Biking in Acadia National Park: A Guide to the Carriage Roads
October 26, 2022
When it comes to biking in Acadia National Park, the conversation is usually focused on the Carriage Roads. This historic road system offers 45 miles of motor-free access for horses, pedestrians and bikes. The roads weave all over the park and are a wonderful way to see a quieter side of the park without hiking.
If you are spending a few days in Acadia, I recommend spending a half or full day exploring the Carriage Roads on bike. This is a unique experience that you won’t find in any other national park!
If you’re looking for more information beyond biking in Acadia, check out my Acadia 3 day itinerary for more recommendations. I spent 3 weeks in Acadia in October 2022 and had the best time!
History of the Carriage Roads in Acadia
The Carriage Roads were primarily funded by John D. Rockefeller and built between 1913 and 1940. With the invention of the automobile, he saw the need to create an area that would remain motor-free so that visitors would be able to enjoy the peace of nature without the burden of cars.
The roads are about 16 feet wide and made of broken-stone. They were designed to preserve hillsides, save trees and align with the scenic views as much as possible.
There are 17 stone-faced bridges along the Carriage Roads. Each one is unique in its design and uses native stone to have a natural appearance. They span streams, waterfalls, roads and cliffs throughout the 45 miles of road.
The park maintains the roads to keep them in their original condition. A big renovation project took place in the 90’s and an endowment fund was established by the Friends of Acadia to help protect the carriage roads far into the future. A portion of your park fee also goes to maintaining the Carriage Roads.
Is There a Fee for the Carriage Roads?
A park entrance fee is required for all visitors to Acadia National Park. You will likely be doing some other things in the park along with biking the Carriage Roads, so you probably have already paid for the $30 private vehicle fee (valid for 7 days) or are using the America the Beautiful Pass.
If you won’t be driving at all during your trip, there is a discounted admission of $15 to admit one individual with no car (a bicyclist, hiker or pedestrian). If you enter the park on a bike from Bar Harbor like I did, there was no one to check for this fee, so it is on an honor system.
Where to Rent Bikes for the Carriage Roads
You can bring your own bike to ride the Carriage Roads, but if you don’t have one, there are a few outfitters in town that provide rentals. Both Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop and Acadia Outfitters rent regular multi-speed bicycles and electric bicycles. Island Time ebike rentals only rents ebikes and will meet you at the visitor center.
I had a great experience renting e-bikes from Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop. They provided a map, recommended a route and had plenty of bikes to choose from. They were also open later into the season than Acadia Outfitters. I rented in the second half of October and Acadia Outfitters was already closed.
The decision between an e-bike and a regular bike is entirely up to you. The e-bike costs about twice the price of the regular bike, so stick with a regular bike if you’re on a budget. However, if you’re more in it for the views instead of the exercise, I definitely recommend an e-bike for comfort going up the hills. An e-bike will also allow you to move faster if you’re short on time.
Tips for Biking the Carriage Roads
Bring a lightweight backpack to carry water, snacks or a packed lunch, and other essentials (such as a first aid kit, sunscreen and map). The rental bikes do not necessarily have a basket or anywhere to place your things, so you’ll want to be able to carry them on your back while riding.
Ask for a lock (which may be an extra fee) if you want to do some hiking along the way. There are a few different areas where you can park the bikes and do some short hikes. One that I highly recommend is Conners Nubble. The trail is located right along the Carriage Roads, is about a half mile and includes some rock scrambling. It leads to a fantastic view overlooking Eagle Lake.
While the rental companies may list a car rack in their rental options, I found that they did not allow you to transport the bikes in your vehicle during my visit. Be prepared to begin your bike ride directly from downtown Bar Harbor.
Every intersection on the Carriage Roads is marked with a number. Paying attention to this and matching them up to your map will greatly help in getting around and being sure of where you’re at.
Map of the Carriage Roads
This map is from the Acadia National Park service website, see their maps page for more information about the park.
Routes on the Carriage Roads
There are 45 miles of Carriage Roads, so there are several different routes to choose from. Here is a brief overview of the main loops and then I’ll share what I recommend to see some of the best views.
Witch Pond Loop
A 4.7 mile loop at the north end of the park that will lead you past Witch Hole Pond and the Hulls Cove Visitor Center. This is a good one if you’re short on time and want to make a stop at the visitor center.
Tri Lakes Loop
A 10.6 mile loop that leads you around Eagle Lake, Jordan Pond and Bubble Pond. This is a great loop to enjoy several different lake views. The east side of Eagle Lake offers some of the best views.
Jordan Pond Loop
This 8.6 mile loop takes you to Jordan Pond and passes Bubble Pond. This loop has many opportunities to park your bike and do some hiking. You can hike to Conners Nubble, the South Bubble or the North Bubble and hike around Jordan Pond.
