Updated: Nov 10, 2021
Are you up for a 12-hour drive with your four-legged bestie to visit magical Maine? Plan two days for driving and three days for exploring. (12 hours is a generous estimate to include many stops/breaks and potential traffic.)
Dog-friendly hotel, beaches and trails!
A dated hotel, but location and convenience more than makes up for the stale décor. For those who accumulate IHG points (or have an IHG Chase Mastercard), we scored 4 nights/5 days for 35,000 points/night by reserving at least 4 months in advance. I would not pay for the price of this hotel (around $380/night in September), but if low redemption points are available, take it! It was a great deal. Here's a photo of Tuffy checking out Frenchman's Bay in front of the hotel. We had the most serene morning walks on the waterfront of the hotel.
I visited with my not-so-outdoorsy, older brother, Winston, and my senior pup, Tuffy! We were able to plan hikes easy enough for the two of them, as well as more challenging hikes for me.
The Park Loop was the main loop to reach many of the hiking points. It is primarily a one-way loop. Plan your hikes accordingly to save unnecessary driving. It is a scenic drive and very close to the town of Bar Harbor. Everything is extremely convenient and close by, which makes for a wonderful, relaxing trip.
I purchased the Annual National Park Pass the week prior since we plan on visiting at least 3 national parks in the next 12 months. I cut it very close. The pass arrived the day before we were set to drive to Maine. Maybe give yourself more time to order the pass. Otherwise, the park fee is $35 for 7 days.
The less impressive of the two “strenuous” hikes (the other being the Beehive Trail). Hiking the Precipice first allowed me to appreciate both. Going for this trail after a rainy morning meant there was plenty of parking and few people on the trail. Yes, it was a bit slippery and wet, but I’ll take that over waiting in a line of folks to climb in front of me. There were only a few areas that were very steep with rungs, but it was not as difficult as many reviewers warned. Whether you find this hike hard or scary, will depend on your fitness level and comfort level with heights. For me, Precipice was a fun, short and challenging hike, but not exceptionally difficult.
After Precipice, I joined Winston and Tuffy on a short, 1.8-mile hike to Gorham Mountain with beautiful views. I wanted to make sure those two weren’t worn out before tackling Cadillac Mountain, so we chose a short hike with scenic vistas. We also enjoyed a taste of hiking on granite with steeper climbs, while enjoying the panoramic beauty of Acadia.
Due to the early morning rains, we also drove to Southeast and Southwest Harbors to get a taste of other towns outside of Bar Harbor. There were quaint bakeries and adorable main streets to see, but not worth visiting unless you have the extra time to explore.
The main attraction is the highest point on the East Coast! I fondly remember hiking this trail on a foggy morning with my lovable Dad at 12 years old. I have looked forward to returning to Acadia ever since. My memories did not disappoint. I was even more impressed with the natural beauty and quaint town of Bar Harbor.
Only a 4.4-mile hike, the climb was steep and fairly rocky. It was not for the faint of heart, but also not the most difficult. Tuffy needed help being hoisted up and down much of the climb due to her achy limbs. My brother, Winston, did great hiking up and down the trail! He was very tired afterward, but he did it!
Be warned – as other reviewers on the AllTrails map warned us – the summit will be full of people who drive to the top. It may feel a bit anticlimactic to have climbed Cadillac Mountain only to see people stepping out of cars to enjoy the same views. I will say, it was much more rewarding to know we climbed the mountain! (There is also a ticketing system to reserve a spot to drive to the top. Not difficult to reserve a spot, but just a heads up if you plan on driving to the summit.)
Parking for this trailhead is just on the side of Park Loop Road (no official parking area). We were very lucky and found a spot around 12:30 pm on a Saturday afternoon! Everyone says to wake up before the crack of dawn to find a parking spot. If everyone is doing that, we took our chances to go later, which worked out for us!
In the late afternoon/early evening after hiking Cadillac Mountain, we strolled along Sand Beach with the wagon in tow for Tuffy to give her tired legs a rest. Tuffy is a water dog at heart and smelling the saltwater rejuvenated her spirit. We didn’t let her swim due to the high rip tides, but here she is enjoying a view of the evening waves.
We missed seeing Thunder Hole because I somehow missed that recommendation during my research. If you are passing by and see an open parking spot, snag it, and check it out! It’s a spot where the waves splash quite high along a rocky alcove of Sand Beach and seems to be quite the attraction. Maybe not worth going out of your way for, but given how many times we drove by this spot, I wished we had stopped to check it out.
