Biking and Hiking Acadia National Park, Maine

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13191A, Bicycle


  • Bicycle the beautiful roads and carriage paths of Acadia National Park
  • Hike the Ocean Path along the cliffs of the Atlantic Ocean
  • Climb to the highest point along America’s Atlantic coastline at Cadillac Mountain


  • Experienced bicycle and outdoor leadership
  • Outdoor skills instruction
  • Campground with food and commissary gear


DatesSep 8–14, 2013
StaffGlenn Gillis

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Lying along the spectacular Maine coast waits Acadia National Park. This coastal realm located on Mount Desert Island is famous for its dark evergreen forests, crystal blue lakes, granite cliffs, and towering peaks that rise above the pounding surf of the Atlantic Ocean. From the summit of the Atlantic Coast’s highest point at Cadillac Mountain, you look out over this realm of forests and lakes stretching out to the sea below, with offshore islands reaching to the horizon. Mount Desert Island is characterized by charming seaside villages like Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor, with its quaint village shops and waterfront character. The sight of fishing fleets and sailing schooners passing Bass Harbor Lighthouse reminds visitors of an earlier time. Split by the fiord of Somes Sound, Mount Desert Island is a unique landscape found only along the coast of Maine. Early summer fog along Otter Cliff and Thunder Hole only adds to the maritime character of the rockbound shore. Once home to the wealthy of the Gilded Age, visionaries like George Dorr and John D. Rockefeller worked hard to create Acadia National Park. These earlier residents created the miles of trains and carriage paths that are now enjoyed by millions of park visitors. Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island are linked by these beautiful roads and trails, making for an ideal Sierra Club biking and hiking tour of this truly special island.

Our Sierra Club national outing will operate from our base camp at Acadia’s Backwoods Campground. Each day we will cycle from camp along the park’s paved roads and carriage paths. Highlights include Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Somes Sound, Eagle Lake, Jordan Pond, and the spectacular Park Loop Road that takes us past the Atlantic cliffs of Otter Point and Thunder Hole. Two days will be set aside for hiking. Hikes include the cliffside trail of Ocean Path and a summit climb of spectacular Cadillac Mountain. For early risers, Cadillac Mountain will show why Acadia is one of the most visited national parks in the nation.


Day 1: After group introductions, we will bike the carriage path through the heart of Acadia. We'll enjoy views of Eagle Lake and Jordan Pond as we visit the park visitor center. Throughout the week we'll stay at Blackwoods Campground.

Day 2: We'll have a fun, long day ahead of us as we bike over to the west side of Mount Desert island. We'll pass through Northeast Harbor and along Somes Sound before circuiting through Southwest Harbor and Bass Harbor. We'll stop at Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.

Day 3: We'll spend another day on the carriage paths, cycling past Jordan Pond and the slopes of Dorr Mountain.

Day 4: Today we'll have a day off from cycling to hike the Ocean Path. We'll hike and climb Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliff, and the cliffs of The Beehive, taking in some spectacular Atlantic coastline scenery.

Day 5: We'll bike the beautiful Park Loop Road. From the park visitor’s center, we will follow a scenic one-way road past many of Acadia’s highlights. As we circle through the heart of Acadia National Park, we'll view the park’s rockbound shore, crystal blue lakes, and dark forests.

Day 6: Today we'll enjoy a long day hike to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. As we ascend to the highest point along America’s Atlantic shoreline, we'll take in the surounding seascape. At night we'll eat dinner in the charming seaside village of Bar Harbor.

Day 7: On our final day together, we'll break camp then end our trip with a hike at Sieur de Monts Spring and the Wild Gardens of Acadia.



Getting There

Acadia National Park is located on Mount Desert Island about 45 miles east of Bangor, Maine. The nearest large airport with rental car service is located at Portland, ME, which is more than 150 miles down the Maine coast. Motels and charming bed-and-breakfasts can be found in nearby towns like Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, or Hancock on the mainland. Both national park and private campgrounds are located on Mount Desert Island. The leader plans on staying at Blackwoods Campground before the start of the trip. If other participants stay at Blackwoods, we can get together and become acquainted before the official start of the outing.

Accommodations and Food

Our overnight accommodations for the week will be at Acadia National Park’s Blackwoods Campground. The leader will reserve a group site, which comes equipped with a comfort station, picnic table, fire ring, and fresh water faucet. Hot showers and a camping supply store are located less than a mile from the campsite. Food will be prepared and cooked in camp, with one dinner in the village of Bar Harbor. Vegetarians can be accommodated on this trip. On Sierra Club outings, all participants share equally in cooking and camp chores. Although we will be staying in a public campground, Leave No Trace camping principles will be followed.

Trip Difficulty

This Sierra Club bicycle and hiking tour is considered moderate. The daily bike rides will range about 25 to 30 miles over both paved park roads and unpaved carriage paths. Our longest day will be over 45 miles. The elevation change ranges from flat to gently rolling. Rain and fog is possible, although early September normally has clear weather. Our day hikes will also be moderate in distance and elevation. The Ocean Path runs along the Atlantic cliffs, with some minor rock scrambling. The most difficult hike will be the summit climb of Cadillac Mountain. To prepare for this trip, participants should do some warm-up bicycle tours and day hikes before the start of our Sierra Club outing.

Equipment and Clothing

Participants will need to bring a properly tuned bicycle, bicycle helmet (required), bike clothes, bike gloves, panniers for carrying day items, water bottle, pump, extra tubes, and small repair kit. For day hiking, please bring a day pack, properly fitted boots, water bottles, clothing for rain and cold, and day use items. For overnight camping, participants will need a tent, sleeping bag, ground pad, eating utensils, and personal overnight belongings. The leader will provide the food, fuel, commissary gear, bike repair tools, and master first-aid kit. A complete equipment list will be sent with a later information bulletin.


  • Hiking Guide: Hostettler, Kristin, Hiking Acadia National Park. Falcon Press.
  • Park Map: National Geographic “Trails Illustrated Map to Acadia National Park.


Acadia National Park was originally created out of private landholdings once owned by wealthy landowners like John D. Rockefeller. Located on Mount Desert Island, Acadia is surrounded by towns like Bar Harbor or privately held farms and woodlots. This ownership pattern places pressure on park management in its efforts to protect the national park. New home and commercial development along the park boundary threatens the park’s forests, wildlife, and natural beauty. A day’s drive from the rapidly expanding population of the Atlantic seaboard also places enormous pressure on Acadia, with over two million visitors a year straining the park’s resources. On the other hand, Acadia is an excellent example of how a national park can be created from private land. Over the past century, Acadia National Park had been expanded and protected as one of the nation’s most beloved national parks.

Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from Acadia National Park.



Glenn Gillis has been leading Sierra Club national outings for over 25 years. Starting his outdoor career as a student with Outward Bound, he now leads backpacking, bicycle touring ,and kayaking tours with the Appalachian Mountain Club, Potomac Pedalers Touring Club, and Sierra Club. Deeply involved in land preservation and new park and trail creation, he is a member of the National Parks Conservation Association, Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, and Wilderness Society. Glenn is also a director of the Potomac Heritage Trail Association and has been working to complete the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.

Assistant Leader:

Andy Wojcikowski

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