Sunday, April 20, 2014

Another Beautiful Hike in Acadia

Acadia National Park is without a doubt a great hiking destination.  I make the trip to Mount Desert Island several times a year to explore the parks more than 120 miles of trails.  The park's coastal location provides unique scenery for New England.  The summit views take in the surrounding peaks and ocean views at the same time.  While I hike in the park year round, spring is my favorite season in the park.  With low elevations and proximity to the ocean, the trails are free of snow much earlier than the higher interior mountains.  Even though I visit the mountains in all seasons, every spring I make an effort to hit the trails of Acadia as an unofficial kick off to the snowfree hiking season.

Spring can be a drab time in Maine for outdoor activities.  Warm days typically make the snow too wet to cross country ski in decent conditions.  The downhill ski season tapers off quickly at most ski areas.  Travel by snowshoe can be decent but many trailheads require travel over very muddy roads.  Several weeks passed since my last outing, a cross country ski trip in late March. I was starting to get a little cabin fever so I was happy to take up the J Man's suggestion on a trip to Acadia this weekend.  With over a foot of snow on the ground in the woods at my house, I was pleased to see only a few isolated pockets of snow as we approached the park.

Our route was to climb and traverse Pemetic Mountain followed by a traverse of Penobscot and Sargent Mountains.  These are among the best routes in the park in my opinion.  From the Bubble Rock trailhead, we ascended Pemetic Mountain.  This stretch was the only section of trail that had consistent cover.  The snow was generally soft enough to get traction.  Quite a few rocks poked out of the snow to provide good footing the rest of the section.  Quickly the trail reached the open ridgeline and left the snow for good on Pemetic.  Views are almost constant while traversing Pemetic.  In our direction of travel, the Atlantic is constantly in view with the Cranberry Isles just off shore.  Cadillac Mountain stays in view to the east while Sargent and Penobscot Mountain's long ridgelines loom over Jordan Pond immediately to the west.

The trail is rocky from the start climbing Pemetic

Snow lingering in the Ravine below Pemetic

The only extended stretch of snowy trail below Pemetic's summit

North Bubble and Eagle Lake from Pemetic's summit

Looking over Jordan Pond to Sargent and Penobscot Mountains

The Cranberry Isles and Atlantic from Pemetic's south ridge

The views don't end after the descent into the valley.  The trail passes Jordan Pond.  The view across the pond is one of the most photographed places in Acadia National Park.  Across the pond, the Bubbles rise above the water.  The view of the Bubbles is very popular with park visitors and perhaps the most iconic view in the park.

The Bubbles across Jordan Pond

Our route climbed away from the pond on its way to Penobscot Mountain.  The trail passes a few sections of cliff before reaching the long ridge of the mountain.  Other than a short dip near Sargent Pond, the route to Sargent Mountain follows an open ridge with 360 degree views all the way to Sargent's summit.  Sargent Mountain is the second highest peak in Acadia and it provides some of the best views in the park.

Cliffs along the lower reaches of Penobscot Mountain

Rock step along the cliffs

Looking toward the Atlantic Ocean from Penobscot Mtn.

Looking over the Bubbles from Penobscot Mtn. with Eagle Lake
and Frenchman Bay in the distance

Eagle Lake and Frenchman Bay in the distance
Looking toward the Frenchman Bay

Cranberry Isles and Atlantic from Sargent Mtn.

Frenchman Bay from Sargent Mtn.

Leaving the summit of Sargent, the scenery continues.  On the descent, the trail remains fairly open with views toward the Bubbles and Jordan Pond with Pemetic Mountain in the background.  After a short walk along Jordan Pond's north shore, a short but steep rock-strewn climb soon reaches Bubble Gap.  From Bubble Gap, short side trails access North and South Bubble for even more ocean views.  A quick descent from Bubble Gap brought us back to the car and finished the loop.

The open upper slopes of Sargent Mtn.

Jordan Pond, the Bubbles, and Pemetic from the shoulder of Sargent Mtn.

Rocky climb approaching Bubble Gap

This trip to Acadia did not disappoint.  The temperatures were in the low 50s and the summits had only a light breeze.  Not a cloud passed through the sky to hamper the beautiful scenery.  Since it is still early in the season, very few people were seen away from the trailheads.

Even though this hike is less than seven miles, it is deceivingly challenging.  The low elevations of the park may not seem like much, but the trails start nearly at sea level.  Even though the high point of the hike is less than 1400 feet, the total elevation gain is about 2500 vertical feet.  The climbs in Acadia are usually quite rocky to add to the challenge.  I often find the hikes in Acadia which often climb and descend from sea level multiple times just as challenging as much higher mountains in New England.

I hiked these three peaks last summer on a similar loop.  To see the post on that hike click on the link Hiking Acadia's Open Ridges.

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