With the recent centennial celebration of the establishment of the National Park Service “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects…and wildlife within,” a visit to Acadia National Park was the perfect spot to join in the festivities. In addition to ample walks and hikes, shorelines and coastal vistas, carriage roads and looking for wildlife, we also went in search of (and found) the perfect popovers!
Acadia National Park
As one of more than 400 parks in the National Park System, Acadia National Park is a fantastic place to visit anytime. But a visit during the centennial celebration honoring the establishment of the National Park Service? Even better. Located in Maine, this national park is a wonderful spot whether you are just traveling through for a few hours, or wanting to stick around and explore for a bunch of days.
Discover plenty of historic trails—both lowland and mountain routes—guaranteeing you can find the perfect trail, walk, hike or climb for you. Check in with the ranger station to see when they may be leading walks. During a ranger walk, learn tidbits ranging from how to identify birds, to finding flora and inside tales about the history. Or head out on your own via foot, bike, car or kayak, depending on your location within Acadia.
A new plaque, dedicated during the Park’s Centennial, honors the vision of a group of “forward-thinking” citizens on Mount Desert who formed the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations –with the goal of acquiring land to be used by and accessible to the public—for free. They managed to accrue about 5,000 acres which they then donated to the United States—forming the base of what’s now Acadia National Park.
Sunrise, Sunset on Cadillac Mountain
Many would say the most famous spot in Acadia National Park is Cadillac Mountain. It’s the highest mountain on the Eastern Seaboard at 1,530 feet. Not only can you hike it, but this is the only mountain in Acadia with a paved road to the top for those who choose to bike or drive.
Tourists and locals alike quickly discover that the top offers beautiful views that include handfuls of Islands, the Schoodic Peninsula, and the Atlantic Ocean. Discover ample forest along the way, plenty of craggy coastline to explore, and with its glacial history, fantastic rocks and granite have been revealed through thousands of years.
We decided to stick around for one of the glorious sunsets on Cadillac Mountain (you’ll want to see it from the Blue Hill Overlook very near the summit). We were rewarded with a serene sight. Sunrises are also very popular, but not for those who like to sleep in!
Fun fact for off-season early risers: the summit of Cadillac Mountain, due to its height and northernly position, is the first place in the United States the light of the rising sun hits every morning on days between October 7th and March 6th.
Traveling Mom Tip: Be prepared for a sudden change of weather! While we were there, we experienced temperatures that went as high as 84 degrees and dropped as low as 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the sun went down, and the fog rolled in, it cooled down very quickly. Bring a sweater and pants to have if needed! If you decide to visit in the wintertime, temperatures average from below 0 degrees to 30 degrees F.
While there’s a .5-mile loop trail at the Summit of Cadillac Mountain, friends had recommended a more challenging route for us to try out during our visit—The Beehive trail. While there are two routes to the summit from here, we chose the harder route up and the easier route down.
At the beginning of the trail, I conveniently blocked from view the bright yellow warning sign that told us, “This trail follows a nearly vertical route with exposed cliffs that requires climbing on iron rungs. Falls on this mountain have resulted in serious injury and death. Small children and people with a fear of heights should not use the trail.”
And it’s good that I did that, as the kids (11 and 12) would not have scrambled up the way they did had they seen the sign.
When we made it to the summit (elevation 520 feet) we were rewarded with a stunning view of Sand Beach, ocean, and forest. My only regret was not being able to get photos that really illustrate how sheer some of it is. The iron rungs were there for a reason, and we used them to the fullest.
We took the easier path back down and headed to Sand Beach.
Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Otter Point all offer vistas where sea and shore combine. Sand Beach is described as a “geologic rarity” in that it’s one of the few cold-water, shell-based sand beaches in the world.
You don’t find many sandy beaches in Maine because, according to the Park Service, cold water traps gases that dissolve most seashells and the majority of the coastline is hard granite.
But here—rock offshore diverts a current into a pocket that catches those shell fragments—leaving a sandy beach for visitors. But remember the water is still very cold! (Also note there is a 12-foot difference between low and high tides here—so be careful if you’re exploring a spot in which the change in tide could become a problem.)
Nearby Little Long Pond
Owned by the Rockefellers for generations, Little Long Pond is a popular spot for dog walkers and horseback riders. But it’s also great for littler feet or those who need a mild, yet pleasant walking area. .
Offering more than a thousand acres, the pond, and its surroundings are rich in gentle nature and home to carriage roads and multiple hiking trails. The property is between the Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor, right by Acadia’s entrance.
Just across the street from the pond is a small Seal Harbor beach, in case you feel the need to dip your feet in the salt water then and there.
Within Acadia, we also made reservations to have popovers at the Jordan Pond House. Popovers are light, hollow rolls made from a batter similar to Yorkshire pudding. They’ve been serving them at Jordan Pond House since the 1890’s.
Popovers and tea (or lunch) on the lawn is a popular pastime when visiting—so it’s wise to make a reservation in advance to avoid long lines. The popovers come out fresh and hot and are served with fresh butter and jam. Other popular menu items are the fresh squeezed lemonade (no sugar—you add simple syrup), lobster stew and homemade ice cream. We tasted all but the ice cream and would recommend them. (Yes, the prices are touristy, but the atmosphere is beautiful and the food is decent overall.)
A walk around the pond trail following our meal helped us feel as if we were working off at least a few of the calories. We were also there during the height of the bee season—and there were plenty of bees interested in our sweets as we ate. Not a bother to us, but if you’re highly allergic or deathly afraid of bees—you may want to ask them about that before making reservations.
The popovers at Jordan Pond House inspired me to make my own—they were fairly easy and delicious–as long as you follow mixing directions and these tips:
- Heat your popover pan in advance of filling it
- Only fill the tins up halfway and no opening the oven to peek!
- A traditional muffin pan can be used, but if you can get your hands on a popover pan, do as they pop even more thanks to the thinner, straight sides of the tin.
Recipe: Perfect Popovers
Here is the version of the recipe I used from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. (Note that Jordan Pond House does sell its own popover mix.):
- 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus softened butter for greasing pans
- 1 ½ Cups flour
- 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups milk, at room temperature
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
Generously grease popover pans with softened butter (You’ll need enough pans to make 12 popovers.) Place the pans in the oven for exactly 2 minutes to preheat. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, salt, eggs, milk and melted butter until smooth. The batter will be thin. Fill the popover pans less than half full and bake for exactly 30 minutes. Do not peek.
Enjoy the popovers at home–but know that you’ll really enjoy them after a hike in a National Park!