5 Family-Friendly Hiking Trails in Acadia National Park

Mellow (but no less spectacular) walks for the junior ranger in all of us.

5 Family-Friendly Hiking Trails in Acadia National Park
Along the Lower Hadlock Pond Loop.
Part of “Acadia’s 30 Best Trails
Photographed by Chris Shane

1. Flying Mountain

This 284-foot-high granite gobbet at the mouth of Somes Sound is a great place to introduce kids to more rigorous hiking: the hill’s steep southern ascent is eased by terraced trail work, and it’s so short (just over a quarter mile) that kids barely have time to whine before they summit. A treeless ridge offers dazzling views up and down the long, narrow fjärd (similar to a fjord, but not as steep and deep) and south to island-dotted Frenchman Bay. From there, it’s an easy descent to Valley Cove, which sits at the foot of a sheer cliff favored by nesting peregrine falcons, followed by a stroll back to the trailhead via Valley Cove Fire Road. The forest floor here is strewn with lilies of the valley, bunchberries, starflowers, and other woodland flowers. 1.5-mile loop from the Flying Mountain trailhead, near the end of Fernald Point Rd., Southwest Harbor.

2. Lower Hadlock Pond Loop

This gentle pond perimeter trail has a secret: a little-heralded but magical waterfall. Hiking clockwise, one of the first stops along the circuit is a small dam at the pond’s southwest corner, where you can look out on the reservoir from a bridge straddling Hadlock Brook. Keep an eye (and an ear) out for loons. You’ll find the photogenic little falls on the pond’s north side, where Hadlock Brook comes tumbling into it. Cross above the falls on a log bridge to complete the loop. Leashed dogs welcome. 2.4-mile loop from the Lower Hadlock trailhead, on Rte. 3, across from the Brown Mountain gatehouse.

Along the Lower Hadlock Pond Loop, find glimpses of calm water and a tucked-away falls.

3. Jesup Path and Hemlock Path

For a short, easy, and even dog-friendly stroll, complete with interpretive panels and benches for snack breaks, a family can’t do better than the Jesup and Hemlock paths. This figure-eight–shaped route winds through stands of birches and towering hemlocks and the Great Meadow, often via an impressive network of boardwalks. The trail begins and ends at the Sieur de Monts Nature Center and Wild Gardens of Acadia, the latter of which showcases more than 400 indigenous plants and is maintained by volunteers. 1.5-mile loop, from Sieur de Monts Nature Center.

4. Lower Harbor

Located on the Schoodic Peninsula section of the park — less visited than MDI, across Frenchman Bay — this oceanside route is speckled with brook crossings and spots to duck off the trail and onto rocky beaches, so it’s great for kids who love the water. From the shore, hikers can glimpse a few undeveloped nearby islands and likely some seabirds. Combine it with the Frazer Creek Bike Path on the other side of the park road to make a mellow loop. 2.2-mile loop from a trailhead across from the Schoodic Woods Campground entrance and parking area, off Schoodic Loop Rd., a mile south of Rte. 186.

5. Bar Island

Accessible from downtown Bar Harbor, this hike across a sandbar is easy enough for even the littlest travelers — the only challenge comes from timing your trek to the tides. During the four-hour window straddling low tide, a Bar Harbor’s namesake “bar” — a half-mile, pebbly spit — emerges to link the town to little Bar Island. Stop to explore tide pools as you cross, and once on the island, follow the wide, forested path up a little slope for a tremendous view of downtown against the backdrop of Acadia’s peaks. Be very sure to check your tide tables and keep an eye on the clock so you don’t miss the window to return to the mainland! 2 miles out and back from the north end of Bridge St.

Read up on all 30 of our favorite Acadia National Park trails.

Down East Magazine, August 2021