Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hike – Wonderland, Ship Harbor, Bass Harbor Lighthouse

The ocean off Wonderland Trail
The east side of Mount Desert Island gets most of the attention when it comes to hiking in Acadia National Park.  If you want to get away to some quieter hikes try the west side of the island.  Among these more quiet trails are two short hikes that bring you right down to the ocean.  These are the Wonderland and Ship Harbor trails.  I will also discuss the Bass Harbor lighthouse, which is nearby.

Directions – When you first cross the causeway from the mainland onto Mount Desert Island you come to a fork.  Heading left to stay on Route 3 will take you to the east side of the island.  You will want to head right on Route 102 for the west side of the island.  Drive several miles until you pass through downtown Southwest Harbor.  After passing the town, watch for Route 102A on the left.  When you come to it, take it.  Drive through the Seawall section and then watch for parking for Wonderland on the left.

Start with the Wonderland trail.  This is a walk, not a hike.  It is level and the trail is very well-maintained with gravel.  The parking area is on the left of Route 102A.  It is easy to see and holds several vehicles.

The trail is mostly straight and starts out going through trees. 

The trail leading into the Wonderland loop

You quickly get near to the ocean and the path splits.  It forms a loop out around a peninsula.  You can follow this trail in either direction.  There are many small side trails leading out to views from the trees and down onto the rocks for unimpeded views.  You can see many islands off the coast.  Go ahead and explore all of these paths then return to the main trail. 

Wild cabbage along the Wonderland trail
View from the end of Wonderland Trail
Trees growing amongst the rocks on the coast

I only saw a couple other people on this short hike.  I did startle a rabbit just as I finished the loop to come back off the peninsula.

When you finish the loop simply head back out the trail you came in on and return to your car.

Next, drive a little further west on Route 102A and on your left you will come to an even bigger parking area for the Ship Harbor trail.  There are bathrooms here, if you need one.

This trail appears to get more people and the day I was there a local school had a class outing to hear a Park Ranger talk to them about the plants and animals on the trail.

This trail forms a figure eight and can be hiked in three different ways: around the entire perimeter or in a figure eight in either direction.  I chose to walk it in a figure eight since I was catching up to the class.  I ended up passing through them as I came back around.

Ship Harbor's mouth from the Ship Harbor Trail

This trail also goes right down to the water.  Ship Harbor is a small harbor that juts up into the land to the west of this trail.  When I was there it was just after low tide.  I noticed that the water was actually flowing into the harbor up over a small rise as the tide started to come in.  The Ranger explained that it was a normal event - that the tide was strong enough to overcome the outflow of water going over this small drop.

Sandbar at the mouth of Ship Harbor during low tide

This trail does have one section with some roots and rocks, but otherwise is mostly flat.  It also has several side trails leading out onto the rocks.  There was a small sandbar near the entrance to the harbor that you could get to at low tide.  You could see many islands from this trail, too.

Combination of mosses around a fir tree on Ship Harbor Trail

When you are done with the views continue back on whichever part of the trail you have not covered yet.  It will come back together where you started out and you can then return to the parking lot. 

At this point you are near the Bass Harbor Lighthouse.  Drive west on Route 102A until you see the sign on the left for it.  Drive down this road, turn into the entrance, and park.  There are bathrooms here if you need one. 

You cannot go into the lighthouse, but there are informational signs telling you the history of it.  There is a boardwalk and stairs that lead down to the ocean so that will let you be able to take scenic pictures of it.  They are to the left of the parking area as you face the lighthouse.  There are probably 50-60 steps overall to get down to the viewing area. 

Bass Harbor Lighthouse
Closer view of the Bass Harbor Lighthouse

There is an informal trail that goes to the left at the top of the steps.  I followed it for a few hundred feet before turning around.  I’m not sure where it goes, but it is reasonably worn, so it must get some regular traffic.

Cumulative distance:             2.3 miles (including the Bass Harbor Lighthouse)
Cumulative elevation gain:   250 feet (including the steps at the lighthouse)
Cumulative duration:            1 – 1.5 hours (including driving)

Acadia Hiking Guide

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