Acadia National Park Easy Hikes: 12 Best for Families

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Known as the Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast, Acadia National Park is an extremely family-friendly park in Bar Harbor, Maine. The 150 miles of trails that wind up mountains, see tide pools and have a fun rocky terrain give you endless choices for hiking fun!

4 million visitors per year flock to Maine to see the 45 miles of famous carriage roads, stone and wooden bridges, 4 lighthouses, mountains and ocean; putting it easily into the top 10 most-visited parks.

Before travelling, it’s important to note that all but 2 miles of Park Loop Road are closed to vehicle traffic between December 1st and April 14th. Anything outside of these dates are good, but spring to early fall is the best time to visit.

This particular park is full of family-friendly trails to enjoy on your vacation. Let us tell you some of our favorites, starting with the shortest distance.

Without further ado, the family-friendly best hikes in Acadia National Park!

three children in front of Acadia National Park sign in MainePin

1. Cadillac Summit Loop Trail

Distance: 0.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Location: Take Park Loop Road to Cadillac Summit Road and the parking lot will be at the end.

If you are looking for short walks and stunning scenery, this is one of the best easy hikes in the park! It is a paved loop that allows you to see the summit views without the strenuous hike.

view from Cadillac Mountain Overlook, Acadia NP, MainePin
sunrise and sunset are the most popular times to experience Cadillac Mountain

This is one of the most popular places in the park and when the parking area gets too busy, the will just close the road up to it. From mid-May through late October, visitors need to make advanced reservations to drive up to the summit (30% of the tickets are released 90 days prior to the reservation date).

If you are unable to secure a reservation, or will not have a car during your trip, there are two private companies that offer tours to the peak.

Cadillac Mountain in the winter, Acadia National Park, MainePin
view from Cadillac Mountain in winter

This trail is actually busiest at sunrise and sunset. This peak is the first place in the United States to view the sunrise. Cadillac Summit is the highest point in Acadia National Park but also on the entire east coast. It will be very difficult to find parking for the sunrise unless you go plenty early! But it is beautiful all the time.

view from Cadillac Mountain Overlook, Acadia NP, MainePin

2. Wonderland Trail

Distance: 1.4 miles round trip

Difficulty: Easy

Location: Maine Route 102A between Seawall Campground and Ship Harbor Trail

This 1.4 mile round trip easy trail is a must visit for families! The secluded beach that this trail leads to will give you the best tide pool experience in all of the park.

easy Acadia National Park hikes: Wonderland Trail tidepools, MainePin

The trail itself is an old gravel fire road which leads you to the ocean. The short forest hike through the spruce trees is a lot of fun and winds up at a secluded beach, perfect for exploring. Your young kids can handle the mostly flat trail and all kids will enjoy the beach portion at low tide.

Safety Tip: Be sure to take pay attention to the warnings and never turn your back to the water. Tides come in and out and, especially if you aren’t accustomed to it, can catch you off guard.

You kids will love climbing around on the rocks and examining the water plants and little fish that are swimming around.

Searching for shells, hermit crabs and other water critters can occupy them for hours! Just be sure to keep an eye on the tide and to head back down the trail when the tide starts coming in.

easy Acadia National Park hikes: sign for Wonderland Trail, MainePin

3. Jordan Pond Trail

Distance: 3.3 mile loop

Difficulty: Easy

Location: Jordan Pond North or South Parking lot off Park Loop Road; the trail can be accessed from either lot

The Jordan Pond Path was one of our family’s favorite trails in the park. It’s nice and level, and circles around Jordan Pond. Some of the hike is on a rustic boardwalk. This is a trail that is dog-friendly as well (on a leash).

foggy Jordan PondPin
Jordan Pond trail on a foggy fall day

You can choose to complete the entire 3.3 mile loop, or simply double back when your family is fading. There is also the option to start at the restaurant at Jordan Pond House and go counterclockwise for 1/4 mile to the stone bridges. This gives your toddlers, or anyone else with less stamina, a chance to see the trail without doing the whole thing.

boardwalk on the Jordan Pond trail, Acadia National ParkPin
boardwalk on the Jordan Pond trail, Acadia National Park

Finish at Jordan Pond House for some of their famous afternoon teatime with incredible popovers. Highly recommend getting to this trail on the earlier side of the day, especially during peak season.

