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Family trip with wife, 10-month old twins, mom and her friend. Flew into Portland, Maine and drove to our rental in North Conway (1 hour 30 minutes). Good place to stay to explore the White Mountains. Went to Hannaford to stock up on groceries and called it a night.
Day 2: White Mountains
- Mount Washington Auto Road
- Crystal Cascades
- Glen Ellis Falls
Drove our own car up Mount Washington Auto Road (about 45 minutes from North Conway). It was very expensive ($56 for 4 adults, start w/ $29 per car and each person is an additional $9) but glad we did it that way so we could stop/go at our own pace. This is the cheapest option as the tours are ridiculously expensive. Same with taking the cog railway up (over $60 per person). Great views on the way up/down, several spots to pull off. Some sketchy areas too so make sure you’re comfortable with no shoulder/sheer drop-offs. They say it’s the worst weather in the world at the summit, and it was cold. They do have restrooms, a café, and a shop so you can warm up and take a rest if needed.
Stopped at Crystal Cascade on the way back to North Conway – absolutely worth the stop. Pleasant, easy hike to the falls and doesn’t need to take more than 30-45 minutes total. Park at Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center and there’s a map/trail behind the center. Also stopped at Glen Ellis Falls, another easy, short walk with the parking area only a mile south of Pinkham Notch. Also worth it, but liked Silver Cascade more. You pass the parking areas for both falls on the way to/from Mount Washington so it’s very easy to combine them all.
Day 3: White Mountains
- Kancamagus Highway
- Flume Gorge
- Artists Bluff
- The Basin
- Albany Covered Bridge
- Swift River Covered Bridge
Took the Kancamagus Highway to Franconia Notch State Park. It is a pretty drive, but we were a little underwhelmed based on reviews and how everyone talked about it like it was the best drive in the world. Went to the Flume Gorge first, expensive at $16 per person and took us 1 hour 45 minutes to do the full 2 mile loop with plenty of stops for pictures. I’m still trying to decide if it was worth the price of admission. I think if you’ve never been to a gorge, then probably. Drove to Echo Lake for the Artist’s Bluff viewpoint. You can park at the beach lot, walk across the street and head back towards the highway, and the trailhead is on the left. Not very well marked, but the quickest way once you get to the start of the trail is to stay to the right. There’s a sign that says the loop trail goes to the left, but you’re basically going the roundabout, not worth it route so stay to the right. The view is beautiful, highly recommend. Could be done in 30-45 minutes if you just go to the bluff and return the way you came. Stopped at The Basin, thought it was going to be spectacular based on reviews and recommendations. Glad we stopped, worth it, but not amazing. 15-30 minutes. Took the Kanc back to North Conway and stopped at the Albany covered bridge. This isn’t well marked either, but it is on Google Maps and there is a sign that says something like “covered bridge camping spot” that indicates the turn for the bridge. It’s right off the highway, but not visible from it, so you could easily miss it. Also stopped for a quick photo of Swift River covered bridge, which is not in use anymore and right on the way back to our rental.
Day 4: Acadia National Park
- Precipice Trail
- Park Loop Road
- Jordan Pond
Today was showing the nicest day in Acadia National Park so we got on the road as soon as possible. Took us quite a lot longer than anticipated because of construction and lots of lane closures. Should be 4 hours, ended up taking more than 5 with a pit stop. Had mom watch the kids while we did the Precipice Trail, which is the most technical/difficult hike in the park. We started it around 3:45 and only saw 3 other people the entire time and that was at the top. You’re not supposed to, but we descended the same way to save time. Wouldn’t recommend if there are people coming up. There are exposed cliffs and ladder rungs, so not a hike for the timid. Took us an hour to get to the top with lots of pictures because no one else was around, and 40 minutes to go back down. Continued on the Park Loop Road, which is one-way only after a certain point (the Precipice trailhead/parking area is before it becomes one-way). Stopped at the Jordan Pond House to go around the back and take the iconic photo of the water with the Bubble Mountains in the background, then back to Bar Harbor.
