abbe Museum

After our early morning start we headed back into Bar Harbor for some delicious pancakes at Jordan’s Restaurant.  By this time the town was coming to life and we headed across to to the Abbe Museum.

Here we gained a much richer understanding of the history and cultures of Maine’s Native people, the Wabanaki. It is important to me as we travel across the United States to learn as much as I can about the native peoples who honored and revered this land, long before my ancestors arrived. The museum brings together oral traditions, personal stories, cultural knowledge, language, and historical accounts with objects, photographs, multi-media, and digital interactives. It really is a first class museum, and in 2013 it became the first and only Smithsonian Affiliate in the state of Maine.

Bar Habor

After exploring the museum, we decided to wander around Bar Harbor before lunch. The small town of Bar Harbor, was New England’s premier summer resort in the 19th century. It was where the rich and famous of the New York and Boston went to escape

Geddy’s Restaurant

the summer heat and humidity. Bar Harbor was home to the largest hotel in North America and to Millionaires’ Row, a line of summer estates built for America’s richest and most powerful families—including the Rockefellers, the Fords and the Vanderbilts. While many of these estates burned down in a 1947 fire, you can still see some of these homes by walking along West Street. Before setting out to do some more exploring we stopped at Geddy’s Restaurant, for a fish and chips dinner.


View from Bar Harbor

Echo Lake

After our scrumptious lunch we decided to head out to the western side of Mount Desert Island. Our first stop is Echo Lake, a gorgeous little lake located just south of Somesville near Route 102.

Echo Lake Beach is on the southern shore within Acadia National Park and has become the most popular fresh water swimming place on the island. But in November it was a little too cold for swimming!

Echo Lake Beach

The Wonderland Trail

We headed further along highway 102 until we reached the Wonderland trail head. This 1.5 mile round trip trail is actually an old road which leads to the ocean. It’s very flat with minimal roots and rocks. Upon reaching the water, the trail loops through a stand of spruce and fir, occasionally providing access to the rocky shoreline. We arrived at the water’s edge just as the sun was going down.

All too soon it was time to head back to Bar Harbor to our hotel, and the end of our fabulous 2 days in this amazing National Park.

Exploring rock pools on the beach off the Wonderland Trail
Exhausted after 2 days of exploring Arcadia

The end of the Wonderland Trail

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