You may have noticed that the kid hiking information is pretty light around here these days. That’s because my kid hikers left me. They went down to Florida with their father to visit their extended family, I went on another trip with my extended family, and basically the hiking pickings have been slim. However, since I came back from my trip before they came back from their trip, I had a few evenings to try out some trails.
My instinctive hiking selection technique is to find a mountain to climb. I realize this is a personal issue that I probably need to work out in therapy, but what it means for this blog is that many of the hikes we try are challenging. Since I didn’t have any kids left to hike with, I looked around for another option and I remembered our old dog. She’s been my hiking partner for years, but, sadly, she’s 13 now and her energy level isn’t typically up for major mountain hikes. Even if she can get up and down without trouble, she limps around sadly for days afterward. But this, along with the masses that have begun heading to Acadia, provided a great opportunity to try out trails that are easy. Really easy.
Below you’ll find five quick takes on trails in Acadia that are so easy they are great for toddlers, folks with mobility issues, and even old dogs.
Located at the Sieur de Monts parking area; take Route 3 through Bar Harbor or take the Park Loop Road and look for signage. When I first started hiking this path years ago, it was a muddy, swampy mess of a trail that was impassable much of the time. Even then, I could see the potential. With stands of white birch all around and lush green undergrowth, it’s a beauty. Thankfully, the trail crews undertook what must have been a filthy, mosquito-laden job and reimagined the Jesup Path as a gorgeous, half-mile, smooth-as-silk boardwalk. Perfect for toddlers, wheelchairs, and anyone who wants an easy walk through some beautiful woods.
Interpretive signs help you identify plants and animals in the area and encourage you to slow down; several pull-off areas with benches give you a spot to take it all in. Once you get to the end of the boardwalk, you can turn left down the smooth gravel Hemlock Road to return, or, if you are my kids, just turn around and run back down the boardwalk the other way. If you want a longer walk, keep walking diagonally down the Jesup Path, turn right onto the Park Loop Road at the end, then return down the Hemlock Road for a great figure-eight loop around the lovely Great Meadow.
It’s hard to beat this trail for a quick, in-town adventure. Head through Bar Harbor on Route 3 for about half a mile and look on your left for a small dirt parking lot. If you hit Schooner Head Road you have gone too far, so turn around and on your way back, give me a high five because I miss it every time, too. The trail is a mostly flat, smooth half-mile walk through deep woods. On the way there’s a small stream and bridge good for playing Poohsticks and there’s always lots of birds around. Take a left at the trail split and there will be a gradual decline towards the water. There are options to climb down to the water at multiple points, but the easiest is to circle to the right at the end and look for a small trail down to a nice rock beach good for picnics and rock throwing.
From the head of Mount Desert Island, take Route 102 through Southwest Harbor. Turn left to go towards Manset and keep driving until you enter the Seawall section of the park. The Wonderland trailhead is just past the Seawall Campground. The trail itself is a smooth, wide gravel path for the vast majority of its length, with only a couple of areas with minor elevation changes or rocky footing.
Wonderland culminates in a little loop at the end, but before you head back make sure you take one of the side trails out toward the ocean. The rocky beach is great for sitting a while and if the tide is out, you can go on a critter hunt in the tidepools.
This is great for combining with a trip to Sand Beach. Park in the upper parking lot and then just head down the smooth trail, which parallels the Park Loop Road. The trail itself goes on for about two miles to Otter Cliffs, so just go as far as you’d like and then turn around. The incredible views of the ocean and cliffs are different from every angle, so it won’t feel repetitive at all. True confessions time: I hardly ever do this trail because it is so popular (read: crowded). Once it gets packed with people, the ease of it goes way down. If you do try it, I strongly recommend going very early in the day before the crowds show up.
Hunter Beach Trail
This one is just slightly harder than the others, but at only three-tenths of a mile one way, it’s too good not to try. To get to the trailhead, take Route 3 through Bar Harbor and the village of Otter Creek, then turn left onto Cooksey Drive. There is a small gravel parking lot at the trailhead on the left. The trail has a some slight inclines, exposed roots and rocks, a footbridge, and wooden stairs alongside a woodland stream that empties into the ocean. It’s a pretty little trail with a great payoff at the end.
There you have it. My votes for the best, easiest hikes in Acadia. I enjoyed this so thoroughly, I might just be a reformed mountain-scaler. (Doubtful.) At the very least, I was delighted to remember how much fun it is to hike with my old dog. While she wasn’t up for a full review, she wants you to know that all these trails have excellent sniffing.
Can I also use this opportunity to remind you to always, ALWAYS hike with your dog on a leash? Even if your dog is friendly and stays by you, it is still capable of hurting wildlife and terrain, frightening folks who don’t like dogs, or getting into a fight with a less friendly animal. Besides, it’s the law of the land in Acadia, all state parks, and every land trust or conservation area that I’ve encountered. Please be respectful.
(Looking for more kid-friendly Acadia hikes? Check the series page here and scroll down to the Acadia list.)