The only Acadia peak you can summit on a bike, Day Mountain is modest enough, at 584 feet, to have skirted Rockefeller’s prohibition on mountaintop carriage roads. Bikers don’t need to be in Tour de France shape to tackle the winding, 275-foot climb to the top either. The route to the foot of the mountain crosses the Triad–Day Mountain Bridge, built in 1940, the last of the park’s iconic 17 stone bridges, then meets the three-mile carriage road that encircles the mountain. The gentle summit route begins at signpost 36, and the views from up top take in the scatter of islands to MDI’s south and west, including the nearby Cranberries and the humped profile of Isle au Haut. 4 miles one way from the Jordan Pond gatehouse, on the Park Loop Rd., just north of Seal Harbor.
2. Aunt Betty Pond
It’s downhill all the way to Aunt Betty Pond, pooled in a valley between Sargent and McFarland mountains. From the top of the Eagle Lake Carriage Road, the most direct approach, the Aunt Betty Carriage Road passes through a spruce forest, which gives way to clearings where wild blueberries and interrupted ferns flourish, followed by stands of white pines. Dragonflies flit over the placid, shallow pond, which is fringed with marsh grass that turns golden in fall. Swamp sparrows and northern waterthrushes like the wetland habitat, making this a favorite birders’ haunt. An uphill slog is unavoidable from there, whether you retrace your route, continue on a long ride around Parkman Mountain, or head south to loop back along Eagle Lake’s west shore (that one’s not an option this summer, on account of construction). 2.6 miles one way to the pond from the Eagle Lake trailhead, on Rte. 233, just east of Eagle Lake Bridge.
Beginning at Eagle Lake, the carriage-road ride to Aunt Betty Pond shows off the diversity of the park’s low country. Click a photo to enlarge.
3. Amphitheater Loop
Some MDI rusticators weren’t pleased when, in 1922, John D. Rockefeller Jr. revealed plans for a carriage road to the “amphitheater,” a deep, wooded ravine carved between Cedar Swamp and Penobscot mountains by Little Harbor Brook. The project would hurt the fledgling park, they argued, and be “of no real use to the public.” Truth is, they wanted to keep the tranquil spot to themselves. Fortunately for us commoners, Rockefeller prevailed, though it took 10 years of wrangling with the neighbors to get the road and Amphitheater Bridge built. Located about midway on a rolling lollipop loop around the mountains’ lower slopes, the bridge is one of Acadia’s fanciest. Faced in pink granite, it arches high over the brook and is adorned with a turreted balcony and parapets upon which cyclists and hikers rest and reenergize in the serenity of the forest. 4.8-mile loop from the Brown Mountain gatehouse, on Rte. 3, north of Northeast Harbor.
4. Breakneck Pond
The best way to pedal MDI’s only real mountain-biking trail is to make a shuttle out of it. Have a friend deposit you and your bike at the trailhead, a quarter mile east of the park headquarters. (When the Island Explorer bus is back on its full schedule, post-COVID, the Bicycle Express route stops a quarter mile east, at the Eagle Lake Carriage Road trailhead.) From there, it’s a fun, beginner-friendly downhill ride on a grown-over jeep road — decidedly not a carriage road — that passes beaver dams on a marshy pond and spits out riders in Bar Harbor, behind the post office and the Hulls Cove General Store. 2.5 miles one way, from near park headquarters, on Rte. 233, or from the trailhead at the end of Breakneck Rd., in Bar Harbor.
5. Echo Lake–Seal Cove Pond Loop
A long out-and-back ride on gravel roads and paths, sporadically shared with cars, this full-day trip isn’t about soaring mountainside views but instead the forested nooks and crannies of Acadia’s Quietside. From Echo Lake Beach, ride south to follow Lurvey Spring Road to the bike-friendly trail called the Western Mountain Connector, in the shadow of Mansell and Bernard mountains. Follow that to Western Mountain Road (which is open to cars but doesn’t see many), then veer off on Seal Cove Pond Road, about 4.5 miles into your ride. A half mile later, you’ll reach the quiet, marshy shore of Seal Cove Pond. The little-used boat launch there is a great spot to eat lunch and watch for egrets, loons, eagles, and ospreys. 10.4 miles round-trip, from Echo Lake Beach parking lot, at the end of Echo Lake Beach Rd., off Rte. 102, in Southwest Harbor.