I did not wake up before sunrise to do this trail like many recommend. I rolled into the parking lot around 9am and found a spot in the Sand Beach parking lot after one loop. Yes, the parking lot was full, but I always believe in parking karma. Believe in it and a parking spot always appears!
This hike was more exhilarating than the Precipice and even shorter if you’re looking for a quick, adrenaline rush. There were expansive views almost the entire way up! I passed seemingly less fit people who were also hiking this trail. Don’t be intimidated that this is only for the super fit. It will be very easy if you are extremely active and strong, but not impossible to do if you are not. That’s what the rungs are for, to help hoist you up!
I skipped the add-on trail to the pond because I read it wasn’t worthwhile. Tuffy and Winston waiting for me back at the hotel, so I decided to keep this hike short and sweet.
On the way back to the hotel, I stopped by the Sunday Farmer’s Market in Bar Harbor which was not particularly large or varied, but it was on the way back to the hotel and worth the visit for Frontier Maple Sugarworks! I never had a maple candied apple which the owner, Carrie, brilliantly created. An heirloom Granny Smith Apple dipped in candied maple syrup which became a deliciously creamy, candy coating. I was also able to pick up the perfect Maine maple candy treats for staff and family back home.
Tuffy and Winston needed an easy day after Cadillac Mountain, so we chose a path we could wagon Tuffy along. We were able to push the wagon ¾ around the pond before the rocky, rambling stones began, but it was a worthwhile walk around a gorgeous pond and rich forest. We did not eat at the Jordan Pond Restaurant (or really any of the restaurants in Bar Harbor because the food offerings didn’t seem interesting enough to go off my meal plan while I'm training for endurance hikes.)
We did try a few bakeries and cafés for taste tests. Winston was also dying for Pad Thai at the local Thai place (despite my warnings the reviews were harsh). If you have access to a kitchenette or kitchen, that's my recommendation if you wish to eat super clean and/or have food intolerances. The local health food store in Bar Harbor, A&B Naturals, has a great selection of staples!
Here’s what we did try:
I was tempted to try their savory meals but really didn’t have much of an appetite in between hikes. They had a cold-pressed green juice (no fruit and not organic) – which hit the spot. It was tasty! It was the closest thing I could find to our Green Special. Also ordered a selection of their baked goods for Winston. The only baked treat I loved was their Millionaire’s Shortbread which was made with very similar ingredients to ours! No wonder I enjoyed it so much. I want to add a similar item to our menu. (Their cookies and muffins were flat in flavor or dry.)
My protein shakes filled me up more than I expected, so I did not need to eat much beyond my healthy trail snacks (Bada Bean Bada Boom, Navitas Hemp Power Snacks, Aloha Protein Bars), broths, kimchi, and protein shakes the first few days. I don’t normally eat so light, but in preparation for longer hikes, I wanted to test what shelf-stable foods would keep me fueled and satisfied when I hike Mont Blanc next summer.
My go-to protein shake recipe with minimal macros is 2 scoops of Ancient Nutrition Chocolate Plant Protein + 15 grams of Navitas Cacao Powder + 40 oz water. The cacao powder curbs the monk fruit sweetness of the protein powder, which I don’t enjoy (although this protein powder is the least sweet of any I have tried.) Ancient Nutrition also makes this vegan protein powder with organic nuts and seeds instead of soy/pea/brown rice, which agrees with my body better. This protein shake can definitely be more delicious blended with a nut or soy milk and/or with fruit added, but it tastes just as good with water and helps me save my macros for solid food. I would sip on this throughout the day pre and post hikes, which kept me satiated and fueled the first two days. By day 3, I needed more substantial food to replace all the energy I was burning.
A delightful ice cream shop with very fresh flavors. (Sorry for the terrible photo! Forgot to snap a pic before diving in.)
They did not have a vegan ice cream flavor the weekend we visited, but had a handful of deliciously fresh sorbets. I don’t ever go for sorbets – it’s too healthy to taste like a dessert for me, but these were fantastic. Extremely fresh and full of fresh chunks of seasonal fruit. Tuffy, Winston, and I all loved it. Winston tried their dairy ice creams which he said was the best he ever had. The primary flavor was not sugar, but instead the fresh, local flavors of Maine.
I'm already dreaming of returning to Mount Desert Island, and how can we open a P.S. & Co. so we can spend our summers in Acadia National Park?! Next time we visit, we will plan to bike along the historic Carriage Roads and check out Thunder Hole along the way.