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Elevation Profile of Trail

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Hiking Acadia National Park
by Dolores Kong and Dan Ring

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Trailhead:  N 44° 22.46'
W 68° 11.659'
Total Elevation:  2642'
Trail Length:  5.3 miles
Hike Time:  3.5 hours
Hike Type:  Loop
Difficulty Rating:  105
Near:  Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, ME.
Note regarding hike time and elevation traversed.  

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Trip Report and Photos

Located on Mount Desert Island in Maine is Acadia National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi River. Located within the park are over 125 miles of hiking trails. During June of 2009, Shari and I vacationed here and got an opportunity to explore some of these trails. The first trails explored was a circuit hike that included a climb to the top of Mount Champlain.

Mount Champlain is the eastern-most mountain on the island with an elevation of 1058 feet. I did this hike on our first full day on the island. I figured the total hike to be somewhere around five to six miles. I felt comfortable doing this hike as the elevation change and distance that I would be hiking was quite similar to the day hikes that I typically do in Pennsylvania.

The trailhead for this hike is located just south of the town of Bar Harbor. Heading out of town, on route ME3, you will drive about a half mile. Keep your eyes open to the left of the road. You will soon see a trailhead parking access area. Turn in here as this is where this hike will start. If you drive past the intersection with Schooner Head Road (there is an ice cream stand here), then you've driven too far.

From the trailhead, the first trail that you'll be hiking is called the Schooner Head Path. This is a multi-use gravel trail. You will hike east on this trail for about a tenth of a mile before it bears to your right. Continuing straight takes you to Compass Harbor; an interesting little cove that I'd recommend exploring if you happen to have the time.

Continuing straight on Schooner Head Path, the trail crosses over Old Farm Road at 0.2 miles into the hike. The trail is quite level and easy to walk along. We alert as I passed about 4 other people running on this path the short time that I was on it. It's not like hiking the trails of PA where you can do an entire hike without seeing a single person.

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At 0.7 miles the path crosses Schooner Head Road. I continued hiking this path for another 0.9 miles when I spied a newly created trail off to my right. This was a trail that I was accustomed to. There wasn't any crushed gravel on the foot path and there were rocks and roots crossing the trail at various areas. It wasn't long though till I fully realized that I wasn't hiking in Pennsylvania. As I began a gradual ascent, the trail soon emerged out of the woods and into a large clearing. This clearing was a large, solid piece of granite. It was actually a small hill made of one solid piece of stone. This wasn't the boulder fields of Pennsylvania that I am so use to.

After pausing a bit to take in the view, both of the mountain that I'd soon be climbing and behind me at the seascape that was beginning to emerge, I continued on the trail. It leveled off a bit here and I had an opportunity to see about three white tail deer bound across the trail ahead of me. At 1.8 miles into the hike, and a short, yet steep scramble, I found myself on the paved Park Loop Road.

This is the trail as it starts to make its way up Champlain Mountain.

Crossing the road there was a sign posted along the trail. It indicated that a section of the trail ahead was closed. Both the East Face Champlain Trail and the Precipice Trail were closed because of damaged sustained during an earthquake in October of 2006. My original thoughts were to follow the East Face Trail to make a loop, but now I had to make alternate plans. According to the map, there was a short trail that connected the East Face Trail to the Champlain North Ridge Trail. I decided that I would take this route and then decide how I would descend off the mountain once I got to the top.

For the next tenth of a mile the trail wasn't too bad, but then I started to get steep. At this point there was a steep cliff face to my right and a small boulder field to my left. There were steps built along the bottom of the cliff face that the trail followed as it continued its ascent up the side of the mountain. At 2 miles into the hike I beared right off the East Face Trail and followed a steep side trail up towards the North Ridge Trail.

At 2.1 miles I arrived at the intersection with the North Ridge Trail. I turned left here and in about 200 feet had my first mountain vista. This view looked to the north, towards Bar Harbor. The scene was breath taking as you could see the island laid out below you as well as the harbor and sea beyond.

Continuing my ascent up Mount Champlain, I soon had my first Acadia "mountain hiking" experience. I soon emerged from the pine trees to see the entire mountain spread out in front of me. There were a few scraggly looking shrubs and blueberry bushes dotting the landscape, but for the most part it was just the mountain, and it looked to be made of one solid piece of granite.

