Acadia National Park, located just outside Bar Harbor, Maine is incredibly beautiful. The ever-winding Park Loop Road gives you a perfect overview of the park’s mind-blowing cliffs, ocean vistas, rock coves and lush forest. However, to truly experience the park, you have to get off the main thorough-fare for a couple of excursions. The first is driving to the top of Cadillac Mountain. The sweeping views from 1,529 feet are breath-taking. The second must-do is exploring the carriage roads.
The carriage road system was designed and paid for by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. between 1913 and 1940. Fearing an onslaught of motor vehicle traffic and the havoc that would play with enjoying nature’s quieter moments, these broken-stone roads were meant for horse-drawn carriages and are protected from automobiles to this day. There are 45 miles of carriage roads to explore, most of which are perfect for runners. For an easy, accessible Acadia run, the Witch Hole Loop can not be beaten.
The loop itself is only 3.3 miles, just past your typical 5K distance. You have a choice of several approaches. For our run, we chose the trail leading up from the Visitor’s Center. And by up, I mean straight up about 200 feet. The elevation climb can be a bit harsh if you’re not used to the altitude or running these sorts of hills. Instead, use the upward incline as a walking warm up and save your lungs for running the main loop.
The circular path is mostly flat and takes you around Witch Hole Pond as well as swinging wide to the East of the pond, showcasing diverse fauna and geological specimens. We ran in late November and were lucky that no winter storms had come through the area. All of the trails were open and easy to find. It was, however, very cold. Compression leggings and long sleeve compression shirt were covered by long track pants and a quarter zip top. Gloves and a knit ear-covering hat were also necessities. Be aware of the estimated sunset time as it comes early that far north. We barely made it back before the 3:45 sunset on our run day! This would not be a fun run in the dark. We only saw a handful of other people on the trail and no other runners. Cyclists, dog-walkers and a handful of leisurely strollers passed our way – not more than 10 all told. Counting the loop approach uphill and down, our total mileage came in at 4.75 mi.
More important than all of this technical stuff: Enjoy the run. Take pictures. Walk over the stone bridges. Bring a friend. This is one of the most beautiful runs you’ll ever take.