Hiking all the peaks in Acadia (part two)

This spring, for some reason, I thought hiking all of the peaks in Acadia National Park would be great fun for my family. Turns out, that meant thirty-one peaks to climb. It was a level of insanity that I hadn’t really counted on, but we decided to try anyway.

Part one, covering our hikes of peaks one through ten, is here.

Here is the story of hiking all the peaks in Acadia, peaks eleven through twenty.

When I last left you, we had nearly accidentally ruined hiking for my daughter entirely by tackling a three-peak hike that was too long, too hard, too steep, and just all around too much. Once I gave them time to recover, I decided we needed to lift family spirits by hiking a trail I knew both kids would really enjoy.

Peak eleven, the Beehive, fit the bill. My daughter had hiked this trail with me a few times and loved it, but my son had never been allowed to try it. One of my parenting strategies is to withhold certain things as only for “big kids,” hoping that they would become great objects of desire. It worked with this hike. He was desperate to try it and she was desperate to share it with him.


The Beehive rite of passage.

The Beehive was the big hit that we’d hoped and everyone did fine. However, it was a hot day and when we came to the turn for our second planned peak of the day–Gorham Mountain, an easy side trip from the Beehive trail–the kids refused. I don’t know if the pain of the previous weekend was still fresh or if they were just ready for a swim, but our reasoning that we’d just have to hike back up this trail some other time was unconvincing.

So I decided to pull out another of my parenting strategies: don’t force it. If someone wants to throw in the towel during an outdoor activity, just let them. We skipped the second peak. (Make note of this moment, because I will soundly ignore this rule in a few weeks.)

We had better luck talking them into a double for peaks twelve and thirteen, Valley Peak and St. Sauveur. Starting from the Flying Mountain parking lot makes it easy to connect these two peaks, so we just sold the day as a double bill of goods.

It was yet another hot day and there we learned the importance of a little concept we came to call “car water.” From that point on, whenever we hiked we made sure we had an extra bottle of water in the car. That way if we drank all our water on the trail–which we did on this hike–we had a little stash waiting to refuel us on the drive home–which we didn’t on this hike.

Car water. I recommend it.

Feeling like we were making some progress, we decided to up the ante. Our plan for our next hike was Gilmore Peak (peak fourteen) and Sargeant Mountain (peak fifteen). (We were kind of–but not completely–on this route.)

Sargeant Mountain

Sargeant is the second tallest mountain in Acadia, and it feels like it.

When we were planning this hike, we’d hoped in the back of our heads that we might be able to talk the kids into Penobscot Mountain (peak sixteen) as well. Sure enough, once we announced that heading toward Penobscot would take us past a pond in between the two mountains, they were in.

Sort of.

Because by the time we had reached the pond, the kids were in the exhausted meltdown again.

Remember how I said above that we’d learned to not push it when things weren’t going well?

We kind of forgot that strategy.

Our plan was to walk past the lake, go up Penobscot Mountain, then come back down to the lake for lunch. And I was going to stick to the plan, despite having once written about how sticking to the plan can ruin everything.

Here’s what we should have done: stop at the ding-dang lake for lunch the first time through.

Even though that wasn’t the plan. Even though it was a little early for lunch. Even though it would be even nicer to stick our feet in that lake on our way down from Penobscot. Even though, even though, even though.

Because we didn’t do that, we once again ended up pep talking weepy, exhausted children up a mountain.

Some days I think I’ll never learn.

But we made it and after we finally made it to lunch at the lake, they were refreshed enough to agree to climb nearby Cedar Swamp Mountain (peak seventeen) as well.

What a day.

Next up was Huguenot Head (peak eighteen) and Champlain Mountain (peak nineteen), which felt downright easy after that last marathon.

Just kidding. It wasn’t easy at all, but it was a whole lot simpler. And we remembered to stop when warranted.

And finally, finally…we made it up Gorham Mountain before a trip to Sand Beach one day.

“Huh,” said the kids. “This is pretty close to the Beehive.”


Peak twenty. Done.

Part three coming soon. Do we finish all the mountains or not?


Cherie Galyean

About Cherie Galyean

In a perfect world, Cherie Galyean would spend hours every day chasing her kids up hiking trails, pretending to garden, and baking things. Instead, she works full-time in the non-profit sector and fits those other things in-between loads of laundry in her free time. A Maine native with multiple hometowns, she currently lives on Mount Desert Island with her husband, seven-year-old daughter, five-year-old son, and the best shelter mutt in the world.