Up to this point the trail was marked with blue blazes painted on trees. With the lack of trees on the mountain, rock cairns were used to mark the trail. There was an occasional blue blaze painted on the rocks, but for the most part you had to keep an eye open for the cairns.

For the next half mile I continued my ascent to the top of Champlain Mountain. It was neat to be able to see the top of the mountain and your destination. Typically I am use to having my destination hidden by trees and forest, not knowing when I've reached the top until I've gotten there. Another advantage about not having any trees on a mountain is that at any moment I could stop and take a look behind me to get a great vista. Hiking in Pennsylvania, vistas are typically destinations during a hike. Here, vistas were available almost on demand. And what beautiful vistas they were. The combination of the mountains, forests, and seas made for a breathtaking and awe inspiring view.

After 2.7 miles of hiking I reached the summit of Mount Champlain. The views all around were amazing, even though it was overcast. As a matter of fact, looking to the south, I could see a wall of rain advancing towards me as it crossed the ocean. Soon the first rain drops from this storm were falling on me. I took a few more minutes to enjoy the scenery (as well as snap a picture of myself on top of the mountain) before I decided to head back down. My plans were to follow the Beachcroft Trail back down the west slope of the mountain. However, a slip on some wet rocks soon changed my mind. If the wet rocks were slippery on top of the mountain, I had no idea how slick they would be on my descent. I decided to head back down the North Ridge Trail the way I came.

As I began my descent the rain starting coming in earnest. I am glad I made the decision to head back on the less steep and familiar trail. The rocks were quite slick in places. About a quarter of a mile back down the mountain I had the opportunity to view an interesting sight. Since the mountain was solid rock, the falling rain did not sink into the ground. It had nowhere to go but run down the mountain side. As I progressed down the mountain the falling rain formed little rivulets which merged to form small streams. At some places the water running off the mountain formed streams six to eight feet across, even though it wasn't very deep (less than a half inch). The rain definitely added a unique element to this hiking trip.

At 3.2 miles, on my right, I passed the trail that I used to ascend the mountain. I decided to continue straight on the North Ridge Trail as it looked to be less steep then the way I came. After about 0.2 miles I passed a family of four that were heading back down the trail. They too got caught in the rain and were taking it slow and cautious coming down the trail.

About 3.7 miles into the hike I emerged on the Park Loop Road. Since the rain was coming down hard and steady, plus the fact that I was soaked to the bone, I decided to walk the roads back to the trailhead. I turned left on Park Loop Road and followed it for 0.7 miles where it passed under route ME3. I scrambled up the embankment and continued following route ME3 north. After an additional mile of road walking I was finally back to the trailhead.

If you're looking for an easy hike to the top of one of the mountains in Acadia, I am certain you could do a shorter variation of this hike. I did notice a small parking area near the intersection of the North Ridge Trail and the Park Loop Road. An easy out-and-back hike of two miles or so would take you to the top of Champlain Mountain to view some amazing vistas.

I was a little disappointed that it began to rain during this hike as I felt I had to cut my exploration short. However, I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience hiking in Acadia National Park. The forecast for later in the week was calling for sunny days and temperatures in the low 70s. I could hardly wait to get back out on the trails and see what other wonders Acadia had to offer.

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Acadia National Park

  • The Tarn

    The Tarn

    Nestled between Dorr Mountain and Mount Champlain is this small lake, called The Tarn. The Tarn Trail parallels the shore of the lake and offers sweeping views of the pond and the surrounding mountains.
  • Eagle Lake

    Eagle Lake

    This majestic view looks down on Eagle Lake. This is from Conner's Nubble, just north of the Bubbles, near Jordan Pond.
  • Atop Acadia Mountain

    Atop Acadia Mountain

    This view from atop the National Park's namesake, Acadia Mountain, looks south towards the small town of Southwest Harbor. Elevation of Acadia Mountain is a modest 681 feet above sea level.
  • Foggy Morning

    Foggy Morning

    A rainy, foggy morning from the south shore of Jordan Lake. In the distance are the Bubbles.
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