Exploring Acadia National Park

(Catching up from Labor Day weekend runs!)

After our morning run in Boothbay Harbor and lobster rolls for lunch, we drove to Bar Harbor in Acadia National Park for my cousin’s wedding. With only about two days in Bar Harbor, we really wanted to maximize our time in Acadia National Park. We planned on doing a long run on the park’s carriage roads but needed to figure out our route.

View from Cadillac Mountain

View from Cadillac Mountain

While researching possible running routes in Acadia before we left, Mike found a Runner’s World article highlighting a 3.3 mile route on the Witch Hole Pond carriage road. We wanted to extend that route, adding on other loop(s) to bring up the mileage and allow us to see more of the park. I found a helpful website listing various carriage road loops, sorted by lengths. Mike and I were still unsure if the “crushed gravel” on the carriage roads would be suitable for regular running sneakers; if it were larger crushed gravel and rocks, we’d probably need trail sneakers….Armed with our research, we decided to make a final decision on the trail and route once in Bar Harbor.

Our first morning in Bar Harbor, we woke up early (4:45 am!) to drive with my parents up Cadillac Mountain to see the sunrise. Just gorgeous! Cadillac Mountain is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place to see the sunrise in the US (Oct 7 – March 6).

Beautiful sunrise

Beautiful sunrise

Up bright and early!

Up bright and early!

We went back to our hotel to enjoy our complimentary breakfast before setting off on our long run. We were just going to have our Picky Bars but couldn’t resist a warm breakfast after a chilly sunrise on Cadillac Mountain. I was slightly concerned with how my stomach would fare on the run but I luckily didn’t have any problems.

I had read about these new access trails to Acadia carriage roads but couldn’t find a good map of them. I also tried finding them on Google Streetview, but also couldn’t locate the one near our hotel (think it’s too new). We drove by it on Saturday morning, confirming it existed.

Very hidden access trail between two motels

Very hidden access trail between two motels

We ran a short ways from our hotel on Route 3 to the access trail. It felt like we had stumbled upon a secret garden! From the busy main road lined with hotels, we quickly found ourselves deep in the forest, navigating a hiking, not running (at least with our sneakers), trail for about 1/4 mile until Duck Brook Road.
Access trail - hiked this for about 1/4 mile.

Access trail – hiked this for about 1/4 mile.

We ran along Duck Brook Road, a nice wide, finely crushed gravel road, until we hit Duck Brook Bridge. There was a small parking lot and restrooms available at the bridge and entrance to carriage roads.IMG_5720
Witch Hole Pond loop is a 3.3 mile loop trail that passes by Half Moon Pond, Witch Hole Pond and Duck Brook. I was surprised that despite it being a holiday weekend and gorgeous weather, the trail was relatively quiet. We only saw a handful of other runners and bikers. Early into the run, we got a glimpse of the ocean through the trees.IMG_5727 We ran into my dad (who was also running the loop) and spotted several beavers’ lodges and a dam. Fun fact: Witch Hole Pond loop is the loop the Obamas biked when visiting Acadia in 2010. IMG_5732 Rather than continuing the loop, we turned off at a carriage road intersection to head to Eagle Lake. Although it’s hard to find a good map online, once you’re in Acadia, the trails are very well marked and maps are easier to find.
Lots of signage in park!

Lots of signage in park!

Great information at each carriage road "trailhead"

Great information at each carriage road “trailhead”

The connector carriage road passed by another parking lot (for Eagle Lake) along with restrooms/nice-ish outhouses and trashcans (handy for gels). Very appreciated!
Restrooms by Eagle Lake entrance

Restrooms by Eagle Lake entrance

Dramatic bridge entrance to Eagle Lake loop

Dramatic bridge entrance to Eagle Lake loop

The 6-ish mile Eagle Lake loop was beautiful. The carriage road loop was fairly hilly and mainly in the woods. However, the lake itself was spectacular. We got fantastic views at the beginning of the loop and then about mile 9 until the end. This trail was much more crowded, mainly with bikers, than Witch Hole Pond — could also be due to it being a bit later in the day. Still, it wasn’t too crowded at all. We found the trail very relaxing with fewer sights than Witch Hole but the views of the lake itself made the long stretches in the woods worth it!
Gorgeous Eagle Lake

Gorgeous Eagle Lake

IMG_2059 The carriage roads themselves are perfect for running – easy on the knees! The gravel is very finely crushed; the roads are a mix between that and plain dirt. I wish I could do all long runs in Acadia! Mike and I have added the MDI Marathon (Mount Desert Island) to our list of marathons to run.
Beautiful carriage roads

Beautiful carriage roads

Usually, I like to zone out on long runs, listen to podcasts and music. But on our run in Acadia, I completely forgot about my iPod shuffle. Raleigh is no where near as loud as DC but Acadia is QUIET. It was so relaxing to just hear nothing but nature’s sounds. And the time really flew by, surprisingly!
Last view of Eagle Lake

Last view of Eagle Lake

We finished up the loop and headed back to join up with the Witch Hole Pond loop again. There was no shade for the final stretch of Witch Hole Pond and it was getting pretty hot – unusual for Maine at the end of August! We backtracked — back across the bridge, along Duck Brook Road, and back on the access trail.
Running on Duck Brook Road

Running on Duck Brook Road

I found it could be easy to miss the access trail entrance from Duck Brook Road – the tree trunk marker is easy to miss. Also, we had spotty cell service in the park so I wouldn’t recommend relying on your phone for directions.
Home stretch! Hike on the access trail to cool down

Home stretch! Hike on the access trail to cool down

The access trail is a really pretty hike that I’d actually recommend as a hike itself, and not just a means to get to a destination – a trail like Witch Hole Pond. It was a fun way to get into Acadia National Park, really leaving the modern world behind.
Running across a bridge on access trail

Running across a bridge on access trail

We can’t wait to go back to Acadia National Park and spend more time exploring. Next time, we’d love to bike the carriage roads, as well. We just scratched the surface and quickly fell in love with the park. Maybe MDI Marathon will be in the not too distant future!

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