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Fall Foliage in Maine: Acadia National Park & Beyond

Author: soliteyah (More Trip Reviews by soliteyah)
Date of Trip: October 2010

The hike itself was lovely -- it felt a little like I'd imagine the Pacific Northwest to feel, damp and green, with lots of firs and pines. We went up the main trail, which had some altitude gain but was never strenuous. We reached the top in less than an hour. At the top was a wide, rocky summit with fantastic views of Sand Beach and Otter Cliffs. We would have lingered up there longer if we hadn't been getting so wet!

On the way back down, we took the Cadillac Cliffs detour, which was a little more challenging on such a damp day (lots of descending/scrambling over slippery rocks), but it was quite pretty with some fall foliage and a sea cave with a rock ledge jutting out over it. When we met up with the main trail again, it wasn't too much farther back down to the parking lot -- and along the way, the rain stopped!

We continued around the Park Loop Road to the Bubble Pond parking lot, where there'd been no available spots the day before. Today there were several, so we checked out the pond and walked along the carriage road that borders one side. This seemed to be a popular place for people to bike and walk dogs (or in one case both: a woman rode by, her dog stopped to check something out, she kept going, and the dog was dragged/flipped into the air by her forward momentum, landing on its back and getting its leash twisted around the bike wheel -- ugh!). As we walked, the sun finally came out, and the day had turned clear and beautiful by the time we pulled out to go to the Cadillac Mountain summit.

Unlike the other summits in the park, you can drive right up to this one via a dramatic road with lots of hairpin turns. Along the route are a bunch of viewpoints where you can pull over and ooh/ahh over the increasingly expansive panoramic views: Eagle Lake, Frenchman Bay, cruise ships docked outside Bar Harbor ... amazing. The Blue Hill overlook had great views off to the west (as well as a decent-sized parking lot), and then at the very top is a massive lot and a 0.3-mile paved trail to let you take in the full panorama. Be warned that it is very windy up there -- I was glad I'd packed lots of layers.

We were both hungry by then, so we drove into town to find sustenance. We ended up grabbing some ready-made food at Hannaford, a grocery store: chili and a hoagie for SO, turkey sandwich and yogurt for me. We ate in the Sand Beach parking lot, where I also used the bathroom before we moved on to our afternoon hike: the Hunter's Brook trail.

The path ran along a gorgeous stream for much of the way, including several crossings. (Some were easier than others; an older couple with a dog decided to turn back after a few tricky ones.) The trail apparently linked up with a path to the Triad Mountain summit, but we didn't start the hike till 2:45 and weren't sure we'd have time to get it all in before dusk fell. So we turned around after about 55 minutes to go back the way we came as the sun started to slant a little lower between the trees. Our feet were really tired by then -- we'd been hiking for the better part of two days, and this particular trail was full of knotty roots that really started to do a number on the balls and arches of my feet.

We finished the day in delightful fashion by returning to the Cadillac summit and watching the sunset. (The best view was not at the summit itself but rather at any of the west-side viewpoints on the way down.) We parked the car and hung out for a bit, snapping photos as the sun sank behind the hills.

We were too late for all the early bird dinner specials in Bar Harbor, so we headed to Galyn's, which our guidebook had given a good review. It was pricier than we really wanted, but frankly we were due for a really good meal! I got sauteed scallops (delicious) and SO got a spicy seafood stew. We topped it off with warm blueberry-apple crisp topped with vanilla ice cream -- so good!

fall foliage leaf rain acadia national park maine

This was an absolute gem of a day weather-wise -- brilliant sunshine and temps in the mid-60's. We used this day to check out the western side of Mount Desert Island, which is significantly quieter than the eastern side where Bar Harbor is. We started by hiking up Flying Mountain, which at less than 300 feet is really more of a small hill -- it took us a whopping 12 minutes to reach the summit. The views of Somes Sound were gorgeous.

The trail continued up and over the mountain down to the edge of Valley Cove, where we sat on the rocky beach and looked out across the water for a while at the ritzy homes on the opposite coast. Then the trail looped back around to the parking area via an unpaved truck road, mostly flat but a little bit uphill. Overall it was a relaxing hike, long enough to be interesting but less than two hours (and we took our time with it -- it could have been even shorter).