Parking here is very limited, and is incredibly busy during lunch hours due to the popularity of the restaurant. Hike first, then hit the restaurant for tea (their lobster stew and lobster roll are also fabulous).

two boys walking along the Jordan Pond trail, Acadia National ParkPin
my boys along Jordan Pond trail

4. Ship Harbor Trail

Distance: 1.4 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Easy

Location: off Maine 102A, down the road from Seawall Campground

This figure 8 shaped trail is perfect for bird lovers, young families and all skill levels. Keep your eyes peeled for eagles, herons and osprey as you walk this this forested trail.

While you can go either direction, we recommend going right and past a narrow cove. Kids will enjoy walking along the rocks and climbing on some of the bigger ones. At low tide, you can check out the tidepools in the cove.

The blue markings on the rock will help lead you along the trail until it comes back into the spruce forest. There will be interpretive signs scattered along the trail to give you more information about the habitat. The learning involved makes this even more memorable for kids.

With this trail being just down the road from Wonderland Trail, you could easily do both of these in a day if you want a little more hiking!

Ship Harbor Trail, Acadia National Park MainePin
view along Ship Harbor Trail

5. Ocean Path Trail (from Sand Beach to Thunder Hole)

Distance: 1.4 miles round trip

Difficulty: Easy

Location: Park Loop Road, just south of entrance in Bar Harbor.

This is the first portion of a more difficult, longer hike. It is 0.7 miles from Sand Beach to Thunder Hole and that is where you will want to turn around to keep it family-friendly.

This portion of the trail is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers as it is a mix of concrete and packed gravel. The views of the Atlantic Ocean from this trail are stunning as it gradually rises over a hill and then follows along the coast.

On the other side of the hill you will begin to gradually decline to your destination! If the tide is right (2 hours before high tide) and the wind is blowing, you will start hearing crashes that sound like thunder as you make your way to the cove.

Ocean Path Trail, Acadia National Park MainePin
view along Ocean Path Trail

Your turnaround point is Thunder Hole, an inlet sea cove! This memory will stick with your kids forever! During low tide you can take the steps down to get an up close view of the cove carved out by the power of the crashing waves! (hello science lesson!)

Enjoy your time in Thunder Hole but always beware of your surroundings! You never know when a stray wave is going to come and you don’t want to get wet! (or swept away!)

Enjoy your time here and then head back the way you came, to Sand Beach and the parking lot. Enjoy your walk past rocky shores and tidal pools and watch your kids have so much fun!

Acadia National Park easy hikes: three kids on the platform at Thunder Hole, Acadia National Park, MainePin
our clan at Thunder Hole

6. Flying Mountain Loop Trail

Distance: 1.5 mile loop

Difficulty: Moderate

Location: Near the end of Fernald Point Road in Southwest Harbor

This loop is a great way to introduce your kids to a more rigorous hike. It is one that is recommended by the park rangers for families. While this trail is rated moderate due to being steep, it is short so kids will be at the top before they realize how difficult their legs have to work!

Because this is such a fun trail for kids that feels like a “real hike”, this can be quite busy during peak times. Either avoid weekends or be prepared for a crowded trail.

Even your toddler can manage this hike with the right attitude (and maybe a short piggy back break!) You are ascending for about a quarter of mile through the forest, up log and rock steps, to get to the top of the mountain, which is more like a hill. Along the way you will have many beautiful ocean views.

Once you make it up there, you can keep going over the top and follow the loop back down and along a fire road to the parking area.

