Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Biking the Carriage Roads in Acadia National Park 2021

 If you want to bike on the carriage roads in Acadia this calendar year, 2021, there are a few things you need to know...First, a big chunk of the roads are closed to the public this month due to severe late spring storm damage. Some, they say, will not open back up till next year. Some are being repaired quickly, and parts of the closed carriage roads are starting to open back up. We got a visitor's map at the visitor's center in Trenton so to avoid the big crowds piling into the Acadia National Park even in the early morning hours. The guide at the visitor's center marked the closed carriage roads in pink highlighter. Eagle Lake loop carriage road, one of the most popular roads, was closed. Rats!

Sparky was discouraged at first, but then saw lots of possibilities with the remaining carriage roads. She decided to go for it and bike as much of them as she could in one day, as it is about a 25 mile drive from the RV park and Eldo would be dropping her off and coming back to pick her up later in the day. Eldo has bad knees and is unable to bike.

As we drove into the national park, we were dismayed to see trailhead after trailhead and parking lot after parking lot full to the brim and then some. People were blocking others with their cars by the way they crammed their way into the small lots, preventing some from getting out later on. It wasn't even 10:00 AM and the park was jammed with visitors. The Hull's Cove visitor's center lane was backed up from the parking lot out onto the turning lane back at the highway. 

Sparky had a map. Did she use it? Nope, not for most of the day. (Uh, oh! I'm just NOW hearing this? That means she got lost at least once, says E.) AHEM! Well, yes. But more about that later. She just decided that she would bike and bike and if a road was closed, she would take "the other way". They all loop around the park eventually, and Sparky wanted to see a few bridges so it would mean maximizing the available open routes as much as possible. The bridges of the carriage roads are some of the most amazing structures financed and overseen by John D Rockefeller, Jr. He supervised the building of 16 bridges and the carriage roads between 1919 and 1931. 

Sparky started at post 15, the Jordan Pond area. A ranger was stationed there and told her to take a left at the first post she saw, then a right at post 21, and she would see some bridges. YES!

Sparky was off....

It was a cloudy, foggy day for much of the morning. The fog obscured the views that are usually amazing, but the bridges were the highlights this time, not so much the lakes and scenery around the area. The first bridge? The Amphitheater bridge with an awesome trail underneath it. This is Sparky's favorite bridge. it is one of the longest (245 feet) in the park system, completed in 1931. 

There is a cool trail underneath this bridge. Sparky walked down underneath to check out, remembering previous visits and hikes here in beautiful Acadia. Yep, that's the trail....wet and slippery big rocks for awhile. There's a little waterfall on the other side of the bridge trail.
Back on the carriage roads....the roads are in great condition, they are built amazingly well and have withstood time, wear and tear, and weathering. The history of the engineering feats of the bridges and carriage roads is FASCINATING but way too much information to share at the moment, but you should check it out! 

BUT--they have LOTS of elevation changes, Sparky was in very low gears on her Trek bike a lot of the time, and had to get off the bike to make it up the hills some of the time. She forgot about how strenuous most of the roads are! But she felt better seeing quite a few people walking their bikes at times. When you are biking, check out the drainage ditches using the area stones to make a "natural" drainage ditch.

Another bridge.....
A smaller bridge over a stream....Sparky thinks this is the Hadlock Brook Bridge, completed in 1926.
The Duck Brook Bridge...three arches and four turret style viewing platforms at the top. Built in 1929. It's the tallest and most expensive bridge to build in the system.
The Eagle Lake Bridge...built in 1928. This is one of two bridges out of all them that you can drive over on it. It's also one of the most popular places to start riding on the carriage roads on your bike by going underneath it.
This is the Deer Brook Bridge at the left...It's the only carriage road bridge that has two arches. Sparky remembered it being brighter last time, but maybe that's because the weather was better on the last visit! It is constructed out of dark stained granite so THAT'S why it is so dark, duh! It has a fabulous dated medallion in the middle of the two arches but it's tough to see it with all the trees....

Sparky's on a roll, here. How about the Cliffside Bridge? One of the last bridges to be completed, in 1932. It hugs the cliffs of Penobscot Mountain in the park. It's about 250 feet and looks like a castle. 

By now, Sparky is getting tired. At one point, she stopped to admire the view of Cadillac Mountain and ran into a fellow traveler, a writer by the name of Angela (Andrea?) Hairston, from Massachusetts. We had a great chat about traveling and biking. Ms. Hairston has three bikes, and one of them is a winter bike with STUDDED  bike tires! Yep, you heard that right! Sparky did not know such a thing existed! Ms. Hairston was in great shape and had a great bike with all the right gear. Great chatting with you, Ms. Hairston. (I'm so sorry I didn't remember your first name for certain).

The sun started to clear the fog and there were a couple of glimpses of the possible beautiful views after all. Here's one...

One last thing Sparky saw that was pretty cool that caught her eye:

These are called ghost pipes, also known as the ghost plant or Indian pipe. It's like an herb and is a perennial. The natives used to use it as a antispasmodic medicine, and when made into a powder, to treat restlessness, pains, nervous irritability, etc. This plant doesn't have the green chlorophyll so how does it survive? By stealing nutrients from some fungi, trees and decaying plant matter around it. Cool!

It was a tired and hungry Sparky that made it back to her starting point, Jordan Pond, to meet back up with Eldy. Twenty-two miles on always changing elevations on the carriage roads, made for a great workout today...Sparky was TIRED, but thrilled to be able to ride on these beautiful roads in the park today. Hope you enjoyed the ride, too! 

We have three days left here in Ellsworth, Maine with dicey weather conditions for a hike or a bike ride the last couple of days. Rain in the forecast. Sparky wants to hike the Beehive Trail in know, the one with the iron rungs and the narrow cliff hanger pathway? Well, maybe...We shall see. (Yes, we shall see, says a determined-to-talk Sparky-out-of-that-hike Eldo.)

Bye for now!


  1. You got great pictures of the bridges Jeannie. 22 miles is amazing. So glad you got to do it even with all the people and crowds. I'm glad I skipped Acadia this year. I know I should be thinking about where I want to be next summer but I just can't make myself do it.

  2. I love those stone bridges on the Acadia trail. Never have seen them in person, never got to Maine while Rving. So glad all my RV friends are showing me :)

  3. Carriage Road trail photos were lovely what an adventure looked like fun sorry the weather has not been too good we will catch up with you guys later. George & Lynn

  4. Glad to see you here, George and Lynn!