For our next foray into Acadia National Park, we set our sites to the west side of Mount Desert Island. Also appreciated as the Quiet Side of Acadia, this area resides west of Somes Sound and easily accessed by Maine State Route 102 just south of Trenton. Except for Echo Lake and Bass Harbor Head Light Station, we found a much-needed calmness away from the tourist crowds of East Side, as well as some noteworthy trails.
Beech Cliff Loop Trail
Seasoned hikers can knock out the whole trail in less than a few minutes, but regardless of your hiking level, you’ll want to linger for the views especially on a bright day. At the end of Beech Hill Road, you can find Beech Mountain Trail Parking Lot and the trailhead for Beech Cliff Loop Trail. Beech trees and evergreens will hug you on either side as you head eastward and upward for the first 1000 feet or so before coming to a crossroad. Heading forward and northeast will lead toward the Beech Cliff, while to the right leads to the Canada Cliffs, and left is the return trail for Beech Cliff Loop Trail. I suggest continuing forward with the best experience.
Once you reach the weathered granite outcrops, you’ll want to pick a spot and take all the beauty of Mount Desert Island. As the trail turns northward, you can get a clear view of both Echo Lake dotted by the occasional kayaker and the sandy beach filled by summer tourists. At around 0.4 miles, you’ll reach a hairpin turn that leads southward into the woods, and by 0.6 miles you’ll reach the junction again. You can go forward toward Canada Cliffs for a more robust hike, or head back westward to where you parked.
Acadia National Park offers Wonderland Trail as another easy hike. Often the go-to walk for those with younger kids, this 1.6-mile moderately trafficked out-and-back trail is located near Bass Harbor. In spring through early summer, you’ll see wildflowers beneath a canopy of twisted pine.
Just under 4 miles south on Seawall Road from the small town of Manset in the Southwest Harbor area, you’ll find a small parking lot and the Wonderland trailhead. Once an old road, this flat trail leads directly to the ocean where you’ll see fascinating tidal pools, and thick seaweed beds — all ripe for exploring during low tide. The path then loops through a grove of fire and spruce, with irregular passage to a rugged shoreline. For the avid birder, you’ll have access to dozens of shorebirds.
Long Pond Trail
Long Pond Trail can be easy or hard depending on your willpower. Regardless of the difficulty, you’ll find solitude while hiking this trail seeing as not many people know about it…yet! From Main Street (Mane Route 102), just turn right on Seal Cove Road, then head north on Long Pond Road which will take you to a parking lot on the Southend of Long Pond and the trailhead.
For the first 1.8 miles, Long Pond Trail is easy with picture perfect views of Long Pond along the way. You can head back the way you came to finish off your easy hike. For those who want a robust-cardio and thigh-buster workout, you can take the trail upward for about 1 mile, and toward northern Mansell Mountain and Bernard Mountain, until it intersects with Great Notch Trai and then head south. In roughly 0.4 miles, you can take Razor Back Trail eastward. In 0.3 miles, Razor Back Traill will intersect with Perpendicular Trail, which will take you all the way up to Mansell Mountain. A worthy place to sun yourself or have lunch, before heading back down to the parking lot via numerous trails that will finish your loop.
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
For the photographer, Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse should not be missed. As I mentioned before, Bass Harbor is very popular. Combine that with a small parking lot, expect to wait before reaching your destination especially in summer. Also, check for tide times. I suggest visiting the lighthouse at low tide during sunset. Just go a bit early and maybe plan for an afternoon picnic, so you don’t have to fight tourist traffic. Take few pictures of the lighthouse and then watch the sunset would be an excellent way to end your day on the Quiet Side.
Side Note: More to Explore
In my search for trails to hike on the Quiet Side, I also read of a loop trail leading up to Acadia Mountain, the park’s namesake. Although the hike is less than two miles, the path has several sections with grades above 30% and as much as 50% — putting this trail in soundly in the “very hard” category. We didn’t go on this hike, but I would encourage others to do so only for the fact that it has excellent views of the park’s east side.