Flying Mountain, Acadia National Park, MainePin
Flying Mountain cliff, Aaron Zhu, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

7. Jesup Path and Hemlock Path Loop

Distance: 1.5 mile loop

Difficulty: Easy

Location: Trail begins at Sieur de Monts Nature Center

This short, easy and accessible hike loops in a figure 8 through white birches and hemlocks. Along the trail you’ll find interpretive panels with information on things you’ll find in the area. You’ll also come across benches where you can take a break if needed.

boardwalk along the Jesup Trail, Acadia National Park, MainePin
boarwalk along the Jesup Trail

Walking along the boardwalk through the enchanted looking forest and the Great Meadow gives you the feeling that you’re in a fairy tale! There is just something relaxing about a peaceful stroll this scenery.

While it is beautiful at all times of the year, the colors in the fall will take your breath away. If you are visiting with young kids, this is a great place to explore.

Great Meadow in Acadia National Park, MainePin
Great Meadow

8. Great Head Trail

Distance: 1.7 mile roundtrip

Difficulty: Moderate

Location: Parking lot at the end of Schooner Head Road

The majority of this hike is not difficult, but there is one part that is more steep and has uneven footing. Since it isn’t too long it is still good for younger kids and those with less endurance but the views are phenomenal. This is a very fun hike that your whole family (school age and up) will enjoy.

Begin from the parking lot at the end of Schooner Head Road and I recommend you hiking the trail clockwise, as it make it a much more gradual ascent. After a little descent toward the water, you will start the gradual uphill climb to the top of the Great Head.

Great Head Trail, Acadia National Park, MainePin
Great Head Trail

9. Bar Island Trail

Distance: 2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Location: Start on Bridge St. In Bar Harbor

This is an iconic out and back trail when visiting Acadia NP that uses a land bridge to link Bridge Street to Bar Island! This is a unique, leisurely stroll that even your small children can do! Accessible from the town of Bar Harbor, this is one of the best ways to add in a fun hike even on a sight seeing day!

Due to the need to cross the land bridge, you need to be aware of the tides. You can easily check the time for low tide on this tide chart. The land bridge is accessible within a 3 – 4 hour window straddling low tide, about 1.5 hours on either side of low tide. Be sure to be aware of tide times and keep an eye on your watch while on Bar Island. 

After walking .5 miles across the land bridge to the island, you reach a wide forested path that gradually slopes up as you go and opens to views of Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay.

When you reach the highest point you can enjoy the view before heading back down to cross the land bridge before it disappears as the tide comes in. There are a variety of terrains such as an old dirt road, gravel, forested path, and rocks so wear proper hiking shoes. 

Especially if your kids haven’t spent much time at the ocean, this will be a really memorable trail for them, especially the short walk across the sand to the island. 

"road" to bar island, acadia national park, maine - this trail is only accessible at low tide as all this sand is covered at high tide in waterPin
“trail” to Bar Island at low tide – this trail is inaccessible at high tide as it’s covered in water

10. Lower Hadlock Pond Loop Trail

Distance: 2 mile loop

Difficulty: Easy

Location: Brown Mountain Gatehouse Parking Area, Route 198

Lower Hadlock Pond is a reservoir that collects run off from streams flowing down from the mountain peaks. This freshwater supply is not for swimming or wading in, but is still a beautiful trail to walk around. 

Even the drive the scenic drive towards Brown Mountain Gatehouse is beautiful. By the time you arrive at the parking area, you will be excited to see the pond and surrounding area. Pulling into the parking area and seeing the gate structure which was one of the carriage road constructions is memorable all in itself. This really is a beautiful place in our country!

If you ask 10 different people, 5 will classify this as easy and 5 will classify it as moderate. It is mostly flat but the terrain can be rough by times with roots and rocks to climb over. There is a beautiful boardwalk in places to follow, however it is only about 2 boards wide. 

​For kids the different wood, log and board bridges made with such creative construction will be the biggest draw, while many adults will be drawn to the beauty of the glass like pond. 

