Explore Acadia by Foot, Bike, and Bus

Car-free Itineraries to Explore the Park in a More Environmentally Friendly Way

Left: Two hikers walk the summit of Cadillac Mountain, viewed from the Cadillac South Ridge Trail. (Photo by Lily Regina/Friends of Acadia) Top right: Island Explorer provides park visitors free transportation throughout the park. (Photo by Joe Philipson/Friends of Acadia) Bottom right: Cyclists head towards the Jordan Pond Gate House on the carriage roads near Jordan Pond. (Lily LaRegina/Friends of Acadia)


The best way to appreciate Acadia National Park-its salty coastal breezes and ecological diversity-is outside of a car. Car-free exploration enables us to immerse ourselves in the park we love, and it’s a more environmentally friendly way to experience and steward the park.

With climate change challenging fragile park ecosystems, automobile traffic brings an additional burden. The exhaust expelled from visitors’ vehicles is the biggest factor in the park’s carbon footprint.

Record visitation is also putting added strain on park resources. Ninety-eight percent of visitors entering the park in 2021 were in a personal vehicle, up from 90 percent in the years before the pandemic. Last year, there were 210,000 more cars in the park than in 2019, and visitors tend to go to the same popular spots, like Jordan Pond House, Bass Harbor Head Light Station, and the Ocean Drive corridor. That added traffic means park staff must respond more often to daily congestion situations, visitor rescues, and other visitor assistance services.

Friends of Acadia encourages all visitors-first timers and those who delight in Acadia year after year-to enjoy the park by bike, by foot, or by riding the Island Explorer bus. We’ve put together three day-trip itineraries for splendid car-free experiences in the park. Try them out and let us know what you think.

1. Take a Ferry to the Schoodic Peninsula


A young woman looks at her reflection in the water at Schoodic Point. (Photo by Emily Moses/Friends of Acadia)

Combine a ferry ride and the Island Explorer bus for a day on the Schoodic Peninsula, where you’ll enjoy quieter park trails, quaint shops, and standout coastal views. This year, Island Explorer’s Schoodic service runs through October 10, 2022 (service is limited starting in late August, so be sure to check the schedule on the Island Explorer website). The route includes stops all around the Schoodic Peninsula.

Getting there is half the fun. The privately operated Bar Harbor Winter Harbor Ferry runs multiple times a day between Schoodic and the Bar Harbor Inn pier from early June to early October. Cost for a one-way ticket is $18 for adults and $14 for children. You can even bring your bike aboard for $10 (no E-bikes) or rent a bike for the day in Winter Harbor where Sea Schoodic Kayak and Bike is a short walk or Island Explorer ride from the ferry terminal.

To reach the Bar Harbor Inn’s pier, catch any of the Island Explorer routes that travel to the Bar Harbor Village Green and walk down Main Street toward Agamont Park and the Inn.

Once on the Schoodic Peninsula, you can grab a sandwich and shop in downtown Winter Harbor, bike the one-way loop road around the peninsula or the multi-use paths, which are accessible from the Schoodic Woods campground. Or, ride the Island Explorer bus to the Frazer Point Picnic Area, Schoodic Point, or to access the trails from the Blueberry Hill parking area.


2. Jordan Pond Bike + Hike Adventure


Jordan Pond, Penobscot and Sargent Mountains, and the Bubbles are viewed from the Jordan Pond Path. (Photo by Lily LaRegina/Friends of Acadia)

Combine some pedaling on the bike-friendly carriage roads with a hiking side trip near Jordan Pond. Pack a lunch and ride your bike into the park or take your bike aboard the Island Explorer bus to Jordan Pond (buses are equipped with bike racks, but space is limited, and the racks cannot accommodate bikes with fat tires or E-bikes). Stow your bike on the bike racks at Jordan Pond House while you venture onto the hiking trails. There are several hiking options accessible from here, including the easy-going Jordan Pond Loop, the moderate ­difficulty South Bubble, or the more challenging Penobscot Mountain.

Following your hike, enjoy a picnic lunch by the pond, or head to the Jordan Pond House for a popover. Once refueled, grab your bike and ride back to Bar Harbor via the carriage roads over to Witch Hole Pond and down the signed bike route to town. You can also ride to Eagle Lake, where you can pick up the Island Explorer’s Bicycle Express route, which takes passengers and their bikes between Eagle Lake and Kids Corner in Bar Harbor.

3. Easy-Going (yet Oh-So-Scenic) Meanderings


Evening colors are illuminated at Great Meadow. (Photo by Emma Forthofer/Friends of Acadia)

While Acadia’s mountain summits garner a lot of attention, the park also boasts a plethora of easy-going paths-through woods and gardens and along dramatic coastline-that are superb for hikers and walkers of all levels.

The Great Meadow Loop is a flat two-mile pathway through woods and along Kebo Golf Course, not far from downtown Bar Harbor. It connects with Jesup Path, where you can bird watch and take in views of Great Meadow. Great Meadow is a 100-acre wetland in the heart of the Cromwell Brook watershed and a focus area for Friends of Acadia. We’re helping support the park’s work to restore the natural stream channel, which has been stymied by a now-undersized culvert installed there in the 1930s. The work aims to mitigate future floods, improve water quality, and facilitate greater biodiversity in the Great Meadow.

The Jesup Path leads you to Sieur de Monts where you can explore additional nearby hiking trails or wander the Wild Gardens of Acadia, which features more than 400 native plant species. Catch the Island Explorer at Sieur de Monts to ride to Sand Beach. Enjoy the Ocean Path, a mellow oceanside walk with breathtaking views of crashing waves and cliffs.

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Tips for getting around Acadia aboard the Island Explorer shuttles

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SHANNON BRYAN is Friends of Acadia’s Content and Website Manager.