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Not all hikes must be difficult. Acadia National Park offers opportunities for low-impact hiking, i.e., the strains on your knees, ankles, and cardiovascular systems are low.
Wonderland The Wonderland trail (approximately 1.4 miles, round trip) is accessed from Rte. 102A, which with Rte. 102 makes a loop south of Southwest Harbor, about 1 mile from the Seawall picnic area and campground. There is a small parking area on the south side of the road.
Wonderland trail begins in a lowland forest. In the spring or after substantial rain, the area on either side of the trail is wet; in the spring, it's a great area for skunk cabbage. Beyond that, the trails rises slightly to a dry heath environment---exposed rock surfaces; gnarled pines, some which resemble bonsais; and low-lying Rhodora and blueberry bushes. Then the trail descends gradually to the shore, ending in a loop. The shore here is typical "rock-bound coast" with very nice views of the shoreline on either side as well as out to Cranberry Island and to the Gott Island group. The rock ledges are step-like and flat, and unlike many shoreline areas, the surf normally is gentle. There are tide pools to explore; at low tide especially, you can ignore the loop and make your way around the point via the rocky shore.
Ship Harbor This trail,dubbed a nature trail, is about the same length as is Wonderland. However, Ship Harbor trail make a rough figure-8 as it winds from Rte. 102A, about 0.4 miles west of Wonderland. Again, there is a small parking area; this area affords a view of the northern half of Ship Harbor.
Relative to Wonderland, this trail has somewhat greater changes in elevation, but it still is easy going. The interior, eastern side of the loop takes you through forest, ending at the shore. Here, you are more vertically removed from the water's edge---less opportunity for tidal-pool scampering but very nice views. Returning on the west takes you along a somewhat steep bank that overlooks the harbor inlet. The trail then descends to the neck of the figure-8 and an easy walk along the harbor and back to the parking area.
Jesup Path and Strath-Eden Trail This loop of approximately 2.5 miles is accessed from the Loop Road of the park, roughly 1.5 miles from the start of the one-way section. It also can be accessed via the Kebo Road extension (also known as Hayden Farm Road), which runs through the southern portion of the Kebo Valley Golf Course, or by walking from the village via the Great Meadow Loop.
Jesup Path quickly emerges from a patch of lowland woods to the edge of Great Meadow. After about 0.3 miles, Jesup meets the Spring path. At this intersection, Jesup continues ahead as a mostly boardwalk path through forested wetland. (At the time of this writing--18 June 2006, the boardwalk section was closed for repairs.) The alternative is to head west (right) on the apltly named Hemlock Road. A few hundred yards along Hemlock Road from the intersection is the trailhead for Hemlock Trail, which ascends Kebo Mountain; there also is a large roack with "Strath Eden" carved into it. Just a few steps up Hemolck Trail, Strath-Eden Trail branches off and moves northward along the foot of Kebo Mountain until it meets the Loop Road. A right turn and short stroll along the Loop Road, with good views of Hugenot Head and Champlain, Dorr, and Cadillac mountains, takes you back to the Jesup trailhead.
An alternative is to continue on Hemlock Road past the Strath-Eden connection to Sieur de Monts Nature Center. There, you can explore the Wild Gardens of Acadia and the Center, make an approximate 0.6-mile walk to The Tarn, then return to Strath-Eden or come back via Jesup Path.
If you should happen to be here in the winter, the Jesup Path loop and Wonderland make excellent winter walks. Photos of Wonderland and the Great Meadow--Jesup Path area can be seen at http://www.tinyurl.com/r2o7 in the MDI Spring 2006 albums and elsewhere in the collection.
Shore Path You could pick up right at Agamont Park (Bar Harbor Inn). This path follows the waterfront for about a mile before it ends at a side street that will take you back to Main Street and town. As you walk this trail you will also be passing some beautiful Bar Harbor homes/mansions. It is also a great place to watch the sun rise if you don't want to go to the top of Cadillac Mountain.
Bar Island The sand bar connecting Bar Harbor to Bar Island is exposed for approximately two hours before and after each low tide. Consult a tide chart for the accessible low tides during your stay. During that time period, you can walk across the bar and visit the island. A trail leads you to the top of hill (maybe about 100 feet up so an easy climb). From there you have a fabuous view of Bar Harbor framed by the mountains of Acadia (Champlain, Dorr, and Cadillac). Some of my favorite Bar Harbor photos were taken from Bar Island. You can find the bar at low tide by following Bridge Street from West Street to the bar. Its probably about a 1/2 mile to the island and maybe another 1/2 to 3/4 mile to the top of the hill. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to return within that four hour window. There is no pizza delivery to Bar Island if you get stuck.
Ocean Drive Trail from Sand Beach to Otter Cliffs. Its about two miles (one way) from Sand Beach to Otter Cliffs so four miles out and back but you can decide to turn around wherever you would like. Must sees along this path include the terminus points of Sand Beach and Otter Cliffs but in between there is lots of spectacular coastal scenery and you can stop off at Thunder Hole to boot. This trail is paved its entire length. As an added bonus, there are rest rooms at Sand Beach and at the Thunder Hole gift shop which also has refreshments.
You don't have to be an expert hiker to enjoy these paths. It doesn't matter how fast you walk, how far you walk or how high you climb. It only matters that you get out and experience Acadia one step at a time. You'll see it like you've never seen it before. Enjoy!