Bar Harbor - Where the Mountains Meet the Sea
Maine could be a boastful state, but it's not. It could lure you with tales about fresh lobsters that weigh more than watermelons, or moose that like to saunter up to your back porch for a sip of lemonade. It even could take you on a virtual tour of its hiking trails that would cause your computer monitor to burst with such scenery that it may explode.
But that's not Maine's style. And once you step foot into this eastern most state, you'll realize why. With 6,000 lakes and ponds, 32,000 miles of rivers and streams, 17 million acres of forestland, 2,000 islands and the same amount of coastline as California, Maine lets Mother Nature speak for herself.
And according to travel agents, Mother Nature's headquarters must be located in Bar Harbor—a coastaltown on Mount Desert Island about midway up Maine's coast in an area called Downeast. Just across the waters from Bald Porcupine Island, Bar Harbor is an exquisite seaport village and a perfect base camp to hike through the wilderness 'til your boots wear out.
Once the summer playground for the wealthy, Bar Harbor grew into a quiet resort village set amidst the hauntingly beautiful footprints of glaciers from eons past. Trace the forging paths of this glacial legacy onto the soaring granite cliffs, over the exposed bedrock, into sea caves and jagged overhangs, or even to Somes Sound Fjord. This love/hate relationship between rock and ice is reflected uniquely along the coastline, offering amazing insight into the forces of nature that shaped the world itself.
Embedded within the glaciers that repeatedly swept over this area millions of years ago were sand, stone and grit, tools that carved the granite like a 2-year-old near wet cement. Glacial erratics—boulders as large as elephants that rode these walls of ice from distant mountain ranges—pepper the landscape throughout, most impressively near the summit of South Bubble Mountain.
To find the truest hiking paths and explore this primordial region, though, just turn your back on the Atlantic Ocean and discover Acadia National Park vigilantly encircling three sides of Bar Harbor like a grizzly guarding her favorite cub. One of the most visited national parks in the United States, Acadia covers 40 percent of the island with 55 miles of carriage roads for walking, riding and biking.
Roads? Since when do hikers need roads? Off the beaten path of the carriage roads, Acadia supplies sure-footed trekkers with more than 120 miles of trails up, down and around 26 granite-domed mountains, deep woods and rugged shoreline. Go from sea level to see-everything in one afternoon, as you conquer Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the Atlantic coast, to be rewarded with a spectacular summit view of the ocean and outer islands.
This combination of mountain air and fresh ocean breezes invigorates all who step lively through the lands, and you'll need it to triumph over the strenuous Beehive or Precipice Trails. With steep granite ascents, exposed cliffs and rocky steps, the mountains in Acadia offer challenges to hikers of all skill levels.
Give your legs a rest and hike with your arms by sea kayaking or canoeing. Kayaking around the shoreline cliffs allows you to explore the caves and crags in a way no guidebook can ever portray. Or canoe around serene Eagle Lake to find the shady places where the trout like to nap.
Whichever way you decide to tread tough on your muscles, you'll need a place to rest and recuperate. A wide variety of hotels and B&Bs will place you within meters of the trails you seek each morning, as their hospitality is beyond compare.
And at night, with your stomach on "E" and your limbs as heavy as boulders, you'll come to find that Bar Harbor contains an abundance of restaurants that offer some of the freshest lobster in all of Maine.
With an entire island to explore and enjoy, why stress over the tiny details of travel? Have a travel agent find the best airfares to Bar Harbor Airport and set you up in the right hotel, leaving you with the more important decisions, like which pair of hiking boots to bring.
For those simply discovering Maine from I-95 or staying in beautiful Bangor, just 50 miles west of Bar Harbor, inject a little coastal excitement into your trip. Bar Harbor makes an excellent day-trip destination, close enough to arrive quickly and stunning enough to make the trip worthwhile.
Anyway you get there, Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park offer an exciting one-two punch of hiking adventures. From seaside cliffs to mountainous wilderness, your legs will be tested while your eyes feast on the natural tapestry.
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AREA FESTIVALS & EVENTS
Warblers & Wildflowers Festival — April
Bar Harbor Music Festival — July
Bar Harbor Antique Show — July
Seafood Festival — July
Bar Harbor Jazz Festival — August
Mt. Desert Island Marathon — October