Acadia National Park

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Acadia National Park Overview

Thanks to the robber barons who used the park as a private playground in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the islands of Acadia have been preserved for the masses in a pristine state.

Acadia's largest island, Mount Desert Island, encompasses a stunning range of geological diversity, including rocky Atlantic shoreline, lush forests of spruce and fir, dozens of lakes and ponds, and rugged granite hills boasting panoramic views of the ocean. You can savor the tranquility of a serene mountain lake one moment and enjoy the roar of the pounding surf the next.

The first U.S. National Park east of the Mississippi, Acadia is laced with hiking and biking trails, studded with mountains, and home to a menagerie of wildlife. Small wonder it ranks among the most popular national parks in the country. Acadia is an extraordinary corner of the country for outdoor lovers of every stripe, a place where the kids will never have time to be bored or wonder what they're missing back home on television.

Climb Cadillac Mountain
Acadia's ancient landmass embraces 26 mountains and 125 miles of hiking trails. You can pad through a still forest, pick your way along the thundering coast, or trek across a golden meadow. But Acadia's most memorable hike is undoubtedly up Cadillac Mountain. At 1,530 feet, it's the highest point on the Atlantic coast north of Rio de Janeiro, with hypnotic views from its broad, boulder-strewn summit. Depending on the direction you turn, you'll be treated with panoramic views of woodland, coastline, and endless expanse of ocean. If you're an early riser, hit the mountain around 4 a.m., so you can make it to the top in time for dawn, when the first rays of sunshine to strike the United States illuminate the peak.

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Bike Rockefeller's Roads
Although Acadia's paved surfaces beckon road bikers, mountain bikers are in for a special treat, courtesy of John D. Rockefeller. In the early 20th century, the oil zillionaire commissioned 45 miles of criss-crossing carriage paths throughout Mount Desert Island. These crushed stone roads, engineering marvels worthy of the ancient Romans, wind through forests, around lakes, over hills, and under stone bridges. Want to climb steep paths up mountain ridges? Ride through a cool, leafy tunnel of overhanging branches? Pedal to a quiet lake for a midday dip? Acadia's carriage trails will take you there. Make sure to try the Eagle Loop Lake loop, a 14-mile excursion along rolling terrain with some long climbs and great views.

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Driving the Loop
Acadia is a small park by Western standards. But within its confines lies one of the country's most picturesque drives: the Park Loop Road. The most spectacular stretch of this 27-mile, one-way road hugs the edge of the island, where tall cliffs plummet down into the crashing surf. Don't let the length of the road fool you. It takes far longer to drive than you think, with a stunning vista at nearly every turn. Stop for a dip in the chilly waters of Sand Beach, enjoy the roaring spectacle of famous Thunder Hole and take the turnoff for Cadillac Mountain; it's a twisting, turning, view-packed ride that takes you right to the summit. Remember to keep your eyes on the road. It's not easy.

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Catch a Speeding Bullet
Acadia is a world of fresh and salt water, mountains and beaches, and forests and meadows—a relatively small place crawling with an amazing variety of wildlife. The list of animals that call Acadia home includes 263 species of birds (the park has a record of 338 bird species encountered), 41 species of mammals, and 21 species of amphibians and reptiles. But Acadia's most impressive inhabitants are its peregrine falcons, which can attain dive speeds exceeding 200 miles per hour. Peregrines were first sighted in the park in 1936, but the last known nesting pair was reported in 1956. Since 1991, several pairs of chicks have been successfully raised on the cliffs of Champlain Mountain. Park rangers close trails near any known nests, so bring a good pair of binoculars.

Camp by the Surf
There's no better way to take advantage of all Acadia has to offer than camping, but backpacking is prohibited. The two major campgrounds are fairly Spartan sites as far as car camping goes, without hot water, showers, or utility hookups. Blackwoods Campground lies in a forested area due south of Cadillac Mountain and is just a short walk from the sea. Seawall Campground lies on the southwestern corner of the park and also lives up to its name, with sites right by the ocean. If you brought your canoe or kayak, try Duck Harbor Campground on Isle au Haut, and spend your days exploring the coastlines of Acadia's many islands. Reserve early, since these sites start to go by early spring.

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