Around the Mountain Loop
This route was my favorite part of the Carriage Roads, but it is also the most challenging in terms of elevation. The loop is 11.3 miles and has about 1000 feet of elevation gain. It offers some incredible views looking down at Eagle Lake near the Chasm Brook Bridge, plus views looking west as you bike near Bald Peak and Parkman Mountain.
What I Recommend as a Perfect Half or Full Day Biking the Carriage Roads
Here is what I recommend to see the best of the Carriage Roads. This route can be done in a half day if you rent an e-bike and keep a decent pace, or you can make it a full day by taking your time, having a picnic lunch, doing some hikes and/or adding on other areas of the Carriage Trails.
Be sure to check for current closures and conditions with your bike rental company or the park service before venturing out.
This route is about 29 miles and took me 4.5 hours (we really took our time). Begin from downtown Bar Harbor and enter at the Duck Brook Bridge. You will need to bike a short distance on real roads and cross the busy Maine Route 3. This can be a bit nerve wracking, but stay alert and you’ll be able to safely reach the park.
When you enter the park, head south on the Witch Hole Pond Loop towards Eagle Lake. When you reach Eagle Lake, turn left and travel on the east side of the lake. Eagle Lake is huge and there is a nice view on the North Side of the lake as soon you reach it.
At intersection 7, veer left and enter onto the Jordan Pond Loop. You will need to cross the Park Loop Road, so be very careful of oncoming cars. After crossing the road, you’ll see Bubble Pond, which is a great place to get off your bike and walk around a bit.
The path will pass the Wildwood Stables and you will soon cross the Park Loop Road again and reach Jordan Pond. The bike path only gets close to Jordan Pond briefly, so this is another good time to park your bike and walk around. You could also walk over the Jordan Pond House for lunch.
Travel north very briefly on the Jordan Pond Loop and then turn left at intersection 14 to begin the Around the Mountain Loop. This was by far my favorite part of the day. The loop not only has some stunning views, but you also pass by some beautiful waterfalls. The best views are on the northern part of the loop, where you’ll get a wonderful look at Eagle Lake. There are some long switchbacks as you begin to descend down the mountain.
When you reach intersection 10, make a left turn. Then you’ll quickly turn left again at intersection 8. You’ll bike up the west side of Eagle Lake and then rejoin the path that you started from to end your journey.
A quick add on to this route would be to add the rest of the Witch Hole Pond loop to see the pond and the Hulls Cove Visitor Center.
FAQ About Biking in Acadia
Can you bike on the Park Loop Road?
Yes, you can bike on the Park Loop Road, but it is a narrow, winding and busy road with no shoulder, so the park does not advise it for casual visitors. If you do want to bike on the road, avoid the busiest times of the day (usually between 10 am and 4 pm). On the one-way section of the road, you must bike with the traffic flow.
Can you bike to the top of Cadillac Mountain?
As far as I can tell, you are allowed to bike to the top of Cadillac Mountain without needing a reservation. However, the road is very steep and has no bike lane, so it can be very dangerous. Only attempt this if you have a lot of biking experience, you visit during a less busy time and talk with a ranger first.
More Things To Do in Acadia National Park
In addition to biking the Carriage Roads, here are some other things for your Acadia National Park itinerary.
- Eat at the Jordan Pond House Restaurant. Be sure to try the popovers.
- Take a scenic drive on the Park Loop Road. Be sure to stop at the Thunder Hole along the coast.
- Watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, the highest point in Acadia. A reservation is required to drive up the mountain from mid-May to mid-October.
- Hike on one of the thrilling ladder trails in the park, the most famous being the Beehive and Precipice trail. Please only attempt these if you have hiking experience and are not afraid of heights.
- Walk across the land bridge to visit Bar Island during low tide.
- Explore some of the many other beautiful hiking trails, such as the Bubble Nubble Loop, the Great Head Trail, Beech Mountain and many more.
- Visit the Wild Gardens of Acadia and walk on the Jesup Path, a boardwalk trail next to the gardens.
When is the Best Time to Visit Acadia?
The vast majority of visitors come to Acadia in the summer or fall. You can’t go wrong in either season, but I personally loved visiting in the fall. The fall offers fewer cruise ship crowds than the summer, the Precipice trail is more likely to be open (it is often closed for most of the summer), and the fall foliage is beautiful. Fall foliage usually peaks in mid-October.
I have a full guide to visiting Acadia in the fall that includes peak foliage dates, tips on weather and more!
I hope this helps you plan an epic day biking the Carriage Roads in Acadia National Park. It is such a unique national park experience that I highly recommend for your trip.
For More Acadia Travel Guides, check out these blogs:
- How to Spend Three Days in Acadia
- The Best Hiking Trails in Acadia
- How to Spend One Day in Acadia
- The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Acadia in the fall
Thanks for Reading!
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