We stayed at the Mira Monte Inn for the next 3 nights. It’s in Bar Harbor and walking distance to all the shops/restaurants, and we really appreciated being so close to it all during our stay. Great breakfasts.
Day 5: Acadia National Park
- Bar Harbor
- Gorham Mountain Trail
- Ocean Path Trailhead
It rained for the first half of the day, and once it stopped we strolled around Bar Harbor with the kids in a stroller for a couple of hours. Very pleasant area, ended up liking it much more than I thought we would. It wasn’t as touristy/cheesy as expected. We also weren’t there when it was absolutely saturated with people, so I’m sure it’s less appealing with the high-season crowds. Got some whoopee pies and snacks for lunch, went to the waterfront, and just ambled along.
Then drove back into Acadia to the Gorham Mountain Trail, which is on the one-way only part of Park Loop Road before you get to Otter Point. We hiked up and kept going in the same direction (instead of turning around) to descend by Sand Beach and picked up the Ocean Path from there. I would highly recommend this because unless you take the bus or have someone picking you up from the end, the Ocean Path will be a 4-mile down and back route. This way you’re in the woods and get great views from the summit, then only do the Ocean Path once on the way back to the Gorham parking area. Took about 2 hours and 15 minutes, with plenty of stops for photos.
Day 6: Acadia National Park
Rented bikes and a child carrier from the Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop. You can bike from there directly to the Carriage Roads, which made it really easy and convenient since we walked to the bike shop. Really enjoyed this day, did the 20 mile loop around Jordan Pond, which we were able to do in a half day (4-hour rental price). Great views of the lakes and ponds that you can’t get elsewhere. Went to dinner at Café This Way and had a fantastic meal.
Day 7: Acadia National Park
- Cadillac Mountain
- South Bubble
- North Bubble
Drove up Cadillac Mountain, which I didn’t have very high expectations for, but it was definitely worth it. There is an easy, short loop path at the top and the views in all directions are great, with my favorite being Eagle Lake. We then went to the Bubble Rock parking area and hiked up South Bubble to see the Balanced Rock, which was worth it. Then went to the North Bubble summit, which was possibly my favorite view in all of Acadia. You can see Jordan Pond in its entirety and there is a nice rock outcropping perfect for pictures. A little over an hour total for the Bubble hiking.
Hit the road for Portland around 2, and this drive took forever. We took the coastal route (route 1) on purpose for the views even though it took longer, but we didn’t expect it to take 5 hours. We stopped quickly at Carrier’s Mainely for a lobster roll, wasn’t impressed. Wanted to stop in Camden but didn’t have time and the kids were fussy/needed to get there as soon as possible.
Day 8: Portland, Maine
- Old Port
- Eastern Promenade
- Portland Head Lighthouse
- Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse
- Bug Light
Had a full day to spend in Portland, loved the city. Not too crowded/busy, but very accessible and plenty to see and do. Didn’t hit the road until noon to let the kids nap, but went downtown to Sebago Brewing Company for lunch. Excellent menu, excellent food and beer. Will return someday. Walked around Old Port for a bit, then drove to the Eastern Promenade (didn’t get out, but nice area) then Portland Head Light (20 minutes away from downtown Portland). Even though there were tour buses and lots of people, we absolutely loved this area. Free and beautiful grounds to stroll around. Then drove to Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse (awesome with the stone causeway) and Bug Lighthouse (okay). They are very close to each other and easy to combine with Portland Head Light. Back to pack and get ready for flight home next day.
This was a great trip with some fantastic views and a lot of variety. A lot of driving and a lot of work with the twins though, so we couldn’t do/see as much as we would have if we had free and late evenings. Would also like to make a few stops on the drive down the coast from Acadia to Portland. We both mentioned we could see ourselves living in Maine, loved it.
At Acadia, I really wanted to do the Beehive and Jordan Cliffs, which are 2 other chain and rung trails, but we were only able to do one. Next time. You can get your pass for the park at the visitor’s center and at some of the entrances – I wish we would have stopped at the visitor’s center on our way because we passed right by it, instead we wasted a little time backtracking because we weren’t sure where else you could get them and the Precipice Trail parking lot is before the entrance hut.
Traveled in September 2016