Because this is one of the less popular trails, it isn’t nearly as crowded.

If you wish to make this longer, it does meet up with the main Hadlock Pond Trail, which believe it or not has even more stunning scenery!

Lower Hadlock Pond, Acadia National Park, MainePin
Lower Hadlock Pond

11. Gorham Mountain Trail

Distance: 2 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Easy / Moderate

Location: Gorham Mountain Trail parking area on Park Loop Road, past Thunder Hole.

This is going to feel more like a true hike, with its 525 foot summit, but not nearly as high as some of the taller peaks in the park. This is one of the most popular hikes in Acadia and with it’s gradual ascent is doable for anyone in your family. 

The trail begins with an easy and steady climb through the forest until it opens up into a granite landscape. The granite part of the hike is a more rugged terrain, which is part of its moderate rating. As you hike along the granite portion of the trail, you will follow the rock piles and and blue signs to guide you towards the summit.

Gorham Mountain trail, Acadia National Park, MainePin
view along the Gorham Mountain Trail

If you like when there are educational aspects of hikes, there is a plaque around where the trail splits honoring Waldron Bates, who was one of the pathmakers who created the Acadia trail system. 

You will reach a place where the trail splits, and you will want to stay to the left. To the right is the Cadillac Cliffs Trail which has some more dangerous aspects that I can’t confidently recommend for your young kids. As you stay left and continue toward the the summit you will see some breathtaking sights like Otter Point, Otter Cliffs, Baker Island and the Cranberry Islands off in the distance. Make sure you take in the opportunity to take in and enjoy these sites as you go. 

When you reach the true summit, the panoramic views are your reward! Should you be hiking here in July or August you can even sample the local wild blueberries along your hike. Past here, there are more trails but they become longer and harder so it is best to go back down the way you came. 

view of Otter Point in autumn from peak of Gorham Mountain, Acadia National Park, MainePin
view from the peak of Gorham Mountain (with Otter Point in the distance) in autumn

12. Lower Harbor Trail

Distance: 2.2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Location: Across from Schoodic Woods Parking Lot Entrance on Schoodic Loop Road

This lesser visited trail is on the Schoodic Peninsula, which is in Winter Harbor, Maine. Because of it’s lower number of visitors, this is a great place to take those furry family members for some exercise, as long as they stay on their leash!

This narrow trail follows the coastline which offers outstanding views of the water for most of this easy walk. Another good reason to include this in your travels is the flat terrain, making this one of good for everyone!

shoreline on the schoodic penninsula, mainePin
shoreline along the Schoodic Penninsula

Pin these Acadia National Park easy hikes for later! And if you found this article helpful, leave a comment on the pin. That helps others decide whether to use this information, too!

top 12 Acadia National Park easy hikes for familiiesPin
happy trails, heatherPin
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About Heather Thibodeau

Heather Thibodeau is the founder and mom behind nationalparksmom.com.

She and her husband Dave (AKA Tib) are on a mission to travel to as many US national parks with their three kids in tow as they possibly can, doing their best to keep the little ones out in nature and off of screens in an increasingly digital world.

Heather has earned degrees in biology & chemistry from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies), and holds master's and doctorate degrees in physical therapy from Duke University (Go Blue Devils).

Heather is also the creative force behind The Heathered Nest where she shares her love of all things DIY and home decor.

Her work has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, House Beautiful, Good Housekeeping, This Old House, Today.com, The Washington Post, Boston Globe, and more.

2 thoughts on “Acadia National Park Easy Hikes: 12 Best for Families”

  1. We did quite a few of these on our Acadia trip last spring and really loved the Jordan Pond loop. The ship harbor trail was such a nice easy hike I wore my flip flops the whole time; it was a nice easy one after a more strenuous morning hiking.

    Reply
    • I’m a big fan of flip-flop approved trails!! Sometimes, it’s just nice to have a leisurely option!!

      Reply

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