The Quiet Side

The number one complaint about Acadia NPS is the traffic. It’s a small park on a small island–MDI is only about 100 square miles and about half of that is park–but it gets approximately 3.5 million visitors a year. 

Today I went hiking with a friend. She’s here for the summer, and only three months in she’s tired of the bustle. We were discussing where we were going and she said, “I don’t want to go to Acadia. It’s too busy.”

I decided it was time for a visit to what is known as the quiet side of Acadia, and it was exactly what both of us, working day in and day out in the tourism industry, needed.

Mount Desert Island is shaped roughly like an upside-down heart, split nearly in two by Somme’s Sound. Most people know the western half with its dramatic peaks, spectacular coastline, and easy access via the loop road. However, fully half the park is on the eastern half of the island. While there aren’t as many trails, in my opinion this half of the island has some of the best trails. The peaks are lower, too, but excellent if you want both steep climbs and gentle slopes.

We decided to tackle the Beech Cliffs Trail via the Canada Cliffs trail. We started at the Echo Lake parking lot. I’d done part of this hike in the past, but this trailhead was new to me. My hiking partner hates steps (Acadia has literally thousands of them, and you either love or hate them; I trend more toward the latter but they are nice on the descent), and I’d cavalierly assured her there were no steps. 

I was mistaken. Badly. She still wants to hike with me, bless her.

If you’re in it for the views, this is a good hike. You don’t get the sweeping panoramas you get from Champlain, but it surprises you with sudden views of Echo Lake and several of the surrounding mountains.

The other nice thing about this hike is that once you get the steep climb with the steps over with, it’s pretty gentle.

This area has a myriad of options for creating loops. If you’re a peak bagger, it wouldn’t be hard to grab four or five peaks in a solid day of hiking. We had mapped out a shorter loop but ended up hiking the length of the Valley Trail due to trail construction. This ended up being a blessing in disguise since portions of the Valley Trail are absolutely breathtaking.

This is one of the less breathtaking bits. I confess I was too busy looking at the cliffs and boulders to remember to photograph them, but one section specifically reminds me of depictions of primordial forests in nature museums; it’s mostly ferns, moss, huge evergreens, and giant boulders, and its intensely green. It’s not difficult to imagine a dinosaur popping out from behind a rock. 

We finished up our hike with a well-deserved late lunch and a drive over to Bass Harbor Head Light.

On the way home, we stopped off at Seawall, which is hands-down one of my favorite spots. Whenever somebody asks me where else they can go to see something pretty, I direct them here. It’s beautiful and peaceful, accessible for anyone, and usually not busy.

Go see the quiet side. It really is worth it. 

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