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Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at

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Posted: February 12, 2018

Hiking in Maine: Quiet and beautiful – that’s winter in Acadia

Written by: Carey Kish

The term “winter wonderland” may be a somewhat overused descriptor these days, but I think it fits just fine when it comes to Acadia National Park.

The glorious landscape of Mt. Desert Island is wide open for hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on 130 miles of trails and 57 miles of carriage roads. And the big bonus? Not a lot of people.

According to recent news reports, 2017 was a record year for Acadia visitation, when more than 3.5 million people enjoyed the mountain and ocean splendor of Maine’s only national park, the eighth-most visited in the U.S. This figure eclipsed the previous record of 3.3 million visitors set in 2016, Acadia’s centennial celebration year.

The thing is, the lion’s share of Acadia’s visitors come to the park in the spring, summer and fall, and at that, mostly from July through October. Sorting through the statistics, I learned that somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 people visit Acadia in the winter months, just 2 percent of annual visitation. Clearly, to have this beautiful park pretty much to yourself, winter is the time to roam free like you owned the place (which as American citizens, we actually do).

The 27-mile Park Loop Road is closed in winter (except for one short stretch), but there are plenty of other access points along the public roads that slice through park land, including Routes 3, 198 and 233 on the east side of the island, and Routes 102 and 102A on the west side. Many of the trailhead parking lots are plowed, and a few even have toilets for use.

Something I wasn’t aware of until this winter is that the Ocean Drive section of the Park Loop Road from Schooner Head Road to Otter Cliffs Road – which includes Sand Beach and Thunder Hole – is plowed and open to vehicles. This makes for easy access to Great Head, The Bowl and Gorham Mountain, for starters, never mind the fabulous Ocean Path.

With 26 named peaks and eight mountains exceeding 1,000 feet, there’s plenty more to do, of course. A traverse of the long open ridgeline of Cadillac Mountain is a classic winter hike. Dorr Mountain from Sieur de Monts Spring is a favorite, as is Bald Peak and Parkman Mountain from the Hadlock Ponds area.

On the other side of Somes Sound, Acadia and St. Sauveur mountains are easy pickings; same for Beech Mountain and Beech Cliff. Drive to the south end of Long Pond to tackle the steeps to Mansell Peak and Bernard Mountain. And along the coast, Wonderland and Ship Harbor trails are just as much fun in winter as summer.

All the great hiking aside, the real bucket-list Acadia winter adventure is cross-country skiing on the carriage roads. Volunteers from the Acadia Winter Trails Association machine groom and track a series of ski loops – some 25 miles in all, and whenever Mother Nature dumps more than a few inches of snow, the groomers are soon out there.

Probably the most popular jumping-off point for carriage road skiers is the parking lot on Route 233 at the north end of Eagle Lake. From here, you can ski north on the Witch Hole Loop, a scenic 6.5-mile circuit that takes in Paradise Hill. You also can ski the 6-mile Aunt Betty Loop, which heads south along Eagle Lake.

The four-mile Hadlock Loop and the five-mile Amphitheater Loop are accessed from Route 3/198 at Parkman Mountain trailhead or Brown Mountain Gatehouse. For a superb challenge, try the 17-mile Around the Mountain Loop, which circumnavigates Sargent Mountain and five other peaks.

Carriage road users need to follow a few simple but important rules of etiquette. One edge of the groomed trail is tracked for traditional skiers, while the other edge is reserved for snowshoeing enthusiasts, booted hikers and dogs. Skate skiers get the middle of the corduroy swath, as do traditional skiers who don’t stay in the track.

Useful websites for planning your Acadia winter adventure and checking the status of trail grooming include: and Another good source is the Friends of Acadia Facebook page.


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