Fall is among my favorite times of year to travel. I try to plan trips to locations right as their peak colors are coming up. This is not always easy to do since many regions have very short peak color windows and those windows vary from year to year. I have had the privilege of taking trips to among the best locations within the USA for seeing peak fall colors. Places like Estes Park in Colorado or Gatlinburg in Tennessee have earned a reputation for peaking great fall destinations and I enjoyed my time there but my favorite fall town that I have been able to visit so far is Bar Harbor in Maine. Between the town itself and the nearby Acadia National Park; Bar Harbor offers visitors an experience that mixes nature with small town charm.
One of the aspects of fall in Acadia that I find most appealing is the variety of colors that you see due to the variety of species of trees that call Acadia National Park home. This makes the hills of Acadia come alive with many shades of yellow, orange, and red. These vibrant colors are magnified by the pink granite peaks and the bright blue water found in this beautiful national park. All this natural splendor can be experienced in a variety of ways such as by carriage, by car, or on the hiking trails. This variety makes this an excellent park to take the family too since it there is something for everyone. Whether you want to take in the scenery from convenience of a car or go on adventure climbing up a mountain on the Precipice trail; you will find something that suites your tastes in this region.
For those who want to experience the park from their car, then the Park Loop Road provides an excellent way to accomplish this. This well-maintained asphalt road circles the outside edge of the park and provides plenty of stops at scenic viewpoints on the route. While it is possible to make the full 27-mile circle drive within an hour, this is a drive you can easily spend a full day enjoying. Driving on this road makes the entire world seem to fall away as you fade into your own paradise. Many cars on this road enjoy a slow-paced drive. There never seems to be any rush to get to a certain location. Everyone is simply enjoying the ride. Whether it’s Jordan’s Pond, Thor’s Well, or Sandy Beach; there are many sites to see along this road that will only require a short hike to get to from your parking spot. For those who want a more laid-back ride around the park, a carriage provides an alternative to your car. Bar Harbor was initially used as a summer retreat for the affluent in the early 1900s. Among the area’s frequent visitors was the Rockefeller family. While there, they commissioned a large series of carriage roads that are still in use by the park today. A carriage ride through the park adds to the park’s tranquility and the area’s ability to transport its visitors to a peaceful mindset. These rides can be reserved ahead of time through the park service.
The park’s top trails deserve their own article which I plan on writing in the future, but I do feel like I need to briefly highlight a few of the hiking attractions. Whether you want an easy stroll along the beach, a moderate hike through the forest, or a advanced hike climbing up mountains by chains drilled into the mountain side; Acadia is able to meet your needs. For those who want an easy stroll, then take a short drive to Jordan Pond. This tranquil pond has an easy 1-mile-long trail around the edge of the pond and offers a great place to see the many fall colors since the pond is surrounded by several tree-covered mountains. When the pond is calm, this provides an incredible place for photographers to hone their craft with the vibrant colorful mountains being reflected off the surface of the pond. For visitors that want a bit more of a challenge, I would suggest climbing to the top of Cadillac Mountain from the backend. While the trailhead for this hike is located a moderate drive from Bar Harbor; it is well worth it. It allows hikers to climb to the top of the region’s highest mountain via a gently sloping trail with very minimal rock climbing required. Once at the top, you are greeted by an incredible view of the blue water of the harbor that is flanked on the sides by more mountains and trees. This is among my favorite scenic views within this entire region. Finally, for my adventurous readers the Precipice and Beehive trails offer you a chance to climb to the top of the tallest peaks in the park with some moderate rock climbing. Hikers can pull themselves up the rock faces through a series of chains that are attached to the rocks. Hold on tight though because the drop off from the edge of this narrow trail is very precarious. For hikers brave enough to attempt it though, the hike offers scenic landscape vista views of the mountains, harbors, and forests of Acadia along most of the trail.
The town of Bar Harbor offers its own charms in addition to Acadia. This is a small harbor town that is heavily influenced on tourism. The town ensures that it retains its small town feel with very minimal franchise stores being located here. Instead, the town is made up many family-owned businesses and restaurants. No article about Bar Harbor would be complete without talk about the amazing seafood that can be found here. Maine is known for lobster, and this can be found for every meal in this town. If you want lobster for breakfast than take a walk down the pier to enjoy lobster filled crepes at the Sunrise Café. If it is lunch time and you have a craving for a lobster roll, then give Travelin Lobster a try. Considering that they get their lobsters directly from the traps located on the other side of the road from their shop, it would be hard to find fresher lobster. Once the sun goes down and you still want more lobster for dinner the Bar Harbor has several restaurants to get a boiled lobster dinner. Whether you eat at La Bella Vita, the Fish House Grill, or Testa’s Bar and Grill; you will not leave disappointed. And if you still have a craving more lobster for dessert, head to main street and look at Ben and Bills Chocolate Emporium for some lobster ice cream; a butter flavored ice cream that is filled with small specks of lobster. Although lobster is the main culinary attraction in Maine; there are several more seafood options for those who want to change things up a bit. Whether its cherry stone clams, haddock, or oysters; you will easily find your seafood fix in this amazing town.
The combination of the town of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park has ensured this region’s place among my favorite travel destinations in the USA. After spending a short amount of time in this area, it quickly becomes evident by the country’s wealthy chose this area for the private retreats during the 1800 and early 1900s. It also becomes clear why they thought this area needs to be conserved for the benefit of all and made the choice to donate their land to the national park service for preservation. Although there is much more I can say about this place, those stories will need to be saved for another day…