After that we drove into Southwest Harbor, a cute little town with a pretty waterfront. We parked and wandered aimlessly around town for a while, winding up at the Wendell Gilley Museum. Gilley was a local artist who did wood carvings of birds. The museum wasn't big, but the carvings were fascinating and intricately done. Species included ducks, loons, owls, eagles, cardinals and my favorite, the chickadee.

We had lunch at the Sips cafe in Southwest Harbor. They had some creative and healthy options on the menu (like hummus, crepes and a vegetarian club sandwich). I had clam chowder and a green salad while SO had minestrone soup and a turkey club. Pretty good. Our waitress was a bundle of energy; we joked that she would have climbed Flying Mountain in six minutes flat, then sung Frank Sinatra songs at the top!

After lunch we drove down to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse, which is still in use (but now automated). Apparently a Coast Guard officer still lives in the attached "house" part of the lighthouse -- I can't imagine it's much fun for his family to have tourists swarming around all the time, but what do I know? We stuck around long enough to snap a few photos before moving on to the Ship Harbor Trail -- an easy, figure-eight-shaped trail that passes partly through the woods and partly along the shore, where the low tide revealed lots of rocks and dried seaweed. SO enjoyed browsing for periwinkle shells and other sea life. (He spotted a few lobster claws too.) We stopped for a while to bask on the rocks and watch the sunlight spangling the water -- brilliant and mesmerizing.

We definitely took our time with the tidal side of the hike (I even got sunburned), but we ran out of steam a bit at the end and took the forest trail back pretty quickly. (We'd seen lots of forests by that point.) We'd initially planned to do the nearby Wonderland trail as well, but our feet were sore again and it looked like more of the same, so instead we parked for a while in the Seawall picnic area, looking out over the waves and watching a brazen seagull chilling out on the hood of the car next to us. (He was unfazed by the several tourists, including us, who came up to take his picture.)

We had dinner in Bass Harbor at Seafood Ketch, which was right on the very picturesque harbor. The tide was very low, so we watched a bunch of seagulls picking over the offerings on the newly revealed beach. It was warm enough to eat outside, which I thought was pretty impressive for Maine in October, but we were plagued a bit by some mosquitoes that seemed to be blowing in from the nearby marsh lands. For our meals, I ordered stuffed fish topped with lobster sauce and SO got shrimp scampi -- both good but not amazing. For dessert, we tried the Indian pudding, which is made of corn meal, molasses, sugar and spices. It tasted a bit like pumpkin, and the texture was a little like Cream of Wheat. Quite yummy! (SO told me to just lick the bowl already.)

We spent the night at the Bluff House Inn in Gouldsboro, on the Schoodic Peninsula. This B&B has some fantastic views over the water from several wide porches. We stayed in the Strawberry Room, the least expensive option at $75/night + tax, which didn't have the amazing water view but was cute and charming. We were greeted in the main lounge area by a poodle named Olivia and the calls of an African parrot in another room. Two other small dogs also ventured out to say hi, while Olivia inquisitively nosed up against my crotch. The lounge had a bunch of tables set up for breakfast, as well as a computer that I assumed was for guest use (we had our own laptop and were able to use the inn's free wi-fi), as well as some comfy chairs and a small library.

seagull schoodic point acadia national park maineWe woke up to a gray but dry morning and had a quick continental breakfast at the inn before driving down Route 186 to the Schoodic portion of Acadia National Park. As with the Mount Desert Island portion, there's a one-way loop road here that winds around the bottom of the peninsula (though this one is much shorter and doesn't require an entrance fee). The scenery was fairly similar, with the ubiquitous rocky coastline, but this section of the park was much quieter. There was barely anyone else in the pullouts on the side of the road, and the two-tiered parking lot at Schoodic Point only had one other car in it when we arrived at 9:30 or so. I really enjoyed that stop -- it was high tide, and the waves crashing against the rocks were magnificent. Lots of shore birds there too.

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