Off the Beaten Path in Acadia

October 20, 2021  |  Acadia National Park, Maine
Gorham Mountain Autumn

Gorham Mountain looks out on the Atlantic Ocean as Otter Cliff stands in the distance on an autumn morning in Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine.

Acadia National Park has many well-known and iconic locations, which I love to photograph. Places like Boulder Beach, Otter Cliff, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain. But as the park has become more crowded in recent years, it's been more difficult to photograph in those places with more people around. Last week I visited Acadia again, and this time, I decided to photograph in some lesser known locations, though they are no less beautiful.

Gorham Mountain

The first location we visited can be seen in the image above. Back in February I had hiked Gorham Mountain with my wife Jess. It wasn't a photo hike, just some time together, but when we got to the top I knew I needed to come back with my camera. The summit offers a panoramic view of the shoreline, from Great Head and Sand Beach to the north, to Otter Cliff to the south. We got lucky with a soft marine layer of fog filtering the sun, and the autumn foliage was nearing peak color, giving the mountainside a golden glow. The hike is not easy, but also not terribly difficult. Kristen and I managed to get to the top in the dark wearing headlamps. It's just about ¾ of a mile to the top from the trail head, with an elevation gain of just over 430 feet. Coming down is also not difficult, but if you like, the trail can be extended to hike a loop that will take you over to Beehive for even more views. This extension does make the trail a bit more difficult.

October Sunset at Raven's Nest

The sun dips behind Cadillac Mountain across Frenchman Bay from the Raven's Nest on Schoodic Peninsula on an October evening.

Schoodic Peninsula

Another off-the-beaten-path location in the park is the Schoodic Peninsula. Schoodic lies 5 miles across the bay from Bar Harbor, and there is a ferry from Bar Harbor to Winter Harbor at the top of Schoodic Peninsula, but then you'll need to take the Island Explorer Bud, walk or bike to the park. To drive from Bar Harbor, it takes about an hour. Because of this, it's estimated that less than 20% of visitors to Acadia National Park visit the Schoodic Peninsula section of the park.

As you drive along the road down the peninsula, there are many pullouts with gorgeous views of Frenchman Bay. From these pullouts, Winter Harbor Lighthouse is visible, as well as Bar Harbor and Cadillac Mountain in the distance. One pullout has gotten quite popular the past several years with photographers especially. This spot is known as Ravens Nest. It's not marked on the road or on park maps, so you kind of have to know what to look for. I first visited this spot back in February and managed to catch it with some snow on the rocks.

Red Sky at Dusk

The October sky over Schoodic Point glows red as the sun sets behind Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine.

Beyond Ravens Nest, you can take the turnoff to Schoodic Point. The point is one of three locations with a large parking lot, allowing for more cars. By comparison, Ravens Nest has room for about 3 cars in the pullout. At Schoodic Point, you can walk along the granite shoreline, where when the ocean is rough, waves explode like fireworks over the rocks. Other times, like above, the waves cascade over the rocks like a waterfall. You can easily spend a day on the Schoodic Peninsula, hiking, scrambling around the rocky shoreline, or just finding a rock to sit on with a book and relaxing.

From the Air

Penobscot Narrows Bridge
Penobscot Narrows Bridge from the cockpit of a Cessna

For the last day of our stay in Acadia, we decided to try something different. We booked a flight over Acadia and Penobscot Bay to get ourselves a different point of view. I'd forgotten how challenging aerial photography can be! The Cessna we were in was a tight squeeze, and photographing through the windows was difficult at best. We flew around the edge of the park, with spectacular views of Cadillac Mountain, Otter Cliff, and the Schoodic Peninsula, and also visited several lighthouses. Above you can see Pumpkin Island lighthouse, and a view of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, which many visitors to Acadia cross on their way to and from the area. As we were returning to the airport in Bar Harbor, I caught the image below, of Eagle Lake as we flew over Frenchman Bay. It seemed a fitting way to complete the trip.

The view from the top of Gorham Mountain shows Otter Cliff in the distance on a foggy morning in Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine.

Gorham Mountain looks out on the Atlantic Ocean as Otter Cliff stands in the distance on an autumn morning in Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine.

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