“Above the lake, a whiteness. The water itself white, not a hint of gray or blue. The mountains invisible in the distance.”– Stephen Dunn, Fog
I almost missed out. I had driven past the entrances around Jordan Pond — one of the more popular stops in Acadia National Park — but didn’t stop. It wasn’t for lack of trying; the parking lots were full and there was plenty more to see. But on the morning before I headed back toward Portland, ME, I decided to give it one final attempt, and it was worth the extra miles.
After Cadillac Mountain, Jordan Pond is the second most frequented hiking stop for visitors to Acadia National Park — it’s easily accessible and near the main park entrance. It happens to be an easy loop hike with beautiful views, which attracts the less adventures hikers. It’s even more popular as a lunch destination because it’s home to the park’s only restaurant — and during high season, you’ll either need a reservation or a lot of patience to get a seat. While you can make a reservation at the restaurant, you can’t reserve parking. I made the mistake of trying to go after my morning at Cadillac Mountain — it was difficult just to drive by the parking lots as everyone was looking for a spot.
Jordan Pond House is a main stop for tour groups, which makes it more difficult to get a seat for lunch. As it is the only restaurant in the park, it’s expensive. Most customers go for the popovers (I have no idea if they’re as good as people claim because I did not get in to try). On my first day in the park after driving around and making numerous stops for photos and brief hikes, I opted for the nearby town of Northeast Harbor — lobster sliders and a fantastic bowl of fish chowder was better and cheaper than anything I could’ve gotten at Jordan Pond House.
The pond isn’t the largest in Acadia National Park, but it’s not that far off — it’s the deepest lake in the park at 150 ft. and covers 187 acres. It’s a fair walk around the perimeter at a little over 3 miles, made longer because visitors constantly stop and admire the beauty of the pristine water and landscape — there are great views of the Bubbles, one of which I hiked the day before and got a view of the pond. It also supplies drinking water to Seal Harbor, which is why visitors are reminded not to go in the lake.
I wasn’t entirely sure I’d go on that final morning I woke up in Bar Harbor — the memory of the drive from Brunswick didn’t make me want to drive more than I needed, and I wanted to avoid traffic. After a long full day in Acadia National Park the previous day, I woke up early and decided it was worth a drive around the park for some more views without the crowds. I wanted to breathe in that crisp early autumn air without the car exhaust. As I drove by the Jordan Pond parking lot, I saw there were plenty of available spaces and decided to check it out.
It may have been early, but it was still a decent crowd, likely full of people waiting for their reserved time to head up Cadillac Mountain or on their way back after watching the sunrise. There were also plenty of people waiting for tables at Jordan Pond House — I stopped in and walked around the gift shop (there’s also a restroom, which is great after coffee and walking most of the way around the pond).
Despite the number of people walking the loop trail, it was a pleasant morning. I struck up conversations with some fellow hikers and wound up walking most of the path them. It’s a great way to share experiences and recommendations for food, drinks, and trails in the park. Unfortunately, the recommendations I received were no longer useful on my way out of town — it made me more disappointed to leave the national park for another part of Maine.
During the walk around, the weather changed drastically. At times it was overcast and the hills surrounding Jordan Pond were hidden behind the low clouds. But a few moments later, the sky cleared up and the sun warmed us — it was a matter of unzipping and re-zipping my jacket. It made for varying moods in photos.
With all the people walking around the area, it’s unlikely to see much wildlife. I did, however, come across signs of wildlife. There were some trees felled by the local beavers (first time I’d seen such activity), and I might not have noticed had a fellow hiker not pointed it out. At one point, the people I was walking the trail with noticed a large spider on the rocks — we were careful not to disturb it as we didn’t want to get near a spider even if it was harmless.
While not strenuous or significantly quiet, the hike around Jordan Pond made for a great morning in Acadia National Park. It was a wonderful way to end my time in the park before driving to Portland. If I had more time in Bar Harbor, I would’ve planned for sunrise at Cadillac Mountain followed by a quick jaunt down to the pond before the crowds. Otherwise, the recommendation would be to spend two extra early mornings in the park — one at Cadillac Mountain and the other at Jordan Pond.