Biking the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park – Without Cars!

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Many people come to Acadia National Park to ride their bikes along the 50+ miles of carriage roads.

I’ll admit it.  The first time I biked the carriage roads,  I was disappointed.  No pavement makes for a tougher ride… and none of the carriage roads seem to have much of an ocean view.  My expectations were too high.  I was looking for the luscious ocean scenery of the 20 mile Park Loop Road without the traffic and cars. The carriage roads are scenic in a well-treed sort of way.

Every year around November most of the Park Loop Rd. closes to vehicular traffic for the winter, reopening in late spring.  Due to federal budget cuts this year, the road open even later than usual.  We decided to take advantage of the lack of cars and ride our bikes around the paved portion of the road.

We arrived at the Blackwoods Campground in the late afternoon on a Friday and were surprised to see the number of available campsites, especially given the warm, beautiful weekend.  On another visit a few Novembers ago, the campground had been just about full.  The campground looked full the next night.

When we left Portland, we weren’t sure just how open the Blackwoods Campground would be. The campground is open to free winter camping from December-March in most years. Did the sequester mean the campground was closed until April this year? Free camping would be nice but would require about a mile’s hike to the campground. The gates were open and we were able to drive to our campsite. Water and toilets were available (no showers).

There aren’t any water views from Blackwoods, but a five or ten minute walk down a short path will lead you to the Park Loop Rd. and some ocean cliffs.

During an evening hike, we happened upon some sort of gravel pit area and saw a porcupine waddling around.  He climbed a tree when he saw us.  I’d never seen one in the wild before, so it was a great treat.  Too bad my camera was at the campsite!

We started biking the next day. Just to get this out of the way – I am NOT a regular biker. This trip was the first time we’d gone biking that year. I took my bike (a hybrid, more mountain than road) out a grand total of two times last year. Oh, it turns out that it’s a good idea to thoroughly look over your bike before you decide to ride it on a 20 mile road closed off to vehicular traffic. My gears weren’t properly adjusted. Luckily, John identified the problem and fixed it!

Anyone who plans to bike in Acadia, on the carriage roads or the Park Loop Rd. — be prepared for hills. Lots of hills. Small hills, big hills. Cadillac Mountain is the highest point in the Atlantic north of Rio de Janiero in Brazil. You’ll be riding on it, even if you don’t go to the top. You can do this even if you don’t like riding up hills — I walked up most of them. All of them.

Near the end of our loop, we took a break at Sand Beach, where I drank my Moxie and ate an apple. This section of the road and the next few miles were open to cars, which was a little nerve wracking. I can’t imagine riding during the height of the season when the park is full of cars.

This was a great, cheap trip. The park was free and camping was only $10 a night. I was surprised that more people weren’t taking advantage of the car free Loop Road and gorgeous weather.  The park was mostly empty and peaceful.  Bar Harbor was a ghost town and traffic was light.   If we do this next year, I’d like to skip the bikes and try some of the hiking trails.

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