Acadia National Park is a stunning natural destination located only a few hours drive from the Seacoast. I’ve visited this park many times. I’ve hiked, rock climbed, and camped there with friends. It might come a surprise that with all these visits to our closest national park, I still hadn’t brought my kids – currently age 5 and 7. So, last week we went! It was a joy to take them on some of my favorite easy trails and show off America’s treasure. Their favorite parts were the hikes! So, if you’re considering taking a road trip from the Seacoast up north, here are five easy hikes for kids in Acadia National Park.
Know before you go
Acadia is an easily accessible national park on Mt Desert Island in Downeast Maine. The combination of rugged coastline, sandy beaches, pristine lakes, and idyllic forests make it a wonderful spot for nature lovers. In addition, there is a plethora of easy trails that families of all hiking abilities can handle. Before you go, here’s what you should know:
- Entry Fee: Acadia sells a seven day vehicle pass for $35. This admits everyone in the car (15 passenger van or smaller). The pass can be purchased at the visitor center, park gate to the loop road, or online. Do you have a fourth grader? Apply for their free year national park pass and get the family in for free.
- Accommodations: The park has several campgrounds. In addition, there are private campgrounds just outside the park. If camping isn’t your thing, check out accommodations in the nearest large town – Bar Harbor. Fair warning though- these all book up very quickly for summer high season (June – Aug) so book early if you plan to go then. If you want tips about hiking with babies and/or toddlers, check out my recommendations!
- Weather: Coastal Maine is cool and often wet in summer, but it can also be hot and humid. If you plan to spend the day in the park, pack the essentials: water, food, sun protection, bug spray, first aid, and layered clothing. While there are stores and outfitters in Bar Harbor, once inside the park there are no stores or dining opportunities.
- Reservations: Cadillac Summit Road is a popular destination in the park. During the high season (starting mid-May though late October), all vehicles need to reserve entrance to drive to the summit. While other parking areas do not require permits or reservations, many of the popular stops along the park loop road fill up early in the day during the summer high season. Sand beach, Jordan Pond, and others are often full on summer weekends before 9 am. To remove this stress, consider traveling in the off-season or using the free park shuttle.
Ready to hit the trails? Here are my favorite five easy hikes for kids in Acadia National Park:
Ship Harbor Trail – Easy – 1.3 mile round trip out and back
Ship Harbor Trail is a picturesque hiking trail located in the heart of Acadia National Park. This easy trail winds through a stunning coastal forest, past rocky shores and glistening tidal pools. The trail is just 1.3 miles to complete out-and-back, making it perfect for families with young children or those looking for a shorter hike. You’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the coastline, and you might even spot some wildlife, such as seals or birds. This trail is a must-do for anyone visiting Acadia National Park, and it’s an excellent option for those looking to explore the natural beauty of Maine’s coastline. The first loop of the trail is stroller friendly, however it is not ADA compliant for wheelchairs.
Ocean Path – Easy – 1.4 mile round trip out and back
The Ocean Path in Acadia National Park is a stunningly beautiful trail that stretches along the rocky coastline. This iconic trail offers visitors breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the rugged coastline and forested landscape. The Ocean Path is a easy 1.4 -mile trail that starts at the famous Sand Beach and winds its way along the coast to Otter Point. Along the way, you’ll encounter a range of natural wonders, including Thunder Hole, a spot where the waves crash against the rocks and create a thunderous sound. The first section of Ocean Path is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers from the upper parking lot of Sand Beach to Thunder Hole. From Thunder Hole to Otter Point the trail becomes uneven, and includes a granite staircase.
Wonderland Trail – Easy – 1.4 mile round trip out and back
This 1.4-mile trail is an easy walk that is perfect for families with young children or anyone looking for a leisurely hike. It’s stroller friendly and although not technically ADA compliant, as a wide easy trail, for the most part could be called wheelchair accessible as well. As you walk along the Wonderland Trail, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the rocky coastline and the surrounding forest. The trail also leads to a secluded beach that is perfect for a picnic. This trail is a hidden gem in Acadia National Park, and it’s a must-visit for anyone looking for a magical hiking experience.
Jesup Path and Hemlock Path Loop – Easy – 1.5 mile round trip loop
The Jesup Path and Hemlock Path Loop in Acadia National Park is a scenic and peaceful hiking trail that takes visitors through a serene forested landscape. This flat and easy trail is not ADA compliant, however it is mostly accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. They are level trails and the boardwalk is wide enough for a single wheelchair. There are accessible bathrooms across the parking lot from the trailhead. This trail’s gems include a picturesque boardwalk trail as well as a dreamy path through white birch trees.
Jordan Pond Path – Easy to Moderate – 3.1 mile loop
Jordan Pond Path is one of the most popular trails in Acadia National Park, and it’s easy to see why. The trail winds along the shore of Jordan Pond, offering breathtaking views of the crystal-clear water and the surrounding mountains. For many, part of the experience is stopping at the historic Jordan Pond House for delicious popovers and a refreshing beverage. The trail is also known for its picturesque bridges and boardwalks, which add to the charm of the hike. For toddlers or those with limited distance, begin from the restaurant and walk counter clockwise about a quarter mile to the stone bridge. This gives an easy sneak peak of the trail. This trail is not wheelchair or stroller accessible as one side has many bog bridges.
Acadia – More than just hiking
While these five easy hikes for kids in Acadia National Park area a great way for anyone to enjoy some of the best views in the park, there’s more to enjoy than hiking. Add to your experience by riding a bike on a carriage road, grabbing ice cream in Bar Harbor, or exploring Acadia by sea. As a Seacoast resident, I feel fortunate to have this national park close by!