A Yearly Hiking Tradition

For her 75th birthday, Ann Bradford decided to hike every named peak in Acadia. More than a dozen years later, it’s become a joyful annual tradition.


Ann Bradford has always been at home in the mountains. She was born in pre-World War II Singapore to missionary parents and spent most of her childhood there, as well as in Malaya and India. She attended a boarding school on a jungle mountaintop and graduated from a high school in the Himalayan Mountains in India.

In 1966, after living in Washington, D.C., after college, she and her first husband and their children visited Acadia during a family vacation. The park “captured their hearts,” and soon after returning from vacation, they packed up their lives in D.C. and bought a house in Southwest Harbor.

Ann spent the next few decades enjoying raising her three children on Mount Desert Island and later converting her family home into a bed and breakfast, where she shared her love of the island and Acadia National Park with visitors from around the world for 29 years.

For her 75th birthday, Ann decided to hike every peak in Acadia. “I was sitting in my home, looking at the view, and I thought, what can I give myself for my birthday? I know what I’ll do; I’ll climb all the mountains—it just popped into my mind to do that, and I’ve been doing it ever since.” It’s become a massive part of Ann’s life; she says if she didn’t have the park and the mountains, “I don’t know what I would do.”

Ann Bradford poses for a photo near her home on August 30, 2023. Ann challenges herself to hike every peak in Acadia every year. (Photo by Julia Walker Thomas/Friends of Acadia)

For Ann, hiking has never been about reaching a summit. “For me, it’s not about reaching the goal; it’s the journey and the joy you find along the way.”

In Acadia, Ann, who now lives in a cottage at Birch Bay, begins hiking as soon as the ice is out and continues until the fall. “I try to go hiking every day. If I can’t do a trail, I try to walk on the carriage road.”

Ann doesn’t only hike here in Maine. Last year she walked the last 100 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago in Spain with her daughter, son-in-law, and a good friend. During the walk, Ann thoughts wandered, too. “I was hoping the universe would send me a message about what I would do with the rest of my years,” she said. “The answer was very, very simple. Love one another, be kind, listen, and inspire people to walk. If you can only take one or two steps, that’s ok. It’s not a matter of finishing a huge marathon—it’s just about taking the first step and then the next step and the next.”

She describes the experience on the Camino as “life-changing” and is planning to do another section of the Camino next May—using Acadia as her training ground, of course.

This year, instead of ending her annual hike of all 28 named peaks in Acadia with Cadillac as her final summit, Anne hiked up Cadillac via the North Ridge Trail as part of her Easter Sunday celebration.

Bradford at the summit of Sargent Mountain. (Photo courtesy Ann Bradford)

This year, she plans to end her yearly tradition with Pemetic, her favorite mountain. “I love it up there; the view is just to die for,” she said. “There’s so much variation in the climb. It starts with the brook and the stream in very shady areas, and then you get up to a wonderful coniferous forest, and then you are right out on these huge boulders, which I love, out in the wide open. It also has some technical places are a little difficult.”

Ann says she takes it easy with frequent stops to appreciate the small things, like studying a patch of moss or lichen or bark, which makes even the more challenging hikes doable and enjoyable.

Her favorite aspect of hiking is noticing the little things, observing bits of the natural world along the way, but she also finds joy in the new people she meets.

“Part of the beauty of hiking is seeing people, and even though you don’t know them, there is oneness. You’re all the same underneath: you’re all one,” she said. “On a hike, you’re all on the same journey, the same path, even though you may have different goals. There’s something very beautiful about that.”

Ann will be 88 in January of next year and has no plans to stop hiking.

“I’m having trouble remembering things, but physically I’m fine. I joke with some of my hiking companions: 20 years from now, I’ll still be on the trail, and you’ll be leading me by the hand, telling me, ‘No, it’s this way, deeah.’”

Left: Ann Bradford takes in the view on Cadillac, South Ridge. (Photo courtesy Ann Bradford). Top right: Bradford and her dog Mollie look at a photo book given to her by one of her hiking companions. (Photo by Julia Walker Thomas/Friends of Acadia. Bottom right: Bradford celebrating hiking to Cadillac Summit (Photo courtesy Ann Bradford).


JULIA WALKER THOMAS is Friends of Acadia’s Visual Storytelling and Creative Projects Manager.