Jul 2, 2013

Easy to Moderate Hikes in Acadia National Park: The Tarn and Great Head Trail

Several weeks ago, Raisin Bread and I flew to Maine to spend a few days exploring Acadia National Park in celebration of our second wedding anniversary. Acadia National Park makes up a large portion of Mount Desert Island in coastal Maine and is situated near the town of Bar Harbor. While there is the small regional airport of Hancock County-Bar Harbor just a stone's throw away, it was more convenient for us to fly into Bangor and rent a car. From Bangor, it is about an hour to an hour and a half drive to the park.

Maybe it is because I spent most of my life living by the beach, but being by the ocean always makes me feel more at home. The ocean always invokes a sense of adventure and freedom for me.

View from Cadillac Mountain
View from Cadillac Mountain

Adelmann's Deli and GrillOur day started off slightly later than expected because we wanted to pick up a packed lunch to bring with us on our hike and the place I wanted to go to didn't open until 11 am, so we bided time by walking around the town of Bar Harbor. When Adelmann's Deli and Grill finally opened, we were the second group in line and purchased our packed lunches and continued on our way.

The plan for the day was to complete The Park Loop Road, which is a 27-mile scenic drive around the park, but we were also planning to do several short hikes along the route. We decided to stick to the easy-to-moderate hikes because of the weather. It was expected to be drizzly and rainy, so we didn't want to risk slipping and falling on any steep surfaces. Better to play it safe!

Clam chowder from Adelmann's DeliRather than backtrack all the way to Hulls Cove Visitor Center, we entered the park via Ledgelawn.

Soon after, we arrived at our first stop of the day: Sieur de Monts Spring. Raisin Bread wanted to eat his cup of clam chowder that we just purchased, so we sat in the parking lot for a few minutes enjoying the start of our beautiful day before heading to The Tarn.

To get to The Tarn, we passed by Sieur de Monts Spring, which is a natural spring that is oddly contained within a domed structure, and followed a footpath through the woods.

Sieur de Monts Spring

The footpath then led to a pond, which we traversed via stone steps. 

The Tarn

The Tarn looks like an abandoned pond and is surrounded by lush hills...

The Tarn

as well as beautiful wild flowers. From the Sieur de Monts parking lot to The Tarn is about a 0.3 mile walk.

Wildflowers at The Tarn

At the Sieur de Monts stop, there is also a Nature Center, botanic garden and the Abbe Museum. We did not visit any of them due to time constraints. Instead, we got back in our car and went on to our next stop: Schooner Head Overlook for very brief photo stop. 

View from Schooner Head Overlook
View from Schooner Head Overlook
Acadia National Park Entrance StationThe turnoff to Schooner Head Overlook is just before the Entrance Station to Acadia National Park, so at this point, we paid our $20 entrance fee (valid for 7 days). From there, we parked in the Sand Beach parking lot for our first long stop of the day. Our original plan was to hike from Sand Beach to the Great Head Trail, connect with the Ocean Path to Otter Point and then take the Gorham Mountain Trail back to the Sand Beach parking lot. Since our day started off late, we had to adjust our plan. 

We began as originally planned by parking in Sand Beach parking lot and crossing over to the start of Great Head Trail.

Great Head Trail is rated as moderate. There are blue markings on the boulders to keep you on the correct path and requires quite a bit of scrambling up rocks to reach the top. Once you have finished that section of the hike, though, the rest is fairly easy.

Sand Beach

Great Head Trail leads you on a loop around a peninsula named "Great Head" and provides sweeping views of Sand Beach below and the Beehive.

Sand Beach and The Beehive

Lovely greenery surrounded us as we made our way along Great Head Trail. 

Great Head Trail

We eventually found a nice spot along the cliffs to enjoy our picnic lunch from Adelmann's. I had a roast beef sandwich with lots of veggies. As you can see, the sandwich as very bready, which I didn't particularly like.

Sandwich from Adelmann's Deli

Continuing along the coast, we could see beautiful views of the ocean and the rocky shoreline.

Great Head Trail

So enthralled were we with the shore that we forgot where we were headed and kept walking up the coast instead of turning inland. We realized our mistake about 0.2 miles later and had to backtrack. The inland portion of Great Head Trail includes a cluster of white birch trees.

White birch trees

This portion of the day consisted of about 1.6 miles of hiking. From there, we made our way back to Sand Beach to connect with the Ocean Path. More on that later!

Adelmann's Deli and Grill
224 Main Street
Bar HarborME 04609


  1. Beautiful pictures. I've always wanted to go there. After seeing this post, I want to go even more!

    1. Thank you, Jenelle. I didn't understand how beautiful it was until I saw it for myself!